Category Archives: Museums

Christmas at the Historical Society

2016-12-22-002I can’t take any real credit for decorating the Historical Society. I did do some additional touches, but the majority of the work had been done in the weeks before by other volunteers. They did a great job in getting the place ready for the holidays.

The recent gift of a rope bed became the centerpiece of a festive display. Rope beds were what they are called. Instead of boxe springs or a mattress, which is what are modern beds are made of, a rope bed was a bed frame with rope being used to create a web in the frame for someone to lay upon. It is possible that some type of mattress would be put on top of the ropes, but in this case the mannequins were placed on the ropes.

The rope bed was a central piece in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas display. Two adult mannequins were dressed for “a long winter’s nap,” 2016-12-22-001except the children were up and standing next to their parents’ bed. The baby was asleep in the cradle. A corner of the bed covers were pulled back so visitors could see how the ropes were strung to create a surface. I do wonder how comfortable the bed would be. While in Scotland, I slept in a twin rope bed that did have a mattress on it. As I remember, it wasn’t that comfortable. I didn’t sleep well in the bed.

In one of the front rooms is a display to Virginia O’Hanlon, the little girl who wrote to Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York Sun, one of the prominent newspapers of the city at the end of the nineteenth century. The eight-year-old wanted to know if there 2016-12-22-013was a Santa Claus. Church’s famous editorial defending the existence of Santa Claus is known throughout the world. The display also included a copy of Church’s reply.

Following are some images from the society. I wanted to get these posted before the year ended and the holiday season fades from memory.

2016-12-22-003Oh, the photo here is of what has become known as the “Evil Clown.” There’s a debate among the volunteers of whether or not this toy is scary-looking. I think that everyone would agree that no one would give such a painted toy to a child of today. At some point in the distant past, this toy must have been beloved by some child. Nonetheless, by today’s standards this clown has scary-looking features. What do you think?

 

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Filed under Holidays, Museums, Tarrytown

City Museum Purchase

I went to the Museum of the City of New York a few weeks ago with a friend.

The building is beautiful. I remember that there was some talk of moving the museum down to Tweed Hall, but it did not happen. There were a lot of school kids there when we visited early in the morning right after the place opened.  I didn’t get to see the first floor, which is now the permanent exhibit on the history of the city, since this is where the kids spent all of their time. Instead, we stayed upstairs and visited the traveling exhibits. One thing that differentiates the City Museum from the rest is that there is not a lot of realia, i.e. objects, on display. Instead, what is displayed are exhibits with models and photographs. For example, the way skyscrapers are built to allow light to reach the street, which was the exhibit on zoning laws. Models, photos, and lots of text. Though I found it interesting, I really like objects, which I love to photograph.

One object that is a recent acquisition of the museum is on the first floor, and that was a deck chair reputedly from the Titanic. It was in its own display in the recent acquisitions area. It looks like its seen better days. Then again, it is well over 100 years old. Since these chairs floated in the water, people clung to them after the ship sank. However, most died not from drowning but from hypothermia, as the water was well below freezing.

Did someone try and cling to this chair, only to lose his/her life?

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Pergamum Exhibit at the Met

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A bronze shield from Pontos, 185-160 BC

Though it closed at the beginning of July, I was able to see the Pergamum exhibit over the Independence Day weekend. I went on a Friday night, rightly assuming that the crowds which make the Met so hard to explore would be out of town. Most of those in the museum were the clueless tourists, most of whom got in the way, talked loudly, and flew through the exhibit probably because they had no idea what they were looking at. Fine by me.

An "old friend" from Athens

An “old friend” from Athens

The Met gathered antiquities from across the world to create the exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World. I was surprised and pleased to see some “old friends” from the Antikytheria Shipwreck exhibit (and redux) that the National Archaeological Museum in Athens had held in 2013. I took a few pictures, but I already have photos of the pieces.

I took 184 photographs, some of which I later deleted (bad photos, duplicate photos, etc.). I just managed to get through the exhibit right before the museum closed at 9. I bought the exhibition catalog–hardback. I usually buy the paperback copy because it is cheaper (and sometimes I wait for a few months and hope that the catalog is put on clearance, which sometimes happens if any are left over), but I was told that too many people complained that the paperback copies fall apart. Now the Met only prints its catalogs in hardback.

Overall, it was a wonderful exhibit.

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Christmas at the Historical Society

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Entryway decorations

Since the season does not end until January 7, at least for me, I thought that I’d share the photos of the decorations at the Historical Society. Last year, I helped decorate, but I didn’t have time to help this year. Actually, these past three months I haven’t had the time to volunteer at all, so it was nice to be back.

Unlike last year, there is a big tree in every room on the first floor. This is one idea that I embraced years ago. Although I did not put up a tree this year, I usually put up a tree in every room of my apartment. This includes the kitchen and the bathroom. The idea behind this is that the holiday should be reflected in every room. The trees are not always big. The bathroom tree is no more than six inches high with small ornaments. Actually, the main tree in the living room is only five feet; I have no large tree. I came up with this idea years ago, and I was surprised that the concept behind it had been popular in early America.

