Pitt Rivers Museum Review

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Useful Info:

  • Collections: Anthropological collections from around the world.
  • City: Oxford, UK.
  • Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm, Monday 12pm-4:30pm.
  • Price: Free
  • Website

This review is going to be quite a short one, since the Pitt Rivers is a small museum. My visit there took about half an hour. I had one day to do all of Oxford, including the Ashmolean (which I will review soon), so I was running around everywhere but I don’t think it would take more than an hour to go through the Pitt Rivers anyway.DSC_0033 The entrance to the Pitt Rivers is through the Natural History Museum (pictured above), a very impressive building in terms of architecture. Then, as you can see in the picture below, the Pitt Rivers consists of one large room with two floors of mezzanine. The mezzanines are easy to navigate because they go around the main hall, but there is no real logic in terms of navigation.

The collections are displayed in old fashioned glass cases, and they are classified by theme (hunting, transportation, food & drink, costumes…). There is so much to see, but it can get a little overwhelming. The display cases are very crammed, and very close to each other. As an archaeologist, it makes me sad to see such huddled displays. There are some beautiful objects but they are really not enhanced in the way that they are exhibited.

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Another thing that bothered me about the Pitt Rivers is how dark it was. they actually have panels explaining that light deteriorate objects, which I understand, especially since they have a lot of textiles and organics; but I think that modernizing the displays would solve that issue.

There’s kind of a debate about that, and a lot of people like how the museum has all these themed cases; but the dominant feeling I had when I was there was being overwhelmed and a little sad. The Pitt Rivers felt like a museum of a museum to me. It reflects a way of exhibiting that hasn’t changed much in a century. However, I do think it is worth visiting, if only to get that experience.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 8/10
  • Architecture: 8/10
  • Collections: 7/10
  • Display: 2/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 5/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 5/10
  • Overall: 6/10

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Review

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Useful Info:

  • Collections: Modern and contemporary art, plus changing exhibitions
  • City: New York, USA.
  • Opening hours: Saturday-Thursday 10:30am-5:30pm, Friday 10:30am-8pm (also Thursday 10:30am-8pm in July and August). Members can come from 9:30 every day.
  • Price: $25 regular, $18 seniors, $14 students, free for children under 16 and member. Members can bring up to five guests for $5.
  • Website

I’m not going to spend a long time introducing the MoMA, it is one of the most famous museums on this planet and I’m sure a lot of sites can do that better than me. I just want to share my experience of it, so here it is.

I went to the MoMA on a Sunday, which was the last day of the Björk exhibition, but it wasn’t too crowded. I really appreciated that and I wanted to focus on it because I think it really changes the visitor’s experience.

DSC_1329So the MoMa has 6 floors with things on display (or 5 for non Americans but I’m going to follow their system here). The first floor has no galleries, but this is where the sculpture garden is located. We started there and worked our way upwards.

I don’t remember exactly what was located in which gallery (next time I promise I’ll take notes), and the plan of the museum is not very explicit about it. According to it, the second floor houses prints and illustrated books, media, and contemporary galleries. I do remember the contemporary galleries having a lot of Andy Warhol artwork in them. It was one of the first things I saw inside the MoMA and I was very impressed. You can check out the Campbell soup room in the picture above.

The third floor has architecture and design, drawing, and photography. If my memories are correct it also had this huge corridor with video game projections on both walls that you could control (pictured below). The MoMA actually has a good number of interactive things on display like retro games and they are pretty successful.

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Moving on, the 4th and 5th floor have painting and sculpture, but not just any. I knew the MoMA was a big deal but I never expected to see so many major pieces from the 20th century on display in the same building. They have Dali, Ernst, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Monet, Kahlo, Rothko, Van Gogh and so many other spread over those two floors. I was seriously mind blown. I posted the picture below to my Snapchat story so you can have an idea of my reaction.

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The 6th floor has a shop and temporary exhibition galleries. When I went there it was an exhibition about Yoko Ono, which is still running until September 7 2015. I can’t tell you what I thought of it because by then it was almost closing time and I really wanted to see the Björk exhibition.

