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July 20, 2001 11:34 PM   Subscribe

What's your favorite museum and why?
posted by christina (40 comments total)

 
Here in New York, there are plenty to choose from. The Metropolitan, the Whitney, MOMA, the Guggenheim — all very good. (Not to mention any number of history and science museums that really rock.)

But my favorites are the Cooper-Hewitt and the Frick.

The CH is located in Carnegie's old abode, while the Frick is in, well, Frick's. So you get to view the art along with some nice architecture.

Other bonuses: Both are small, so you don't feel like you have to race through them. They're not usually packed with visitors due to so-called blockbuster exhibits. And the shows there are almost always well worth seeing.
posted by bilco at 11:44 PM on July 20, 2001


The Museum of Jurassic Technology. Its the oddest thing I've seen, and its the size of a two bedroom apartment. I still don't get it, but its fabtastical.
posted by thebigpoop at 12:07 AM on July 21, 2001


Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Oh my god do I love that place, it's like a second home I went there so many times growing up in the DC region. Only place you can see the Wright Bros.' plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, actual Mercury/Apollo capsules, freakin' ICBMs from the USA and USSR! I just read that they're breaking ground on a new facility where they will have one of the actual space shuttles (Enterprise) and things that couldn't fit in their main facility... like an SR-71. A-ticket, all the way! (if you want a guided tour, call me :)
posted by owillis at 12:50 AM on July 21, 2001


The Musei Vaticani, because it's where the Sistine Chapel is.
posted by matteo at 1:41 AM on July 21, 2001


the Nairobi Museum because "This museum houses outstanding displays of early man, ethnic regalia, Kenya fauna and a vivid display of the struggle for independence. Near to the museum is a snake park." --Courtesy of Kenya Tourism Board

but seriously, do not miss the museum if you're in Nairobi for any amount of time -- even if just for Joy Adamson's portraits. There is much much more there, though, and it's all full of interesting people and local school groups. Going there was one of my favorite days in Kenya.
posted by palegirl at 3:04 AM on July 21, 2001


The Pitt Rivers musem in Oxford. Hidden behind the Natural History Musem and only open during the afternoons.

It's anthropological museum. I wonder how it's faring in these modern times, since it was born out of the great Victorian instinct to go out among the Native Peoples, take their stuff and bring it home to be filed.

The usual tendency would be to try to build a picture of South Sea Islanders or Papua New Guineans or (indeed) whatever by grouping all geographically similar objects together.

In the Pitt Rivers, things that are similar are filed together - all small statues in the same case, for example, all preserved heads in another, no matter where they come from. The general effect is (for me) a marvellous reminder of how connected we all are.

And it's interesting to see a (pristine) thousand-year-old samurai sword next to a (completely knackered) four-hundred- year-old European one.

By the looks of the page, it's been dragged into the 21st century, but hopefully not decluttered too much. The clutter is the thing.
posted by Grangousier at 3:49 AM on July 21, 2001


Boston's WBUR is running some interesting reports on strange museums of New England... my favorite would have to be the "museum of dirt"... I also have to make a plug for the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a beautiful venetian-style palace filled to the brim with beautiful works of art, including one of my favorites, John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo. Gardner herself was quite the eccentric character.

Incidentally, the museum was also victim of a pretty spectacular heist back in 1990, when $100 million worth of paintings were lifted. Two Rembrandts, several Degas canvases, and a Manet are missing. Incidentally, there's a $5 million award offered for the recovery of the works. So, get to it, MeFi gumshoes! The next scholarship contest could benefit greatly.
posted by kahboom at 5:39 AM on July 21, 2001


When I was a student at Northwestern, one of my favorite things to do was to go down to the Field Museum on whatever day the admission was free (Thurday, I think). Not only was the Field Museum free that day, but so were the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, all close enough to walk between the three.
posted by briank at 5:47 AM on July 21, 2001


If you're in the Philadelphia area, check out the Mütter Müseum, aka the Museum of Medical Oddities. Not for the faint of heart, it includes "over 20,000 objects, including fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments, anatomical and pathological models, items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians, and medical illustrations."
posted by ph00dz at 6:49 AM on July 21, 2001


There is a Joseph Cornell box at the Hirshhorn that makes everything shine that much brighter for me.
posted by machaus at 7:11 AM on July 21, 2001


Grangousier beat me to it: the Pitt Rivers is just wonderful.

