Glass Jellies & Giant Ground Sloths: The Harvard Museums

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Before I launch into this natural history extravaganza, let me deal with some housekeeping matters: thank you for putting up with a day of theme weirdness on Sunday while I completely redesigned Sarr Trek’s look! I think the new aesthetic better captures my own interests and style–plus, it’s super cute. (If you haven’t seen my actual site in a while, you should give it a quick look!)

Anyway, my celebration of our Thanksgiving trip to the Boston & North Shore area continues today: this time with more squid and science! Though I’ve heard much of them, I’d never visited any of Harvard’s museums, so our family adventure was the perfect way to check the Cambridge group off my gallery bucket list. As someone who works at an art museum, I have a soft spot for natural history museums and other institutions that showcase things entirely different from my workplace’s collections. It’s a lot of fun to see how curation and education functions in other fields of study.

Also, I mean, I just really love fossils and stuff, so, you know.

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Avast Friday: The Peabody Essex Museum

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If you love curiosities, early modern collections, the sea, and maritime art, the Peabody Essex Museum–in Salem, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston–is the place for you.

That sounds fairly generic and tour-brochure-ready, so let me clarify: love all of the aspects of art and history mentioned above, and the PEM is probably among my top five museum favorites. I first visited in 2012, and have enjoyed returning as frequently as I could ever since.

This post is the first in a two-part series exploring my time at the PEM–I’ll start out by focusing on the permanent collections, and then move into the special exhibitions (okay, one very special exhibition!) sometime soon!

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Western MA Wanderings (in CT!): Wadsworth Atheneum

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There is nothing in this world I love quite so much as paintings of other paintings. These early modern visual inventories of private collections can captivate me for hours–so many tiny masterpieces, both real and imagined, cover the walls of grand painted estates!

Luckily, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT (just barely on the MA border, which is enough to include it in my Western Mass adventure category!) is totally into paintings-of-paintings too. So much so, in fact, that they re-installed one of their grandest galleries to mirror the aesthetics of Giovanni Paolo Panini’s 1749 Interior of a Picture Gallery with the Collection of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (pictured above). What more could a museum nerd ask for?

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DC Museum Marathon: All About That (Air &) Space

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Because I work at an art museum, I find non-arts-based institutions–natural history and science museums, historic houses, museums of flight and technology–all the more exciting. It’s so much fun to explore the different ways in which objects and knowledge can be shared: whether you’re showing off a trilobite or a Titian, it’s still key to snag your audience’s attention and encourage them to look closely.

Plus, let’s be honest, I just love dinosaurs and space. Period. How could I pass up the opportunity, then, to visit DC’s Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum?

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DC Museum Marathon: Totally Sublime at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

DSC_0824DSC_0810While I’m still anxiously waiting for my carpal tunnel syndrome  to be vanquished completely, I thought I’d start sharing some of the photos from my amazing trip to Washington, DC: starting with incredible Hudson River School (& beyond!) landscapes from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Until I regain my full typing stamina, these unbelievably beautiful paintings will have to tell the story for me–but hey, if your average picture is worth at least a thousand words, I’d say these works of art are more on the exchange scale of a million.

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Museum Multipass Part I: The Clark Art Institute

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I came pretty close to tears while viewing some of the works in the major summer exhibition Van Gogh and Nature at the Clark Art Institute. I spent a good twenty minutes staring, dumbfounded, at this Cypresses painting that traveled to Western MA from the Met–the sky embodies exactly how I feel when I’m completely happy and at peace.

I loved that exhibition, but since it consisted of loan works, photography was out of the question. To make up for my lack of pictures of these works that touched me so much, I decided to follow their lead and immerse myself in nature instead: something very easy to do in the beautiful woods that surround the Clark!

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No Place Like Homer | The Portland Museum of Art

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If you’re into stormy Maine shorelines but want to save yourself from the cold, try spending some time at the  Portland Museum of Art: home to Winslow Homer’s Weatherbeaten.

(And some of his non-seaside-related works as well. If you’re into that kind of thing.)

I know the issue of photography in art museums is a contested issue–“are you really enjoying artwork if you’re obsessed with snapping the perfect picture?,” some might ask–but I find that a camera can actually help facilitate close looking. Because I can’t just go and stand a hair’s width away from a Homer in order to admire his thick, heavy way of creating wave texture, why not use my zoom function to get up close and personal with the artwork in a whole new way? Continue reading