Category Archives: Mada(M)useo

Illuminating the Barnes – Friend or Faux?

I have now spent countless hours (thanks to Steve Miller,a mentor and dear friend’s e-mails and the clickable nature of the internet) reading reviews about the “new Barnes Foundation“. People seem to like it or they don’t. I am of the latter group. For a VERY brief review of the history of the Barnes you can read my last post. What makes the Barnes so unique are the seemingly (though they are not) random ensembles of master paintings, metal work, and furniture. Below is an example of one of Barnes’ ensembles, image from The Barnes Foundation Collection Gallery Guide I.

As I know not all of my readers are museum or legal professionals, I want to begin by explaining a little bit about the Indenture of Trust which Barnes created for his Foundation. The Indenture of Trust, along with the Bylaws, set forth the Foundation’s purposes, rules of governance, Board structure, etc. The Indenture included the following condition verbatim, “[a]ll paintings shall remain in exactly the places the are at the time of the death of Donor and his said wife.” (Information taken from the Fact Sheet I received at the May 10th press preview.) Pretty straight forward. BUT, just as Barnes had so much money he could buy many of the world’s most renowned paintings and hang them as he wished, the current Board and its funding corporations had enough money ($200,000,000) to ignore the Indenture and do as they wished for their own interests. Indenture denied.

First and foremost I find it ridiculous to let a group of corporations and private foundations pay for something that they did not fundamentally support in its original 12,000 sq. ft.  location, but if they can move it into Philadelphia and smatter their names all over it, sure they can spare a few million each. A mere 6 miles from its original home, the “Barnes in Philadelphia” touts the names of the Mellons, the Annenbergs, and corporate moguls such as PNC and Comcast. The building itself, a 93,000 sq. ft. bunker like block of hand-tooled Negev limestone, fitted on top with an as equally unappealing glass box, is home to the new faux Barnes. Several of the articles/reviews I read pointed out that what was once a structure dedicated to authenticity, where making copies of the art was strictly forbidden, a mere copy of the original exists; never to be the authentic historic Barnes again.

It’s hard to even know where to start, the new Barnes decimates almost everything the founder ever wanted for his carefully created collection.

Cut and dried, the issues with the new location:

  1. He wanted to keep his prized masterpieces out of Philadelphia and away from the likes of what Barnes referred to as “aesthetic whorehouses of art,” e.g. The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  2. He wanted to remain an educational center with an amazing art collection instead of an art museum with art courses.
  3. He wished to maintain the integrity of his collection by keeping it housed within the 1922 historical gem designed by Paul Cret.
  4. I highly doubt he would appreciate having one of the largest areas in the structure named after Annenberg, somebody who during his life he experienced an extreme distaste for.

    ‘The Light Court’ which bears the Annenberg name.

  5. Two classrooms have been inserted within the galleries for teaching. Barnes strongly believed the galleries were the classrooms and that all education should happen while surrounded by the artworks themselves.
  6. Matisse’s The Joy of Life has been removed from its location in the stairwell to a room in the floor plan that was originally used for Board meetings.

The Joy of Life, no longer in the stairwell.

Barnes created a masterpiece in his own right, separate from the stigma that is the white-walled, singularly hung art gallery of today.The Foundation’s 23 galleries provided a maze of aesthetic pleasure and study, a maze which is now dis-harmoniously interrupted by limestone and glass hallways with a view of the “garden in the gallery”. Other than this change in the gallery layout, most everything remains the same; the galleries are the same size, masterpieces and metal works hung the same. Minor changes have been made in the molding, window frames, windows and in the heights of the galleries to allow for clerestory lighting on the second floor.  So, all this trouble to exactly replicate the galleries and only gain a little bit of lighting? Why not enhance the original Barnes?

And, what is all of this about INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY? Gallery visitation is still being limited to 150 visitors at a time in the main galleries and there are only an additional 30 parking spaces provided. More so, the Barnes originated as an educational tool for “the common man”. What common man will be able to easily afford a date out with his family at $18 a head? For college students that’s at least three meals (or a WHOLE LOT of Ramen) they will be sacrificing for just one day’s entrance into the new Barnes.