I know the exhibition is over now but I’d still like to share my thoughts about it with you. I missed some parts of it, because it was almost closing and also because the MoMA has temporary display galleries spread out on different floors, so t can get confusing especially when they are used for the same exhibition. They don’t connect so you’d have to go in then out then switch floors and back in.

But anyway I saw bits of the movie that they were projecting and the core part of the exhibition, which was more like an experience than a traditional exhibition. They gave us mandatory audioguides in which Björk herself narrates a story, hers. The audioguide follows the exhibition, which is divided into several rooms which make up the different phases of her career and growth as an artist. Each room has a corresponding track on the audioguide and objects on display, from costumes to notebooks to personal objects. The sound is very Björk-like and dreamy, and I enjoyed listening to all of it. The material displayed was also stunning (check out this amazing costume below). But there was one major flaw with the exhibition; and that was that the tracks of the audioguide were too long compared to what there was to see in each room. Overall though I was really glad I got to see this exhibit.

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Wrapping up, I think that if you’re in New York you should absolutely not miss the MoMA. My visit took about 3 hours but it felt like way less. There is so much to see at this museum, the collections are incredibly rich and interesting. It is relatively easy to navigate and not huge, which is always something I appreciate in a museum. Make sure you also check out the design store. It’s overpriced but they have so many pretty things. The MoMA is definitely my favorite museum in New York and my second favorite in the US so far (yup the MFA still has number one).

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 8.5/10
  • Architecture: 8.5/10
  • Collections: 9.5/10
  • Display: 9/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 7.5/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 9/10
  • Overall: 8.5/10

Newseum Review

Photo courtesy of the Newseum 

Useful Info:

  • Collections: Contemporary material concerning 20th and 21st century history as well as changing exhibitions about major news events.
  • City: Washington DC, USA.
  • Opening hours: Everyday 9am-5pm. Tickets are valid for two days in a row.
  • Price: $23 regular, $19 concessions, $14 youth, free for children under 6.
  • Website

The Newseum was highly recommended to me by several of my friends who had been there before, so I decided to include it in my DC itinerary. I went there by myself and it took me approximately one and a half hour to visit it entirely, though one could spend more time using all the interactive equipment and looking at the display more in depth. Before going any further, I would like to apologize for the lack of personal pictures. I still had my old phone, and it was broken and running out of battery that day.

Photo courtesy of the Newseum

Upon entering the museum, I was given a brochure that served as a museum map. The Newseum has a suggested visiting itinerary, which is something I appreciated, especially since it is not a museum in the traditional sense of the term and therefore there was no particular section I was excited to see more than another. Therefore, I followed the plan and started my visit in the basement. The most interesting part of that floor is the Berlin Wall gallery (pictured above), which features part of the actual Berlin Wall including a guard tower. This floor also features a changing exhibition space (that was about the Baby Boom generation when I visited but is now over), a gallery on the FBI; which I did not find particularly striking, and a small section on comics.

The visit continues on the 6th floor, where you can admire the view on Pennsylvania avenue and the Capitol from a terrace which also includes a timeline of this iconic street. Inside, there are displays of front pages of the day from all over the world. I enjoyed those two parts of the Newseum, as I thought they were good uses of the space there and were not overwhelming like some other parts of it. Speaking of which, the last section of this floor is dedicated to changing exhibitions. The current one is about the Vietnam War, and it features panels and panels of written material. I did not read everything in depth because I’m not that interested in the subject.

From there on, I worked my way down. The fifth floor is mainly composed of the News Corp, a large galleries featuring front row pages from great historical events. It also has a gallery with reproductions of important books and a theater. I did not stop at any of the theaters because film is not really my favorite media in museums, especially when it’s informative rather than artistic.

