As an archivist, my ethical duty is to maintain those objects of intrinsic value to future generations. I’ve often found that others assume my profession is focused on facts and figures, the hard data from which a census or otherwise lifeless historical record can be drawn. Such data will inform one on how a people survived. As important as this data is, it cannot tell you how a people dreamed. [more inside]
Three years ago, a man punched a hole in a Monet painting as it hung in Ireland's National Gallery. Conservationists have restored it. This is their story. [more inside]
Francie Diep on why natural history museums are taking down their indigenous cultures dioramas—and what can take their place.
Visitors and museum staff say that by displaying American Indian cultures alongside dinosaur fossils, gemstones and taxidermied animals, dioramas make their subjects seem less than fully human. And because they depict a culture in a freeze-frame moment in time—often during the seventeenth century, around when many tribes first contacted Europeans—they make children think that all the American Indians are dead.
The DMMapp (Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App) is a website that links to more than 300 libraries in the world. Each one of these contains medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free. The DMMapp is a product of Sexy Codicology, an independent project focused on medieval illuminated manuscripts and social media. It maintains a great blog about medieval manuscripts, especially those that are available online.
Norway seems to be particularly good at making interesting museums. If you're touring, the museum of magic is spell-binding. The museum of knitting is a real purl. The petroleum museum is a gas. The Lofoten Stockfish museum is off the hook. And the Norsk Hermetickk-museum is about the history of sealing things in cans. [more inside]
In the wake of the Corcoran's difficulties, which have now spawned more legal disputing, should we allow failing arts organizations to die?
Increasing the accessibility of cultural capital: "In New York, a place whose cultural institutions attract people from around the world, there are residents who not only have never visited those institutions but also some who have never even been uptown."
NYTimes: "The paleontologist Richard Leakey has called their removal a “sacrilege.” Kenyan villagers have said their theft led to crop failure and ailing livestock. It is little wonder, then, that the long, slender wooden East African memorial totems known as vigango are creating a spiritual crisis of sorts for American museums." [more inside]
The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's collections, now searchable in color. Colors? They got colors. All kinds of colors. My god, it's just full of colors. But wait, there's even more inside... [more inside]
Welcome to a tumblr of wonders. Special Collections, archives, and libraries have many wonderful items, but getting to them all can be a bit like trying to walk into Mordor, unless you have unlimited time and grants. But now, thanks to Tumblr, you too can explore collections around the world, and one of the best comes to us from the University of Iowa. Want a Hamlet quote on a miniature book that unfolds into a tiny Globe Theatre? Of course you do. Actual flying squirrels? Adventure with Alice! Get close to illuminations? Catch a glimpse of hipster frames circa 1504? More awesome librar* tumblrs inside. [more inside]
Settling in for a long winter's nap? In need of a memento mori to guard against the unbridled jollity of the season? Just want to explore the wonderful world of 3D scans, osteology, and bioarchaeology on the internet a little further? Sad that Santa probably isn't bringing you a T-Rex for Christmas? Well, just peak inside... [more inside]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim offer 474 free art books online. 99 art catalogs from the Guggenheim. 375 MetPublications. An example: Masterpieces of Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [more inside]
This week the Getty Museum announced that it is making 4600 digital images of public domain materials in its collections freely available, with plans to release more as their status is confirmed. You can browse the collection here, or take a look at some selected highlights. Want more free images? Try these repositories.
As part of the preparation for a special exhibition on the history of Chinese food in America, the Smithsonian opens the world's oldest can of fortune cookies. More posts on the exhibit research under the Sweet & Sour tag. [previously]
The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. While its home, the grand Andrew Carnegie mansion in Manhattan, is currently undergoing a major renovation, you can still experience the richness of the collections through its Object of the Day blog. Recent highlights range from scratch & sniff wallpaper to the elegant simplicity of an Eames dining chair.
On May 24th, 1813, Jane Austen visited a blockbuster art exhibition--the first major retrospective of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the premier English portraitist of the 18th century. Debuting 200 years to the day later, What Jane Saw is a room-by-room virtual recreation of the exhibition, based on the original catalog of the paintings and contemporary depictions of the building where it was held.
Last summer, the Museum of Modern Art took one of its best-known paintings off the wall, Jackson Pollock's One: Number 31, 1950, so that it could be conserved. They've been blogging about the process of restoring this dense, multi-layered work, including closeup photos that reveal an earlier restoration in the mid-60s before it came to MOMA.