Now I can’t  blame Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for my not having a taste for modern architecture. A more in depth slideshow of the building is available at Philly.com. I also do not understand the randomness that is the “Barnes Totem” by Ellsworth Kelly at the entrance to the property. It appears to be a 40 ft. high stainless steel lightning rod shooting up from the ground and in no way visibly pays homage to the man who made the place possible. What ever happened to a good bronze likeness? However, during the press preview I fortunately had the opportunity of meeting, speaking, and touring with the architects, including landscape designer OLIN, around the building.  Though I don’t agree with the project, and don’t particularly enjoy the architecture, I appreciated many of the things they had to say about working on the project.

The exterior of the Barnes and the ‘Barnes Totem’.

Me and architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams

Interesting notes from the architects:

  1. They do not consider themselves to be ‘starchitects’, the architects who do whatever they wish with a building so that it screams their name. They felt they were there simply to interpret the Barnes and the visions of the Board.
  2. A common question asked by many is the obvious why didn’t they expand the galleries, make them bigger and brighter? Williams explained with an interesting analogy, that if a face gets fatter, the features (e.g. eyes, mouth, lips, etc) do not also grow but stay the same size. So you end up with a tiny little face within a big fat head.  Even if the gallery were to be expanded the artworks do not grow, and in order to be hung similarly you would end up with too much random open space.
  3. The architects REALLY enjoy being able to do everything with extreme exactitude, just like Barnes… So much that they even talked the Barnes into taking them over to Jerusalem to pick out the limestone for the building. I wonder why they didn’t choose the Indiana limestone? Regardless, it is beautiful and is presented in three distinct, hand-tooled patterns of varying colors, including a cuneiform pattern which resembles writing.

    Hand-tooled cuneiform Negev limestone.

  4. In addition to the aforementioned point, the architects were able to emphasize one level of quality; the bathrooms are the same as the galleries. Indeed, at least for the women each stall is actually like its own little suite with an individual sink and mirror. I daresay that if they would have built standard, yet elegant restrooms, they could have almost endowed a fellow small museum.
  5. I asked what the architects felt their biggest challenge was in completing the project. Due to the controversial nature of the project, Billie Tsien answered that she was entirely unaware of how many extremely vituperative people there are in the world who lashed out at them for having taken the project. Tsien mentioned, however, that the organization (the Board of the Barnes) protected them as best they could.

Though I in no way support the move of the Barnes, I greatly enjoyed my trip and the opportunity to attend the press preview, compliments of one Steven Miller. Look for his upcoming article in Museum Magazine, published by AAM.  Though we agree to disagree about the Barnes, I’m sure you’ll find his article witty and optimistic about the future of the Barnes.  He much less grouchy than I. Side note: I send a BIG thank you his way for his continued efforts in stowing me away to events I would otherwise be unable to attend, for his witicisms, and his continuing support.

Enjoying the Barnes Foundation.

In conclusion, I feel we have lost an important piece of American history. Philadelphians. and citizens of Merion, should be disappointed in themselves as they, especially, have allowed an important story in their ancestry to be permanently deleted; the story of industry and the uprising of art appreciation in Philly, now encased within a limestone and glass box mausoleum.


The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

I wrote the following blog post more than a year ago. There is no good reason why I never posted it, but now there is an excellent purpose for me to post it.  The following post is one I wrote in January 2011, following a visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the press preview of the NEW Barnes Foundation, relocated and entirely refurbished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. More on Thursday’s experience in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share my original and unaltered post to provide a comparison for my thoughts on yesterday’s visit.

Today a friend and I took a couple hour drive to Merion, PA to visit the Barnes Foundation. For those of you outside the field, built and designed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation houses an amazing collection of paintings and decor.  The travesty is that the board has decided to completely uproot the principles and setting of this art and move it into a modern building in Philly. After discussing the case in several of my classes, with multiple professors, I am still gravely against the move for several reasons.

Image

The BF case is littered with ethical and legal issues.  A history of corruption, selfishness and politicking are amongst the many reasons why the Barnes is failing today.  Perhaps it was partially poor foresight on the part of the creator, but the majority of the destruction was committed by its very own board members.  At the time of Barnes’ death in 1951, though much had already happened, the battle of the Barnes had just begun. The current board of trustees now has hopes of wiping out the indenture all together, removing all wishes Barnes originally had for his carefully built collection.

This wonderful historic site is being wrenched from its home in Lower Merion Township and moved into the city Barnes so greatly insisted on staying out of, in order to “save” the organization.  Billions of dollars have been given by Foundations and companies to move the Barnes, companies who are not willing to give in order to save the Barnes in its current location.  A new building, unlike the collection’s original home in Merion, will house the collection along with several additional features.

