Favorite Museum Exhibits

by WCE

This WSJ article discusses the visit of historic medieval manuscripts from Oxford College to the Folger museum in Washington, D.C. (starts Feb. 4) and then to New York’s Center for Jewish History in May.

Most of the works in “500 Years of Treasures From Oxford” will be making their U.S. debut. Among them are some historic best sellers. A 15th-century manuscript of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” includes an elaborate floral border around rows of exquisitely rendered Middle English text and penciled-in instructions, never erased, for the book’s decorations. A 15th-century manuscript of Homer’s “Iliad,” in Greek, features unusual red-orange designs that run alongside the text and are attributed to the scribe Ioannes Rhosos of Crete.

…. the collection contains 13 rare Hebrew manuscripts, an extraordinary number for one library. A 12th-century prayer book once owned by a Sephardic Jew who traveled to England contains notes that use Hebrew characters to write Arabic words on the fly-leaves—the only such example from medieval England. A 13th-century book of psalms includes side-by-side Latin and Hebrew versions. The college’s scholars likely would have used these works, which will be part of the tour, to learn Hebrew.

The rarity and scale of the exhibit reminds me of a King Tut exhibit I visited ~15 years ago in the Bay Area. If I were closer to Washington, D.C. or New York City, I would want to visit this display and I would take my children along, whether they claimed to be interested or not.

For those of you near one of those cities, do displays like this appeal to you? What museum exhibits do you find most memorable?

An Oxford College Sends Renaissance Rarities to the U.S.


143 thoughts on “Favorite Museum Exhibits

  1. I’m looking forward to this. Now that “our” waterpark has closed, we are looking for Sunday Funday ideas. He says he doesn’t want to go kayaking or zipping :(

  2. I love museums! Some of my favorites? The Frick and the Met in NYC. The Getty in LA. The Monterrey Aquarium. On my bucket list: The Vatican Museum, The Louvre, the Imperial Treasury in Vienna and the Kunsthistorisches Museum and last but not least The National Palace Museum in Taipei*.

    * As the Chinese Civil War turned against the Nationalists, they began moving the treasures of the Forbidden City in Beijing to Taiwan. Those treasures are now housed at the National Palace Museum.

  3. The Louvre was overwhelming but the D’Orsay and Orangerie in Paris were lovely. And the Army Museum there was fascinating, especially the World War sections. Rick Steves was not far off when he described that section as “how Charles de Gaulle really won the war”

  4. I’ve always enjoyed special exhibits, and I’ve gone to many through the years. The one that really stands out for me, though, was an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston about 20 years ago called “Picasso: The Early Years.” It was stunningly beautiful. I’d always thought of Picasso just as an artist who did all those distorted, cubist paintings, but this exhibit showed me that before he started doing the abstract stuff, he had developed a mastery of classical technique. I sort of took that as a life lesson — that you need to get a strong foundation under you before you start improvising.

    WCE, I remember that back when I was a kid (in the late 70s) there was a huge exhibit of King Tut artifacts from Cairo that toured the U.S. The closest museum to us that it went to was the Met in New York, and we weren’t able to go, even though I desperately wanted to. I still regret that I didn’t get to see it. My parents did buy me the exhibit book, though, and all these years later, it still occupies a prominent place on my bookshelf.

  5. There was a big King Tut exhibition in DC in the late 1980s I think. We all stood in long lines for that and the Treasure Houses of Britain.

  6. I love museums and support the special exhibits that come through. A few years ago I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls which was really interesting. Unfortunately I had a toddler with me, so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked. And last month I took my DD to see a special Faberge exhibit (tcmama you should check it out before it leaves later this month).

  7. I try to go to the Getty every time I’m in LA. I love the Smithsonian American Indian museum – there’s a little room about the people I work with, which totally impresses my kids. I also loved the Musee d’orsay. So much more digestible than the big museums.

  8. “There was a big King Tut exhibition in DC in the late 1980s I think. We all stood in long lines for that”

    We saw it in Dallas when I was young. Amazing.

    The Met in NYC is my favorite museum. I could spend days there.

  9. “There was a big King Tut exhibition in DC in the late 1980s I think. We all stood in long lines for that”

    I missed the King Tut exhibition as a child, but at least part of it came back a few years ago,and I made sure we went.

  10. Oh, don’t get me started! I could go on and on with this topics. OK, here are some faves
    1. The entire Musee de Cluny in Paris. That is the medieval art museum. It has some of the most amazing medieval art in the world, and is just the right size
    2. The treasury at the Aachen Cathedral. Omigod, the gold, the workmanship, the reliquaries
    go through the photos, amazing

  11. 3. The Sanxingdui Museum, just outside of Chengdu. How it is that no one knows about this amazing museum is beyond me. It is artifacts of the ancient Shu people who lived in the west of China. One of the most amazing pieces is a silver Tree of Life, which is about half the size of a real tree, with beautiful silverwork, And the masks, and other precious artwork


  12. Funny about King Tut. I saw that exhibit as a kid in Atlanta, it was very late 70s or early 80s, I think.

    I also love museums. I can wander around them for hours.

