Tag Archives: exhibit review

Exhibit Review: Harry Potter, at the Museum of Science and Industry


As a relatively recent college graduate and (fingers crossed) a future museum professional, I probably shouldn’t be admitting this.  But what is the internet for if not shameful confessionals?  And here is mine: I am something of a Harry Potter fan.  Now, I’m no fanatic – I don’t belong to any Harry Potter fan sites or livejournal groups (do they still have livejournal groups?).  I’ve never been “sorted” by some online quiz (although I think if I were I’d probably be Slytherin, and I’m not sure what that says about my moral compass) and I certainly don’t own any house scarfs or fake scar makeup.  I can, however, translate the Hogwarts motto from Latin to English (“never tickle a sleeping dragon,” ‘natch) and I figured out who RAB was about five minutes after I finished book six.  My point, dear readers, is that while I may not bleed wizard, I do know from Harry Potter.

All of this brings me to Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which is currently open at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.   The MSI is an interesting place – like many modern science museums, it has to straddle the divide between education and entertainment.  Sometimes it does so fantastically, like in the permanent exhibit on modern farming techniques (only in the Midwest, man) and other times it misses the mark dramatically (an enormous fairytale dollhouse? Really?).   So how does Harry Potter: The Exhibition measure up? Continue reading

De Young: Yves Saint Laurent, plus a little newsflash

So I had this grand time-table in my head for the museumist, where I posted a review or article at least once a week and quickly became famous in the blogosphere and then I got a multi-million dollar book deal and built the world’s grandest tree house (in the shape of a geodesic dome, of course), and adopted loads of puppies and ate tacos for dinner every day.  Clearly, this has not come to fruition, and I apologize for the posting delay.  (Not for the geodesic dome tree house, though – one day it will be mine!)  Here, though, without further ado, is my review of the De Young’s special retrospective on legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Okay, one ado: this review is remarkably apt, given that I’m moving to Chicago tomorrow to start an internship at the Chicago History Museum working in their costume collection.  The collection is the nation’s second largest of it’s kind and has over 50,000 objects.  So if you’re find yourself in the Windy City, look me up – maybe I can sneak you into the back to take a peak at a 100 year old Worth gown.  I’ll also be continuing with The Museumist, but the focus will be on Chicago museums, not SF.  I’ll miss your fair coastline and foggy days, San Francisco Bay Area, but have no fear – I’ll be back to visit.  After all, the Academy of Sciences just reopened, and I can’t stay away from that crocodile pit!  But enough about me – on to the review! Continue reading

Flashback: “Melbourne: Stories of the City”

I studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia, during the spring of 2007.  I loved it wholly and enthusiastically, but the experience took a lot out of me too.  I was constantly moving and exploring, and I felt this mild yet inexorable panic that if I didn’t try to cram as much into the experience as possible I’d arrive home laden with regrets.   Trying to fit a lifetime’s worth of experiences into one semester is difficult and exhausting.  That sort of energy level is hard to maintain and by the end of my five months there I was ready to go.

The thing about Australia, though, is that it isn’t known for its museums.  Don’t get me wrong – the island continent has a lot to offer, museum-wise.  But when I was traveling around with my fellow study-abroaders trying to get a sense of what we absolutely couldn’t miss, there was never a helpful Australian citizen or Lonely Planet book saying, “oh, you can’t leave without making it to the Australian National Maritime Museum,” or something similar.  So we did all the “important” things, like going to Manly Beach or doing a tour of Victoria’s wine country, seeing the Sydney Harbor Bridge and visiting the Opera House, and somewhere along the way I missed a bunch of museums.

Which is why I’m all the more thankful that I took a course called “Museums, Objects, Spectacles,” while I was at Melbourne University.  By  far the most difficult class I took, “Museums, Objects, Spectacles” was about the history and philosophy of museum exhibition; the Whens, Whys, and Hows of exhibiting, if you will.  Besides giving me a crash course in museum history, the class also got me out and about visiting Melbourne’s museums.  Arguably the cultural capital of Australia (Melbourne sees itself as the New York to Sydney’s LA), Melbourne has an awful lot of quality museums.   I spent the most amount of time at the Melbourne Museum, where I reviewed an exhibit called “Melbourne: Stories of the City.”  Looking at the Melbourne Museum website now I can’t tell if the exhibit was permanent or not, but their current permanent city exhibit called “The Melbourne Story” is likely very similar to the galleries I saw in 2007.

I thought I’d kick off The Museumist with a walk down memory lane and revisit the first museum exhibit review I’ve ever done.  The review I wrote for “Museums, Objects, Spectacles” was long, academically-minded and, in retrospect, not quite as earth-shattering as I remember it being, but I’m going to try to distill it down to the pertinent points. So if you’re interested in a short  analysis of an Australian history exhibit from the perspective of a non-Australian, click for more. Continue reading