These things aside, the BF contains an astounding collection conservatively valued at over $6 billion and boasts more than 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus and 14 Modiglianis. Each room was designed and arranged in a very specific manner by Barnes. Metal works including keys, hinges, clasps etc. adorn the walls amongst the paintings and drawings. Intended as an educational tool, students are meant to be taught within the galleries about appreciating art and understanding aesthetics and design.

A big disappointment of the day was that they had the second floor galleries closed to the public, unbeknownst to us before arriving. Secondly, the staff at the Barnes seem to go out of their way to make the place unwelcoming. I wonder if in a new location staff will be taught to smile.

What wasn’t at all disappointing on Mallary and my’s trip to Philly? An authentic cheesesteak covered in cheez whiz at Geno’s!

Image


University of Northern Iowa – A Declining Institution

I never thought I would have to be disappointed in my alma mater.  Typically people brag about where they came from, from where they received their education. Not me, not anymore.

Effective June 30, 2012 The University of Northern Iowa will be closing the doors to its 120 year old museum.  This is truly a disappointment you can read about at this site.   The university is administering budget cuts to the museum, printing services, and athletics.  Athletics looks to receive a slash of $500,000 and the $200,000 cut to the museums will close their doors permanently. Hmmm… with those amounts you can certainly see where the school lay its priorities in the first place.

Students enjoying the UNI Museums, image borrowed from UNI Museums website

Thousands upon thousands of people use the museum for educational purposes each year.  Not only that, students who research and intern at the museum have lost this opportunity.  The school is taking this wonderful resource away from its students, its classes and its community. The museum is an accredited institution and recognized for its value and excellence by the American Association of Museums.  This small museum has pulled in exhibitions of amazing magnitude from places like The Smithsonian Institution and The Field Museum. But folks, don’t be sad… you can still go watch us loose a game every once in a while.

I interned with the museum for two years while at UNI, as with many other students, and it has been an invaluable resource in my career.  That museum led me to where I am today; receiving my Master of Arts in Museum Professions.  Maybe some people don’t get it.  See below the mission statements of these three entities.

Excerpt from The University of Northern Iowa’s mission statement:

It is imperative that the quality of the university’s instruction be maintained and enhanced though increasingly strong emphasis on:

(1) General or liberal education as the most essential ingredient for the undergraduate student,

(2) the central importance and complementary relationship of teaching and research,

(3) enrichment of instruction through extensive clinical, laboratory and field experiences, and independent study, and

(4) development of the life of the university community itself as an effective educational force.

Excerpt from the University of Northern Iowa Museums’ mission statement:

The University of Northern Iowa Museums & Collections contribute to the education, research, and public service missions of the University through educational programming, exhibition, collection, and preservation.

For the campus and general public, the Museums foster lifelong learning and the exchange of ideas, as well as a respect for our natural resources and the human heritage of the world.

Lastly, an excerpt from The University of Northern Iowa Athletics mission statement:

We will offer compelling experience for the student-athlete and for our campus community and will provide a diverse environment steeped in integrity, values and vitality. We are committed to equitable opportunities for all students, student-athletes and athletic department staff including women and minorities. Our programming offerings, our recruitment of both students and staff, and our career enhancement opportunities for staff will reflect this commitment to equity and diversity. Further, we are totally committed to the NCAA principles of sportsmanship and ethical conduct and nothing short of complete and total adherence to the principles and guidelines subscribed to by the NCAA in these critical areas will be tolerated or accepted.

Teaching is our core, positive growth and development of student-athletes is our goal and the highest level of performance both in the classroom, in social settings, and on the field of play is our target outcome.

Whose mission statements most closely align?  Sports are even MENTIONED in the mission of the university. Where should cuts really be being made? You mean to tell me that UNI will FUND 15 university sports team, but it won’t fund a 120 year old educational institution that benefits both its students and community?  The athletics’ mission states teaching is their core, but what do you learn from throwing a ball in a hoop? What do other students learn from watching you do that?  Leave it to an EDUCATIONAL ENTITY to cut funding to another educational entity in order to save one based on ENTERTAINMENT.  Don’t assume I was a museum geek in school and that’s why I’m bitter about athletics. That’s not the case, I played sports in college and I loved every minute of it. BUT, it DID NOT contribute to my future.  I couldn’t help but laugh at this quote in an article I read about the athletic department’s cuts:

“This time, much of the pain is going to be internal. We might have to hold off on new uniforms and equipment. We might have to eliminate some positions, though not coaching in year one.” as stated by athletic director Troy Dannen.