  13. 5. Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington DC. One of the best Byzantine collections in the world, and an amazing collection of pre-Columbian art from Central and South America
    6. The Museum Boerhaeve in Leiden, NL. This is a museum of science, but not the usual mega-kiddie-extravaganza. Instead, it is a museum of scientific history, in the very university that was a center of science in the 1600 and 1700’s

  14. I saw King Tut twice – at the British Museum in London when I was a kid, and then in Chicago when I was a teen

  15. The Rodin Sculpture Garden at the Stanford Museum. They also used to have a lot of great Western history stuff, but sadly, they’ve switched it to more mainstream art.

    The Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose. Odd little Egyptian Museum. They have mummies! Great for kids.

    The Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park. Everyone tends to head for the De Young in GGP, but the Asian Art Museum is lovely.

  16. Oh hell, it’s not in Golden Gate Park anymore! Jeez. Okay. Obviously I need a trip to San Francisco in the near future.

  17. I live near a big city but I rarely go to museums. I enjoy some, but usually only for a couple or three hours maximum. Ideally, I’d like to pop in and spend an hour or so on one small section or exhibit, but many museums are not priced to encourage that. Some are priced so you can “pay what you’d like”, and I’ve done that with no guilt if I want to stop by for a short visit. The Museum of Natural History is one of my favorites.

    My city resident friends have some kind of pass that gives them discounts to museums. Or maybe it’s only a student pass or it depends on the employer. Not sure. When traveling, I often buy a package deal, especially if it allows me to visit a museum more than once. Scarlett, was that the Imperial War Museum? I enjoyed visiting that, but I would probably enjoy it more just visiting it for one war at a time.

  18. One of my most memorable museums is Boston’s science museum. We went with the kids when they were 9 and 6, and after 5 hours I was begging to leave. I had to bribe them with ice cream to get them out of there. So much to do and see.

  19. Oh, I see I got my Army and War museums mixed up. Sorry. I also enjoyed the Army museum in Paris.

  20. One particular type of exhibit that I find fascinating are the scale models of cities, nature, or historic sites. Unfortunately, the few I’ve seen seem to be mainly dusty and/or out of date. There’s one in Queens that has an old NYC model, and someone who recently visited told me he was not impressed.

  21. The Prado in Madrid.
    The Heard in Phoenix.
    I agree with Rhett re the Getty. We used to go there regularly when we lived in LA.
    Baseball Hall of Fame (& Museum) in Cooperstown, NY. The Hall of Fame part is much smaller than the museum part.

  22. Oh, and I have to put a plug in for The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, MI. If you ever find yourself in the area for a day you have to visit. Where else can you see Lincoln’s chair, JFK’s limo, Dymaxion House, Edison’s workshops, and tour a pickup truck factory in one day!

  23. DH (architect) loved the National Building Museum in DC. He was still in the first room by the time I got to the gift shop.

    I can only take museums (and crowds) in small doses, so ones like the Met are too overwhelming for me. We’ve done well focusing only on specific exhibits. I also generally prefer science/natural history museums to art museums, especially with kids.

    Some exceptions: the MOMA, the Tate – spacious but not unending, enough room for all even with crowds, and museums in Florence.

  24. I also view some museums the way I view zoos, fascinating yet sad. The Egyptian exhibit at the British Museum comes to mind.

  25. On the subject of travel and museums, DH and I will have 1.5 days in San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Any recommendations of what to do or where to eat? We are wide open for most of a Thursday and all of a Friday.

  26. Two of my favorites were in Boston – my favorite museum experience was going to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. I don’t know much about art, so when I go to museums I feel like I must read everything about the piece rather than experiencing the piece. There weren’t many, if any, descriptions at Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, so I was able to not stress about reading about the piece and was able to enjoy and observe.

    I love going to house museums. One of the best, because it was so bizarre, is the Gibson House http://www.thegibsonhouse.org/ in Boston. The tour guide told us that the owner who decided to make it a museum and had started roping off sections and making visitors sit on the stairs. DH and I still laugh about it today.

    The other museum I really like is the Morgan Library and Museum. All those old books!

  27. I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art – trying to decide whether to take the kids there when school is closed.

    I also loved Cluny and the Imperial War Museum, and of course the Museum of Natural History.

    In other news, I managed to get in a minor fender bender last week, but with a very expensive car (base price over $100k). Dented their door panel. I realize I’m out the deductible, but has anyone else done this and have an idea of how high premiums go up after one accident? If I
    had hit anything else, it would be under $1k of damage. I haven’t caused an accident before, so I have no idea.

  28. Have you been to San Francisco before, Lark? If so, what did you already see?

    Let’s call it no. I’ve been 3 times before, but always traveling for work, and only with an hour here or there to myself. I’ve never been as a true tourist, and never with DH.

