As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, I never take for granted the opportunities that exist to get away from the grind and noise of daily life and head to the woods for some peace and serenity. Notwithstanding its dense population and development, New Jersey has an impressive array of state parks and open space, thus offering ample opportunities for outdoor fun and recreation. Moreover, living in northern Bergen County allows relatively easy access to the Catskills and Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Thankfully, protection of open space for outdoor recreation and getting back in touch with nature has been set aside for public enjoyment in perpetuity. Read more.
Museum collections are so often the product of serendipity and circumstance— accumulated over a long period of time, shaped by curators’ interests, particular exhibition needs, bequests and a myriad of other factors. But what about a museum starting from scratch? Read more.
I accompanied my husband on a business trip to New York City not long ago. It was a whirlwind, less than 24 hour excursion, but I hadn’t been in a while and I always find the Big Apple both intellectually and sensorially stimulating—yay for NYC! I noticed on the trip that every time (I’m not exaggerating) my husband mentioned he was a magazine editor the person he was talking to asked if the magazine was available online or as an app. The age range of the people asking him was between 18 and 55. This spoke volumes to me as a person whose job is also making information available to people. Read more.
Crowd sourcing has become trendy within the humanities as a means of opening academic projects to the public. In the museum world, community-curated exhibitions have offered a response to this movement, and a number of these exhibitions have recently occurred along the east coast. These special exhibitions grant the community increased access to museum collections and invite sustained conversations between the public and museum staff. They complicate curatorial authority and the spatial hierarchy accorded by privileged access to storage facilities, even though in most cases the public chooses artworks for these exhibitions from a digitized archive. In fact, allowing the community to use digital media to effectively call up works of art from storage to the exhibition space mirrors trends in the way that we (the public) relate to works of art, that is, through digital means. Platforms like Artsy, for example, allow the user to amass a personal, albeit digital, art collection culled from images of fine art physically held by collections around the world. The community-curated projects I discuss below unfold in various combinations of the digital and physical realms. Each offers its own take on the evolving relationship between the museum and public. Read more.
My last post focused on the strong connection between outdoor recreation and education in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. The theme to be examined here are the ongoing efforts to preserve and maintain open space throughout the region so as to ensure that the general public continues to enjoy its environmental, recreational and educational benefits. Just as there are an impressive number of physical sites that demonstrate the region’s historical heritage and natural beauty, there are also a significant number of non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving these critical public resources. As with most non-profits, raising money is a constant endeavor. Read more.
The Eldridge Street Synagogue, which has served as a place of worship continuously since it first opened in 1887, is also home to the Museum at Eldridge Street. The neighborhood, today the heart of Chinatown, has a long history of changing immigrant populations. [Photo by the author]
In December, the Museum at Eldridge Street, which is housed in the historic 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, launched Storywalks, a new smartphone app that uses oral history recordings from the museum’s archives to bring the site to life. The app is oriented around the synagogue’s floor plan, guiding visitors along what the museum calls “a sonic pathway of voices, music and environmental sounds.”
The Eldridge Street Synagogue, now a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1887, the first purpose-built synagogue established by Eastern European Jews in the United States. More than two million Eastern European Jewish immigrants settled in this country during the late 19th/early 20th century, and it’s estimated that some three-quarters passed through the Lower East Side and this synagogue. The museum tells an important story in the history of immigration in this country, a narrative that still resonates today — as many of the school children who pass through its doors, in the heart of Chinatown, have their own immigrant stories.
I got a new phone last month and for the first time in my cell phone owning life it is up to date. That means I can download and use apps with ease, watch YouTube if I want, play Angry Birds (the Star Wars version is pretty cool), oh, and make calls, too. Having gone from a not-so-smart phone to a very smart phone, I can understand a bit about the technology divide that we have in our society. There’s a lot of talk about the growing economic chasm between the rich and the rest of us but not as much talk about access to technology. Read more.
70 x 7 The Meal act L, Tate Modern, City London
Lucy + Jorge Orta 2006
Table set for an estimated 8000 guests, silkscreen printed table runner and Royal Limoges porcelain plates
Copyright the artists
Courtesy of the artists
Photographer: Anna Kubelik
In October 2013, an estimated 2,000 people will gather in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a meal organized by French artists Lucy and Jorge Orta. The event, which is part of the artists’ ongoing public art project called 70×7 The Meal, provides a useful lens for examining the overlap between the public humanities and academia. 70×7 is clearly intended for public consumption (literally), and although it is not an academic project, it engages many of the values of that world.
The project began in 2002, and the Philadelphia event will represent its 34th iteration. The name of the project reflects the basic concept of the event: seven guests invite seven more to a communal meal. The artists de-centralize the task of generating a guest list in order to create an economically, socially, and ethnically diverse group of attendees. The meal is not only intended to feed the bodies of the participants, but also to challenge their minds through exposing them to a diverse group of people. Read more.
The Appalachian Trail near Fort Montgomery State Historical Park. (Photo courtesy of the author)
While the New York/New Jersey metropolitan region is well known for its overpopulation, sprawl and congestion, the region remarkably features spectacular state parks that provide outdoor enthusiasts an extensive trail network which traverses picturesque meadows, woodlands, and rugged terrain. Several of these parks also highlight some of the country’s important historical events that contributed to the creation of the United States. Sites such as Fort Montgomery, adjacent to Bear Mountain State Park in New York, brings history alive to the public as a comprehensive trail network meanders through the grounds of the old fort with strategically placed signage helping to explain the struggles and hardships endured by soldiers and civilians alike during the American Revolution. The significance of such public attractions underscores the vital link that exists between the outdoor experience and valuable historical sites insofar as promoting public health and enjoyment while encouraging awareness of past events. Read more.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion, built in 1765, is the oldest house in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of the author.
Felipe Galindo’s work whimsically explores the idea of what Washington might think were he to return to the neighborhood today, in the early 21st century. Most of his work is displayed in the gallery space of the wide second floor hall. George Washington Crossing the Hudson (2012). Photo courtesy of the author.
The monumental Palladian-style Morris-Jumel Mansion, perched atop one of the highest points of New York City at 160th Street, is the oldest house in Manhattan. The Revolutionary War headquarters of General George Washington in the fall of 1776, it is perhaps best known as the site of a 1790 dinner party that the new president held with his illustrious cabinet, which included two future presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (the house was then an inn). Years later, it was also home to former vice president (and notorious duel winner) Aaron Burr. The house has been a museum since 1904.
Carol Ward is the Director of Education and Public Programs at the mansion, a position she has held since 2008. She organized the current exhibitions, “Women Unbound” by Andrea Arroyo and “George Washington Revisits Washington Heights,” by Felipe Galindo. These concurrent shows, which opened last fall in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month and are on view until January 7, 2013, feature work by husband and wife Mexican-born artists living in the neighborhood of the museum. See the artists talking about their Morris-Jumel projects here and here. Read more.