FOR SHAME! How DARE the University reduce your budget to $3.5 million so you can’t get new uniforms every year. How DARE you not have the latest in basketballer trend.

But, there is one thing Dannen was right about, the pain for UNI is going to be internal.  That pain will be felt by every student, every faculty, staff and community member who rely on the museum as an educational tool.

The University Museum, image borrowed from UNI Museums website

I am truly disappointed in UNI and how it has decided upon its priorities. Athletics as a priority over education has always been in issue in America, I just never thought that poor decision would be made by someplace I was once so proud as to call my home.


Swallowed up in Museums

It has been a busy semester…err semester and a half. I seem to have disappeared, being swallowed up by life, immediately after the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Meeting. Much has happened, most everything EXCELLENT!

Last September, for  my course ‘Creating an Exhibition’, we had the opening of an exhibition I co-curated with a fellow classmate, “The Way, The Truth, The Life: Sacred artifacts from Seton Hall’s Collections.” Below is a  picture taken at the opening. You can expect a full blog post (and more pictures) on this experience soon!

For those of you who read my last post about strategizing museum internships, you know how interested I am in the subject of internships within the museum field. Speaking at this conference, and subsequent conversations to it has inspired me to craft my thesis about professional guidelines and best practices in creating and/or improving museum internship programs. In brief, my thesis will contain three sections:

  1. The first section of this thesis seeks to define the term internship and to differentiate it from volunteer and paid professional positions. It also categorizes internships in a number of types relevant to the museum field.
  2. The second section is a guide for museums hoping to create and/or improve an internship program within their institution and will provide a template and examples of how to begin a formal program for graduate and/or recently post-graduate students, based on materials gathered from several museums and academic institutions.
  3. The third section is a guide for students searching for an internship that will give them the type of experience that will qualify them for their career ahead and shares tips and tricks on finding the right internship, applying for it and then interviewing the institution to make sure it is the best possible fit for them.

Upon completion of this thesis I hope to launch a website I have been working on to make my thesis/guide available to museums, for free, across the world.  I hope that it will empower museums (especially smaller institutions) to create effective and valuable internship programs.  I also hope to host on this site an ongoing internship listing, free to all museums, students, and museum professionals. If any readers, museum professionals, internship coordinators at museums or universities have thoughts please feel free to contact me.

"Urban Owl" By Tricia Zimic

Though you may not believe it, I have many other things going on in life besides my thesis (okay, not TOO much, but some things).  I am currently working for a wonderful artist, Tricia Zimic, as her promoter, graphic/web designer, and all-out assistant.  My latest project though is attempting to independently curate a show including her work, as well as several other artists alike in theme.  Wish me luck, this is really my first time as an “independent” curator. Any advice is welcome.

Just last week I finally secured an internship. Internship AND Thesis in one semester you ask? That’s right! That’s what I get for working too many hours at paid jobs and not spending enough time getting an unpaid one in a museum! Story of the emerging museum professionals’ life.  My internship will be doing a sort of exhibition research and design at the Montclair Historical Society.  You all know my love of all things historical society AND historic house museum.  I’ll be keeping a journal for this internship, so you can expect more regular blog updates (I hope!).

Next week I am lucky enough to have been asked by the couple I nanny for to go to Aspen, CO for nine days, all expenses paid, in return for watching their two lovely little girls for only a portion of the trip.  How can one pass up such an opportunity? My plan, some babysitting, some tanning, lots of snow-shoeing (I’m not a particularly adept skier), and even MORE time sitting fireside working on my thesis.  Is it weird that I am looking forward to my vacation to have quiet-time to do my homework?

Annnnddddddd………….because blog posts without pictures are BOR-ING, here is one of my favorite pictures from my wonderful time spent at home in Iowa for Christmas. My adorable nephew Easton!


Strategizing Museum Internships to Meet (and Manage) Everyone’s Expectations – MAAM

What are the differences between an internship and a volunteer position? What is a good internship? A good intern?  These were just a few of the questions discussed in this panel with Dr. Petra Chu, Seton Hall University, Antonia Moser, Newark Museum, myself Pam Schwartz, student at Seton Hall University, and Pam Veenbaas, Smithsonian Institution.

