Tag Archive: museum


all right, time for some backtracking.  we’ve just returned from a lovely summery month in the US, during which time i managed to post exactly nothing (apart from half of the spider posts i was supposed to).  and yet, i have over 3 gig of photos that need sorting and editing (and serious pruning), so perhaps if i do them in manageable, chronological chunks, i can reconstruct the trip.  from the wistful vantage point of my midwinter desk.

things kicked off in california, following my 16th flight across the pacific, an unusual one because the pebbles and i were actually traveling together.  we had a stopover in LA, during which we met up with a friend of mine from high school, whom we will call bendy.  see exhibit a.

exhibit a

 

 

 

 

 

bendy took us to santa monica for a great mexican lunch and told us stories about the celebrities he runs into in the apple store in hollywood, where he works.  among others, he has seen most of the cast of firefly (and even has something of a rapport with sean maher), plus many drool-worthy musicians.  i wound up heading back to his flat in hollywood (that just sounds so cool) after dropping the pebbles back at the airport for his flight to vancouver, and we hung out there for a few hours, me trying to get the trans-pacific kinks out of my back and legs and bendy just doing some general yoga stretching.  we got talking about acro-yoga, which has some close parallels with some of the acro-balance stuff bumbly and i have been doing in our circus class, and pretty soon we were trying out various balances, and even succeeded at one i had previously been convinced was impossible.  excellent thai food wrapped up the looooong day and i slept like i was dead.

exhibit b

 

 

 

 

over the weekend, i headed to monterey bay for the biennial convention of ceph-heads organized through tonmo.  there, i met up with a few good folks i had known previously, many more i had only known online and some entirely new but very cool others.  there were squid dissections, talks on octopus and squid of all sizes, terrible ceph jokes and the invasion of a nearby chinese restaurant (with fish on the ceiling) – pretty much heaven.

 

 

 

two aquarium visits sandwiched the convention, just to add to the marine bliss.  on the friday we checked out monterey bay aquarium (amazing seahorse exhibit at the moment and some lovely ceph tanks, but no mola mola).

stripy

 

 

 

 

 

 

vibrant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and on the sunday we went to the california academy of sciences, which (in addition to its aquarium, including resident giant pacific octopus) has an amazing green roof and a three-story live rainforest exhibit.

sucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

shiny

 

 

 

 

 

 

bored

 

 

 

 

 

 

mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAS roof

 

 

 

 

 

more roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

thus fortified with oceany goodness (although apparently not everyone’s cup of tea, see below), i headed into the interior.

unimpressed

 

 

 

 

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taliesin

let’s start at the beginning. on day 1, i traveled to los angeles from auckland, waited eight hours, and managed not to miss my connection to minneapolis via las vegas. i did spend part of the flight to vegas wishing i had missed it, however, as i was seated in front of two guys who insisted on discussing loudly the fact that they didn’t see what was wrong with a 30-year-old man dating a 17-year-old girl if both parties consented. riveting. on to day 2, which started when i landed at 4.30am in the twin cities. my family met me at the airport and we headed straight off into the wilds of wisconsin, where the family reunion was to start that evening. however, momster had discovered that taliesin, summer home of genius-if-eccentric-to-put-it-mildly architect frank lloyd wright, was less than an hour’s detour along the way. momster is an architecture buff, i considered it as a career, bumbly has strong interests along similar lines, and dad loves to photograph interesting places, so the suggestion met with enthusiasm and off we went. and it was spectacular. lloyd wright believed in buildings harmonizing with their surroundings and being constructed of local materials, and in large windows framing the surrounding landscape in lieu of wall art. he did have a large collection of asian objets d’art in the form of sculptures and statuary, and also incorporated many asian architectural themes into his own. we also learned that while extensive efforts went into the design of some of his buildings, he actually created the blueprints and elevations for fallingwater (another ridiculously cool place to visit) in about two hours, a jaw-dropping feat.

i could continue my besotted ramblings, but i’m guessing the pictures will speak louder.

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scaly colleagues

in the wake of thesis submission, i have a few projects on the go.  however, i’m hoping to enjoy just a few weeks of leisure followed by gainful employment – i’ve applied for a collections technician position at the local museum, which seems like it would be both a valuable experience and good fun in the interim between finishing up all my phd stuff and heading off on the next adventure.  i’ve had an interview already and will know more by the end of next week.  in the meantime, i can dream of being able to visit these guys during morning tea every day… 

 

 

 

another one

 

 

 

 

 

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also from the weird & wonderful hall, an astonishingly green native new zealand gecko.

again with the bugs

the auckland museum has many things to offer in its various galleries, from virtual volcanic eruptions to classic new zealand children's toys to maori culture to natural history.  there are some nice exhibits dedicated to fossils and the coastal and sea environments, but (and i know this will surprise everyone by now), my favorite part is actually the 'weird and wonderful' hall, and in particular, the trays and trays of entomological specimens.  i could pull those drawers out and stare at spiky legs and filmy wings for hours.  i tried once, but my poor friend nemo, who was good enough to come along with me despite being pregnant at the time and not a fan of terrestrial inverts ever (although marine ones are her specialty), was nearly ill. 
but look.  they are so very beautiful.