  29. Not much of a museum person — well, I am, but DH and the kids aren’t, so we don’t go much unless there are dinosaurs, rocks, planes, or mummies. My favorite was the museum in Heraklion, which has a bunch of Minoan artifacts. I’d totally go to the one WCE describes, but I’d probably leave everyone else home so I’d actually have a chance to enjoy it. Nothing like bored/restive kids to ruin a lovely museum visit. :-)

    “I love going to house museums.” ITA — I love seeing how people lived, or at least seeing the grand old rooms that have been repurposed. You can also get me into any kind of castle, “museum” or no, for just that reason. One of my favorites is a teensy little castle in Poppi, Italy, where the basement has this dusty old diorama of one of the Casentino battles — very old-fashioned and fun. Kids also enjoyed a museum in Anghiari where they had a floor tracing the history of guns through the centuries.

  30. CoC,
    No, it wasn’t the Imperial Museum but the Musée de l’Armée. In the same place as Napoleon’s Tomb, which itself was not worth visiting.
    I agree with you on the surgical strike museum visit. Perhaps it is a remnant of having lived so long in the DC area, where you never HAD to spend an entire day or even afternoon at one museum to get your money’s worth. The Paris Museum Pass was a great deal, as it eliminated that particular pressure. A few hours of standing around and looking at things is all I can take, but I can handle multiple days of same.

    This is definitely on my bucket list, and I may have to go alone.

  31. Lark – one of my all time favorite places to eat in SF is La Taqueria Cumbre 515 Valencia St (16th & Valencia). It’s a block from the 16th St & Mission BART station. Walk another 2 blocks west on 16th and you’ll get to Mission San Francisco, built by the Franciscans in 1776. It’s also a Presidio, or Spanish Army fort. That would be a cultural thing to visit that’s off the well-worn tourist path.

  32. I am a true claustrophobic, so Alcatraz was already out :)

    We are staying in Nob Hill. Thank you for all the suggestions.

  33. Ohhh, the Liria Palace is only open on Fridays and you need to write a letter to the palace to make an appointment. When you arrive you’re ushered in by a uniformed butler.

  34. My most recent museum visit was to the Art Institute in Chicago. I thought it was pretty good. I haven’t been to the other museums in NYC. Next visit those are on my list. I get annoyed that we spend all our time going around NYC and never step into the museums.

    I have been to the major museums in Paris and London. I really liked the RAF museum in London.

    We visited the 9/11 Memorial and museum. To see an event in my lifetime in a museum and know one of the names was unsettling.

  35. Well to keep this topical, you have to go to the Cable Car Museum at Washington & Mason, which is 3-4 blocks away from where you’ll be staying!

    You should have a drink at the Top of the Mark. Even if you’re not staying at the Mark Hopkins (Intercontinental).

  36. My favorite special exhibit was the Mythbusters one that came to town a few years ago. It was a ton of fun.

    As for museums in general, nothing will top the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Although the Herring Era Museum was surprisingly interesting.

  37. I like museums, but in small doses. We have memberships to the science museum and the aquarium, so we go to those often. I really like the Gardner but haven’t been there in a while. That and the Frick and the D’Orsay are the favorites of the ones I’ve been to. I also love the grand houses in England and things like abbey ruins (although those aren’t really museums).

  38. We all liked the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, FL. That’s the sort of thing the family likes – a scenic setting, some history, some science.
    We also liked the Getty Villa. I guess we like gardens attached to the museums !

  39. Quite like the LfB family, unless it is airplanes or natural history, we do not venture into museums. When it comes to appreciation of art and painting, we have the sophistication of lump of coal. We love the field museum here that is wonderful and has something for everyone. Loved their King Tut exhibit a few years ago. Also a big fan of museum of natural history out in DC.

  40. Rhett – the House of Alba had an exhibit at the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus last year and I totally missed it. I need to get to the Meadows to see it – supposed to have the largest collection of Spanish Art outside of the Prado Museum.

    DH and I liked the World War 2 Museum in New Orleans. Spent three hours there and still didn’t see everything. Have to look past the typos on placards (!) and the over-representation of the air boat-like vehicle developed in Louisiana that helped the troops storm the beaches but otherwise. wonderful. Nice walk from the French Quarter. Grab sandwiches from Cochon Butcher on the walk back. Yum.

  41. I really wanted to go to the Jacquemart-Andre museum when we were in Paris over Christmas, but we ran out of time. It’s another house museum filled with art. Has anyone been there?


    Lemon – thanks for the heads up on the Faberge exhibit. We live very close to the museum but haven’t been there in years. I love the building.

  42. Rhett, we did contact the insurance company and there was a police report – the other car is leased.

    It was my fault, because I backed into her – the other car was a sports car and was so low that it wasn’t visible in my rear window, and it was raining so my backup camera was foggy.