Photo courtesy of the Newseum

The 4th floor was the one I found least interesting, although it had many things to see, including an interactive gallery about the internet and new media, an exhibition on civil rights, a temporary display on the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the 9/11 gallery (pictured above). This was the part I liked the most; it had newspaper front pages from all over the world and a part of the antenna; but overall I thought this floor was a little bit too American-centered especially since American history is not a subject I am very passionate about.

The third and second floors are both very interactive and include another theater and a newsroom you can play in. Some of my personal highlights on these floors are the Journalists Memorial, a reminder that journalism is still a dangerous profession; and the Freedom of Speech map, an interesting infographic that has to be taken with a grain of salt but is well designed and well explained.

Last but not least, the first floor (or the ground floor four all of you non Americans). It has yet another movie theater I did not visit, but what makes this floor and more generally the whole Newseum famous is the Pulitzer prize photographs gallery. I has every single picture that ever won the Pulitzer price and the story behind some of them. It is probably the most popular and best displayed gallery of the Newseum. I was not as enthusiastic about it as some of my friends were but I think overall it is very well looked upon.

Photo courtesy of the Newseum

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed by the Newseum. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion as a 20 something non American female who is not that interested in the news. I liked some galleries and displays but one visit was enough for me and I would not go back. Mainly what I disliked about this museum is that it had way too much information. The fact that all this information concerned subjects I’m not interested in really didn’t help. A lot of the displays are very overwhelming. There is way too much text, a huge diversity of fonts, colors, and shapes of panels. The Newseum is also very interactive, which can be a good thing sometimes but here it gets a little bit too much. That makes it extremely family friendly though and there were lots of children and school groups when I was visiting. I would not recommend this place unless you are very interested in journalism/recent history or you have children and it’s too hot or too cold to be outside.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 8/10
  • Architecture: 8.5/10
  • Collections: 5/10
  • Display: 6.5/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 8/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 7/10
  • Overall: 7/10

Museum of Fine Arts Review

DSC_1210Useful Info:

  • Collections: Art from the five continents, ranging from the Ancient World to Contemporary Art.
  • City: Boston, MA, USA.
  • Opening hours: Saturday-Tuesday: 10am-4:45pm; Wednesday-Friday: 10am-9:45pm
  • Price: $25 regular, $23 concessions, free for children under 17 or 6 (depending on visit time)
  • Website

The MFA is the first place I visited in Boston and it is still my favorite museum that I visited during my US East Coast trip,but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The first thing you should know is that the MFA is a big museum, but it is still manageable. I spent approximately five hours there but I took my time and had a lunch break. The museum has 4 floors, and is divided into five main wings plus special exhibitions. I entered from the Fenway entrance (North) that you can see on the panoramic picture,which takes you straight through the European Art galleries, one levels 1 and 2. On the East wing, and spread across all four floors is the Art of the Americas. Then, the South wing is divided between Art of the Ancient world to the East (levels 1 and 2), and Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa (levels 1 and 2). Finally, the West wing houses the contemporary art galleries on levels 1 and 2. This may sound a bit complex but the museum is actually really easy to navigate and the color-coded visitor map is very easy to read and features highlights from the collections and where to find them. There are two reference points at the center of the museum: the Shapiro Family courtyard (pictured below) and the Rotunda.

DSC_1220There are many things I really enjoyed about these museums, but here are some highlights. Firstly, I found the museum extremely easy to navigate. All the galleries are clearly numbered and there are almost no dead ends, so you can have a fluid visit without having to repeat rooms. So even though the museum is large, you don’t waste time by tracing back your steps. Another thing I appreciated were the free tours offered regularly in all areas of the museum. I think that they partly justify the cost of the entry ticket. I didn’t listen to a complete one but I stumbled upon a couple and they seemed interesting and led by professional and knowledgeable people who don’t only talk about the art itself but also give some anecdotes about it and how it relates to the outside world. Speaking of value for money, another interesting feature of the MFA are the “Conservation in action” rooms (pictured below). My friend who was interning there told me that the curators are not a fan of these rooms because they take up some of the storage space but as a visitor, I thought it was a great addition to the museum. You get to see conservators work on some pieces through a glass wall, which can be a little strange but is also a really nice insight on the behind the scenes aspect of the museum life.

