From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Sara and Springfield

Before we even moved here I pegged the Springfield Museums as a place to go, based solely on the fact that there was a Steampunk-centric exhibit about to be installed.

I’ve also always had a love of museums. A trip to the Museum of Natural History in fourth grade is something that forever sticks in my mind and brings up happy thoughts; I know the Met like the back of my hand thanks to my numerous trips to it when I was dating a boy who went to school in NYC; I adored “Night at the Museum” and secretly wished it were real; and I’m pretty sure this all started with reading “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler“, a book by E.L. Konigsburg for grade school kids that I still read from time to time. It tells the story of Claudia Kincaid, a 12-year-old who decides to run away and drags her brother Jamie along, landing in the Met, where they end up living for a week. It’s adorable and Claudia is a pip – and I’ve always wished I could pull the same feat off.

Saturday, in a fit of spontaneity, we had our Springfield visit. It was a blast that encompassed so many areas of learning, and also provided quite a bit of chuckles along the way.

For the low price of $18, you gain access to four museums (it was five, but the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum is currently closed for renovations), plus the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. The Springfield City Library is also a part of this Quadrangle (as the area is known). You don’t need to pay to go in, of course, but it’s cool that it’s right there.

Springfield Science Museum

This is the kind of stuff that Boy really loves – natural history. There was a Connecticut River exhibit, Solutia Live Animal Center and Aquarium, an African Hall, Mammal Hall, Habitat Hall and Native American Hall – look, I found a new place to live!

 

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We were most stoked, however, for the Dinosaur Hall – who wouldn’t be? Sadly, the second we walked in, we started laughing.

“Hmm, I don’t think that’s very accurate,” Boy said as I stood next to him, tittering. It was the friendliest T-Rex we’d ever seen.

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It was at this point that I realized how awesome this museum is for little kids. This thing gave off the right vibe for kids who cared not about accuracy – it was huge! It had teeth! And when you walked up to the second level, at one point it was staring you right in the face through a window!

There were stuffed animals everywhere, from lions to rhinos to river otters. It was cute.

Actually, no, it was really weird. This was maybe my least favorite of the museums. It felt like everything was watching me.

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Seuss Garden

As we made our way to the next museum, we stepped out into a square area surrounded by buildings and were greeted by the Lorax.

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Behind him was this – a whimsical structure made of locally gathered twigs and tree parts rendered by a local artist, that you could totally walk through.

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Behind that was the bulk of the Seuss sculpture garden. It was adorable and it brought back so many amazing memories.

There was Seuss himself, sitting at his drawing board with the ever-loved companion, Cat in the Hat. Thing 1 and Thing 2 frolicked nearby on Horton Court, where the giant pachyderm towered over everything. The persistent Sam-I-Am carried Green Eggs and Ham, and right next to this entire rig was a tall open book with “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” inscribed in the upper left corner and a bronze throne to sit upon. Also, Yertle the Turtle was hanging out by another museum, a little hidden gem.

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The only thing that could have made this even more amazing for me would have been a reenactment of “The Butter Battle.”

 George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Not only do I love the Steampunk aesthetic, this particular exhibit was guest curated by Bruce Rosenbaum, owner of ModVic Steampunk Art & Design. I had the pleasure of not only meeting Bruce at a con years ago, but interviewing him for a story I did for The Guide a while back. I’ve always loved his work, and really wanted to see what he would do for this exhibit. Plus, I am now also a Massachusetts resident, like him – we’re practically besties now.

We hit the jackpot here, where “Brassy Bridal: Steampunk Wedding” was affixed on the top floor amid the American Paintings Salon. Obsessed is not even the right word for how I felt about some of these outfits.

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Lantern Dress, by Kristin Costa of Hampton, NJ, made of steel wire, fabric, yarn, glass beads, trim, lace, satin, sequins, and poly lining.

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Pink Lady, by Mary Beth Buckley of Greenfield, Mass., made of various clothes, leather, and hammered sheet metal.