  43. Sky, that it’s leased probably doesn’t matter. Just let your insurance company handle it. Get your car fixed, pay the deductible. It’s why you have insurance. If they raise your rate in the next renewal you can always shop for another insurer, but if the customer service is all around to your satisfaction and the rate bump is tolerable, you’re probably better off just staying with them.

  44. Small technology questions hijack – which internet service do you recommend for a family that does not have cable (use streaming wifi for TV), does not need a landline and intends to travel more frequently internationally and possibly need a wifi hotspot that would work in various countries. Is it silly to think these needs should overlap? If you have a mifi that works great for travel throughout the caribbean, can you share a recommendation?

  45. Sky,

    I agree with Fred.

    If it was a Honda and the damage looked minor you could offer to exchange information and have them let you know what the estimate was. If you have a $1000 deductive and it was $1500 it might be worth it to just pay out of pocket.

    Does that sound unethical? I can’t decide. I can’t imagine the insurance company objects to people not making claims…

  46. Sky, are you my husband? :) He had the same thing happen to him and we are doing what Fred suggested. DH did not get a citation from the police officer btw. Our agent suggested not sending int he actual accident report to insurance, just hedging on it. I dont know the reasoning he provided.
    DH’s fender bender was with a truck and we have more damage than the truck. Our agent does not think the premium will go up too much.

  47. The World War I museum in Kansas City is really good. I learned a lot, and it did a nice job of talking about how the end of it led to WWII.

  48. My family loves most museums, and we always look for museums we can visit when we travel. However,

    “When it comes to appreciation of art and painting, we have the sophistication of lump of coal. ”


    “Some exceptions: the MOMA”

    Ditto again. We spent a morning there, and could’ve easily spent more time, but we had an appointment for a college tour that afternoon. We especially liked being able to see a Stradivarius up close; IIRC, they had several Strads, but only one was actually on exhibit because the others were in use.

  49. MiaMama, you’re looking at two different services. A wifi hotspot would be provided via your cellphone by your cell carrier, not by your internet company. Although depending on what cable providers are available in your neighborhood, you might be able to bundle them.

  50. I will remember the Dutch science museum for some future trip to Europe. Rhett – I am not a scientific instrument junkie, but I could give it try. I dislike house museums. And crowds. And because I grew up in DC with the national museums, I have an instinctual aversion to paying for museum admission. I was shocked when I moved up to Boston that they weren’t free. Mostly I go to museums when I am out of town and have a couple of hours to fill. Of course Nana has to go on various kid focussed museum visits, but it beats Chuck E Cheese.

  51. Lark, I haven’t been to their new location, but I loved going to the Exploratorium and could spend hours there.

    Since your free time is on weekdays, you’ll probably have no problem finding parking if you go to Golden Gate Park. I really like the Japanese Tea Garden there.

    I second Rhett on the Marin Headlands. After that, you might try the Spinnaker, in Sausalito, for dinner. I don’t remember much about the food, but the views were good.

    If you like the Exploratorium, you would probably also like the Lawrence Hall of Science, above the UC Berkeley campus, which also has some nice views. If you’re going there, you might try to get reservations now for dinner at Chez Panisse.

  52. I still remember attending the Worlds Fair in 1964 with my grandmother and seeing the Pieta for the first time. A very moving piece of art.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art had an exhibit of Degas’ paintings – absolutely spectacular.

    There are so many museums in the states. Not enough time to see them all. There are also a lot of small museums that tell the story of a particular battle or historical figure(s). I enjoyed the Lewis and Clarke exhibit in Montana Any of our National Parks are natural museums.

  53. “Although depending on what cable providers are available in your neighborhood, you might be able to bundle them.”

    I suggest you start by seeing what the additional cost is to adding internet service to your cell service, and use that as a baseline against which to compare other ISPs.

    You might also want to price out using your cell service to provide all your internet access, especially if you have good cell coverage at your home.

  54. We’ve discussed before wanting to spend extended time in different locations during retirement. I’d really like to do that in places with a lot of museums, so we could, over multiple visits, see entire museums at a leisurely pace.

  55. Kerri, I think I’m on the same page as you in a lot of museums. The history of how the artifacts got to they were can be interesting for a while, but so often boils down to the same old Elgin Marbles -type story. Touring the stacks in the Library of Congress with its head librarian was very interesting. I love doing research in special collections, where the things you’re reading often come to you literally wrapped up or tied with a bow.

    We have been to more aquariums than museums, and the museum exhibit I remember spending the most time in was about sharks. He prefers science exhibits, I prefer cultural ones, but we both like lots and lots of explanation. I also enjoy touring old churches and castles (palaces, not so much). There is a Roman church on Lake Constance that made a big impression on me. I’d like to go there again.

    There are a couple of museums I meant to go to but missed out on–the Franklin Museum (science) in Philadelphia and Isabel Stewart in Boston (which several people mentioned today). One of these days I’d like to go to Pompeii.

