And happy grand opening day to the National Museum of the United States Army! Here’s the link to watch the opening ceremony, which will be livestreamed this afternoon at 1 p.m.
National Museum of the United States Army
There are various exhibits set up, including a soldiers’ gallery, which has the stories of men and women from many historic periods. Other exhibits seem broadly organized by period, covering the colonial era and Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Army’s role in WWI, and all the way up to modern warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. The individual soldier seems to be of particular focus, giving voice to their particular narratives and experiences.
Experiential Learning Center, National Museum of the United States Army
The museum is also in the process of preparing an experiential learning lab, in which visitors must work collaboratively to help the Army solve a humanitarian crisis; this experience helps reinforce geography and STEM skills.
The museum is also ensuring the health and safety of staff and visitors, with efforts such as timed tickets and contactless ordering from the cafe.
COVID-19 safety measures, National Museum of the United States Army
The National Army Museum is also offering virtual events, for those visitors who are unable or uncomfortable to visit in person. There are two upcoming (free!) virtual book talks:
November 19, 7-8 pm EST. Book talk with Marc Gallicchio.
December 17, 7-8 pm EST. Book talk with Paula Tarnapol Whitacare.
Personally, I’m super interested in the Curator’s Corner episodes, which feature artifacts of interest in each episode. The first episode features Sgt. Gary Uchida’s canvas travel bag during WWII. Here’s that episode:
It is certainly interesting to see how the museum is diversifying and offering these events, and the efforts that are being made to ensure that museum visitors and staff can still enjoy the museum safely. It is certainly some good news to see a new museum opening up, and a great way to celebrate Veterans Day. Thank you to all who served, and are serving now!
It’s my favorite time of year: the leaves are changing, everything is pumpkin flavored (even some things that shouldn’t be), and the weather is changing to crisp autumn temperatures. I remember last year, which was my first year at Tufts and my first autumn in MA, being especially excited for fall. Massachusetts just seems like the place to be for the fall season. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so: in Salem alone (which is probably the most attractive site for this time of year), there are usually more than one million visitors, generating almost $140 million from tourist spending.
Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.
However, if you’re like me and can’t make it to Salem this year, there are also tons of virtual events going on. For instance, the Salem Witch Museum has a virtual tour of the witch trial sites, while Historic Salem Inc. is offering a virtual house tour. While the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit is in person, they do also have a PEMcast episode dedicated to the exhibit. Actually, the entire website of Salem Haunted Happenings has a ton of events throughout the entire months of October and created an app to keep track of it all.
I dearly love to travel. And whenever I’m making plans for a trip (because I am one of those people who tends to make a plan for each day of the trip), I usually include a visit to whatever museum(s) happen to be there. In light of our current circumstances, I have found myself reminiscing about my past visits to these museums and thinking more critically about my visits. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking ones was my visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I think almost all of us had that ancient Egypt obsession when we were kids – for me, it entailed toting around a huge gold Egyptology book for kids, drawing pyramids with imagined traps inside to deter grave robbers, studying hieroglyphics, and promising myself that one day I would go to see the pyramids.
So you can imagine the depths of my delight when I had the chance to travel to Egypt and plan my visit to the Egyptian Museum. Nearly stuffed to the rafters with ancient Egyptian artifacts (so full, in fact, that newly-discovered artifacts are often put back into the ground with their location recorded in order to avoid having to find storage for yet another ancient object), what surprised me was that the Egyptian Museum was almost a monument to the history of Egyptology itself. Before I even entered the museum, I noticed the monument to Auguste Mariette and other prominent Egyptologists of the twentieth century. Almost all of these Egyptologists were not Egyptian, but rather European, many of whom were either French or British. Unsurprising, given Egypt’s history with these two nations. The architecture of the museum itself also has classical Western influences, with the ionic columns and Egyptian-stylized muses adorning the entryway.
A view of the interior of the Egyptian Museum
Once I entered the museum after waiting in the incredibly long line outside the gates, I was struck by the vastness of the hall before me and the seemingly endless array of artifacts. Mounted unobtrusively on a column – it is very easy to miss – was a very sad replica of the Rosetta Stone.
Rosetta Stone replica
Thin and less than half the size of the real one, this replica was an unimpressive imitation of the real thing and served as a reminder – to me, at least – of the extensive collection the British Museum has of artifacts that are culturally significant to nations around the world. I continued to make my way through the museum, which is organized chronologically. Many of the artifacts, as I progressed deeper and deeper into the museum, actually did not have any labels accompanying them. Those that did, I found, looked as though they had been there since the time of the Egyptologists who are remembered outside in the monument with Auguste Mariette. They were also just simply that – a label. No interpretation or description of cultural significance; just a short and to the point description of what the object is and where it was found. To be fair, there were some labels that were more updated with fuller descriptions. The small exhibit dedicated to Akhenaten, I remember, was fascinating. However, I do remember being a bit frustrated by all those artifacts – and even mummies – who sat quietly in their cases in a dusty corner without any description of what (or who) they were. It is as though the museum is rather more like a storage space that guests can wander through, or as though it was simply put on display before having to quickly move on to prepare space for the next artifact.
I remember having the distinct impression that it was as if many artifacts had only just been discovered and put out for guests to see, giving rise to my feeling that the museum is not only providing a history of ancient Egypt but also a history of Egyptology and the discovery of these fascinating artifacts. The many crates left lying in various corners (or even in the middle of some of the galleries) whose ancient contents one could only guess at only contributed to this sense.
Some of the crates that were scattered around gallery floors. Perhaps it is in preparation to move them to the Grand Egyptian Museum?
While I certainly had a wonderful visit, I also felt that the Egyptian Museum was long overdue for an update. Which is why I was delighted to learn that the Grand Egyptian Museum is in the works and will open soon (although this opening date has been delayed a few times it seems). We drove past it on our way to the pyramids and I was in awe of the sheer size of the building as well as the highly stylized pyramid-inspired architecture. The Tutankhamun collection will be moved there and many artifacts that have never been on display will soon be appreciated by visitors.
I wonder, however, if visits to the Egyptian Museum will dwindle if the Tutankhamun exhibit moves out of it to the Grand Egyptian Museum. Hopefully, as the efforts to open the Grand Egyptian Museum continue, there will also be work done towards updating the original Egyptian Museum. The museum’s central location in Tahrir Square and its bright red-hued building makes it a bit difficult to sweep off to the side and simply forget about it. To do so would in some respects be the erasure of Egypt’s complex history of the study of its own past.