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

Child hit with $132,000 bill for accidentally knocking over sculpture

A 5-year-old boy knocked over a sculpture at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. A few days later, Overland Park's insurance company hit the boy's parents with a $132,000 bill. From ABC News:

City officials say the piece was not “permanently attached” but it was secured to the pedestal with clips and that it was “a not an interactive piece.”

“We’ve had other pieces there [and] we’ve not had problems,” said city spokesman Sean Reilly. “We’ve not had this situation… we’ve not had kids climb on our pieces.”

But (the child's mom Sarah) Goodman argued the sculpture should have been better secured. She also disputes the city’s claim that her child wasn’t being supervised. Goodman said she and her husband were out of frame of the surveillance camera, saying their goodbyes during a wedding reception that they were leaving, when the incident occurred.

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Art opening delayed after rotting fish artwork catches fire

In 1997, South Korean artist Lee Bul's "Majestic Splendor," an installation of bedazzled rotting fish, was removed from New York's MoMA because the stink was too much for visitors. To prevent the odor problem from interfering with Bul's new retrospective at London's Hayward Gallery, he put the fish in potassium permanganate. Of course, potassium permanganate is frequently used as a firestarter and can easily lead to a blaze when combined with tiny amounts of other common chemicals. From Frieze:

On receiving advice, the gallery decided to withdraw the artwork, but it spontaneously combusted mid-removal.

‘Following expert advice regarding the materials used in Lee Bul’s Majestic Splendor we took the decision, along with the artist, to remove the artwork from the exhibition. During the de-installation, a small fire broke out and the fire service attended,’ a spokesperson for the Hayward told frieze.

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Mark Dery visits the "David Bowie is" exhibit

My favorite culture critic, the inimitable Mark Dery, visited the "David Bowie is" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Author of the excellent "All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters," Dery sees the exhibit as "a burial chamber for a rock god, replete with everything he’ll need for the afterlife." From the Brooklyn Rail:

Crepuscule with Bowie, I thought, not quite groping my way through the perpetual twilight of David Bowie is at the Brooklyn Museum. The 400 artifacts in this blockbuster show—costumes (stage and offstage, because when wasn’t Bowie onstage?), handwritten lyrics, record-cover art, stage-set designs and maquettes, personal effects (including, fabulously, the Great Man’s coke spoon from the dissolute mid-seventies)—are displayed in vitrines or mounted on stagelike platforms and spotlit. The encroaching shadows give the exhibition a sepulchral feel. Taking it all in, I had an inkling of what Howard Carter must’ve felt as he got his first look, by flickering candlelight, at Tutankhamun’s tomb...

"Ziggy's Reliquaries" (Brooklyn Rail) Read the rest

Voyager Golden Record featured in V&A Museum exhibition about the future

This weekend is the opening of "The Future Starts Here," a new exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum of art and design. Celebrating "100 projects shaping the world of tomorrow," the exhibit features several objects that began as Kickstarter projects, including the "Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition" the Grammy-winning 3xLP vinyl box set that I co-produced with my friends Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. Our project was the first vinyl release of the iconic phonograph record launched into space by NASA in 1977 as a message for extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now.

The Voyager Golden Record is an artifact for the future. As Tim Ferris, who produced the original Voyager Record, wrote in our liner notes, the Voyagers are on a journey not just through space but also through time. The Voyager Record is a time capsule but it is also timeless. It sparks the imagination. It provokes us to think about the future and our civilization's place in it. It exudes a sense of hope for a better tomorrow. And it lies at the intersection of science, art, and design to spark the imagination.

When Lawrence first began designing our "Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition," he said: "The original Voyager Golden Record is the ultimate album package. I want to design the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package."

We're deeply honored to be included in the exhibit! I'm also thrilled that my Institute for the Future colleague Sam Woolley's provocative "Political Bots" exhibit is also part of The Future Starts Here, which runs at the V&A Museum until November 4. Read the rest

Help wanted: Archivist for the Prince museum at Paisley Park

Prince's Paisley Park, now a museum, is seeking an archives supervisor to "actively work in the care, catalog, storage and preservation of all artifacts and archival materials; the care, cleaning, and monitoring of all exhibits." According to the job requirements, "Some knowledge of Prince is helpful." From the job listing at the American Alliance of Museums site:

RESPONSIBILITIES:

Actively work in the care, catalog, storage and preservation of all artifacts and archival materials; the care, cleaning, and monitoring of all exhibits. Maintain and Update the archival database system. Monitor the trafficking of archive inventory. Assist the appropriate staff in having access to the archives collection as required. Travel/act as a courier of artifacts to locations where artifacts are to be displayed including the setting up and taking down of exhibits in these locations. Execute, maintain, and provide accurate conditioning reports for all items being moved from storage for exhibition. Ensure that the collections manual, preservation plans and archives emergency plan are observed. Locate, retrieve, and prepare artifacts for display/loans. Ensure the integrity of the collection in maintained at all times. Oversea all cleaning of exhibit spaces. Work with outside vendors to schedule monthly, quarterly and annual cleaning. Assist with Archives long term planning, conservation goals and preservation needs. Photograph and or scan artifacts when needed. Assist with exhibition installs. Maintain displayed artifacts in proper environment, eliminate risk to artifacts. Assist Director of Archives with coordinating activities involving the maintenance, preservation and mansion upkeep. Ensure the integrity of the exhibitions are maintained at all times. Read the rest

Thursday 4/5 at San Francisco's Cal Academy of Sciences: Space Age NightLife with the Voyager Golden Record

Please join me this Thursday evening April 5 at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences NightLife event celebrating the Space Age! At 8:30pm, I'll be speaking about the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials launched into space that my friends Tim Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released on vinyl for the first time here on Earth. I'm honored to be joined in conversation by my friend and mentor Timothy Ferris, the bestselling science author who produced the original Voyager Record back in 1977.

There's a stellar lineup of other presenters and happenings at the museum that night too: NASA astronaut Ed Lu, a workshop with the Vintage Synthesizer Museum, a panel on NASA computing technology, space-themed pinball machines, Vetiver's Andy Cabic and DJ Daniel T on the turntables, plenty of far-out art, and much more. I hope to see you there: California Academy of Sciences NightLife: Space Age

The Voyager Golden Record 3xLP Vinyl Box Set and 2xCD-Book edition will be for sale at the event and also available from OzmaRecords.com.

Here's an audio sampler:

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This is why museums matter

"History isn't a a cold, dead thing but always contested and in flux." In this short video, PBS's The Art Assignment does a fine job explaining why museums matter:

The powerful and privileged have hoarded precious artifacts in museums for centuries, and it's only recently that these treasures were made available to the rest of us. What purpose did museums serve? And why does every city have one today?

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Short video about Japan's museum of rocks that have faces

Japan is home to the only museum in the world that is dedicated to rocks that look like they have faces. The owner started the museum because her father was an avid collector of rocks with faces, and when he died she wanted to carry on the tradition. She finds many of the rocks herself on a nearby beach, but now people from around the world send her rocks with faces. There are about 1000 specimens in the collection.

If you’re ever in Japan, consider a trip to Chineskikan, located two hours outside Tokyo in the city of Chichibu. The peculiar museum is the only one of its kind, dedicated entirely to rocks that look like human faces. Owned and operated by Yoshiko Hayama, Chineskikan is home to some of the most spectacular stones nature has to offer, with rocks that resemble everyone from Elvis Presley to E.T. Following in her father’s footsteps, Hayama is preserving the legacy of “jinmenseki,” continuing the search for rocks that resemble human faces.

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Desktop museum for sale contains dinosaur bones, "space gems," and sliver of Steve Jobs' turtleneck

The Mini Museum is a small, self-contained cabinet of curiosity in a lucite box. This third edition contains such wonders as a Spinosaurus bone, rotor from a WWII Enigma machine, sliver of one of Pelé's soccer balls, and a tiny swatch from Steve Jobs' turtleneck. It's $300 (or $129 for a smaller collection). Maybe the next edition will come with Madonna's pap smear! Creator Hans Fex writes:

In 1977, my father was a research scientist and a Director at the National Institutes of Health. Growing up, we had a subscription to every great science magazine - and living near Washington DC we visited the Smithsonian museums and saw dinosaur bones, meteorites, and rockets almost every weekend. My father kept an amazing collection of artifacts at his lab and also at home.

After a trip to Malta, he returned with some artifacts which he embedded into epoxy resin. I had never seen this done before and it was beautiful.

Then, all at once, I saw it... A grand collection within a manageable space that I could share with others.

(via Uncrate)

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New museum all about failure to open in Sweden

What do "Bic for Her" pens, electric facial rejuvenation mask, and Trump: The Game have in common? They were all bizarre and ridiculous commercial products that tanked in the marketplace. This summer, the Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden to celebrate such bumbles and fumbles, along with other products that were bested by competition or simply too ahead of the times for their own good. The curator is Samuel West, a psychologist who studies the science of creativity. From Smithsonian:

"I got tired of all of this glorifying of success, especially within the domain of innovation where 80 to 90 percent of all projects fail," he tells Smithsonian.com. Perhaps as a way to counter the trumpets of success, he started collecting products that represented failure. He says he had no purpose at first, but thought that it was a fun hobby...

Technological gadgets that failed are a big category at the museum. "I could open a whole museum with only smartphones," West says. But other industries are good at making duds as well. Colgate tried to sell beef lasagna. Harley Davidson marketed a perfume.

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