Owen Phairis, aka “Nikolai Tesla, Man of Lightning”, has a planetarium projector museum near Bear Lake, CA. Cool Hunting takes a tour.
In 2009, the entire rental library of legendary New York video store Mondo Kim's (previously) was shipped to a small town in Sicily, with the promise of a nonstop film festival and free access for former Kim's members. The reality turned out considerably differently. (Printer-friendly link).
Where to see Kandinsky in the world's museums. Each museum page links to images, including many early works. Eye candy. [more inside]
Confessions of a Genius Art Forger — In one of Germany's greatest art scandals, former hippie and talented artist Wolfgang Beltracchi forged dozens of paintings over a period of 35 years, earning millions and fooling top collectors and museums. In a SPIEGEL interview, he reveals how he did it and why he eventually got caught. Photo Gallery. Background... [more inside]
Closer to Van Eyck is an ultra-high-resolution look at one of the greatest masterpieces of Flemish painting, the Ghent Altarpiece (previously) an astounding 100 billion pixels in size. Stolen, with permission, from peacay's Twitter stream.
"Technology presumes there's just one right way to do things and there never is." - Robert M. Pirsig
The Museum of RetroTechnology is a curated online collection of (mostly) obsolete inventions. The exhibitions include Gearwheels From Hell, the Dynosphere monowheel, Unusual Pedal Bicycles, Propeller-Driven Sleighs, Water Engines, Dog and Goat Engines, Acoustic Location and Sound Mirrors, Optical Telegraphs, and Combat Cutlery.
Throughout 2011, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been producing Connections, a series of short audiovisual pieces in which various staff members talk about their favorite parts of the Met's vast holdings. The last of the 100 videos was posted today.
After his presidency, Thomas Jefferson took on the task of re-editing the New Testament by literally cutting and pasting a new version of the text, shorn of Jesus's miracles and the Resurrection. Titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (but known more commonly today as the Jefferson Bible), the handmade book had begun to crumble after nearly two centuries. Now, after a painstaking conservation process, the Jefferson Bible has been digitized, and will be on exhibition at the Smithsonian though May 2012. (Previously)
The Morgan Library Black Hours, one of the world's most beautiful and striking illuminated manuscripts, has been digitized in its entirety. Richly decorated in blue and gold on black vellum, it is one of a surviving handful of such manuscripts produced in late 15th century Bruges. (Poorer quality, but still interesting, images of another such work, the Black Hours of Charles the Bold, are also online.
Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci are among the rarest and most coveted treasures in the museum world. So how did the National Gallery manage to assemble two thirds of the world's supply for its new show Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan?
What kind of uniform did prisoners transported to Australia in the 19th century wear? How did you keep yourself in underwear despite WWII rationing? Check out the Australian Dress Register--it's more than just dresses!
The 100,000-item Victorian curio collection other museums refused to take. 'The “merman”, a chimera made from bits of fish, fowl and monkey, is identified as “possibly Dutch or Japanese, possibly a Javanese ritual figure, possibly 1801-1900”. A paper label classifies it under veterinary medicine.'
Mohamed Elshahed writes in Jadaliyya about the many problems with the museums of Egypt, including their conflation of "Egyptian history" with "ancient Egypt", their tendency to address themselves to tourists rather than Egyptians, their recent domination by the influence Zahi Hawass (who has resigned as Minister of Antiquities for the second time in five months, after having first left his post in March over the looting of archaeological sites during the recent uprising), their poor organisation and shadowy finances and, not least, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities' use as a torture site during the protests in Tahrir Square.
The Smithsonian's forthcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture won't open until 2015, but it has already made a number of important acquisitions, including most recently, the Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership.
The Corning Museum of Glass (previously), not to be confused with the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington (previously), has named 60 favorites of their own collection and campus. The choices range from ancient, like the glass "portrait" of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep II, to the scientific, like the initial 200-inch disk intended for the Hale telescope at the Mt. Palomar observatory, to modern sculpture, like Family Matter by Jill Reynolds.
Historically Hardcore is an awesome fake advertising campaign for the Smithsonian. Created as a portfolio project by two students, the ads have gone viral and the Smithsonian is none too pleased about it.
To mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, the JFK Library has unveiled a new digital archive containing 200,000 pages; 300 reels of audio tape, containing more than 1,245 individual recordings of telephone calls, speeches and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of film; and 1,500 photos.
Bowing to pressure from right-wing critics, the National Portrait Gallery has decided to remove David Wojnarowicz's film "A Fire in My Belly" from its groundbreaking exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture". [more inside]
Europeana, a portal that brings together digitized items from scores of museums and libraries from across the continent, has launched its first online exhibition, Art Nouveau. (Click on the object, then "View object in Europeana" for high-res images.) And be sure to check out the massive new exhibition Reading Europe at sister site The European Library.
Objects Through Time tells the story of immigration and the changing ethnic diversity of New South Wales, Australia through "movable heritage" - that is, artifacts and objects with historical resonance. While almost ignoring 50,000 years of aboriginal occupation, the site does a nice job of both familiar topics through a fresh lens (e.g., Captain Cook's "secret instructions"), but also takes pains to look at those lesser known topics which may be more accessible through material culture than through texts. [more inside]
The Space Shuttle is still retiring but a U.S. Senate plan (full text PDF), (House version) would add one more flight to the shuttle's career, probably sometime late next summer. The move comes as thousands of jobs stand to be eliminated with the shuttle's retirement. [more inside]
When Gladys and Harold Degree pulled the siding off their Colchester, VT home, they made a surprising discovery--five large, full-color posters from an 1883 visit by the Forepaugh Circus. Conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center made another surprising discovery underneath--posters for Forepaugh's rivals, the John B. Doris Circus. The newly conserved posters are on display at the Shelburne Museum through October 24th. (via)
The Vincent Van Gogh Museum (previously) is undertaking a complete restoration of The Bedroom (or Bedroom in Arles), one of Van Gogh's best-known paintings. The staff members working on the restoration have started a blog to document the entire process.
Strange and peculiar electicity. Electrotherapy, Furby stress test, pre-Edison electric lights. Historic pictures of powerlines, and the men that made it possible.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is using crowdsourcing to determine the best images, crops and enlargements of items in its online database. [more inside]
Want to see Trajan's Column, Michelangelo’s David (with or without fig leaf), and Notre Dame all in one room? (Well, two rooms.) The Victoria and Albert’s “Cast Courts” are an amazing example of Victorian plaster casting, allowing those who couldn't afford the Grand Tour a chance to see great works of art and architecture.
Saturday, September 26th, the Smithsonian museum family and their affiliates will be hosting a free admission event, if you go to their MUSEUM DAY site and print out the admission coupon. One coupon = 1+ admission. [more inside]
Mapping sound at the British Library. The British Library has organized several of its archival sound collections on Google Maps. The results include Accents and Dialects, wildlife and soundscape recordings from Britain, music from India and Uganda, and a whole mess of noisy frogs. [more inside]
Web Tech Guy and Angry [Museum] Staff Person. A very funny animation for the museums workers and librarians subset of Mefites. From Michael Edson at Smithsonian 2.0.
Circuits are flipping on in the nation's attic. A couple of weeks ago, 31 "digerati" -- like Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson, and George Oates -- dropped in to the Smithsonian Institution for the invitation-only conference "Smithsonian 2.0: A Gathering to Re-imagine the Smithsonian in the Digital Age". Dan Cohen of the Center for History and New Media provides a great summary (and continues to pose provocative questions) on his own blog. Those whose invitations were somehow lost in the mail can play fly-on-the-wall by watching the keynotes, paging through the Flickr pool of envymaking glimpses of their behind-the-scenes lab and collections tours, reading the blog (where Bruce Wyman of the Denver Art Museum lays out a succinct road map for museums using social media), and poking around in the SI's website gallery. Want to cheer on the USA's favorite 163-year-old "Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge" without taking the trip to DC? Thanks to their recent efforts, you can now follow the SI on Twitter, listen to its podcasts, watch its YouTube channel, visit the Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life, or use the FaceBook gifts page to send your best friends their very own pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers, Hope diamond, Negro Leagues baseball, or coelocanth.
"It became an accessory of fashion. Status symbol like jewels, the fan had some additional advantages: you could hide behind, spy through tiny holes in the fan, swirl the fan coquettishly, or move the fan according to difficult fan language conventions, a kind of early telecommunication." [more inside]