Museums

Once again, I’m late, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thankful for museums on day 13.

This photo is from the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. While the tar pits themselves were underwhelming, the museum was not. We spent a good 3-4 hours looking at all the exhibits.

No photos from the Getty Villa in Malibu, but that took up about 5 hours of my L.A. vacation. So much to see in terms of exhibits, plus the building itself was amazing. You stand a little straighter when you’re walking on antique marble that’s been painstakingly laid out in a geometric pattern.I’ve always liked museums, but when I started traveling a lot for a former job, I found myself spending time in museums by myself. I developed a feel for how I like to explore exhibits. I go slowly, reading signage, checking sculptures out from different angles, backing up from art work to see the full effect and then stepping in to see technique.

This approach does not always work well when going to museums with others. I’ve found a couple of people with whom I can spend an hour in one gallery. The companionship expands the museum experience to making correlations between a particular exhibit or piece to something we’ve seen in another museum or something we remember from a class or a nature show or some strange movie. Questions are asked about how one could survive an attack by a saber tooth cat or what’s up with the guys in the painting who are trying to kill a mammoth with a rock while their friends with spears (and rock-hard abs) stand by.

One of the reasons I went to the Getty was I read about it in Chasing Aphrodite. The issues of patrimony seemed clear, even though I had enjoyed the Elgin marbles at the British Museum. The issues are clear, and as Werner Herzog said, “principles don’t allow for exceptions.” Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the Getty. Thanks to Felch and Frammolino’s book, I noticed how many objects were from the Fleischmans and knew that their provenance could be questionable. The objects were amazing though. The statuary, the jewelery, the glass, everything – whether from the Fleischman collection or elsewhere – I appreciated having the chance to see them.

Did I wonder how they got to the museum? Yes. But my imagination was more taken with how someone made them and why, where the statues originally stood, who wore the jewelry, how offerings were used, and what was happening around these objects when they were new. The typical wonderings my mind goes to when I’m in a museum.

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