    With so many people here sharing recollections of the King Tut artifacts, I just had to look this up. It is as close as we got to Tutmania.

    Rhett, did Meme do. history of science? I didn’t realize that.

  56. I love museums, as you guys could tell from all my suggestions. But I tend to prefer smaller museums. That is why I like Dumbarton Oaks so much (plus its collection is amazing). I also found the Walker in Baltimore to be a very good size. When I go to the MMA, I usually just go to see something in particular – not always a special exhibit – sometimes we go just to see, say, some Asian art or photography. My biggest problem, though, is that my kids, especially DS2, are total museum weenies and have to see ALL OF IT. And when we travel, we have to go to ALL THE MUSEUMS.

  57. I am not a huge fan of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. I think the overblown architecture distracts from the art.

  58. “we both like lots and lots of explanation.”

    Ditto, and thus we can spend lots of time in museums that offer them.

  59. S&M, I have been to Pompeii twice, the second time with my whole family. The first time was with my then-BF, whose family I was spending the summer with in Naples. What a difference! Both times, I visited in August, and it was hotter than Hades. But the first time, it was really lowkey, and we spent the day just wandering through everything. The second time, it was a mob scene, with busloads of people from cruiseboats pulling up. We had to wait for an hour just to get in, and it was really hard to walk around because of the mobs of people. Cruise people, too, have to go in these packs led by someone with a sign, so they move through the ancient streets in a really annoying way, blocking everything. The only thing that was the same was the sad little train, the Circumvesuviana, that you take to get out there. We couldn’t get seats going back so poor DH had to stand in this 100 degree wobbly train car, holding a sleeping then-6year old, for an hour.

    However, the kids LOVED Pompeii. Make sure, if you go, you spend enough time in Naples to visit the Museo Archeologicol where many of the originals are kept, and where you will get a lot more context. Also, if you ever go, eat pizza!

  60. In general, we prefer to go deep on few things than dip a toe into many. At the Chicago Art Institute, ‘saac did a little class where they learned about Georgia O’Keefe and then did a drawing in her style (he was four, so you had to squint to see the resemblance). The Ford/Edison estates seemed like a lot of walking around the grounds for not a lot of learning about the sciences the two men were involved in Or the history of their time, about which a lot could be said.

    My family is very disinterested in art and historical periods. Living with an antique and art restorer in Switzerland, with a house full of his favorite pieces, when I was an exchange student was a shock. The wardrobe I used that year was made around the year 1641. Their 11 year old thought it was funny that I didn’t know the difference between Romanesque and Romantic. I wish I could figure out how to interest my kid in history, but I haven’t.

  61. I am annoyed that I missed Friday’s discussion of house styles. I think ours is a Colonial Revival with some elements of Queen Anne and Victorian (bc of the asymmetry). I need to get that house styles book, and I just ordered a book on the person who built our house in hopes that it will name the architect.

  62. “My family is very disinterested in art and historical periods.”

    They have no favorites WRT art or historical periods?

    Or are they, perhaps, uninterested in art and historical periods?

    Are we still doing the edginess thing?

  63. “”Museo Archeologicol” And be forewarned, where they have the “secret” erotic art museum. ;)

    Pompeii was spectacular, as was Herculaneum. These are places where imo tour guides can be invaluable.

    Tied into current news and not really museums but more my style are dam tours — Hoover and Glen Canyon. Besides the inner workings, just the vastness of the structures makes for quite a visit.

    I’ll bet no one here has been to the George W. Bush childhood home in Midland TX — a small tract home that was fun to visit. Another fun one was the barbed wire museum in TX on Route 66.

  64. “The wardrobe I used that year was made around the year 1641.”

    Wow, those fabrics really held up. (I’m playing Finn here.)

  65. S&M – My entire graduate education prepared me to read and comprehend cover to cover The Name of the Rose (in English, not Italian, but as you know it is still full of old languages) without need of dictionary or reference books. Not much else. I was a specialist in early science – Greeks through Newton. My unfinished dissertation (I gave up on my studies after my second child died) was on modal logic in the works of a 14th century philosopher/mathematician who (cribbed from Stanford Enc. of Philosophy). I leave out his name for the illusion of maintaining my anonymity.

    worked with logical puzzles, applying supposition theory to the logical exposition of problematic statements (sophismata), attending in particular to scope problems and compounded and divided sense. He is particularly noted for applying his methods to puzzles about motion and the continuum. His work curiously anticipates nineteenth-century mathematical analysis of the continuum, and he is well know for developing the Mean Speed Theorem concerning the distance covered over a period of time under uniform acceleration. His work had some influence on the deveopment of early modern science, though he cannot be said to have been doing empirical science, his work being much closer to mathematical analysis.

  66. “Another fun one was the barbed wire museum in TX on Route 66.”