Presenting four different perspectives from the point of view of an educator, an internship supervisor, a student and an internship coordinator, the panel discussed how to strategize internships in a way that can provide value to both the institution and the intern.

I have been fortunate to have interned at several types and sizes of museums, under many different personalities.  From my perspective, I find the most important things an institution can do are organize, communicate and evaluate.

  1.  When considering advertising for an intern, sit down and brainstorm all of the tasks/projects they can do.  It is better to have more items than to have a bored intern.
  2. Write appropriate postings.  Do not mislead an intern into thinking they will learn something they will not, or that nobody at the institution themselves knows how to do.
  3. Involve us in day-to-day activities.  It is not hard to let an intern sit in on a meeting or seminar and you might be surprised at what we can learn simply by attending.
  4. On the first day be clear about your expectations with the intern.  Your policies on dress, attendance, arriving late, professionalism etc.  You should also make it clear who the intern will report to.
  5. Provide your intern with some form of evaluation part-way through the internship.  This lets you inform the intern of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to be aware of what they should improve upon.

The most important things an intern can do are communicate, be honest and evaluate.

  1.   When applying or interviewing for an internship, be prepared with questions and interview the museum as much they interview you.  You will be dedicating a large amount of time to the institution and you should be careful that it will be a good fit and you will gain from the internship what you hope to.
  2. If you don’t like your internship part way in, are unhappy or do not feel like you are gaining what you had hoped, then just be honest.  Tell your supervisor. If they don’t know you are unhappy, then it is hard for them to remedy the situation.
  3. Evaluate your internship in the same way your supervisor might evaluate you.  Is it meeting your expectations? Are you engaging in the activities you thought you would?

Pam Veebaas is an internship coordinator for the Smithsonian Institution, who has more than 1200 interns a year.  One important aspect of her job is screening internships applicants to ensure they are being chosen as candidates to learn a certain skill, not being chosen for the skills that they already have. The Smithsonian Institution defines an internship as:

“An internship at the Smithsonian Institution is a prearranged, structured learning experience that takes place within a specific time frame. The experience should be relevant to the stated academic and/or professional goals of the intern and to the disciplines represented at the Institution.”

I feel this is an excellent definition of what an internship should be and how it differs from a volunteer position.

Antonia Moser, registrar at the Newark Museum, discussed the necessity her institution has for interns and all the amazing opportunities they have to offer.  As a mid-sized institution in a difficult economy, interns have much to offer the museum and the museum in return can give the intern qualified experience in their field.

An interesting point Antonia brought up was about the difficulties sometimes had with enforcing professionalism in interns.  Often, the students are not being paid and making certain demands of their time, punctuality and dress may be daunting for supervisors.  However, internships are a study in the real life of a student’s chosen career field and they should be expected to act appropriately.  Again, communication is key: supervisors should be upfront immediately about punctuality and dress or professional expectations for students.  Supervisors should also not forget to lead by example!

Dr. Chu, department head of Museum Professions at Seton Hall University discussed the difference between an internship and a volunteer position.

Most interns are students paying to receive academic credit from their internship. Because of this, students should receive training/education equivalent to a (usually) three credit course at their home institution, which applies to their career field.

There is also the differentiation between an internship and what should be a paid position.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines six criteria for determining between these.

From an academic standpoint, Petra struggles with museums offering “internships” that are not providing students with qualified experience.  An institution should not offer an internship merely to get the work done because they themselves cannot complete it, or  because they themselves do not know how.


MAAM and a Discussion With Myself

Many of you may remember my posts last year at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Conference last year as a fellowship recipient.  This year I had the honor of attending as a session speaker.  MAAM, once again,  has definitely not failed in centering and rejuvenating my passion for all things museum.  After attending several thought-provoking sessions and luncheons I’m left with a million thought and new ideas.

My name is Pam and I WILL change museums.

This is a modified version of a quote from Nina Simon, this year’s Stephen Weill Ketnote Speaker and author of The Participatory Museum.  The modification being that I changed the word “want” to the word “will”.  I will be a museum revolutionary, I just need to find my niche.  What do I have to offer?  What purpose/idea do I want to pursue?  You see… I’m already getting off topic, back to MAAM.

