Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Thomas Campbell out as director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met said that Mr. Campbell, 54, had made the decision to leave the job he had held for eight years. But the circumstances surrounding his departure point to his being forced out. As The New York Times reported extensively in an article in early February, Mr. Campbell’s financial decisions and expansion plans had been criticized by some trustees, curators and other staff members. During the last couple of years, despite the museum’s record attendance, much of his original agenda was rolled back because of the museum’s economic difficulties, including a soaring deficit.

Questions. We’ve got questions.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Prompted by various things, including recent events and other people’s travels:

  1. Why did the FBI feel compelled to announce they’ve abandoned the search for D.B. Cooper?
    Is it possible they’re playing a long game here?
    “Olly olly oxen free. Come out, D.B. Cooper!”
    “Hi, I’m Dan Cooper.”
    “Hi, Dan. You’re under arrest.”
    “Hey, wait! That’s not fair! You called ‘olly olly oxen free’! No takebacks, you cheater!”
    (I would ask why they were still pursuing him after 45 years – I thought the statute of limitations would have run out long ago – but, per Wikipedia (I know, I know) there’s a John Doe indictment in absentia against Mr. Cooper.)
  2. More of a rhetorical question: I didn’t know there was a Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I don’t think I did, anyway: if I ever went, I was very young. I’ll have to make a point of going next time I’m up Cleveland way. (And it is my turn.)
  3. Speaking of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, why is Balto, the famous Alaskan sled dog who took the diptheria serum to Nome, in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?
    (I know what the more or less “official” answer is: Balto died in what’s now the Cleveland Zoo. And why was Balto in Cleveland in the first place? Because the children of Cleveland and the Plain Dealer collected pennies to purchase Balto and the other dogs, because they were allegedly badly treated after being sold to a “dime museum”. It just seems odd. If George Kimble had been a resident of Houston, or a graduate of UT, would Balto be in Texas now?)
  4. Have I linked to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History before?
  5. Why doesn’t the CMNH want to return Balto to Alaska? I kind of get the idea that Alaska may have forfeited rights to Balto, given the way that he was supposedly treated. But I’m not sure I blame the state, or Balto’s first owner, for what they did. Also, it was a long time ago in another country: wouldn’t it be nice to give Balto back?
  6. Another rhetorical question: I was unaware of the Balto/Togo controversy. It wasn’t covered in the children’s book I read about the serum run when I was a lad. (In case you were wondering: Togo’s skin is in Alaska, while his skeleton is at Yale.)
  7. What’s Balto’s Bacon Number? The Oracle says 3. But I’m not convinced: if you were voiced by Kevin Bacon in an animated movie based on your life, shouldn’t that lower your Bacon number?
  8. There were three Balto movies?
  9. What was the name of that children’s book about the serum run, anyway? I know it was non-fiction, and I swear it had a blueish cover, but I can’t remember the name. I’d kind of like to find a copy.

Good news, everyone!

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Liberace is back!

Well, more specifically, his cars are back. The Liberace Garage at the Hollywood Cars Museum is displaying a group of them.

You may remember that at least some of these cars were on display at the now tragically closed Liberace Museum.

After action report: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’ve sort of hinted at this, but now the full story can be told.

Mike the Musicologist and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma the weekend of November 8th.


Blogger, with occasional tank.

Friday, November 7th, 2014


Hey, if Lawrence is going to do it, I’m going to do it. (Though technically mine is not a selfie.)

Edited to add: Okay. This is absurd. The photo imported off the phone and into Shotwell in Ubuntu displayed upside down using Google Chrome and the WordPress interface. I flipped it 180 degrees using WordPress. Now it displays correctly in Google Chrome and Firefox under Ubuntu, and on the Kindle…but displays upside down on two iPhones. What is going on here, he said, slamming his head against a wall?

Edited to add 11/11: Okay. Now that I’m back home and can use iPhoto, let’s see how this comes out.

Gehry watch.

Friday, October 17th, 2014

The LAT reviews the Gehry designed Louis Vuitton Foundation museum.

