Posts Tagged ‘museums’

Museum of International Propaganda

July 6th, 2019

Museum of International Propaganda
Museum of International Propaganda Museum of International Propaganda Museum of International Propaganda Museum of International Propaganda

My last stop in downtown San Rafael was a tiny museum with an unusual premise: the Museum of International Propaganda.

Housed in a former shoe store, each section of the museum is devoted to a certain type of propaganda. Examples include leader worship, promoting the military, and demonizing a perceived enemy.

It seemed to me a prevailing theme was the truth didn’t matter, as long as it got the message across. Are the farms failing? Start a rumor of an American covert operation! Is the leader of the country a war criminal? Here’s a photo of him smiling with some children!

One of the most surprising artifacts in the museum is a watch, part of a limited series given out to soldiers who participated in the Tiananmen Square massacre.

At the end of the main gallery, it switches to parodies of propaganda:

Museum of International Propaganda

It’s interesting how the same imagery used to control the populace can be flipped on its head, now mocking the same authority it was once used to prop up.

The last area of the museum is a temporary gallery; it’s worth pointing out here the museum has only been around a couple years so temporary is relative. Right now it’s mostly about propaganda from the last presidential election to present day.

Museum of International Propaganda Museum of International Propaganda

My recommendation: This is a very thought provoking museum, far more interesting than I would have expected. Definitely work a visit if you’re in the area and it happens to be open (the hours are very limited.) It’s free, though they do accept donations and ask you to sign the guestbook.

Natural History Museum of Utah

May 2nd, 2019

Natural History Museum of Utah
Natural History Museum of Utah Natural History Museum of Utah Natural History Museum of Utah Natural History Museum of Utah

On the University of Utah’s campus is the Natural History Museum of Utah. The focus of the museum is entirely on Utah’s geography, climate, and living beings from the time of single celled organisms up until the Ute people lived in the area.

The museum’s current location is in a building completed in 2011, relatively new by museum standards. The exhibits are largely well put together and maintained; the dinosaur portion of the museum is particularly impressive.

It seems to have been put together with a deliberately broad appeal with interactive exhibits and puzzles for kids, basic biology you probably learned as a teenager (a refresher never hurts), as well as more in-depth exhibits for adults.

Personally I went to this museum because it was my last day in Salt Lake City, and I wanted something to do where I wouldn’t have to carry my stuff around all day (the museum has lockers.) I figured the dinosaur exhibit would be the most interesting part. And while it was, their comprehensive exhibit on the adaptation and evolution of life quickly became my favorite exhibit.

They also have an interactive earthquake exhibit that I think was aimed at kids, but since nobody else was around I had it all to myself. I have to admit it’s very entertaining. The gist of it is you build a one or two story building on a special table, then hit a button on a computer screen to simulate one of several historical earthquakes and see how your building stands up — or doesn’t.

My recommendation: It’s not the largest museum of its kind, but there’s a little something for anyone interested in Utah’s natural history (including dinosaurs.) The location is pretty far from downtown though it’s a short walk from a number of popular hiking trails. Worth considering if you’re in that part of town.

The Art Institute of Chicago

April 20th, 2019

Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago

One block south of Millennium Park is a stately looking building housing the Art Institute of Chicago, an art museum with a vast collection of pieces from all over the world. From the street you might think it’s a small museum, but you’d be wrong. The building visible from the street is largely a facade; the majority of the galleries are in a sprawling complex of wings on the other side of the train tracks behind the entry building.

Broadly the museum is broken down into Asian, classic (Greek and Roman), European, American, and contemporary. That’s not a comprehensive list but it gives you an idea of the scope. I have to admit that due to the convoluted layout of the place I’m not sure exactly how much I was able to see.

The sheer size of the museum is both a blessing and a curse, like an enormous yard sale where there’s some rare book on a table surrounded by broken Cuisinarts.

For example one room had a bunch of paintings by Monet that for some reason devoted an entire wall to paintings of haystacks. Then I turned a corner and found myself face to face with a small yet beautiful self portrait of Van Gogh.

The biggest strength of the museum is how it can expose you to styles of art you’re unlikely to have ever seen before. On the flip side its biggest weakness is displays of art from the Art Institute’s associated school. Don’t get me wrong, they have some fantastic staff and alumni — just their collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings alone would be considered a special exhibit at any other museum — but overall the selection of works from their own school seemed sloppy and haphazard. This part of the museum would benefit from a neutral third party curator much in the same way doctors aren’t supposed to treat themselves.

The audio guide tour can be rented or like many museums these days you can also get it for free simply by downloading the Art Institute’s app on your phone and bringing your own headphones. Only one or two works in each gallery have an audio guide component and those that do are always the highlights.

My recommendation: If you’re in Chicago and you’re at all into art, there’s almost certainly something you’ll enjoy at this museum. Perfect indoor activity for a day with uncooperative weather.

Driehaus Museum

April 19th, 2019

Driehaus Museum

Originally built as a second home for the wealthy east coast Nickerson family, today the Driehaus Museum focuses on home life in the Gilded Age of America. I realize that’s a lot of description crammed into one sentence so let’s break it down.

Sam Nickerson and his wife built their Chicago mansion about a decade after the Great Chicago Fire. As such it’s built with solid brick walls. The interior is lined with pretty much every material you can think of; many types of wood, tile, fabric, and even a precursor to linoleum.

When the Nickersons decided to move away, they sold their home at a steep discount to a friend. It eventually was converted into offices, and was most recently purchased by a different wealthy Chicago man, investor Richard Driehaus. Hence the name of the museum.

Driehaus Museum Driehaus Museum
Driehaus Museum Driehaus Museum
Driehaus Museum Driehaus Museum

In the early 2000′s Driehaus had the property restored as much as possible to its original glory, with a mix of original furniture and period-appropriate furnishings from his own collection. Throughout the home you’ll find everything from Tiffany lamps to (seemingly decorative) office supplies.

Additionally you’ll see special exhibits, which currently include a small exhibit about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a much larger exhibit throughout the museum by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare which broadly reinterprets elements of the era ranging from colonialism to Oscar Wilde. These will change in the future so check the museum’s website for up to date information on current exhibits.

My recommendation: Such an eclectic museum seems like it should be an off the beaten path find, and yet it’s located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. If it sounds interesting I’d start by booking the hour long guided highlights tour and going from there — the tour includes general admission. Coat and bag check is free.