Goodbye to the racist statue of Roosevelt and two people of color outside NYC's Natural History Museum

Since 1940, a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt on a horse flanked by a Native American man and an African man on foot has stood outside New York City's American Museum of Natural History. After years of protests against the statue's composition, the museum has now decided to remove it. This decision follows a special exhibition last year, titled "Addressing the Statue," about the disturbing monument and its historical context. (See exhibition video below.) From the New York Times:

“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue." [...]

A Roosevelt family member released a statement approving the removal.

“The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV, age 77, a great-grandson of the 26th president and a museum trustee. “The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.” [...] Critics, though, have pointed to President Roosevelt’s opinions about racial hierarchy, his support of eugenics theories and his pivotal role in the Spanish-American War. Some see Roosevelt as an imperialist who led fighting in the Caribbean that ultimately resulted in American expansion into colonies there and in the Pacific including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines.

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Tony Hawk's first skateboard is now in the Smithsonian

Tony Hawk first learned to ride a skateboard in 1979 when he was 11 years old. The board was the 1975 Bahne pictured above. Now, that board is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Below, video of Hawk's last ride on the Bahne.) From Cole Louison's new interview with Hawk in Smithsonian magazine:

The first wave of skateboarding—when decks were wood, wheels were steel and “sidewalk surfing” was banned in 20 U.S. cities by August 1965—had ended by the time Hawk stepped on the board. Yet the sport enjoyed a major resurgence in the 1970s, thanks in part to new technology. The blue Bahne evokes an era when public outcry had driven skaters off sidewalks and into the first skateparks, where they rode plastic boards with polyurethane wheels higher and higher up the walls of in-ground pools that were capped at the top or extended with plywood[...]

“In its early days, skateboarding was considered a sport for misfits and outsiders,” Hawk tells me. “We didn’t mind the label, since we weren’t trying to fit in with mainstream culture anyway.” And even as mainstream culture prepares to embrace skateboarding more enthusiastically than ever before, Hawk says, “I believe our sense of counterculture and individualism will shine through.”

image: RIDE Channel/YouTube Read the rest

Are there ghosts haunting the antiquities of the British Museum?

Do you believe in ghosts? I don't. But I do believe in the active powers of the human imagination, especially in an old, cold building filled with the world's "acquired" ancient treasures and mummified humans. Read the rest

Museum issues curatorial challenge: Show us your creepiest objects -- museums bring the creepy

The Yorkshire Museum is issuing "curator battles" to to other museums. Their first salvo is #CreepiestObject. Yup, these and others in the thread, are pretty damn creepy.

[H/t Stacie Votaw]

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Video tour of the Andy Warhol retrospective at the Tate Modern

The Tate Modern has installed a massive Andy Warhol retrospective exhibition. Unfortunately nobody is allowed in to see it. In this video, Tate curators Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran take us through the exhibit and "discuss Warhol through the lens of the immigrant story, his LGBTQI identity and concerns with death and religion."

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Van Gogh swiped last night during museum smash-and-grab

Last night some asshole smashed a glass door at the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam and stole Vincent van Gogh's oil painting “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884." The museum has been closed due to COVID-19. From the Associated Press:

The value of the (10" x 22") work, which was on loan from the Groninger Museum in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, was not immediately known. Van Gogh’s paintings, when they rarely come up for sale, fetch millions at auction...

A team including forensics and art theft experts was studying video footage and questioning neighbors. [Museum General Director Evert] Van Os said the museum’s security worked “according to protocol,” but he added: “Obviously we can learn from this.”

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The Smithsonian just released 2.8 million images into the public domain

The Smithsonian Institution has just released 2.8 million images (2D and 3D) into the public domain via a new Smithsonian Open Access online platform where anyone can browse and download high-res files. And then reuse them! Or remix them! For whatever! For free! From Smithsonian:

Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting...

Spanning the arts and humanities to science and engineering, the release compiles artifacts, specimens and datasets from an array of fields onto a single online platform. Noteworthy additions include portraits of Pocahontas and Ida B. Wells, images of Muhammad Ali’s boxing headgear and Amelia Earhart’s record-shattering Lockheed Vega 5B, along with thousands of 3-D models that range in size from a petite Eulaema bee just a couple centimeters in length to the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant, estimated at about 29 light-years across.

Smithsonian Open Access Read the rest

Museum of Hangovers opens in Croatia

College student Rino Dubokovic has opened a Museum of Hangovers in Zagreb, Croatia. From CNN:

Exhibits include displays of objects people found inexplicably the morning after a boozy night, a room where visitors can test their reflexes after putting on "beer goggles," and an interactive section where they can share their own best and worst hangover experiences.

The gift shop is also tongue-in-cheek, selling a "drunkopoly" board game and bar activities, like darts. Dubokovic, who is from the island of Hvar and studying computer science, tells CNN Travel that the point of the museum isn't to glorify overindulgence. Rather, it's a physical representation of the kinds of chats he had with his friends, where everyone is sharing stories and bonding about things they did in the past.

The city is also home to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

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John Waters looks at modern art

In the above episode of the Museum of Modern Art's "The Way I See It," the patron saint of bad taste John Waters looks at Lee Lozano’s "Untitled" (1963).

