First, there was the Christa McAuliffe - Alan Shepard Discovery Center in Concord. Go to Museum Website here.
This was a small museum, (and felt even smaller with 3 bus loads of young school kids running around), but the exhibits were informative and well-done. There was a large section that talked about lunar photography - the equipment needed and the techniques used. There were also displays of objects used on space missions:
This is a backpack used for space walks - it weighs about 300 pounds. The museum worker on duty said that if we ever find ourselves in space, we shouldn't do what the actors did in the movie Gravity, or we would soon be dead. They also had a display of a toilet used on the space station. Somehow I neglected to photograph that, even with the docent demonstrating it! They also had a jet ejector seat, and several other pieces of space equipment.
This is an XF8U-2 Crusader Jet for which Alan Shepard was a test-pilot. Eventually this will be hung from a NASA atrium ceiling.
There were models and displays about the careers of both of these astronauts, but there was one significant display that seemed to be missing. After touring the whole museum, I found nothing about the 1986 Challenger Disaster. Finding this a curious omission, I approached the same museum worker to ask if I had missed a display. He looked at me with a strange expression, and said, "You aren't from around here are you?" "No, I'm from Ohio," I explained. That seemed to explain everything to him - "everything" being the ignorance of my question. He went on to explain to me that "it's just too soon."
The Shuttle Challenger exploded about 1 minute after take off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986. That is almost 30 years ago. The museum worker went on to explain to me that every school child in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts saw the explosion live on television, and everyone was traumatized by the event. The school systems in New England had to bring in thousands of counselors to help the children deal with the trauma of what they saw. So, for the people of New England, mentioning the disaster in the museum is too painful. The family of McAuliffe has also asked the museum to focus on her life and accomplishments rather than on her death.
While I understand the sensitivity of this subject, and the delicate steps that this museum has to walk, I really feel they are doing a disservice to their visitors. It seems to me that part of the purpose of a museum is to teach the facts of their subject. Do we have Holocaust museums that don't mention the death of Jewish people because it is too painful to their families, or because everyone already knows how they died?
I'm not suggesting that this museum has to show video of the event, but I do think there should be some mention of it even in a small discreet corner display. To omit it is to deny an important fact of history which the space program actually learned from. Of course, this is my opinion, and was clearly not shared by the museum worker with whom I spoke nor with its director and decision-making board. I found myself wondering what the young children who were in the museum had been told about this space mission.
The second museum I visited was the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. Go to museum website here.
This front sculpture is called "Origins" and was done by Mark Di Suvero in 2001-2004.
This third photo was the original exterior entrance to the museum, but it is now in the courtyard of the museum cafe as a new section was added in front of it.
I have to say I was very impressed by this museum. It was very well done and contained many important works of art. They have permanent collections of European, American, Contemporary, Modern, Decorative, and New Hampshire Art. I really felt like I was in a miniature version of a large classic museum from New York or Chicago. Much of the permanent collection can be seen on the website.
This was the first painting that caught my eye. It was done in 1897 and is titled A Knock at the Door. This is by English artist Laura Alma-Tadema. She was popular in her day, and was considered a 'first wave feminist'. I was fortunate to find a matted print of this painting in the museum gift shop, so I now have it framed and hanging on my bedroom wall! I was struck by the fact that the fame itself looks like a mirror frame as it houses a painting of someone looking in the mirror. I was also struck by the fact that to me the head tilt in the mirror's reflection doesn't match the head tilt of the woman looking in the mirror, and would we really be able to see that much of a face if we were looking from this angle behind the woman's head? In spite of these issues, I found the painting quite charming.
Another painting that I was lucky enough to bring home and hang on my wall is this one called Freeman Farm: Winter 1935 by American artist Maxfield Parrish who died in 1966 in New Hampshire. What struck me about this one was the glow of the sun behind the house which is so intense it looks like the painting is lighted from behind. I marvel that he was able to achieve that effect.
There was also a lot of great furniture in the museum. Here are a few of my favorites:
Loveseat called "True Loves Blue" was done by Jon Brooks in 2000.
"Distant Thunder" - 2001 - Wendell Keith Castle - Peruvian Walnut with oil finish.
This last chair was designed by architectural great Frank Lloyd Wright and is a sort of recliner - made in 1902-03. It also just so happens that this museum is affiliated with the only public Frank Lloyd Wright house in New England called the Zimmerman House. Tours have to be booked through the museum and the house is accessed only by museum vans by reservation. I would LOVE to see this house, and it is on my To-Do list for a future visit. Here is an internet photo of the house:
The Currier Museum (no relationship to Currier and Ives, by the way) also has a wing in which they feature temporary exhibits. While we were there, we saw a special exhibit by artist Romare Bearden who did a series of works called "A Black Odyssey". This is a series of works that tell the story from the classic Greek Odyssey by Homer but with African figures portrayed in the scenes. His point was to make the story accessible to African-American students by helping them see how the story was really universal.
My summary of a trip to this museum would not be complete without including 1 more photo. I neglected to note the artist, but I still want to share this work because I found it fascinating:
The wood is exquisite and the carving is excellent! It is whimsical, and yet it has a serious subject of Motherhood. I found it thought-provoking.
Another thought-provoking piece was this by artist Marisol Escobar, an American born in Paris in 1930. This work is called The Family and was done in 1963. It was actually on the cover of Time magazine on Dec. 28, 1970, to introduce an article about the crisis of the American family. The stylish mother is decked out in gloves and a pill-box hat as she takes her 4 children for a walk. The doll being carried by the 3-legged child has a self-portrait of the artist. She used found objects and an influence of Cubism to capture the materialism of post-war America.
Visit the website to see more about this lovely museum, and be sure to stop in the next time you are in Manchester, N.H. They also have a great gift shop where I was able to get some nice jewelry and a set of Frank Lloyd Wright inspired placemats.
The third and final museum visit for this trip was outside. It was the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline, NH. Visit museum website here. This is an outdoor sculpture collection built along the hiking trails of Big Bear Mountain. It was started in 1996 by Paul Andres who bought the land and built a house at the top. There is one trail for cars, but most of the sculptures can only be seen by hiking. Some of the foot trails are very steep and only for diehard hikers. Other paths are more for normal walkers. You can download a trail map that tells you how steep they are and how long each should take. Cousin and I stayed in the car. The terrain is hilly and woodsy. Little clearings are cut out along the road for the sculptures. We didn't get out of the car to read any of the artist info, but most of the sculptures can be seen on the website. Here are some of the ones we saw:
This is the first set of sculptures on the car trail, and it is intimidating. These are lifesize metal cutouts of armed military guys on patrol, and there are about 8 of them placed around in the trees.
This is the gate at the start of the trails.
The museum is free and contains dozens of sculptures that are quite varied in theme, material and size.
Those are my museum experiences for this trip. Thanks for letting me share with you! What museums have YOU visited lately? I want to see your pictures too!