The Jewish Museum

One perfectly delightful thing about the Jewish Museum is that it’s free on Saturdays because Jews aren’t allowed to collect money on Saturdays. Hurray.

The Sagmeister and Walsh exhibit was stellar, each of the things an a gesture representing a  statement from Sagmeister’s diary that the artist believes has increased his personal happiness. They all look like they were a blast to create. Here’s one:

if We went for the Six Things: Sagmeister nd Walsh exhibit; we stayed for the sacrifices and offerings.

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photo6Here is something that  looks like  a nice  armoire (but is in fact a piece of furniture that has some significance to the Jewish faith), and a picture of me expressing my appreciation of the Star of David.

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Jewish Museum: Three stars of david.

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Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space

What to say about a museum about the history of squatting in the East Village made from a squat in the East Village?

It was free.

It had a bicycle that Duncan pedaled to power the lights.

There were lots of photos of abandoned buildings.

But the most curious collection of objects were the dozen Germans who were paying $20 for a tour of the same kinds of squatters buildings they have in Berlin…. Go figure.

Duncan Generates Power

Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space: 3 stars

Yeshiva University Museum

IMG_20130412_113320 Allison and Katherine.

This morning, we visited the Yeshiva University Museum, a collection of exhibits housed inside the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street. They had a fetching exhibit of Ruth Abrams abstract expressionist paintings, a collection largely comprised of her work from the first half of the 80s. In addition there was a massive and expansive visit about the eruv, which is a sort of virtual/physical boundary established that permits Jewish people to carry things around within, even on Shabbat. To the left you see some examples of instant eruv. They just look like packets of cheap, brightly colored string to my untrained eye. Apparently, you have to have specialized Jewishness training as well as specialized legal training to be able to erect an eruv. I was thinking that the type of person who would become qualified to do this type of work must be the most irritating and exacting person possible: someone who combines a special interest in the particular religious constraints of Judaism with someone with a special interest in the weird constraints of the legal world. That must be a special person indeed. 

3 stars

Round 2: Staten Island and South Street Seaport

Katherine, Allison, and guest, Sonalee.

It  was a monster day of museum madness for us: we visited 5 museums in Staten Island, and slid into the South Street Seaport museum, just 30 minutes before it was expected to close.

  • Staten Island Museum
  • Snug Harbor Botanical Garden (including the Chinese Scholar’s garden)
  • The Noble Maritime Collection
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum
  • Staten Island Museum History Center
  • South Street Seaport Museum

An intense day, but we were lucky that it was spring for a day. A blow by blow account…
The Staten Island museum, affectionately called the S.I. Museum for short, was conveniently located right outside the Staten Island Ferry terminal. The museum itself: full of taxidermy (owls, nondescript organisms stuffed into mason jars), some stuff on the Staten Island Ferry, fluorescent rocks in a dark, velvet-curtained room, and a quite extensive exhibit on the mountain of cicadas that are meant to rain down on us this year.

The Snug Harbor Botanical Garden was very pleasant. We were privileged to have beautiful spring sun at our backs. We paid $5 to get into the Chinese Scholar’s garden, reportedly donated by the Chinese government. Old school, Tang dynasty stuff. Koi pond (koi moving sluggishly, as apparently they slow-thaw with the rising temperature of the surrounding environs). It would’ve be a nice place to sit and read a while, but we didn’t.

The Noble Maritime Collection: actually in a fantastic, regal building in Snug Harbor. Apparently it was a home for retired sailors about a hundred or so years ago, when not-that-well-to-do sailors might end their career without having any family to turn to. So they’d end up at a place like this. To be honest, it was pretty cool, but the thought of 1000 sailor men together in one house is sort of hellish. There were, as expected, quite a lot of intricate model ships and paintings of seafaring subject matter. This museum surpassed my expectations, however. The curator was an adorable man with little round glasses. He was extremely welcoming and hospitable.

Here’s a figurine of a naked lady, presumably from the prow of a ship.

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The Staten Island Children’s Museum was, predictably, a giant playhouse, complete with a larger than life chess set and soft bowling set, a place where you could learn how to generally use tools and build a house, art space, and other places to run and scream. When we invaded the latter, we learned that the kids were drawing whatever they felt inspired to draw as they listened to jazz. We had some fun trying out the exoskeletons on the wall, even though we’re clearly not the target market — we could hardly stuff our arms in the armholes as you might surmise from the attached photos. Allison thinks she’d like to bring her nephew to the museum when comes for a visit to the big apple. Good idea. Here’s Allison in the exoskeleton:

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<– Thanks to the kind staff of the children’s museum for letting us visit, even though it was ostensibly creepy for 3 childless adult women to visit… without children.

The Staten Island Museum History center was in the building that was called ‘Main Hall’ at Snug Harbor.There was an exhibit about music connected to Staten Island. Do you know which famous musicians are from Staten Island? We don’t either. But Lady Gaga shot a video here once.

The South Street Seaport Museum was miraculously open, despite having been practically obliterated by Hurricane Sandy last October. Oops. There wasn’t much to see, but there were some gorgeous photos of things and people in New York. Apparently the building it’s currently residing in used to be a hotel about a hundred-odd years ago. Some of the space was still left as it was during its hotel days, soapstone sinks and rickety room separations relatively intact. You can’t see that much because it’s so meanly roped off. One of the curators was bludgeoning a visitor who only spoke Spanish with some completely painful, butchered Spanish. We didn’t venture to help. It was almost 6p, after all.

  • Staten Island Museum – 3 stars
  • Snug Harbor Botanical Garden – 3 stars
  • The Noble Maritime Collection – 3 stars
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum – 3 stars
  • Staten Island Museum History Center – 3 stars
  • South Street Seaport Museum – 3 stars