"I buy art and love art that frightens me and gives me flashbacks to things that scared me. And then I overcome it by looking at it." Read the rest

Sleeping inside one of Edward Hopper's hotel room paintings

As part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' "Edward Hopper and the American Hotel" exhibition, the curators have created a brilliant installation and visitor experience that's seemingly made for Instagram. They built a physical version of Hopper's above painting "Western Hotel" (1957) and offered overnight stays inside the artwork. The overnight packages sold out very quickly. The New York Times' Margot Boyer-Dry was one of the first guests:

Every detail here was inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1957 painting “Western Motel,” which has been brought to vibrant, three-dimensional life. The only thing missing is the mysterious woman whose burgundy dress matches the bedspread. But that’s where the museum guest comes in.

I was the second person to stay in the museum’s Hopper hotel room, essentially becoming its subject for a night. (Before it sold out through February, the room cost anywhere from $150 a night to $500 for a package, including dinner, mini golf and a tour with the curator.) My time there was short — a standard stay runs from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. — and awkward. I had traveled all day to reach Richmond, and these pristinely basic quarters were the main event. Ultimately, it reminded me of every other hotel room I’ve ever stayed in...

Ellen Chapman, a Richmond resident who stayed the night before I did, was more focused on the novelty of an art overnight. “I’ve always had that childhood fantasy of spending the night in a museum,” she said. “The remarkable part for me was waking up, drinking my coffee and looking at this amazing exhibit right next to me.”

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Adam Savage goes behind the scenes at the Smithsonian's Exhibits Central

While Adam Savage was in DC recently for the Apollo 50th Anniversary celebration (and to do the final assembly on the wonderful Project Egress NASA escape hatch project), he visited the Smithsonian's Office of Exhibits Central (OEC). Read the rest

Inside a New York garbage collector's massive personal collection of treasures found in the trash

For more than three decades, New York Sanitation worker Nelson Molina has picked personal treasures from the garbage he collects in East Harlem. Now totaling more than 45,000 cataloged items, Molina has an astounding personal wunderkammer of treasures from the trash. Nicolas Heller profiles him in this wonderful short documentary.

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Triple Chaser: a short documentary that uses machine learning to document tear gas use against civilians, calling out "philanthropist" Warren Kanders for his company's war-crimes

Laura Poitras (previously) is the Academy Award-winning director of Citizenfour; she teamed up with the activist group Forensic Archicture (previously), whose incredible combination of data-visualization and documentary filmmaking have made them a potent force for holding war criminals and authoritarians to account: together, they created Triple Chaser, a short documentary that uses novel machine-learning techniques to document the ways in which tear gas and bullets made by companies belonging to "philanthropist" Warren Kanders have been used against civilians to suppress anti-authoritarian movements, and even to murder innocents, including children. Read the rest

Louvre purges every mention of the Sackler opioid family after artist's protest

The Sackler family got richer than the Rockefellers by marketing Oxycontin in ways that kickstarted the global opioid epidemic, whose body count continues to rise -- more than 200,000 dead in the US alone, which is more Americans than died in the Vietnam war. Read the rest

Disgusting Food Museum coming to Los Angeles

Sweden's Disgusting Food Museum is opening a touring exhibition in Los Angeles's Architecture and Design Museum. The exhibit runs from December 9 to February 17. "What we find disgusting has to be learned -- it's purely cultural," says curator/psychologist Samuel West. This is a fine opportunity to taste foods you've been curious about, like fermented shark, durian, maggot-infested cheese (above), bull penis (seen below), or mouse wine (also below). From CNN:

...American favorites such as root beer and Jell-O salad sit in the museum alongside fried tarantula and cooked guinea pigs. "If you give root beer to a Swede they will spit it out and say it tastes like toothpaste, but I think it's delicious," he notes...

While many food-related "museums" of late have mostly just been opportunities for novel selfies, West is adamant that the Disgusting Food Museum is there to help people learn and think critically, not just to pose for photos. The downside? "One of my worries that it will start stinking in here," West says.

Also see posts about Samuel West's previous Museum of Failure here and here.

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Saturday (9/22): Museum Day with free admission to 1,500 US museums

This Saturday (9/22) is Smithsonian magazine's Museum Day 2018 offering free admission to nearly 1,500 museums of all kinds around the United States. Each free ticket (one per email address) is good for two people's admission on Saturday. Download your ticket and find out what museums are participating near you: Museum Day

image: Ole Worm's Museum Wormianum, 1655 (Smithsonian Libraries) Read the rest

A cabinet of noses

On display in Copenhagen, Denmark's Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum is this glass display case filled with noses of myriad shapes and sizes. Why?

According to curator Anne Marie Nielsen, noses on 19th century statues are notoriously fragile and would frequently break off. So the owners of the statues (or perhaps even prior museum curators) would replace them with marble or plaster replicas. Nowadays though, the museum removes any replacement noses because they only want to display the original sculptures, faults and all.

“About 20 years ago, the museum had a box filled with noses [in our archives], and we weren’t sure what to do with them,” Nielsen tells Smithsonian.com. “We decided to group them together and put them [on display].” Read the rest

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