Magical Museums of Things To Stare At


#1

What are your favorite museums and if you could create your own what would it have in it?

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the one I went to about 3 times a year growing up, but one of my favorites has to be the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum just for the endless loop of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald that it has playing over the speakers in one building.

As for my museum I would make, I think one that just showcased and talked about some of the really interesting tech that has come and gone in video games with recordings of the developers who worked on them to accompany it. Like a real-life version of the HL2 commentary.


#2

I really love the Museum of Liverpool, it’s a great new addition to the city that digs into what it means to be a scouser. It explores the city historically, economically, politically and socially and its a really interesting trip, maybe even more for a native than a tourist.

If I had to create a museum though I would absolutely rip off Liverpool FACTs State of Play - Roleplay reality

“This interactive exhibition considers how roleplay - found in many video games - can be used as tactic to reflect, contest and move beyond real-world power structures. No longer to be understood merely as a place of escape, the game realm and the ‘real world’ have collided.”

If anyone is in the area I would really recommend this exhibit


#3

The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia always seemed to take the extra step of really trying to get its visitors in touch with how the science behind its exhibits is done. Most of the place is focused on ecology and environmental science, and it also has an animal rescue in its basement that you can visit to learn about whatever its current inhabitants are (often “exotic” pets that were abandoned that the center took in). It also has one of those walk-in butterfly houses, but goes the step farther of having cases with a bunch of different chrysalises showcased for all the butterflies that live there. Back when my family had a membership they would have recurring events where they would take people into their archives of specimens and equipment and really try to educate people on the research they do there. (Also I think it’s the oldest natural science research institute in the US, which is neat.)

I also really loved the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, and I think all of its interactive physics exhibits (though there’s a lot more than just that) were one of the things that made me interested in that field. Haven’t been there in a while, but it’s a neat place right on the inner harbor.


#4

Maybe a boring answer, but I really like the big national museums like the Smithsonian, the British Museum, the Scottish National Museum, etc. There’s definitely something magical about being in a place where you could (and I have) spend days back-to-back and still not manage to see all the exhibits. There’s also something amazing about the sheer variety, where you can see Greek pottery, or Assyrian sculptures, or marine mammal skeletons, or trilobite fossils, or amethyst geodes. The museums are also free to enter, which is nice even if it means you have to deal with crowds at times. Of course there’s also a lot of problematic stuff with these institutions, to put it mildly.

As a kid, I used to love science museums, but as an adult I tend to be a bit disappointed when I visit them. Part of that is probably because they tend to be targeted towards children. But it also always feels like half the interactive exhibits are aging, broken, or just not as cool as you want them to be. Crappy apps running on tablets with cracked screens, broken levers and buttons, audio and video exhibits on shitty projectors.

On the other hand, I’m extremely into natural history museums. I’m happy to spend all day looking at bones, bugs, fossils, rocks, etc.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History has a really amazing collection of glass plant models. They’re interesting not just because of the huge variety of plant species, but also because of the level of craft and artistry that goes into each model.


#5

I remember when I was younger going on a class trip to the MoMA and being deeply confused by what was on display. Rooms of graph paper with a single line drawn on it, an uncut piece of marble, a room dedicated to a video projection of a man bouncing a ball over and over again. The whole place felt like some sort of bizarre, elaborate, and incredibly expensive trick that was being played on me. Save for Starry Night and one particularly elaborate trash sculpture, the whole thing wasn’t my jam.

I’d really like to go back now and see how I feel about it. I’d like to think I’m way more open-minded and thoughtful than I was back then but who knows. Random story with no real ending there, nice, so I’ll just say that every other museum I’ve been to I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. My favorite is Princeton University’s Art Museum, which is a relatively small one that I just really love the vibe of for some reason. Good diversity of exhibits and never full of people really as long as there’s not an event or anything like that, so it feels good to be able to wander around it in the evening and just reflect and stare at some Roman antiquities by yourself, it’s lovely.


#6

The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore is one of those places you need to see if you ever visit Baltimore! It is a museum of art all from artists who were never formally trained and it’s absolutely wonderful. I would describe it as the MoMA turned up to 11. It’s a great celebration of human expression and emotion in an incredibly raw way I don’t often get from other museums. It’s the one place in Baltimore to go if you need something to do for an afternoon.

The Matress Factory in Pittsburgh is great too! Probably best described as a museum of interesting rooms.


#7

My 2 favourite museums I’ve been to are the Museum of Sex in NYC and the Cape Breton Miners Museum.

I went to the Museum of Sex in 2016 and it’s very open and sex positive and doesn’t play into dull shock factor/scandal stuff at all, which I think a museum like that easily could. It was very genuinely interested in exploring and telling people about the history of and different forms sex and sexuality can take in a fun, informative way rather than in a way that presumed anything about what those things should look like. They have a super cool exhibit about the diversity of animal sexual behaviour and also a very silly boob bounce house.

The Miners Museum in Cape Breton is great because it’s really focused on enabling people to imagine history in a very physical way. It’s built over the entrance to an old mine that closed in the 70s, so you can go down into the tunnels with a guide who used to be a miner, you can explore a recreated company store and miners’ homes through time, they have all these huge pieces of machinery and personal equipment like lamps and drills everywhere as well as the ledgers where miners’ debt was written up and union badges and everything. It’s extremely dope.


#8

I recently went on a backpacking trip to Europe late last month. During my time, I was able to spend a day and a half in Paris so on my full day there, I spent about 6 hours inside The Louvre. It was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been in.

Like of course it has some famous art, The Statue of Venus, The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike), and the Mona Lisa, but I was so entranced by the other pieces. I was able to see things from the Middle East, pieces from Mesopotamia, artifacts from Ancient Egypt, and paintings from classical to 1800s Europe. All of those things were incredible to me. Seeing these things made me realize that I didn’t know ANYTHING about history and it was breathtaking. Like I CRIED WHILE IN THE LOUVRE haha. I just have never been to a museum that has affected me like that before and it was wonderful.


#9

I’ll second the Museum of Sex in NYC, and put a word in for the MIT Science Museum in Boston. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Scottish National Gallery is a nice size and has a great collection.


#10

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA is a fascinating, imaginative museum. This sounds like a cop-out, but it’s very hard to describe the experience. All I’ll say is the only truly descriptive word in the title is ‘museum.’ If you’re in LA, you have to check it out.


#11

The British Museum is definitely one of those places. You walk in, go to the left, and there’s a big rock in a glass case. Oh, right, that’s the fucking Rosetta Stone. It’s right there! The key to one of the biggest wells of deep time we know of.

They also have a hilariously passive-aggressive British-imperialist-ass pamphlet explaining why they have so much of the Parthenon and why they won’t be returning it to its rightful owners.

Also shoutout to @wazanator because HMNS and their butterfly thing is so great.