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Best museums in America??

Old Sep 8th, 1998, 12:59 PM
Debbie Willis
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Best museums in America??

Would like your opinion - what are some of the Best? Any catagory is ok
Old Sep 8th, 1998, 02:11 PM
Neal Sanders
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The attached list isn't intended to be exhaustive, but it ought to get you started. If it seems heavy on east coast institutions, that's because the patrons who traditionally collected art and then left bequests to museums historically lived in the northeast, and that's where the museums were at the time. If the 20th century equivalents of the 19th century robber barons choose to convert part of their wealth into art, then I suspect the next "great" museums will be in Seattle, Palo Alto, etc. For the present, at least, they're predominantly in the Washington-New York-Boston corridor.

Here's my list, more or less in order of collection quality:

Art - European, pre-20th century
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
The Getty Museum (Los Angeles)
The Frick Collection (New York)
The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
The National Gallery of Art (Washington DC)
The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago)
The Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia)
The Baltimore Art Museum (Baltimore)
The Norton Simon Museum (Los Angeles)

Art - European and American Modern
The Museum of Modern Art (New York)
The Guggenheim Museum (New York)
The Baltimore Art Museum (Baltimore)

Art - American
The Smithsonian Institution - Museum of American Art (Washington DC)
The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York)
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia)

Art - Asian
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
The Smithsonian Institution - Freer Art Gallery (Washington DC)
The Asian Art Museum (San Francisco)

Decorative Arts
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
The Winterthur Museum (Greenville, DE)
The Philadelphia Art Institute (Philadelphia)
The Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore)

Natural History
The Museum of Natural History (New York)
The Smithsonian Institution - Museum of Natural History (Washington DC)
The Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago)

Other superb museums
The Museum of Television and Radio (New York)
The Isabelle Stewart Gardiner Museum (Boston)
The Fogg Museums at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
The Smithsonian Institution - National Portrait Gallery (Washington DC)
The Wadsworth Anthenaum (Hartford, CT)
The Smithsonian Institution - Air and Space Museum (Washington DC)

I'm sure others will add their own views of "the Best."

Old Sep 8th, 1998, 04:45 PM
Owen O'Neill
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Will only comment on those I've visited:

I second the motion on National Gallery of Art (DC) and the Chicago Art Institute - both excellent. The Frick Museum in NYC is particularly good for those wishing to see an entire collection within a reasonable amount of time (1/2 day).
A small art museum of interest in my region (upstate NY)is the Albright-Knox in Buffalo. For a small college museum (a plug here for my alma mater) I suggest Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. Excellent collection of drawings and paintings and a highly unusual collection of decorative jade items.
In Rochester NY is the Strong Museum: toys, household furnishings, clothing, advertising materials, Asian writing increments and inkpots and the world's largest collection of dolls - check it out at - must be seen to be appreciated. Also in Rochester is Eastman House - restored home of Kodak's founder, a world class photography museum, a huge collection of antique photographic equipment and the world's largest motion picture and motion picture stills collection.
In Syracuse (my hometown) is the new Museum of Automotive History - the only automotive museum in the world without any cars!
Lastly, if you like the oddball stuff - the Musical Instrument Museum in Leonardsville NY (most are working and many may be tried hands-on!). Just down the road in Otselic NY is the Fly Fishing Museum of America.
Old Sep 9th, 1998, 05:37 PM
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Like to go into a World War II German U-boat? Like to descend into a coal mine? Then head for Chicago's marvelous Museum of Science and Industry. I guarantee that you can spend a week there and never grow tired of its marvels.
Old Sep 10th, 1998, 07:16 AM
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Wow! This is a question...

As a professional (art historian) and avocational museum addict, it is a mind boggling thought. Let me just say that I think Boston's MFA ought to be mentioned for its general collections, as well as the decorative arts.

Let me add a couple of categories - for which I cannot supply exhaustive listings:
Antiquities (Middle-Eastern and Graeco/Roman):
NY Met
Cleveland Museum of Art

European Medieval Art
Morgan Library, NYC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

Native American Art:
Heard Museum (Phoenix)
Museums of New Mexico (Santa Fe)
Museum of British Columbia, Victoria, BC
( know it's Canadian - I don't remember if the topic was specific to the US - besides they have great collections of Native Americana in the wider definition of the name America - and it is a terrific museum)

OMSI - Oregon Museum of Science & Industry
Exploratorium - San Francisco - always changing and a model of a hands on museum in an intriguing recycled setting

Museum Buildings would also be an interesting topic as many interesting new structures have been built in the last 25 or 30 years, some successful, some not.
Getty (Los Angeles)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
High Museum (Atlanta)
East Wing, National Gallery (Washington,D.C.)
Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA)

other nominations here? There has been a lot of work done, on smaller regional museums and college structures as well.

Old Sep 10th, 1998, 09:48 AM
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Some on the West Coast----Huntington Library in San Marino (suburb of L.A.) has Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Pinkie. How about the La Brea Tar Pit Museum in LA and the Getty, particularly now that it's got a new addition. And, yes, there is a wonderful one about to open in Palo Alto----The Stanford Museum at Stanford Univ. has an extensive collection, especially Rodins, but has been closed for seismic retrofit for a couple years. Should open soon! SF has many little museums: De Young, the SFMOMA, and the Cable Car Museum. I would also consider any of the missions up and down the coast of California to be museums and would highly recommend them. My very favorite has to be the Smithsonian in D.C., however.
Old Sep 10th, 1998, 06:31 PM
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I am mostly a fan of art museums, so my favorites fall in that category. The Metropolitan Museum in NY is overwhelmingly wonderful, as is the Art Institute of Chicago. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a fabulous new building and the Museum of Modern Art in Ny has a fine collection and often has wonderful special exhibits(the current Bonnard exhibit is superb). Boston's Museum of Fine Arts is very good, but in Boston I really like the Gardner Museum. For a small museum The Frick Collection in NY is absolutely perfect.
Old Sep 11th, 1998, 04:49 AM
Neal Sanders
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Let me add two names to the lengthy list above:

The Holocaust Memorial and Museum (Washington DC) is probably the country's best example of what Marsha, above, cites as "architecture that instructs." It belongs on any list of "the best" museums.

