Saturday, September 29, 2007

Museums and My Mother

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Loving Both

My mother used to take me to the Museum of Modern Art while I was still in a stroller and talk with me about what we saw. When I graduated from the stroller, we'd tour the exhibits and then go to the sculpture garden, where she would let me play, touching the sculptures, and sitting on the cool, low, marble bridge over the man-made stream/pool, swinging my then little-legs over the water not far below.

My mom told me that the first time we went to the Guggenheim, when we reached the top, I asked, "No more?" And my favorite museum of all was the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, where I took classes, ranging from how to identify local trees (oak, maple...) to how to draw cartoon-art.

Growing up, I felt like we lived in a museum. Since the early days of their cut-short, 27-year marriage, my parents collected Jewish folk art, which was all over the walls of our house, and even on the floors when wall-space ran out. After my father died, may his memory be blessed, my mother kept collecting and the art took over the house fully, in a good way.

Last week, my mom told me by phone, "I found a postcard from Daddy [may his memory be blessed], where he mentioned having sat with an assistant archivist from [a major museum] on a planeride." This was 26 years ago. On the postcard, my father mentioned the archivist's name, and that he was interested in seeing my parents' art collection.

Neither of my parents followed up with him...until the other day. My mother called the museum and the same man is now a head archivist and recalled the conversation with my father, and still was interested in seeing the collection(!)

Two Museums: Their Time Has Come

Last week, I saw a marvelous story on my company's intranet site, about how IBM helped the Smithsonian launch a virtual version of the emerging National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The brick-and-mortar version will occupy the last space of the Smithsonian's mall and meanwhile, until it opens in 2010, the virtual version will be popular, I predict, as it includes a memory book. I submitted a memory -- a ~40-word version of a previous blog entry and the automated response tells me that I'll be notified if it is published.

This emerging museum's journey reminds me of another's in parallel -- that of the National Museum of American Jewish History. Two 4th of Julys ago, my mom, Pat and I visited it in Philadelphia.

Currently, it occupies just one exhibit room's worth of space in a temporary building just off the main plaza in Philly, but it plans to be steps from the Liberty Bell, also in 2010. The exhibit that it's running till then is called "Forshpeis!" (Yiddish for "a taste" or "appetizer"), which is a great name for just one exhibit of more to come.

When we visited, the exhibit invited us to write our memories of Jewish foods on index cards and then add them to the metal index-card boxes at the tables, and to read the memories that previous visitors had added to the boxes.

It was so clever; they had set up a number of areas to look like '50s mock-kitchen tables and we sat at them and reminisced individually. And then we read one another's and others' memories -- just like the Smithsonian and IBM's Community Relations organization have enabled people to post their memories in connection with African American life.

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