The Eisenhower Memorial design has been approved with revisions. (Previously.)

The revised design replaces the memorial’s east and west steel tapestries — depicting the Kansas plains where Eisenhower spent his boyhood — with single columns that mark the north corners of the site, preparing visitors for the entrance. The south columns and tapestry aim to define the memorial’s space and frame the views of the Capitol.

This one’s for RoadRich.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Still under wraps is Lady Gaga’s strapless Hello Kitty gown, made entirely of plush dolls depicting Japan’s most bankable merchandising icon.

The dress in question is slide number eight in the slideshow.

Random notes: June 6, 2014.

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The NYT obit for Chester Nez clarifies a point I was confused on:

Mr. Nez was the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers [emphasis added – DB], who at the urgent behest of the federal government devised an encrypted version of their language for wartime use. They and the hundreds of Navajos who followed them into battle used that code, with unparalleled success, throughout the Pacific theater.

About 400 Navajos followed the original 29 to war; of that later group, about 35 are still living, The Navajo Times, a tribal newspaper, reported this week.

This should not be taken as an attempt to diminish the accomplishments of Mr. Nez, the other 28 original code talkers, or the ones who followed the first 29; I’m just trying to make sure the historical record is clear. (I felt some of the other media coverage confused this point.)

This goes out to our great and good friend RoadRich: Whiskey 7 made it back to Normandy. Briefly: Whiskey 7 is a restored C-47 transport that originally dropped troops over Normandy. It was in a museum in New York, but was invited back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary. So a crew from the museum flew it across the Atlantic…

(One of these days, I want to ride in a C-47. Or a DC-3. I’m not picky.)

Fun feature piece by John Marchese in the NYT:

Maybe it was the 50th anniversary of “Hello, Dolly” having knocked the Beatles off the top of the pop charts (May 9, 1964), but it occurred to me recently that with a little advance work, I could spend an entire day in New York with Louis Armstrong.

Things I didn’t know:

Free Bubble-Up.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Preservationists are raising money to buy, restore and move the boxcar to the Kern County Museum in nearby Bakersfield, which is just under a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

You may be wondering why this boxcar is so important to preservationists. After all, aren’t there plenty of boxcars in the world?

Yes. But this isn’t just any boxcar: this is Merle Haggard’s childhood home.

Though the house was intended to be temporary, the remodeling was a family effort: James Haggard added a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front steps; his wife, Flossie, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a backyard grape arbor, drying raisins for pies on the roof.

I wanted to drop some Haggard into this post, but I had a lot of trouble finding a performance of “Rainbow Stew” or “Fighting Side of Me” on YouTube that allowed embedding. So how about this: Merle Haggard in 1978 on “Austin City Limits”.

Burning airlines give you so much more.

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Roberta X has a funny post up about the misadventures of a tank. (Not a tank car, or a tank of gas; a honest-to-goodness Chieftain tank.) You should really go read it when you get a chance.

This post is about something I found while reading the original tank story:

Evergreen International Airlines Inc., the troubled McMinnville-based cargo carrier, flew its final military flight last Friday and all remaining aircraft are now parked, according to a pilots’ union memo obtained by The Oregonian.

Evergreen International Airlines? Never heard of them? Why should you care?

Closure of the company — originally scheduled for last Saturday, but denied as false rumor by founder Delford Smith – would end a storied, three-decade history for the airline whose baggage includes close ties with the CIA. Evergreen once operated a global fleet of Boeing 747 cargo jets, running round-the-world flights and keeping a plane on standby for secret U.S. military missions.

Oh, so they were tied to Air America? Interesting. But there’s more. Evergreen, when times were good, put some money into non-profit organizations. One of those organizations is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which is notable for having a SR-71 and the Spruce Goose.

Managers say the attractions will remain open. But the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating them for alleged commingling of funds between Evergreen’s profit and nonprofit arms, and Smith may have put up some of the planes in the museum as collateral being claimed by creditors.

