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One Day Museum Blitz in Eastern MA or "Sisters on a Sunny Road Trip"

One Day Museum Blitz in Eastern MA or "Sisters on a Sunny Road Trip"

May 12th, 2010, 09:58 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,175
One Day Museum Blitz in Eastern MA or "Sisters on a Sunny Road Trip"

My Dear Sister and I took last Friday off from work and hit the road to visit a few museums; some we'd been to before, others have been on our to do list for a while.

We first drove down 95 to Lexington to the National Heritage Museum. This museum seems to be nothing more than a collection of visiting exhibitions. The draw for us here was Jim Henson's Fantastic World, which is a Smithsonian traveling exhibition on view here until late June. Warning: it is not really for kids. Just so you know. We pretty much knew that it'd be more about Henson's creative process and for the two of us, who grew up on Sesame Street, it was amazing. To see the storyboards behind his various television productions, even remembering certain skits we were seeing his hand-drawn cells for, was really fun. There were about a dozen actual Muppets on view including Kermit, Ernie and Bert, Rolf the Dog, Gobo and Mokie Fraggles, the Mnah Mnah singer and back-up girls. It was pretty nostalgic to see the Muppets, since they were all an iconic part of our childhood but to also learn about how one dimensional the Muppets were meant to be (meaning they exhibited one and only one personality trait of either Hensen or one of his many muppeteers) but also to learn that some of our favorite muppets had lives in advertising long before Sesame Street and the like. As I said, there isn't too much here for little ones to appreciate, other than the muppets themselves. Seeing storyboards or hand-drawns cells may not be the stimulation they need to keep going through the exhibit. I thought this exhibit was extremely well done and presented. The other exhibits on display paled by comparison, particularly the Freemasonry Symbolism in Washington DC one, which had very little to actually connect it to DC, IMHO.

From Lexington, we plugged Clinton, MA into the GPS (god knows how we actually got there!) to visit the Museum of Russian Icons, which claims to be the largest collection of Russian Icons in North America. From the newspaper reports I've read over the years, I expected it to just be a retired guy who opens up his personal space to visitors on various days. In all actuality, it is a fairly significant, extremely modern, well-designed museum set in an old New England house. The design is spectacular, the layout is very accessible and the docent-led tours were just long enough but extremely informative. Know that the collection appears to be growing by the day, and the owner (former President of NEMA, the New England Museum Association) has also just purchased additional attached space, so I suspect that a return visit in a matter of months may show us something quite different and greatly expanded. As I've always been interested in Russia and Russian art, this was on my wishlist, and now as I prepare to go to Russia in the fall, I made it a point to learn what I could here before I head there.

We ate in a small bakery nearby (suggested by the front desk at the museum) before we jumped on the Mass Pike toward the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. My DS is a gallery instructor there, so she gave me my own tours of Secrets of Tomb 10A, Albrecht Durer's prints and Luis Melendez: Master of Spanish Still Life (which just ended). The Tomb 10A and Durer exhibits are on display until late June and early July, respectively, and each on their own would be worth a visit. If you can't take a guided tour, grab the audio guide for Tomb 10A, because just walking through without any context might not be as helpful. I learned more about Egypt than I expected, and I'd just been to the British Museum last year. While you can't compare the breadth of the British Musuem with that of this exhibition, I found it much easier to learn and focus in the MFA's environment. As always, the MFA has done a wonderful job showcasing these gems that have been hidden away in their collection for so long.

So a couple hundred miles or so later, we returned home, fully satisfied, but having identified a few other places we need to visit, like the Lexington/Concord Revolutionary sites (neither of us has ever been) and a revisit to the Museum of Russian Icons to see how it's been expanded.
amyb is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:16 AM
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amyb, thanks for your report!

DH & I went to National Heritage Museum 2 weekends ago for the first time; however we weren't there for the Jim Henson, rather we went to see the National Parks photo exhibit and the Art Deco theatre photo exhibit! In any case, it's quite a nice museum with lots of different themes, so we'll be back again in the future.

Have you been to the literary houses in Concord? On that visit to Lexington, we also stopped by at Old Manse in Concord. On other trips out to concord, I've been to the Concord Museum (which I thought is excellent), and the Orchard House (home of the Alcotts) twice.

I went to the Museum of Russian Icon about a year ago. Gosh, I don't think I've ever seen so many Madonna & Child on tempura in one single setting in my entire life. It was a nice collection, but just too much of the same thing for me.

I've seen the Tomb 10A 3 times now; I find it very fascinating, and DIFFERENT from what I normally see in museums with Egyptian artifacts. I thought Tomb 10A is excellent, and in a managable size that doesn't overwhelm me.

Our next museum outing in the next month or two will be the ICA to see Roni Horn, and PEM to see the Mayan show. Have you seen either show yet?

BTW, have you been to the Ayer Mansion? I was there last weekend and if you haven't been, please go! http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...omment-6406804
yk is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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Oh I felt there was so much more at the Russian Icon museum, especially the icons of the different saints and how the images told their life stories. Sort of like how stained glass did/does in Christian churches. On the tour, we learned that there are "pattern books" that have to be followed if you are making an icon. St. Nicholas must always appear a certain, wear a white scarf with red crosses (so that he is immediately recognizable as St. Nicholas). The Madonna and Child must always apppear a certain way. And how the wood the icons were painted on was hollowed out much like an ark was. And why certain icons had metal or cloissonne coverings (to protect them from the kisses of the faithful). Honestly we spent about 2 hour there, which was about 2 1/2 times as long as I expected, but the tour was wonderful and I learned a lot more than I imagined.

I get the sense that the National Heritage Museum changes the exhibitions frequently, so I wouldn't send out a blanket "you must go there" unless you've researched it like you and I did and identified something you must see. The land it is on is quite pretty though.

I've never even been to Concord, believe it or not! That was my first time through, and we made a note that we must go back.

I need to get to the PEM as I believe they have a Kennedy photo installation I wanted to see. But being only 2 towns away, I get there so very rarely, which is unfortunate!

I haven't been to the Ayer Mansion but it looks interesting. Thanks for the tip. My DS would love the Tiffany.
amyb is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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Sounds like a great way to spend a day. Thanks for the report.
emalloy is offline  
May 29th, 2010, 07:44 PM
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amyb, have you made it to PEM yet? We were there today; the Kennedy photo show is quite small; 3 galleries with mostly blown up contact sheets from one photo shoot. Still fun to see, but don't expect many photos.

BUT, the Mayan show is excellent!!! I don't know much about Mayan culture, except a few PBS shows in the last year or 2; but the PEM show is very well-done and the artifacts are top-notch quality. Both the Mayan show and the Kennedy show closes mid-July I believe.
yk is offline  
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