People who regularly read these missives know that I am a museum person. Art museums, history museums, cultural museums, special interest museums-I simply love museums. They are a big part of my life and have been since I was first exposed to them on school trips in elementary school. I love Philadelphia’s collection of museums, and I thoroughly enjoy them. I am a member of The Philadelphia Art Museum, The Woodmere, The Afro-American Museum, The Barnes, The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia’s Germantown section, and The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I also occasionally visit the Museum of the American Revolution, The Insectarium, and other Philly museums. Museums are among the great attractions of cities to me, and Philly has plenty of them.
Whenever I travel, I also go to museums. Sometimes it is to see a special exhibit, as when I went to the New Museum in NYC a few weeks ago to see the Faith Ringgold retrospective. But I often go just to see what may be there. I am in the area for a while, I have time, there is a museum or two, so I go. I have been to “grand’ museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York City, and I have been to “little” museums such as The Frontenac County School Museum in Kingston, Ontario and The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum in New York State’s Gilbert Lake State Park. I have been to wonderful conceptual museums such as The Museum of American Visionary Art in Baltimore, MD., and I have been to many of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC. and MD. These have always been particularly joyous and mind-expanding happenings. I am thinking about these places now because I think it is time for me to do one of my favorite museum journeys again. It is time for me to head due South.
One of the rituals my late wife and I had was our Baltimore and DC weekend jaunts. At least twice a year for about 20 years we would head south on a Friday morning and spend that day in Baltimore, visiting at least one of the many museums that call Baltimore home. We have visited the Reginald Lewis Museum that examines Black history and culture in MD, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum that is a wax museum dedicated to black history, The Walters Art Museum, one of the nation's biggest and most varied free admission art museums, and especially The Museum of American Visionary Art, an amazing museum dedicated to outsider art and conceptual installations. We would then eat at one of our favorite Baltimore restaurants and stay at a hotel in the BWI airport complex. We would rise early Saturday, have a good breakfast, and then head on to DC where we would regularly visit one of the many Smithsonian museums and maybe go to Kenilworth Gardens. Then we would have a great dinner at one of the amazing restaurants on Connecticut Street in Adams Morgan, and then head back to the hotel at BWI. Sunday was breakfast and back to Philly after a joyous and wonderful weekend.
I am ready to do that again, or at least some of it, and I think I will do it in August. It may just be a day trip to Baltimore or DC; I don’t know if I am up for whole weekend just yet. But it will be good to be in those cities again and visiting those museums. They have always provided surprising and amazing times. Yes, I will take appropriate pandemic precautions-masking, washing hands, and distance wherever possible. Most importantly, I will once again enjoy that magical sense of transport to another place that these museums so often provide. I have visited some of them online during the pandemic shutdown, and it has been OK. Now it is time to see them in person. To be there and be surrounded by that sense of wonder and surprise. Ahhhh...It is time. Cities and museums; perfect together.
Some of the lesser-known places mentioned above:
The Colored Girls Museum
Frontenac County School Museum