Also, Brooklyn's Museum of Fine Arts houses one of the best collections of both American art and of Egyptian antiquities. It should not be missed by anyone interested in seeing America's best museums.
Old Sep 11th, 1998, 07:28 AM
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Neal is right. I meant to put the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. on my list and forgot. I think it has no equal in the manner in which the architecture conforms to the purpose of the institution and enhances and extends its purpose and message. It is a remarkable accomplishment. When I am asked by people who have scant time what museums to see in Washington, D.C., my answer is one art museum (your favorite flavor), one of the Smithsonian's museums that is not art (I always go for the rock and gem specimens while the kids head for air & space), and the Holocaust Museum if they have not seen it before.

And many of us on the west coast are eagerly awaiting Stanford Museum's reopening - anxious to see the melding of a modern addition and retrofit with the older building.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 07:55 AM
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I'd add Blackhawk (Automotive) in Danville, CA and the Petersen (Automotive) in LA. Did anyone mention the Met?(NYC) There's a tiny museum in Lincoln Park in New Orleans that has a Faberge Collection....OH what about Marjorie-Merrywether Posts' place....I better scroll up and review before you guys let me have it for redundancy!
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 08:15 AM
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Let us not forget the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the best Native American museum.
And, one of my favorites: The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 08:56 AM
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You've covered all the major art museums that I'm familiar with, but let me toss in a couple regional contenders plus a local museum that I visitedin Vermont last month. The Vermont museum is the St.Johnsbury (on Rt. 91 near Canadian border) Athenaeum. It was donated to the town in the 1880s, and it contains the original collection (an assortment of Hudson River School, copies of old masters, etc.) in the original setting. It's a great example of late Victorian taste in the U.S. The regional museums are the the Phillips in Washington, which inlcudes Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party," a big Bonnard collection, and several Van Goghs; and the Detroit Art Institute, which has a very good medieval collection. Oh, and did anyone mention the Cloisters in NYC.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 10:25 AM
Isee'em, useeum
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Great thread!

Has anyone been to the new Mass MoCA in the Berkshires, MA? I kept reading about it while it was being constructed, and it sounded potentially great.

I'm not going to give my whole list, just ones I didn't see already while skimming.

The Museum of Folk Art and the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe.

Ellis Island in NYC (although getting there is a hassle, with all the crowds, and the museum itself is so exhausting you can't do it justice in one go).

Haven't been there, but hear the DeMenil and the Rothko chapel in Texas (Houston, right?) are transcendent.

I'll continue Owen's "be true to your school" theme and mention the Addison Gallery in Andover, MA, which is truly great for its size, but not so convenient for tourists (45 minutes from Boston). Oberlin and Colby Colleges also have excellent museums, but neither is an alma mater...

And, finally, how about all those house and plantation museums in the Charleston/Savannah area? I know it's stretching the category somewhat, but "any category is ok".
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 10:28 AM
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Oh, and the Yale University Art Museum, too.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 01:37 PM
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I enjoy art but my exposure has been limited. I too have enjoyed the MOMA in NYC and the Smithsonian in DC. I would, however, like to add one that I like alot and that I'm surprised noone has mentioned yet. Maybe someone could enlighten me as to why not. My pick is the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fl.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 01:58 PM
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Three that shouldn't be missed:
1) Art Institute of Chicago
2) Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
3) Smithsonian in D.C.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 01:59 PM
Bob Brown
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I think the "big boys" have been covered well. Let me add two entries, one Canadian, but it is hard to exclude our close neighbor to the north where the commonality of English is concerned.
1. the Indian museum at the Colter Bay Visitor Center in the Grand Tetons National Park and
2. the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta.
The museum at Colter Bay is small, but has some excellent examples of Indian clothing, art, jewelry, household tools, and war equipment. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a World Heritage Site. What else can I say?
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 05:14 PM
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This would probably fall into the 'Offbeat but Interesting' category -- the Museum of Beverage Containers & Advertising near Nashville TN.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 05:32 PM
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One of my favorites is the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, OH. The glass collection is outstanding.
Old Sep 15th, 1999, 11:01 PM
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Also highly recommend Sterling & Clark, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Frick Collection - real treasures! I'm a bit surprise that no one has mentioned Norman Rockwell... Affectionados should not miss the recently built museum in Stockbridge, MA, his last home and proprietor of his best original "works". They've moved his last studio to the grounds as well. Nearby, in Arlington and Rutland, VT are "exhibits" of his works. In Arlington, you can visit his home (now a B&B) and a "display" in a former church, where reproductions are sold at very low prices and can be framed at very moderate prices. You can also buy plates, figurines, and everything else imaginable. The "guides" here are folks who were models (in their much younger days) in his paintings. And, there's a video of an "autobiography" he taped. In Rutland, the "exhibit' is more historical - his very early original illustrations (many of them magazine advertisements) and ALL of his (original) Saturday Evening Post covers.

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