And it's still musty. dusty, dark and cluttered, even after the refit.
posted by holgate at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2001


Addendum: The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret, at Guy's Hospital.

Also a groovy (if uncomfortable and slightly gruesome) venue - I went to a poetry reading there once.
posted by Grangousier at 7:25 AM on July 21, 2001


I can't decide. I agree with kahboom on Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner, which is a lovely place to be on a hot summer day. (While in Boston, don't miss the MFA and ICA.) And bilco is of course right about the Metropolitan and the MOMA in NY. But I think my two favorite art cities are Amsterdam (with the Hague not far away) and London.

In Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Museum has a large, mixed collection of modern art and would be of special interest to a student of modern art. The "my kid could do that" crowd should stay away. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national art museum and of course specializes in Dutch art. It has a fine Rembrandt collection and two or three great Vermeers. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has, of course, masses of Van Gogh. Try to go when tour groups are not there or you'll be jammed into a neverending line of uninterested students shuffling sideways through the place. Then take a short train ride to the Hague to see the Gemeentemuseum, which has an especially fine Mondrian collection and is itself architecturally interesting, and then see the Mauritshuis if you want to see more of Rembrandt and his old Dutch pals.

In London, the Tate and the National Gallery are great in many ways; if you like art, just go. The National Portrait Gallery is interesting more for the subjects than the artists; you can see, for example, what Keats really looked like, though you probably won't be much interested in or impressed by the painter. All three are free, so they are of great interest to the cheapskate. After a long day of tramping around museums, you still have the money for a Guinness or two.
posted by pracowity at 7:29 AM on July 21, 2001


I *heart* Met. During most of my college life I used to go there once every two weeks. I also like American Museum of Natural History and the new Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center. New York MoMA is also very neat. Especially the foreign films they have on. Among the smaller museums, I like Brooklyn Museum of Art, which is free on first Saturdays of every month. I am not too fond of Guggenheim. Also, the National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. of the Smithsonian Institute are two of the least traveled but content rich museums. I have been planning to go visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for the past few years. One of these days I should.
posted by tamim at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2001


My favourite oddballs are The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA and The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas.

I have a special spot for one corner of the Met. My sister and I would sit in front of Sargent's The Wyndham Sisters on chairs perloined from the next gallery. Oh, and the panoramic view of The Palace and Gardens of Versailles. I miss the Met.
posted by heather at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2001


The Exploratorium in San Francisco is an obvious choice. It's packed with 650+ hands-on exhibits. You simply won't have enough time to see and play with everything. Check out these pictures.
posted by fleener at 8:21 AM on July 21, 2001


It's not nearly as glamourous as some of the other museums listed here, but the Milwaukee Public Musem is truly one of the best general-purpose museums in the nation. (The Milwaukee Art Museum is pretty dang spiffy, too.) In the Twin Cities I have to give a tip of the hat to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
posted by mrbula at 8:36 AM on July 21, 2001


suprised noone has mentioned MOMAs PS1 in NYC... never ceases to amaze with its interesting and challenging exhibitions and rapid turnover. Also, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona is one of the only museums in the world where you can see the development of an individual artist from childhood sketches on napkins, through the glory years, to a massive series of erotic prints made just before death.
posted by adamholz at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2001


i agree with owillis about the air and space museum -- when my family was vacationing in dc, we all got to pick a part of the smithsonian we wanted to visit, and i threw a walleyed fit to go. i wasn't disappointed :)

as far as interesting/unusual, i'd have to say the international rattlesnake museum would be my favorite. (watch out, audio of rattlesnakes that is actually pretty creepy.) may not really be mind expanding, but it was a good way to spend an afternoon.
posted by sugarfish at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2001


1. I'll second the Van Gogh in Amsterdam - I'd always been drawn to his work, but to see across the whole breadth of his output like that... you can only come away a worshipper or a loather (count me amongst the former, needless to say).