But, my mind is million miles an hour.  This same sort of question is arising as I begin researching thesis topics.  What can I write about that is original, new, interesting and most importantly can make a difference?I love historic house museum, genealogy and inventive sustainability tactics for the survival of museums.  These things all greatly interest me, but what do I want to spend months writing sixty some pages about?

As I mentioned, I was a speaker at this year’s conference in a panel about internships organized by Petra Chu, Department Head at Seton Hall University in Museum Professions, where I’m getting my Masters.  My full post on our session will come later, but in keeping with my point (if I have one), our session made me consider the importance of internships both to the institution and to the intern.

So many people have questions about them and as far as I know there really isn’t a type of “master guide” to having and/or getting museum internships.  How should an institution create an intern program? Advertise one?  Manage interns? How can an intern land an internship? Get the most from one?

I’ve had several internships, all great in some way but also some with things that weren’t so great.  There aren’t too many in-depth resources for museum employees or interns/emerging professionals.  Maybe I should/could do that.  Try to help museums AND students with resources, how-to’s, do’s and don’ts.  I could get started by doing my thesis on hosting effective internship programs and on being an effective intern both for yourself and the museum you’re at.

Is there a need for this? Any sort of interest?MAAM session posts coming soon!


Rome Day 8 – Lovely Day for a Strike

Our last day in Rome together there was an incredible transportation strike and let’s just say, it couldn’t have worked more to our advantage. Our professor was incredibly upset, trying to figure out how to get us to the other side of Rome and back for our day’s activities. So, we decided to get up early and hoof it and it turned out to be a beautiful day with us seeing several things we may otherwise not have.

The main stop was to be ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation & Restoration of Cultural Property) but as we were walking there it just so happened we passed S. Pietro in Vincoli, the location of Michelangelo’s Moses. We also enjoyed the beautiful views of Isola Tiburtina (Tiber Island), and all because of the strike!

Michelangelo's Moses, Santa Pietro in Vincoli

Isola Tiburtina

ICCROM was founded in 1956 by UNESCO and is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage.  We had the joy of hearing two employees speak, Paul Arenson, Manager, Knowledge and Communication Services, and Alison Heritage, Conservation Research Specialist.

ICCROM contributes to preserving cultural heritage in the world today and for the future through five main areas of activity:

  1. Training
  2. Information Source
  3. Research
  4. Cooperation
  5. Advocacy

5 Key Aspects of ICCROM

  1. Values
  2. Bridging gaps with communities
  3. Plurality of approaches (not one size fits all)
  4. Plurality of disciplines
  5. Plurality of contexts

ICCROM is a very interesting place and has an amazing research library.  It’s definitely a resource I’m going to keep in mind for the future.

We also visited two more churches (LOTS of churches in Rome).  The first was Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, a 5th century church in Rome, Italy, devoted to the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. The second was the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin, an 8th century church where the Bocca della Verita or the Mouth of Truth is located. Visually, this may have been my favorite church in Rome, simply because of its LACK in overwhelming shiny decor. The Mouth of Truth sculpture is thought to be part of a 1st century fountain and it is famed as a lie detector. Though it was really made famous by the movie Roman Holiday, it has been believed that since the middle ages that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth, then it would be bitten off.  Rest assured friends, I still have my hand.

I only speak the truth!

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

This was a truly amazing and wonderful trip and I hope you have all enjoyed taking it with me via my blog (albeit a much LONGER blog trip then I had intended).  One cannot do Rome in eight days, but if I had to, I couldn’t have asked for better or more efficient guides than I had in Charlotte and her husband, Derek.  I learned an incredibly amount and saw more amazing things than I can even mention.

Farewell dinner

 


Orange Groves and Beautiful Views

Sunday was my sort of day in Rome, the weather was amazing and we visited incredibly interesting places…I’m going to leave out the fact that I did get pooped on by a bird while standing in a lovely orange grove atop a hill.

View from Rose Gardens, Aventine Hill

We began our day in one of the most depressing ways possible at the Museo Storico della Liberzione di Roma or the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome.   During the Nazi occupation of Rome, approximately September 1943 through June 1944,this building was used as a detention prison by the Command of the Security Police.  A couple of the cells remain as was within the museum, with names and painful inscriptions carved into the walls of the cells by those detained there without light and little ventilation.  Several of the prisoners that were held here by the Nazis eventually met their demise during the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, when ten Roman or Jewish prisoners were chosen to die in order to compensate for each single German that had been killed, totaling 335 people.  Though we did have limited packets of information in English, all of the exhibitions were in Italian, making it difficult to read the entire story.

Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Next on to the Centrale Montemartini. I found this Museum to be absolutely fascinating because of the history of the institution itself.  The Museum is housed in what used to be the first public thermoelectric center in Rome (electricity plant).   Much of the hulking equipment and industrial machinery are still present in the building, which for a time had merely become offsite storage for the Capitoline Museums antiquity overflow.

In 1997 a structured exhibition was created in order to maintain accessibility by the public to these works of art, it was called “The Machines and the Gods”, which placed side by side classical art and industrial machinery.  I feel this is truly one excellent example of adaptive reuse and a perfect dichotomy of new existing with old. I especially enjoyed the use of soothing blues and greens for wall/accent colors as it helped to make peace of the transition between the harsh gray machines and the smooth tans and whites of many of the artifacts.

As far as our structured portion of the day, it was fairly short.  So far the rest of the afternoon Luciana and I headed out to Aventine Hill (another of the Roman hills) and it was absolutely lovely.  It was a peaceful afternoon of walking, sitting in the orange and lemon groves, looking at beautiful churches with more beautiful views, rose gardens and the absolute BEST view of all of Rome (or so I think).

Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, gorgeous!

On Aventine Hill there is a keyhole in a door to a garden.  If one looks through the keyhole you see down a shrub lined path with a sunlit opening at the very end.  Through this opening at the end you see a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s.  Now I thought this might be a little hokey but after seeing it I think I would definitely put it on the list of things one must do in Rome.  It is unfortunately hard to take a picture of this glorious view, especially with my brick of a camera so I’ll have to cite somebody else here.  Alas, another wonderful day in Rome.

What my camera saw at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.

What I ACTUALLY saw through the keyhole! Photo from http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Villa_Malta


Rome and Contemporary Art…and Neon Lit Bathrooms

You all know me and contemporary art….

We visited two different contemporary art museums on our sixth day in the lovely city of Rome and were accompanied by Shara Wasserman, Professor of Contemporary Art and Gallery Director, Temple University in Rome, and visiting Critic Cornell University in Rome.  She was delightful, a very honest and witty guide to the city of Rome.  I’m sure Charlotte (our professor) appreciated a little break from insane tour guiding.

The first museum we visited was MAXXI (Museo Nazionale dell’arte dell XXI secolo) which was designed by Zaha Hadid.  For those of you who don’t know who that is, she is an extremely well known architect, who more recently designed the performing arts structure for the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi which I wrote about earlier.  Some of you may also know my thoughts on modern architecture and my feelings toward this building were not extremely favorable.

MAXII

Modern architecture is dirty.  Modern architecture contains a lot of interesting looking, but filthy little crannies. This structure had all open grated walkways and stairways built over lights so when you looked down all you saw was what seemed to be nearly impossible to clean spaces filled with dust, lint, and pennies.     Another interesting point, there was NO seating built into the structure.  Hmm.

Architecture at MAXII

Another aspect of this museum that I found interesting was that the Director of the museum is a government employee from the Ministry of Culture, they do not come from a museum background.  I’m beginning to find it more and more interesting (and challenging) to think about big company CEOs and business people taking over museums with no knowledge of how we roll, just the business aspect of thing.  However, one of the exhibitions that was on display was particularly interesting, both the exhibit itself and peoples’ reactions to it.

The exhibition was The Plexiglas and Mirror Paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto.  It was a collection of mirrors that had been painted on with various scenes/people as you can see in the photograph below.  It was interesting to see people more interested in their own reflections and doing silly things in the mirror than actually paying attention to the art itself and the effect it created as a whole.  On one end of the exhibition was a very large mirror that reflected back over several of the other mirrors, creating depth and an intricate interlacing of the stories depicted in each individual mirror.  The thing I really disliked about this exhibition was that it was displayed in a very long rectangular exhibit space and though the mirrors were placed seemingly at random throughout the room, the text panel for each was on one of the room’s walls.  They were quite distant from their respective works.  No good.