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NSMT

the whole reason i was in tokyo, believe it or not, was not to take in the sights while trying (somewhat unsuccesfully) to avoid seafood (breaches in the 'i don't eat that' mantra included prawns and – i think, and still feel awful – moray), but rather to visit ika-san and the squid collections at the national science museum, tokyo.  although i spent all the working hours at the offsite research facility near shinjuku, ika-san also took me to the main museum buildings in ueno, to admire the exhibits. 

before the trip, the pebbles had loaned me his lonely planet guide to tokyo, which i found absolutely invaluable at most times.  however, the lonely liar had this to say about the NSMT: 'generally nothing special: the displays are limited in scope and qualtity, and can be covered in less than an hour.'  this is patently not true – i hope the disparaging remarks refer to the museum ten years ago (it's a 1997 LP edition)  and have been updated, because i have rarely seen more engaging and well-thought-out natural history galleries.  the museum also has a spherical theater – not just imax or omnimax, but an actual full sphere, with the audience standing suspended on a walkway through the middle – which is worth seeing in itself, and while i was there, there was a very entertainig exhibition on robots that included the most advanced bipedal robot designed to date, asimo.  however, robots aren't really my thing, and photography wasn't allowed inside the exhibit, so let me divert you rather with the more esoteric things that tickle a teuthologist's fancy. sadly, i didn't get a shot of the life-sized blue whale model inside, but don't worry, i did get both the plastinated whale intestinal tract (oh, the memories – remind me to tell you about that sometime), and the whale stomach chock full of nematodes.  yummy.  oh, and both the stone carving of the ?plesiosaur (at the front of the site where i was working), and its skeleton on display – this was a new species several years ago.

AmmonitesCrazy ammonitesWhale intestinesWormy whale stomach

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attention to detail

during my second week in london, i got lots of work done, but also had time to do good things with momster, who was visiting.  mostly she went off on her own adventures during the day, but sometimes she came in and met me for lunch of after work.  our usual meeting place was in the great hall near the big diplodocus skeleton, and over the course of the week i had a good chance to look around at both the curiosities in alcoves around the hall, and at the amazingly detailed carvings on every available stone surface.

MouseGreat hall ceilingEntryCoelacanth

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BMNH

things have been a bit quiet – england is less stressful than france due to the (only semi-)reduced  language barrier, so there are less stories to relate.  also, i have been leading a rather sheltered existence inside this most impressive of edifaces.

this is the part i see the most of:

note  the large numbers of vials and jars of varying sizes and shapes.  so far i have been through about 150 lots, sorting out things i want to look at more closely.  some of the big ones haven't been opened in 40-100 years and present quite a challenge:

  … and when they do eventually open, they often prove to belong to an entirely different group of squid from the one i'm studying.  so far i have come across no fewer than four large specimens marked 'Kondakovia' (a large antarctic onychoteuthid and therefore relevant to my thesis) that have turned out to in fact be the colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis.  i do also have an interest in and use for these specimens and hope to look at them more closely later this week, but right now i have to prioritize thesis stuff.

i do get a little time to wander around the more cavernous front-of-house galleries, though, which are very worth seeing – i plan to do them more completely when my mom is here next week (she arrives tomorrow).

WindowsPrehistoric mammalGrand hall

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paris is for louvres

the SAM

(29 may) i realized that i have photographed and written about all the touristy things i've been doing, but not much about what i see the most of, which is the south african museum.  so here's a little about where i've been working.
 
the public museum encounter starts with a grandish ediface that fronts onto the company's gardens.  once inside, by continuing straight through the building, one arrives at the central atrium, which is hung with whale skeletons, and from which one can walk up to displays on three surrounding floors.  these include exhibits on rocks and minerals, south africa's geology, ancient rock art, sharks and other marine creatures, and a few requisite strange-looking taxidermied mammals.  plus some interesting skulls.  there are also many blank walls where exhibits have been taken down and not replaced; apparently the museum is suffering from a combination of renovation hassles, retiring staff and general shortages of funds, personnel and a unified plan for the future.  nevertheless, the displays that are up are informative and interesting.

by turning to the right inside the front door, one arrives at the planetarium, which is unfortunately suffering technical troubles (i found out today) and will most likely not be fixed before i leave.  :(

most of that is not what i see every day, though.  (in fact, today was the first time i looked through any of the upper galleries).  when i arrive in the morning i head straight in through one of the back entrances and up to the marine biology department, which is behind the scences.  here, too, the staff is dwindling – the collection manager tells me that when she started, there were seven working marine biologists and four technicians.  now there are two biologists and one technician.  the buildings have been undergoing various renovations for the past five years and apparently space is being reallocated, which contributes to the somewhat ghostly feel of the corridors.  still, they have the timeless feel of a natural history institution – faint smells of alcohol and other preservatives (mixed with wet paint at the moment), the almost inaudible hum of the ventilation, the office doors with far side cartoons relevant to the research interests of each inhabitant.
 
then there are the collections themselves.  i'm not sure what feelings shelves of preserved dead animals evoke in most people, but for me, there is something almost holy about the stacks.  they are a physical library of biological science.  standing amongst literally thousands of specimens, with thousands of scientific names, representing hundreds of years of cumulative taxonomic research, is infintely humbling.  in any sizeable collection, there are likely to be dozens of specimens that are new to science and haven't been described yet.  others are from well-known and well-represented species, but may have some previously unseen or unreported physical character.  some will change names several times.  nearly all, if the collections are properly maintained, will outlast the people who collected, fixed, preserved, and described them.

i recognize not many people want to spend their lives wandering through shelves of smallish corpses floating in a variety of semi-noxious chemicals.  but then, i wouldn't want to be a dentist or a banker, so i guess we all do what we love, however quirky.

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