Sunday, April 13, 2014

#39 - Arts, history and culture

My library participates in a program (generously funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund) that gives card holders free passes to local museums.  Every year, I tell myself that I am going to take advantage of this opportunity and then find myself only visiting the museums in towns where I go on vacation.  Completing this goal stuck to that pattern - all ten museums were visited on my last two vacation trips - one to the South Dakota Black Hills area and the other to Fort Worth, Texas. 

The first museum was Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site.  There is a small indoor interpretative center, but the main attraction is the actual petroglyphs on the rock nearby.  The oldest markings date from B.C. but there are many more recent additions as well - even up to the early 20th century.  I was there at midday on a sunny day which made spotting the carvings more challenging - the best time to see them would be dawn or dusk.
Petroglyph in situ at Jeffers National Monument - handprint shape near center of photo
The second was Pipestone National Monument.  Picture in your head a stereotypical Native American treaty scene ... did it include a "peace pipe" somewhere in your mental image?  This area would have been the source of those pipes.  Pipestone (or catlinite) is a soft rock used to form the bowls of tobacco pipes for quite some time.  As you can see, the quarry areas (still active - though only to members of local tribes) are not much to look at; most are only cuts about 10 feet deep and 3 feet wide into the ground.  However, the small museum was very interesting as there were several pipestone carvers working on pieces and willing to answer questions.  And, as I mentioned in a previous post, the walking trail among the quarries was quite refreshing on a hot windy summer day.
Quarry area at Pipestone

Crazy Horse Memorial is a spot that I would suggest as a stop to all travelers in the Black Hills area.  The scope of this project needs to be seen to understand what a large project is being undertaken.  It is all the more impressive to realize that it is mostly the work of one man and his family.  I wonder, though, what will happen to the project if there is a flaw inside the rock at some critical point - there doesn't seem to be much room for adjustments.  On the site there is currently a large museum devoted to Native Americans and future plans for many other buildings.  Watch the film about Korczak Ziolkowski and his early days of working on the mountain ...
Rendering at Crazy Horse of the final carving on the current area

Another spot for all Americans to visit is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  It was particularly interesting to compare this finished (though not to the sculptor's original vision) monument which used many men over a fairly short period of time to the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial that has been in progress for almost 70 years just a few minutes drive away.  The interpretative center and audio tour for the walking trail focus mostly on the construction of the memorial and how those four presidents were chosen to portray.
A view of Mount Rushmore from the walking trail

To learn more about the sculptor for Mount Rushmore - as well as Stone Mountain in Georgia - I visited the Gutzon Borglum Museum in Keystone, SD.  Unless you have a particular interest in this sculptor, I would not recommend this museum as most of the facts were duplicated at Mount Rushmore.  There were some of the artist's other works, but no special context about his personal life.
Sculpture of Abraham Lincoln by the same artist who designed Mount Rushmore

The Big Thunder Gold Mine (also in Keystone) was much more interesting.  The tour of the gold mine was well-spiced by the guide with local legend and tidbits of mining facts.  The museum itself had a wide array of mining equipment including processing equipment from several eras.  What I brought away from my visit was how much work these men did for just a tiny change of becoming rich.  Although one of the owners of the Big Thunder mine did indeed become a wealthy man, it was due to a lucky card game rather than success in the mine.  If you are in the area in the summer and have kids, this would be a good stop to cool off (underground on the tour) and let them pan for gold in the sluice troughs.
A likely spot for gold?  One of the biggest finds in the Black Hills was inside this hill

My Fort Worth trip included a wider variety of museums to visit.  The first was the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.  I don't know a lot about the rodeo culture, so I have to admit that most of the exhibits on the inductees looked the same to me.  Lots of intricately tooled saddles and large belt buckles  However, this museum also housed Sterquell Wagon collection which I found fascinating.  Many of the wagons were specialized to different types of business - laundry service, meat delivery, etc - others were examples of more common vehicles.  I thought it was interesting that one was from the Studebaker company.  Another thing that fascinated me was how small some of the buggies were - tiny seats up on huge wheels - no wonder they were so popular for going courting!
Four seater bobsled at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame

The second stop in Texas was the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.  The top floor was mostly dedicated to the area's history of a nexus for cattle drives and shipping.  The bottom floor focused more on science.  Through all exhibits there was a strong focus on interactive displays - particularly at a level that children could use.  I thought it was odd that an entire room was devoted to displays about the Wizard of Oz movie; I don't know of any connections between the movie and Fort Worth and none were listed in any of the displays.

Public art sculpture in the Fort Worth cultural district

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art was both what I expected and more.  I had expected the large collection of pieces from Frederic Remington and Charles Russell as well as other American art of the same era since these are prominently advertised on the museum's website.  I had not expected to also find a small collection of art that included a range of well-known artists through American history.  The current special exhibit on food was also very interesting and made a person think about what our pantry choices are currently as compared to what they have been for most of our history.
My favorite piece at the Amon Carter Museum - a small art deco bronze

The last museum for this goal was the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth.  This museum reminded me in content and arrangement of those I have seen in Europe.  Although the website states they have a small collection, you would not suspect it from the displays - perhaps everything is out on display with no rotation.  There was a wide range of eras included and I (not an art student) recognized almost all of the artist names even though none of the paintings were familiar. 

I am glad to complete this goal; I had come so close on my last DayZero list - 9 out of 10 - before I ran out of time.