Pistoletto Exhibition SpacePistoletto Exhibition

Second we went to MACRO (dell’Arte Contemporanea Roma), architecture by Odile Decq.  Again, very modern and you can see some similarities between the inside of the buildings.  One piece of art here that I found particularly interesting was by Ernesto Neto called When Nothing Happens. See the photograph but it was this incredible hanging THING. The hanging sacks were filled with various spices including black pepper, cumin, cloves, ginger, and turmeric.  Not only did it smell lovely but the colored spices also made the sculpture that much more interesting.

MACRO

MACRO Inside

Ernesto Neto Piece

This little drawing on the wall I felt could have been a portrait of me by Dan Perjovschi part of The Crisis is (Not) Over. Drawings and Dioramas. 

Also, MACRO had slam bangin’ bathrooms.  Usually it is socially unacceptable to wield a camera in a public restroom…but we all did it anyways.

We spent much more time in here than necessary.

The evening brought us to the Colosseum  at night.  BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL.  I always wish there weren’t so many tourists everywhere I wanted to be a tourist… and enjoy myself peacefully.


The Vatican, ooof.

Vatican City from the Outside

The VATICAN! Need I say more? Readers, if you are interested in this sort of thing and plan to take a trip to Vatican City then I advise you block at least one entire week just for this little city. We spent an entire day there and I was so overwhelmed by the end we went almost immediately home. No more sightseeing was to be had.

The Vatican collections are vast, elaborate, beautiful and… well very very shiny. To use part of a quote from an anonymous Monsignor I had the opportunity to chat with, “we have an embarrassment of riches.” Embarrassment, I’d say. The Vatican has more money wrapped up in its artifacts and in the display of them that you could feed the world forever I think. We had an incredibly interesting meeting with Dott.ssa Alessandra Uncini, Head Registrar in the morning before beginning our walk-through.

The Royal Collection held at the Vatican was not a museum BORN as a museum, in 1506 Pope Julius II acquired the first statues that would later begin the collections. Collections were built through personal commissions of the Popes, Cardinals etc and also many artifacts were brought back by missionaries after travels to foreign lands. Like I mentioned with the Borghese collections, in 1798 when Napoleon overthrew the Pope and the museums many of the artifacts were taken away to Paris not to return until 1815 after Waterloo.

The Vatican Museum

This return was curated by Antonio Canova, a sculptor, and the Vatican Museums’ first curator. If you ‘d like to talk about a curator’s nightmare, absolutely no catalog was in existence for the more than 150,000 artifacts until the 1950s. The cataloging system was designed specially within the Vatican and allows them very careful tracking of the movement of any artifact. The Museum has an interesting setup which includes many employees but seven very specialized registrars who all report to ministry. Anymore there is very little acquisitions within the museums, and even less deaccessioning as in keeping with Italian common heritage and cultural identity – you DO NOT deaccession your own history. Best parts of the day – Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Both incredibly beautiful and true must see places if you go to Rome.

Outside of St. Peter's Basilica

Inside of St. Peter's

Inside of St. Peter's

Okay, earlier in this blog I may have lied but I COMPLETELY tried to block out of my mind what happened after the Vatican that day. A couple of my fellow classmates and I did a little souvenir shopping in some shops across from Vatican City. One of them you super stereotypical shop with key chains, shirts, hats, toys etc. was run by a little Asian family. We went in and were browsing and I saw a bottle opener key chain in the shape of Italy that was red, white and green. The perfect cheesy gift for my sister, right? I pick it up with intentions of buying it, and get super distracted by some scarves, I set the magnet on a shelf and immediately try them on for Luciana to approve.

We do this for like ten minutes, my pre-buying sense of my post-buyers remorse kicks in and I say NO and we walk out (myself forgetting all about the magnet). We’ve been down to a couple of other stores and are walking back the other way to catch a bus and WHAM, little Asian family is accosting me in the street and trying to tear my purse open. TERRIFYING, none of us had any idea what was going on, nor could we understand.

Then I realized they thought I stole the magnet, I walk back into the store with them still attached to me, the woman trying to unzip my purse, pick the magnet up off the shelf and hand it to the man who was screaming at me and pointing at the ceilings (about cameras I think). He stops, the woman…still trying to get into my purse, lucky for me she weighed maybe 100 pounds less than me, I knock her off and walk out of the store. Luciana and Erin staring on in pure terror. I’ve never been accosted like that before, especially after spending an entire day in one of the holiest places in the world. Honestly, I don’t steal and if I was going to it wouldn’t be at the risk of a 2 euro magnet. Notice Jenni, you never received this magnet. Ahhh, Rome.