    I remember going to a museum somewhere in the middle of nowhere in CA, in the general vicinity of Edwards AFB. My recollection is that it was an old house that housed a collection of glass insulators used for high voltage electrical transmission lines, and was actually pretty interesting for a short visit.

  67. Thanks Meme!

    CoC, to be convincing, you have to convince us that you don’t know what type of “wardrobe” it is.

  68. “One of these days I’d like to go to Pompeii.”

    Never been there, but the similarly ash-covered ruins on Santorini were impressive. Indoor toilets!

  69. I’m spoiled because I’ve lived in 3 major museum cities; NY, DC and London. I got really spoiled when most of the banks I worked for came with free access to every museum and garden in NY. I started to flash my work ID just to use the bathrooms in the Met when I would spend a day in Central Park. The best part about free access is you can visit for short periods and leave without the guilt.

    I learned where everything was located in the Met, and it took many years to visit everything.

    In DC, I felt like every visitor wanted to see the same stuff, so I saw the same exhibits many times. I did love Dumbarton Oaks for the gardens and the exhibits.

    I don’t like the new MOMA. I know it’s been years since the smaller location closed, but I find this one too cold. I love everything about the Met even though there is so much to see during a visit.

  70. you might try to get reservations now for dinner at Chez Panisse.

    Heresy alert: I’m not all that impressed with Chez Panisse. It started the whole farm-to-table trend, but that doesn’t mean it’s better than all the other ones out there now. And it’s kind of crowded and hot.

  71. “The best part about free access is you can visit for short periods and leave without the guilt.”

    I have free memberships through work to some of our local museums as well. My favorite is the Art Institute where I like to just pop in for an hour once in awhile. S&M – we’ve done their weekend educational children’s programs many times. They are fun and well-done, and they are also free (do not have to pay entry fee to the museum to participate).

    I actively avoid the Museum of Science & Industry which is crowded and has a lot of exhibits that are outdated. The Field Museum is okay. I feel like I burned out by chaperoning too many field trips there when DS was in preschool. They do have some really cool special exhibits from time & time though, so I pretty much only go there when there is something interesting.

    DH is really into American History, so we’ve started visiting some of the Presidential Library/Museums and other historic sites. I have enjoyed them more than I thought that I would.

    I also like house museums. I could tour The Breakers or that Vanderbilt house in Ashville, NC over and over. And then there is The House on the Rock.

  72. “You might also want to price out using your cell service to provide all your internet access, especially if you have good cell coverage at your home.”

    I was thinking that might be a direction worth looking into – I will have to price it out and see if there is a breakeven with regards to data usage. I have wifi access at work. DH has grandfathered unlimited AT&T data. That might work. Has anyone rented a mifi for international travel? There is one that I can purchase but is also available for rent on Amazon called Skyroam.

  73. Mia, I’m not sure if there’s any difference, but when we’ve traveled internationally we’ve rented pocket wifi devices. In urban areas they worked great, but there were some dead spots when we got away from urban areas.

  74. The coverage area for most of the pocket wifi devices does not include several of the caribbean islands we plan to hit. They all seem to have nationalized cell coverage and we may see if one of our phones can swap out sim cards in these countries and act as a mobile tether. There are satellite data options but supposedly very expensive. But if they allow me to keep my job and float around islands with my family, worth it!

  75. Heresy alert: I’m not all that impressed with Chez Panisse.

    Well, double heresy alert, I’m not all that into “must-do” restaurants. So we are doing neither Chez Panisse nor French Laundry. I’m sure they are both amazing. But I just can’t eat that much at dinner, and I get restless (or tired!), and I have learned the hard way that I don’t really value those kinds of meals the way many people do.

  76. Meme, I have several friends who study the history of ideas. All of them specialize in times much more recent than you focused on. But your comment reminds me of a museum that was once on my list. I might still like to see it, although I believe there are now many more written works on this era/area. And no, I don’t believe Aramco World to be an authoritative source, but for ideas on things to see outside the Kingdom, I think it’s probably fine.

  77. We all like museums, art, science, history, what have you, but I still want to take longer than everyone else, I guess due to reading everything. Last year I took an extra day on a work trip to DC to go through museums — still wasn’t enough time, of course, but I did make it through American Indian and History plus a brief refresher at Air & Space. I meant to go to an art one too but ran out of time.

    For the off-the-beaten track ones, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is great; it’s like five museums in one (natural history, American Indian history, art, biographical / Buffalo Bill himself, and I forget the fifth). I wish we’d left more time for it when we were in Cody.

    Locally, the Bishop Museum is of course a favorite (Hawaiian history, science).

  78. “I actively avoid the Museum of Science & Industry which is crowded and has a lot of exhibits that are outdated.”

    We kept our membership at Science & Industry for several years just to be able to make regular pilgrimages to the U-505 exhibit. It’s been a while since the last visit, but I had the whole damn exhibit memorized and could easily have led a tour along with the grizzled sub veterans.

