The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bog People!

The Bog People exhibit at the Carnegie Museum in Oakland is worth a trip, but maybe not worth the $15 they charge for non-members. It's a cute show, clearly taken wholly from some French or Canadian museum (the placards are all in French and English), and there is a lot of interesting background on peat bogs, soggy Europe in the 1600s, etc. There's a little too much conflation of the actual Bog People! remains (2000 years old) with Belgian and Dutch artifacts from the 1600s without context--life in Leyden was quite different in 1600 than it was in 56 AD--but there's good stuff. It's not great for very little kids, and it's a little scary, but kids 5 and up should enjoy it.

I never mind a trip to the Carnegie, either. It's one of those all-in-one Victorian-era museums, reflecting that era's belief (similar to ours) that all forms of cultural expression were of essentially equivalent value. Art, anthropology, dusty polar-bear dioramas, it's all the same. My favorite place in the Carnegie is the long hallway with all of the bird exhibits--across the hall are are several display cases with, of all things, old pocketwatches. Again, it's very Victorian: we're going to collect and exhibit everything because it's all significant and related, but because the museum has moved forward they no longer make those connections explicit. The Metropolitan Museum and American Museum of Natural History in NYC are similar, but more interesting are the urban museums that do the same things: the Field Museum in Chicago, the British Museum, etc.


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