Oh, dear. Wikipedia has Evergreen shut down as of November 30th:

Hines told The Oregonian Monday the company was still operating and managers hoped to save it. But an airline can’t function after letting go its operations director and closing its dispatch center, which workers and former employees say occurred at McMinnville headquarters Monday.

So what’s going to happen? Will they sell off the planes? Would you like to buy a 747 used by the CIA? (More seriously, Evergreen also has a 747 that’s been modified for firefighting purposes.)

…former managers say Evergreen has long depended on heavy borrowing, leasing most or all of its aircraft and engines, many of which are now being claimed by creditors.

And even better:

Creditors seeking millions of dollars in damages have filed numerous lawsuits, some of which have produced default judgments as Evergreen lawyers fail to show up in court.

I wonder if the lawyers aren’t showing up because they’re not getting paid.

However, Evergreen does have a FAA issued “airline certificate”. I’ll admit, I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “certificate” thing (RoadRich, you out there somewhere?), but as best as I can put it together, the “airline certificate” gives you FAA authorization to run an airline.

Unless Smith has already sold the rights separately, Evergreen’s certificate may include authority for the holder to fly cargo routes to and from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. At one time Evergreen had authority to fly almost anywhere, and it may still.

So to heck with buying a 747, you can have an entire airline and fly almost anywhere in the world!

However, a buyer could only acquire the certificate if it bought the airline, which would come with mountains of debt.

Oh. Also, with the certificate and the airline, you also get the pilot’s union, which may or may not be a problem, given that Evergreen is $1.4 million behind in contributions to the pension plan.

But other than those minor issues, this sounds like a great chance to make a small fortune in the aviation industry. That is, if you have a large fortune to start with.

Go West, family man.

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Have you ever heard of the Great Platte River Road Archway?

Neither had I, until I read this morning’s NYT. The Archway is intended as a monument to the Westward Expansion. It sits near the site of Fort Kearny and the intersection of three major westward trails (Oregon, Mormon, and California).

The Archway actually crosses I-80, and weighs 1,500 tons. How much did it cost to build? The NYT isn’t clear on that, but we’ll come back to it in a minute.

A New York consulting firm that predicted more than a million visitors annually did so under the presumption that gas prices would not eclipse $2 a gallon, that there would be no recession, that the exhibit would change over time and that a highway exit would be built right next to the Archway.

Buried in there is a further assumption that families still vacation by car, which makes it easier to stop at places like the Archway. But I’ve touched on that before, and there’s no reason to belabor the point.

Especially since I bet you can guess what happened next.

Thirteen years later, the Archway is flat broke.
Attendance peaked the first year at nearly 250,000 and has been falling ever since. Last year, fewer than 50,000 visitors strolled through the turnstiles. And although a bankruptcy judge recently approved a plan to relieve the Archway of its final $20 million in debt, its future remains uncertain. Archway officials say the museum could survive through the end of the year, but would need hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for long-term security. And that will come only with the approval of the Kearney City Council and county board members — several of whom are skeptical.

Among other things, that new highway exit took twelve years to build.

By the time it became apparent that the number of projected visits (and ticket revenue) was vastly overestimated, the Archway was already underwater, nearly $60 million in debt from the construction and start-up costs. That money had come from a bond sold by the city, and backed by the foundation.

$60 million in debt, folks. But don’t worry: “Through bankruptcy proceedings, that debt has been lifted.” And now the folks behind the Archway plan to ask the city and county governments to cough up $200,000 a year (each, so $400,000 total) for the next three years.

If the Archway were to become the destination that its creators had hoped for, it would help rural communities by attracting customers to hotels, restaurants and other businesses, said Roger Jasnoch, the director of the Kearney Visitors Bureau and an Archway board member.

And again, we come back around to the same point I made earlier. I have nothing against Nebraska; one of these days, I hope that I can visit the SAC Museum. But I’m odd. I’m not sure that most families do driving vacations these days, and the Archway just doesn’t strike me as compelling enough a destination for people to fly into Lincoln or Omaha and drive halfway across the state.

A Bob Clampett cartoon!

Saturday, June 15th, 2013


(Onion Creek Mosasaur, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin, Texas.)