2. The Art Institute of Chicago has a spectacular collection and several wonderfully designed spaces. Seems to be always crowded (which, all being equal is a good thing) but can be jarringly loud when school groups are going through.

3. The National Portrait Gallery in London - not because it's always great art, but because you can put a "face" to the "names" while you're visiting the historical sites in England.
posted by m.polo at 12:00 PM on July 21, 2001


Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum is my fave. They always have art to challenge the viewer. Good building, nice location at the foot of Federal Hill on the Inner Harbor. Lawyer Beaton says check it out.
posted by gwyon at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2001


Well and truly beaten. The Pitt Rivers museum has a shrunken head that has been an issue for more than 200 years.

The vestibule has been the biggest issue as far as that museum is concerned. Its only taken 200 years to sort it.
posted by davehat at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2001


Another lovely little museum is Sir John Soane's, in central London. Its candlelight tours (first Tuesday of each month) are very special: like the Pitt Rivers, it's a reminder of the way that most great institutional museums started life as personal collections, driven by the interests of a single mind.
posted by holgate at 1:01 PM on July 21, 2001


The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. Of course, I lived in Minneapolis for 4 years and never went. Stupid, stupid, stupid....
posted by jkottke at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2001


A nice overlooked museum in Chicago is the Oriental Institute, which has collected and exhibited artifacts from Egypt and Asia for over a century. It's on the grounds of the University of Chicago. Don't miss another South Side gem, the Museum of Science and Industry -- one of the oldest, and still greatest, technology museums around. It has a "working" coal mine! And a captured German U-boat! And a 727! Not to mention a fairy castle, a huge model railroad, a recently-acquired world-class collection of historical clocks ...

That, plus the Field and the Art Institute (with its terrific Impressionist collection: this is the museum in Ferris Bueller), put Chicago on the museum map.

Two museums I'd love to visit again are the Munch Museum in Oslo, and the Dali Museum in St. Pete, FL. A neat one from my childhood is northern Minnesota's IronWorld, aka the Iron Range Interpretative Center, aka the Iron Range Interpretive Center (a distinction clear to historians but few others, it seems). For some reason Superior, WI's Great Lakes whaleback boat the Meteor was an exceptional experience. In the Twin Cities don't miss the renowned Walker Art Center.

Another boat that sticks in my mind is the raised USS Cairo, a union gunboat used in the siege of Vicksburg. There are also ship museums in Oslo and Stockholm that are not to be missed in your lifetime. Another must see is the great American estate Biltmore.
posted by dhartung at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2001


Victoria and Albert Museum - cuz there's just so much cool stuff, thanks to hundreds of years of British colonial scourg^H^H^H^H^H^Hrule. And because background = #006699

And the Frick.
posted by fooljay at 9:29 PM on July 21, 2001


Well, for me its a toss-up between the American Museum of Natural History, Storm King Art Center, and the USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio.

1) I love dinosaurs.

2) Pyramidian is probably my favorite sculpture ever, by any artist.

3) Its the only place in the world where you can see a) the sole surviving XB-70 b) one of two YF-22 prototypes c) an SR-71 d) all without even turning your head.
posted by Ptrin at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2001


Mass MOCA in Western Massachusetts...it's just a really enjoyable and involving art museum -- most of the works require you to walk through and experience them...plus, the buildings that house Mass MOCA are delightful to look at...

massmoca.org -- although it wasn't working at post time.
posted by kphaley454 at 9:39 PM on July 21, 2001


My least favorite is the Littleton Historical Museum. err. . .indeed. Yes that Littleton.

They had me chipping ice with one mutha of an icepick for three fucking days straight. Community service for a stupid DUI I got Christmas day 1996.

As a kid--loved it.

