Third Thursdays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

IMG-20150619-WA0009

Today’s post is a throwback to my trip to Boston last year. Apologies for the lack of pictures, my phone was in a pitiful state at the time.

Many museums have monthly events like a mini party, and I went to one at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I hadn’t had the chance to visit the museum before, and this was not the best time to do so as it was pretty crowded; but I still got a relatively good feel of it. So Third Thursdays happen every third thursday of each month there, and they’re an evening event featuring some live music, spotlight talks, and alcohol. There was a mini treasure hunt the day I went which was really cool and fit the spirit of the museum.

This post is not going to be a fully fleshed museum review because it wasn’t  fully fleshed visit, but I will share my observations. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a house museum, which is usually not my thing, but this one is really beautiful. Plus, Isabella Stewart Gardner was an art patron and collector herself, which makes it so much more interesting because you get to see her collection as well as her house. I think this museum gets a little overshadowed by the MFA which is very nearby, but it tells a completely different story and is much more intimate without being small. I highly encourage everyone to visit it, on a Third Thursday or not, and I will definitely go back there on my next trip to Boston.

Here is some info on the upcoming Third Thursdays

And some info on Isabella Stewart Gardner who’s a very cool woman to look up to since it was International Women’s Day last week

And finally a link to the museum’s websiteIMG-20150619-WA0010

Pitt Rivers Museum Review

DSC_0032

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.

DSC_0035

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

Peabody Essex Museum Review

DSC_1302

Useful Info:

  • Collections: Fine and decorative arts from the five continents between the 18th century and today; also temporary exhibitions.
  • City: Salem, MA, USA.
  • Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, and until 9pm the third Thursday of every month.
  • Price: $18 regular, $15 students, $10 for children under 16 and free for members and residents of Salem.
  • Website

I’m having a little bit of trouble remembering the exact steps of my visit, partly because it was in June but mostly because the PEM is a museum with very eclectic collections and exhibitions in galleries that are not organized and laid out in the most logical way. It is the kind of museum you can explore freely without referring to a specific itinerary on the map. It is also not huge so walking around without following directions works there. You wouldn’t get lost. So I’m not going to go into too much details about how the museum is laid out and I’m just going to say that my visit took approximately 2 hours.

DSC_1287

For me, there were two things that stood out about the PEM. First, since we’re still on the topic of layout; I found that despite beautiful architecture and a promising ongoing expansion, circulation in the museum was often a problem. There are lots of dead ends in most galleries, so you always have to go back into a couple of rooms you’ve already seen. To move between the main parts of the museum, you have to pass by the atrium (pictured above) which is more or less in the middle.

That problem is a shame because the collections and exhibitions were great. There’s an array of things from Asian art to American art. Below is a picture of an ivory lobster in the Asian export galleries. I wanted to post it as a separate museum entry but the PEM doesn’t have a good collection database online. I really enjoyed the collections, and I was surprised to see this much Asian art in Salem, of all places. There is even a reconstruction of a Chinese house (but I didn’t visit it).

DSC_1288

I also saw three exhibitions which are now over: Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood, which made me want to be a wood artist because there was so much skills involved in the artworks; Branching Out: Trees as Art, which was a bit more child oriented; and Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals which was my favorite and led me to discover this series of photographs.

Finally I’d like to mention the thing I liked most about the PEM, which was, strangely enough, in the Maritime Art galleries. I’m not a fan of seascapes, it’s just personal taste. I find them repetitive and I get bored of them easily. But the PEM did something great in that gallery which caught my interest. They have an unsigned seascape in their collection; which some experts attribute to James Buttersworth and some others to Antonio Jacobsen. The unsigned painting is displayed between one piece of each painter; and there is a panel explaining both arguments. The visitor is left free to decide which side to join. I thought this was a fun and engaging way to make the collection interactive without being authoritative.

Rating

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

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Review

DSC_1337

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.

1433731610643

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.

Snapchat-886268509644007396

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.

DSC_0006

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

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