Monday, March 31, 2014

CA History - The California Museum

I've been meaning to visit this museum and have heard wonderful things about it.  Its reputation did not disappoint; in fact, as mentioned previously, the lack of crowds added immeasurably to its appeal.  In addition to experiencing the natural history with the talented facilitator who brought us here, we also toured the art and history exhibits.

We got great tips for the art section from John Muir Laws, who brought us there to learn about nature sketching. He made fun of the serious approach to art, the idea of gazing methodically at each painting, perhaps pretending to seriously appreciate each piece to impress others.  He suggested instead going through the exhibit three times:  first, quickly, to get a feel for it.  This was particularly relevant in this museum, where the question, "what IS art" framed the very diverse collection of pieces.  Second, to pick out (about) three pieces that speak to you.  Third, to spend time with those three pieces and a new or old friend, absorbing and perhaps describing why you like them.  I like a lighthearted approach to nearly everything and enjoyed watching the four kids appropriate their own experiences in light of this advice.  One followed it precisely and the other three spread out to different exhibits, first in search of anything by Thomas Ayers (the first person to publish drawings of Yosemite), then, when that proved futile, drawn to anything that required interaction.

What can California art be?
Literally getting into the art. It was designed to do so!
Not only that, but we got to experience the old Bay Bridge when it still had rail tracks across it!

Some of the natural history exhibits were too awesome to focus entirely on sketching:

 

The California history section was incredible.  Some favorite parts included personal history: a tribute (though not by name) to the girls' great great grandparents, who were the first to plant apricots in the state.  To do so, they had settled briefly in the Capay Valley, between SF and Sacramento, where my Dad still owns most of their land (except the lots they had to sell to pay taxes during the Great Depression).

 

Perhaps learning about the Great Depression shouldn't be this much fun:


They also had fun in a sound booth that honored Hollywood's contribution to CA history.  Trying to match sound effects to action isn't easy, but they worked at it until they got close.

Overall it was a great day; great fun.  A few things that made it special, things that went beyond the excellent museum content:

1.  First, I appreciated the kids' enthusiasm for being there.  I offered an opportunity to leave early at one point and they outvoted me even when my parents departed, wanting to see more of the history exhibit.  I couldn't argue with that, even if mundane weekend catch up work was calling me.

2.  Also, keeping an eye on all four of them was a challenge because they went in four different directions, but this was also a joy, to watch them individually explore each of the sections of the museum with genuine interest.  Whether serious or exuberant about what they had found, they each clearly loved being there and were learning on their terms and that made it gloriously worthwhile.

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