Littleton once was a village of simple farmers and a blacksmith. The history's great. Find a little out about the once quaint farming town/now suburban wasteland that sowed and reaped the the most famous duo of the year 1999! A must.
posted by crasspastor at 9:56 PM on July 21, 2001


i'd have to second on the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:08 PM on July 21, 2001


National Gallery of Art in DC. I live within walking distance, and, like most things in DC, it's free, so I can drop in, see one or two rooms, then leave before I get overwhelmed at its bigness. For the same reasons, I can take my daughter there for a casual stroll, and not feel like I need to commit her and myself to a whole day of gallery shuffling. The Sackler, too, but for different reasons--small, calm, quiet, contemplative. It's great living so close to so many great, free museums. Your tax dollars at work, and I thank you!
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2001


I'd have to put my vote in for the American Museum of Natural History in NY. It's got the best dinosaurs, and it still has that old museum feel - dark hallways, wood cases, beautifully paiinted background art. Too many museums are turning "interactive" with buttons and games and video screens everywhere. A kid going to some of these newly re-vamped museums (The Field in Chicago is an example) is so entranced by the screens and buttons that they miss the treasure in the case in front of them.

Another overlooked NY Museum is the Morgan Library. Quiet and uncrowded, this place has an amazing collection of books, prints, drawings and manuscripts. It doesn't have room to display even a portion of what it has, so many of the items are changed over regularly.

My top pick however is The House on the Rock in Spring Green Wisconsin. The place is immense and the collections include every single category you can think of. Rooms filled with dollhouses, train sets, cars, guns, an entire street from 1880, what's billed as the "world's largest carousel", giant music machines, one of them an entire orchestra, a statue-of-liberty-size replica of a whale eating a rowboat full of men is surrounded by a four story staircase lined with the collection of an entire nautical museum, an enormous space filled with giant un-identified industrial machines and pipe organs, and on and on. The place has a slightly cheesy roadside attraction feel, and who know how many of the collections are out-right replicas, but this place is not to be missed.
posted by PMcCann at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2001


As if any stuffy "art" or "history" museum could compare with this. And, of course, the Barbie Museum in Palo Alto (sorry, couldn't find a link). It's more than just Barbie, you see...it's a fun, fashion-filled romp through the last five decades! Small place, but enjoyable.
posted by davidmsc at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2001


The House on the Rock figures prominently in Neil Gaiman's new novel.
posted by kindall at 10:07 AM on July 22, 2001


The Musee Mecanique in SF is also quite fun. "Step backwards in time amidst one of the world's greatest amusing mechanical collections of yester-year."
posted by jkottke at 11:28 AM on July 22, 2001


> because you can put a "face" to the "names"
posted by pracowity at 12:09 AM on July 23, 2001


My vote goes to the Pompidou Centre, as much for its excellent library and language lab as for the exhibits, not to mention the architectural innovation/pure zanyness of the building itself. And each exhibition gets its own accompanying film restrospective - so I just saw "The Birds" on the big screen, then went upstairs to see "Hitchcock and Art" in the museum. Before that, it was Warhol flicks and "The Pop Years".
posted by hazyjane at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2001


I just saw that Hitchcock and Art show a couple of days ago and loved it. What a great mix of media and twists and turns in the gallery rooms like Hitchcock's films. The storyboard drawings for his films were fabulous.

I'm having a hard time choosing my favourite museum. I still have so many to see. The Oxford gang is right about the Pitt Rivers. Oooh I'll second the kudos for the Met in NYC (I like also like that they have a pay what you can afford policy).
posted by spandex at 7:26 AM on July 23, 2001


Peggy Guggenheim's House on the Grand Canal in Venice is spectacular. Lots of peculiar futurist/modernist stuff, some incredible Cornell boxes (see also the Art Institute of Chicago) , and a location guaranteed to inspire real-estate envy in the most hardened anti-materialist.

I'm also fond of the Intuit Center for Outsider Art in Chicago, which has some ridiculously convoluted pieces: I especially like the Rizzoli architectural renderings of his friends-as-buildings, and the disturbing obsessive thousand page masterpieces of Henry Darger.
posted by sfz at 7:46 AM on July 23, 2001


the cloisters, located in fort tryon park in upper manhattan. i used to live right on the park, and would go there to eat lunch several times a week. awesome exhibit of art and architecture from medieval europe. i was especially fond of the gardens.

dhartung, i almost forgot about the museum of science and industry - growing up in chicago, i thought that place was as close to heaven as a five year old kid could get! the german submarine was my favorite - is it still docked on the lake?
posted by modge at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2001


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