After leaving the gems and minerals behind us for the day, we headed deeper into the museum, to find the North American Indian Cultures exhibit area. We had to leave before really getting a chance to explore everything to catch a show at the planetarium (Cosmic Journey: A Solar System adventure….and yes it was as fantastically nerdy as it sounds) but we came right back afterwards. I have a bit of a ….tempestuous, relationship with museums and their exhibits of Native American artifacts and the way they recount their history, but the Denver museum was- at least in my very humble and not overly scholarly opinion- really well researched, honest and above all, respectful. I would definetly recommend visiting for a chance to learn more about the cultures that span North America and getting a chance to see beautiful works of art (both ancient and modern).
Something of particular fascination to me were the signs you would see every so often behind the glass cases, just under a blank spot where an artifact use to sit. A small sign saying the object that used to be displayed there had been returned to their respective tribe or historical owner. I know the subject is something of intensely furious debate among certain groups, so I won’t go into it too much here, both because I don’t really come from a culture that has had it’s history taken to be displayed in museums without proper permission and also because I don’t have a Ph.D in…well anything really, but I will say it was something I though was interesting in many ways to see documented within the displays themselves. I ended up buying a really fascinating book on the subject in the gift shop (because of course I did) called Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture which was actually written by the senior curator of anthropology at the museum and I recommend as an interesting read on the subject.
We finished off at the small but super informative and fun Egyptian Mummies exhibit and then meandered our way down to the gift shop where as you can probably tell by now, I spent a stupid amount of money at. Books, postcards, souvenirs and even a new notebook, I would say don’t exit through the gift shop but… that would be so very hypocritical of me, no?
I’m a pretty nerdy person. I read economics books for fun, go nuts over things like Masdar City and most anything involving Elon Musk, will gladly talk about the Byzantine Empire with anyone that has half a passing interest and i’ll probably breakdown in tears if I ever get to actually touch a piece of Hadrian’s Wall. So it should come as no surprise that I would make it a priority to hit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science while in the area.
It’s certainly been a good while since I visited a museum that truly captured my attention, the last time being when I was in NYC and visited the American Museum of Natural History with my good friend Kat and I about lost my mind in the opulence of their minerals and gems exhibit. You could say I have an er….mild interest in geology (somewhere I can hear the slightly hysterical laughter of friends and co-workers i’ve sunk into boredom with my talks on exactly why geology is so dang interesting).
We hit the museum early on our last full day in the Denver area and we had plans to spend just a couple of hours there before checking out the Denver Art Museum, but I ended up mesmerized by the Gems & Minerals exhibit (as well as two others, but more on that later). The crowds were pretty mild, probably because we went during a weekday and I’d definetly recommend a visit if your in the area and are interested in learning more about Colorado’s rich (ha) mining history. The exhibits were informative, engaging and definetly fit with the whole atmosphere they had going on, managing to make the experience intimate without toeing the line towards claustrophobic that i’ve seen some geological exhibits veer into. Eventually though, the kiddos on field trips streamed in and so we headed out towards the next stop.
(Btw, just a heads up- if you’ve no interest in museums, feel free to skip the next two posts which will be on the Konovalenko Gem Carvings and North American Cultures exhibitions.)
( A photo journal following the late told adventures I had with my good friend Kat at the end of May. I’m really terrible at this procrastination thing. Or, really REALLy good at it, depending on how you see it. )
After departing from the mild, slightly surreal horror that was Hartford and New Haven (more on that later…maybe….) me and Kat headed in the direction of Connecticut’s Dinosaur State Park , because well. If it has any kind of mention of dinosaurs, you can bet we were going to go.
It was mostly quiet and deserted except for park employes, which worked out well for me and Kat, given the kind of dorks we can be. We explored inside first, taking in the dioramas and tracing the steps of dinosaurs in the floor and on the walls. Exiting through the giftshop, after buying postcards and not-quite matching tshirts, we moved into the green expanse outside and let mosquitos make meals out of us for a bit. It was slightly muggy, the ground was squishy, we had forgotten to put sunblock on and basically… it was pretty fantastic.
These past few days, apart from obsessing over U2 and catching up with penpals, i’ve finally started to work my way through the backlog of books i’ve got tumbling off my shelves. And it IS a very necessary endeavor, let me just say…currently i’ve got a lovely edition a friend gifted me of the Once and Future King by T.H White acting like decoration, Cosmos by Carl Sagen dancing an odd tango with my copy of 1Q84 by H. Murakami , not to mention all the other fiction/decidedly not fiction books battling it out amongst my fashion/art magazines. So, with that mess in mind, I decided to slip Unweaving the Rainbow-R. Dawkins into my bag to take to work and read through on my lunch breaks.
I’ve gotten into the odd habit of purchasing books, “sciency” books as my friends like to say, on trips, and Unweaving the Rainbow was one that I bought back in January, when I stopped in at Gallery Bookshop, a beautiful bookstore in the ever gorgeous town of Mendocino, California. I had taken 10 days off to visit my best friend in San Francisco, but after finding out that her time off request had fallen through, I decided to take a small 3 day roadtrip up through Northern California to coincide with the days that she would be working. It was the first time I had gone off by myself on an adventure, a journey of my own design, and getting to see the beauty of Mt. Shasta , the foggy mountains in Oregon the swell of ocean waves in Crescent City and of course the monumental beauty of Redwoods (to name just a few of the places I was lucky enough to explore), it feels like such a big part of my past year, even if in actuality it was only a handful of days.
So, apart from being a ridiculously engrossing book to read while indulging my coffee addiction at lunch time, Unweaving the Rainbow also manages to put a calm joy in my heart that helps me get through the more challenging of days. Already for my next trip (whenever that might be!), i’m hoping to find a copy of Creation Revisited by P. Atkins to keep this “sciency” books tradition going…
Science is the name of the game here, discovery and wonder as well, but you’d have to be pretty set in your ways not to call this place, especially the Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, anything short of deliriously beautiful and slightly magical.
This would be the last part of the Museum of Natural History me and Kat explored before heading out into the rainy weather to inquire about the possibility of food. And while there are so many parts of the museum I didn’t get to see, I can say with certainty that the places and exhibits I did manage to marvel over, they were amazing and fantastic. And yes, I will totally be back one day, and then probably the next day, and then the day after that. Not only was almost every part of the museum full of mentally stimulating articles of interest, you get the feeling that everyone here, from the visitors to the people working and studying here, they very much want to be here. To the very foundations of the building, there is an intense adoration here. A love for learning, for reaching for more and further frontiers and ultimately for a betterment through discovery.