Monday, March 28, 2011

Touring Michigan - Grand Rapids Public Museum

We had to catch a 7:30am train to Chicago last week out of Grand Rapids, so we arrived the previous afternoon and took in a couple of museums, including the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The entry hall is visually exciting, with a gigantic working steam engine, a biplane, an entire suspended whale skeleton and a huge clock tower.

There is a huge range of exhibits and items on display; I was especially intrigued by the following displays:

Anishinabek: The People of This Place

This hall shares the stories of the original Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa people of West Michigan; many direct descendants still live in the region today.

Unlike many exhibits of this type, there was no effort to sugarcoat the past; the experiences of the people, both good and bad, is presented, in their own voices.

The artifacts on display are fabulous, such as this quill work basket:

and a photograph of the maker with her beautiful creation:

Many pieces of beadwork too:

Streets of Old Grand Rapids

This display is a 3/4 scale detailed re-creation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s, including eleven shops based on actual businesses and buildings. The storefronts and interiors are stocked with real merchandise from the past. My favorite was the Voigt-Herpolsheimer Department Store, with this interesting advertising piece:

And look at the shoes!

Also parasols, ribbons, lace, and other fancy work - I wish I could go shopping there, at 1890 prices, of course!

Admission includes a ride on the 1928 Spillman carousel - I love carousels!

The current temporary exhibit is "Bodies Revealed"; the exhibit shows 14 full body human specimens and over 200 organs and is rooted in the historical precedent set by anatomists as Vesalius and da Vinci. The body specimens ares dissected to reveal the function of each anatomical system and to show that system’s relationship to the body as a whole.

The key to this exhibit is the polymer preservation process; a technique in which human tissue is permanently preserved using liquid silicone rubber. The end product is a dry, odorless specimen that resists decomposition.

This isn't the type of exhibit that will appeal to everyone, but I found it to be fascinating. It was requested that no photographs be taken, which I respected. However, there are many photographs online if you're interested.

Luckily, this steampunk sculpture was not part of the exhibit - he's fascinating too.

We also visited the Grand Rapids Art Museum; they were between major shows, but it was still an enjoyable visit.

It's still possible to see some of the Art Prize 2010 pieces throughout the city; we saw enough to convince us that we MUST make it to Art Prize 2011.

1 comment:

  1. More enjoyable than the Christmas tree exhibit at the Meijer Gardens, eh?

    We have not made it to ArtPrize yet, despite being fairly close. Always work to do...