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The Bride Wore Skates! by Melanie Rosenbaum of Sharon, Mass. (Bruce’s wife), made of two vintage velvet dresses, taffeta, tulle, paper, hula hoops, a vintage velvet hat, and Barney and Berry skates.

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There was also the main room, where each exhibit had a “newspaper article” hanging on the wall next to it, explaining what was before you in story form. It was funny to watch people with NO concept of what Steampunk is walk around here – the words “weird” and “scary” were thrown around quite a bit.

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As if I wasn’t already overloaded with pure love and awe for the things before me, this was also the museum that housed statues in the Classical Cast Gallery. They’re casts of originals – but it does not make them any less amazing to behold.

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The exit sign really does wonders for the ambiance here.

And, of course, what would a trip to a museum be without me drooling over some Egyptian artifacts?

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Outer coffin of Padihershef, Late Period, 26th Dynasty, sycamore wood with painted gesso

On our way through the courtyard we stumbled upon a bench – and I almost blurted out, “Oh man, someone left their stuff here!”

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Wrong. It’s also art. How cool?

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Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History

The last of the Steampunk stuff was nestled here in “50 Firsts: Springfield Inventions Reinvented.” This museum was cool to begin with because it was all about local history – from cars and police and fire exhibits to the Smith & Wesson gallery of firearms history and a row of boards explaining what inspiration Seuss took from where within the city for his books. There was Hasbro GameLand, where Boy and I spun a huge Life wheel, played a memory game, performed some silly balancing acts to see who had the better balance and, in general, acted like 5 year olds.

There were also huge airplanes hanging from the ceiling. You can’t go wrong.

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Yes, this is the door to the women’s bathroom. But how adorable is this woman?

I also had a chance to check out an earlier issue of The Republican newspaper and I realized that they haven’t changed their logo much at all!

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Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts

I love looking at art. I never started doing it until I moved to Philadelphia years ago, when I would borrow art books from the library and study altarpieces and frescos. I love scenery, both with and without people, impressionism, still life, and photorealism. However, I’m not a fan of works that are of a single person – which is exactly what I fell in love with here.

We saw a lot of everything at this museum, from 17th Century Dutch to 20th Century European. We saw a Monet! Rockwell and O’Keefe were in a special exhibit that cost extra, but they did have one of each around the museum, so we saw those, too. It was cool, and quiet and reminded me of some of my favorite visits to the Met.

The painting that most piqued my interest was, oddly enough, a portrait. My phone died so I couldn’t catch it myself, but here it is.

 

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For some reason, it was startling to see. The colors were inviting. His gaze was penetrating, but not in an uncomfortable way. Most paintings of people I see are ones I just pass by, but this one struck me and stopped me dead. He’s really handsome, right?

It’s French 19th Century and titled “Portrait of an Artist.” It was originally attributed to Eugene Delacroix, but since then that’s been proven false; the actual artist is unknown.

I can appreciate art for all it is, but when something causes me to pause for more than 10 seconds, I am so in. I hope to go back and dawdle around this museum in particular a little more, paying extra attention to this guy, whoever he may be.

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3 thoughts on “From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Sara and Springfield

  1. (Sorry if you get two comments. I tried to do it from my phone earlier today and it didn’t seem to work!)
    It’s posts like this that prove why you and I need to make weekend visits happen. If only such a thing weren’t beyond the reach of my wallet. I adore museums. I am possibly the touristiest Philly local there is. I think, if I took you to the Barnes, you would actually die.
    The portrait is my favorite of the items you posted! Something about how an anonymous nobody was so talented, and all we have left is his face. That or the sex hair. Or the fact that he is wearing canary. Or the fact that he wears canary and still somehow has sex hair.

    • Haha I honestly was struggling with how to describe that portrait, but you just hit the nail RIGHT on the head.

      It’s the overwhelming canary.

      And YES, we would have a BLAST together. I know, I’m starting to dig myself out of being poor, haha, so hopefully a visit is in the VERY near future!!!

  2. Pingback: All cultured out. | Cheesy does it.

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