DSC_1266The price for the ticket also includes temporary exhibitions. The Hokusai exhibit was on  during my visit and I highly recommend it. It runs until August 9 2015. This exhibition was one of my highlights because it was so simply yet well designed. Every part focused on a theme, and the wall colors changed accordingly. It was easy to understand even without reading labels and explanatory panels, which provided more in depth information. There was also a small display case at the exit with objects that the museum staff gathered featuring the famous wave, which I thought was engaging. The most impressive part is probably that all the pieces on display (and it is a substantial exhibit) belong to the collection of the MFA. In terms of the permanent collection, my favorite displays included ancient jewelry and a case with Egyptian faience, both in the Ancient World wing. This wing is being renovated, so there are some new rooms and some older ones, and it should be even more impressive in the future. Another favorite of mine is the Contemporary Art wing (pictured below) which features some impressive pieces.

DSC_1234I would suggest two options for visiting the MFA. Either you want to do a comprehensive visit, in which case it is worth spending a few hours there. You can have a lunch or snack break; I had mine in the garden cafeteria which I highly recommend. You have a great choice of food, including an elaborate salad bar, and beautiful seating outside if it’s a nice day. The other option is picking a wing or two plus possibly a temporary exhibition and just visiting those parts, in which case it would take a couple of hours. Overall, I think that the MFA is more than just worth a visit. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, well designed and well curated, engaging but not imposing. The pictures I took don’t do it justice but I love this museum and I can’t wait until I visit it again. Stay on the lookout for more reviews and musings in Boston, New York, and Washington DC, and for some new art inspired by everything I saw during my trip.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 7.5/10
  • Architecture: 8.5/10
  • Collections: 9.5/10
  • Display: 9/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 9/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 8/10
  • Overall: 9/10

Beirut National Museum Review

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Useful Info:

  • Collection: Archaeological collections exclusively from Lebanon, from Prehistory to the Ottoman Period
  • City: Beirut, Lebanon
  • Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9am-5pm
  • Price: 5,000 LBP regular, 1,000 LBP concessions
  • Website

This first review might be slightly biased due to the fact that I’ve worked there for a few months. Still I think this museum is definitely worth visiting. It has two floors, but the underground is due to open in December 2015 and I have some exclusive info about that part (yay!).

The ground floor is where all the large objects are concentrated. It’s divided mainly in two parts, on for the Bronze and Iron Ages and one fro the Greco-Roman period. The newly opened Maurice Chehab room features recent discoveries and is a great showcase for finds from excavations that happened in the past ten years. The ground floor has some spectacular objects, including stunning sarcophagi; and some highlights of not only the museum collection but Lebanese history such as the Ahiram sarcophagus, but I have a preference for the first floor.

Upstairs is where the smaller artifacts are displayed. It overlooks the ground floor all around, which highlights the great volumes and spacious architecture.  Again it’s organized chronologically, in a circuit beginning from prehistory and ending with the Ottoman period as well as a small display of artifacts having been damaged by the civil war. As you will notice in future reviews, I am a fan of museums that have some logic in the way that they are set up, I think it gives them coherence. This floor hosts some incredible objects, make sure you check out the seals and scarabs, the tiny gold vessel, the glass collection, and the ivory boxes.

The underground is going to be structured the same way as the first floor, offering a chronological path through the funerary customs of Lebanon across time. I have had the chance to see some of the plans, work closely with the people selecting and preparing the objects for the display, and even visited the tomb of Tyre, which will be a major highlight of this gallery. Of course, a review will come in due course. Also I am sorry about using images that are not my own but it’s gonna be like this for the first few reviews because I didn’t plan on making reviews when I visited them so I don’t have good photos.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 8/10
  • Architecture: 8/10
  • Collections: 9/10
  • Display: 9/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 7.5/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 6/10
  • Overall: 8/10