Though trees would not become popular until after Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert brought them from his native Germany to Britain, and the tradition made its way across the Atlantic, in Washington Irving’s day it was believed that the holiday season should be represented in every room. The people would bring pine tree branches, pine cones, holly and mistletoe in from outside to decorate their mantles, shelves, dressers, wherever. The house would also have a nice scent of pine.

Washington Irving's desk at the Historical Society

Washington Irving’s desk at the Historical Society

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any of the holiday events at Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s home. The one year I went, they had the branches of pine and holly throughout the rooms of the house, as well as a wonderful bonfire in the yard. They had hot apple cider to keep the chill of the night at bay. (Too bad the temperature was close to 60 degrees. I fondly remember that trip to Sunnyside.

Happy new year to all!

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In Memoriam: Private Owens

Private Nelson Owens served in Company H, the 1st Regiment of the Missouri Volunteers during the United States Civil War. He died in the hospital on February 4, 1864.

J.T. Paine, the surgeon in charge, made a request to Charles Rockwell, the Captain of Volunteers, on February 5 for a coffin for the 4 pm funeral. I hope that Private Owens got his coffin and had a dignified burial.

I have finished unpacking the Rockwell papers at the Historical Society and am in the process of organizing the collection by topics and then chronologically.  This is a slow process. When I unpacked the files, I put them into files with months and dates, but I am finding errors. So, I have to go through each file, item by item, to ensure that it is in the correct order, and then write up the finding aid.

 

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Filed under History, Museums, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown

Icon Redux: Saint Christopher

Byzantine & Christian Museum (2013-05-28 220In the post on my visit to the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, I took a photograph of an icon with a dog’s head. At the time I merely commented on how bizarre this icon seemed to me. At the time, I did not think much about it.

In volume 2 of his book Orthodox Saints, George Poulos discusses St. Christopher Cynocephalus. The only St. Christopher I knew was the one who is depicted on medals carrying a child with the caption, “St. Christopher Protect Us.” Well, this is the same St. Christopher. Poulos explains that Christopher, whose original name was Reprobos, was ugly and repulsive. He was so ugly that his comrades called him Dogface. (Cynocephalus means “dog-head.”) His inner spiritual beauty was hidden by a hideous face. Actually painting a person with a dog’s head seems just a wee bit extreme.

Anyway, Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers, but this is the Roman Catholic tradition. The Eastern Orthodox have no stories relating to Christopher as a traveler. However, the story of him carrying the child–who is actually the Christ Child–is known in the East. Christopher finds that he is actually carrying the weight of the world when he carries Jesus. Christopher lived during the reign of Emperor Decius, who had him executed on May 9, 255.

The explanation of why the saint is painted with a dog’s head still doesn’t warm me to the work. To me, a dog-headed icon is more kitsch than holy.

Bibliography
Poulos, George. Orthodox Saints: Spiritual Profiles for Modern Man, April 1 to June 30 (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1991), p. 101-102.

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The Met’s American Wing

(2015-08-07 002)Last Friday, I started my vacation by going to the Metropolitan Museum with my friend Caroline. If you are a regular reader, you already know that my favorite museum is the Met and that I’ve taken hundreds of photos there. My favorite galleries are, of course, the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Egyptian. This time, neither of us wanted to go to the same ones again, so Caroline suggested the American Wing, and we were not disappointed.

The place was literally a madhouse. For New Yorkers to find a place crowded means that it was packed; we could hardly get around the gaggles of tourista. We sat and had a beverage in the American Wing Cafe, which has a wonderful view of Central Park. It was a lovely, sunny, low humidity day, so we enjoyed the view as we chatted shop, i.e. libraries. From there we began our exploration of the wing which, Caroline insisted, would not be crowded. She was right.

(2015-08-07 049)Unlike the Egyptian hallways, which were packed, the American Wing had few people in it, so we wandered around and took lots of photographs. What we concentrated on were the rooms from early American history. These were fascinating, and some of them tied directly into the early Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam–and the Hudson Valley. I can’t say that I found the furniture on display without being in a room setting fascinating, but there were some interesting pieces. The furniture in room settings were captivating, and we spent quite a few photographs trying to capture the essence of the exhibits, which amounted to taking a photo one way, then another way, and not being able to get the entire room in one photograph.

Afterwards, we walked over to a restaurant participating in “Restaurant Week” (which lasts a month), a price fixe at really expensive restaurants that I would not normally patronize. We had lunch at Ristorante Morini, and were not disappointed. The food was spectacular! The fish was delicious, the cold soup had a wonderful bite to it (I’d love to know how to make it), the chocolate dessert was excellent, and the price ($25) was right. Morini is within walking distance of the Met, at 1167 Madison, between 85th and 86th Streets.

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