    One of the most fascinating aspects of that exhibit was how the US hid the members of the captured crew in a POW camp in Louisiana for the duration of the war, so that the Germans would not realize that one of the Engima code machines on board the sub had been confiscated. Their families were told that they were dead.

  79. S&M – I did a paper on Ibn al-Haytham in college. I was able to read his work in Latin from a book in the rare books library on campus.

  80. Ivy – The House on the Rock! I’ve never been there. DH went in college during a family reunion. He said it was awful. When you mentioned it, I wondered if Rhett had been there. He’d probably have nightmares.

  81. Meme, how was the connection between that piece and “your guy’s” work perceived when you were in grad school?

  82. But if they allow me to keep my job and float around islands with my family, worth it!

    You’ll be boating?

  83. “the Bishop Museum is of course a favorite”

    Yeah, it’s great. We used to go a lot when the kids were younger and less busy.

    Our membership there also came with reciprocity benefits that we were able to use at other museums, e.g., the Exploratorium.

  84. My family in addition to museums MUST go into the museum shop. It is not as if they will buy something but they like to look around.

  85. One museum experience was ruined for me by the norovirus.

    We used to go to the Museum of Natural History on school trips and weekends. That famous room with the big whale was a favorite of my childhood. I was excited when DD went for an overnight with Girl Scouts and moms to sleep under the whale. It was troops from the tri state area, and a few girls threw up in the bathroom from other troops. I didn’t care until our troop was projectile vomiting all over our elementary school. The school nurse said it resulted in one of the worst outbreaks in her career at our elementary school because it spread so rapidly to so many kids.

  86. MiaMama, you said you want to use your Internet connection for watching tv. I would be very hesitant to try to do that off of cell service. Even if it is reliable enough, which I wouldn’t want to count on, the carriers will throttle your speed after a certain point, even with an unlimited data plan.

  87. “House museums” have been mentioned a couple times. At the risk of sounding like a hair-splitting nuisance, I want to ask if everyone means the same thing by this term. The Vanderbilt mansion, Crazy Ludwig’s castles in Bavaria, and other homes of wealthy and influential people are open for tours, and could be understood as “house museums”. Otoh, following changes in the discipline of history leading to a new emphasis (the English term has slipped my mind, I think of it as Alltagsgeschichte, the history of the everyday) in the 1970s, there has been much more research into how ordinary people in particular places and times lived their daily lives. Williamsburg is probably the best-known, but there are many others, such as the Tenement Museum in NYC or the little room in a Sarasota museum showing the kinds of houses Spanish conquistadors were familiar with. A third meaning of “house museum” might be small museums, often located in former single-family homes, that attempt to tell the history of an area. If we really want to stretch it, the bus tours pointing out celebrities’ houses, like the one in LA that I fell asleep on, could be a fourth type of “house tours”.

    Door number two is my favorite, especially those that tie the changes in daily life to the Grand Epochs we’ve studied. It is followed by a tie between 1 & 3, depending on how they are done. I’m not interested in how Charlotte did her hair, but tell me what her hairbrush was made of, what changing trade relations made it possible to use those materials, and the different jobs people had working those materials into a hairbrush, and I’m fascinated, particularly if it’s tied to cultural changes. I also like local museums that give an impression of the place in a particular era that can be put into broader context of the time, but not the kind that gather together all sorts of ephemera with no rhyme or reason or than “it’s from here”. I think i already gave away my impression of #4.

  88. SM, we have a door #2-type museum here about the plantation villages in which many of my parents’ generation grew up.

    There are also many door #2-type exhibits within larger museums. E.g., the Bishop Museum locally has a real grass shack it its main hall.

  89. When I was a college student, the Museum of Science had a Thursday night free night. We used to go all the time. They had this big colored screen which changed colors according to your motion while music played., I can remember a bunch of us, all standing on a bench in front of it, rocking out to Rock Lobster.

  90. Jamestown and Cherokee – love them both!!!
    I also LOVE Old Sturbridge Village, which is in MA and shows life in an agricultural village of the early 1800’s. Another great example is the historic village just outside of Reykjavik, which shows life in the sod houses in earlier times (forgot the exact era)

  91. “I also LOVE Old Sturbridge Village”

    IIRC, Norm Abram used to get a lot of ideas there for projects for the New Yankee Workshop.

  92. We used to do all our Christmas shopping in their museum store. This was back before we had kids, or the relatives had kids

  93. One of mine absolutely hated Jamestown and was a bear to deal with. I would have loved to have stayed much much longer.

  94. @SM – my reference to “house museums” was what you referred to as 1-3. I like them all.

  95. Lark – sorry I missed your question about San Francisco. I have a ton of restaurant recommendations – for dinner: Kokkari, The Progress, Delfina, Park Tavern, and many more depending on what type of food you want or where you will be. The Ferry Building has a lot of great spots (RMS and I met there a few years ago!). I would make your reservation as soon as you decide; some places fill up way in advance.

    I don’t know if you can drive up on Twin Peaks anymore – they are planning to close it off to evil cars soon. It does have a wonderful view – but if you drive don’t leave anything in your car – we have a terrible problem with car breakins these days.

    Hog Island Oysters up in Tomales Bay is great, but I would make a reservation! If you only have a day and a half you may not want to drive up to Marin, but if you do, that is a great destination.

    Alcatraz, Japanese Tea Garden, any of the museums (there is a Monet exhibit coming to the Legion of Honor) are all fun, plus just walking the streets in the various neighborhoods.

    Also, I went every summer to Sturbridge Village (my grandparents lived in Worcester). We loved it so much, and it was part of the big three (things to do while visiting said grandparents) – Sturbridge Village, The Science Museum, and a trip to Capitol Toy store!

  96. +1 to the suggestion to take a Cable Car – go early in the day and ride back and forth with no crowds.

    Stones Throw and Seven Hills are very good restaurants on Russian Hill (very close if you are staying on Nob Hill). If you are a fan of Tales of the City you can hunt down Macondrey Lane, which is right around the corner.

  97. I got so many gifts at MOMA this year for older cousins. The ones that just finished college/first home and I wasn’t supposed to just give cash in a holiday gift exchange. So many great gifts in many museum stores.

    We went to Liberty Science center in September and DD was asking for a million things. I took some pictures and she was so happy to receive a few of these items in December. It was a win win because most of the items were educational, fun and inexpensive.

  98. @ SSK you are the 2nd person today to say kokkari – another friend of mine ate there last year and loved it – so I’m booking that one now!

  99. What on earth would make them think to send this ad to me, lol? All in Ann think of is that it must be related to the wealthy survivalists posts on here recently


    Claim Your FREE Untraceable Assault Rifle DVD And We’ll Rush Ship It To Your Door
    Using Nothing But The Tools In Your Garage You Can Build A Fully Functional AR-15 Following This Simple DVD – Currently Legal In All 50 States* And 100% Invisible To The Government’s Watch Lists

  100. Louise, I think of it as just the opposite, was surprised when someone today said they liked “house museums” like x fancy rich person’s. That made me wonder what everyone else had meant when they used that phrase.

  101. In addition to Old Sturbridge Village, I also really like Plimoth Plantation. It’s the same idea, except you experience life in the early 17th century rather than the early 19th century. The Mayflower II (a reproduction of the original Mayflower) is also worth a visit if you’re in Plymouth. You can skip Plymouth Rock, though.

  102. “One of the most fascinating aspects of that exhibit was how the US hid the members of the captured crew in a POW camp in Louisiana for the duration of the war, so that the Germans would not realize that one of the Engima code machines on board the sub had been confiscated. Their families were told that they were dead.”

    Yes! That is fascinating! I also love the photos of how they actually got it to Chicago and into the museum (building the building around it).

    House on the Rock is a place of nightmares. Rhett – you really need to experience the doll room in person for the full effect. Afterwards you can visit Taliesin for some modern simplicity to recover. But IIRC, there are some hints in the official tour about FLE going a bit off the deep end by the time he was living/working there.

  103. I don’t think of Colonial Williamsburg as a “house museum” although there is at least one on the property (the Governor’s Palace). I was thinking more like The Breakers or – yes – Versailles.

    The historical re-inactment type places (Mystic Seaport, C Williamsburg, etc) are a whole different category to me. But Mount Vernon I would probably include in the “house museum” category.

  104. HFN – My mom loved the Negro League museum. One of these years we will go when we make it to the Royals ballpark. This year we are heading east instead.

  105. Lark – great idea, it is one of my favorites! If you have any interest in meeting up while you are here please let me know. Costofcollege has my email, but no pressure since your visit is so short!

  106. I went to Versailles many years ago and found it very disappointing. Just kind of fusty. I was also disappointed by the Summer Palace in Beijing.

  107. but have been to Sanssouci, which is supposedly like Versailles, but smaller.

    Did Frederick the Great ever go to Versailles? I wonder if he had palace envy.

  108. Ludwig’s aesthetic clearly was “the brighter and shinier, the better.” There were rainbow-colored peacock floor sculptures, tables with amethyst inlays, candelabras carved from ivory, wall coverings in pink and lavender, carpet made of ostrich feathers and light fixtures fashioned out of the most delicate painted porcelain. In some rooms the gilt was dripping from every surface, floor to ceiling, and I think a couple of people on our tour actually exclaimed “Oh my eyes!” upon entering the Hall of Mirrors. It was a little ridiculous in the fun and whimsical kind of way.

    from https://gohomeandaway.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/linderhof-palace-bavarias-miniature-versailles/

  109. Rhett – yes. Boating.

    Would you be up for an occasional update post so we can live vicariously through you?

Comments are closed.