Museums of Memphis / International Blues Challenge

Preface

It is hard to believe that even in 2015, whites in Memphis and the entire Delta area haven’t embraced the blacks for their wonderful spirit and joie de vivre.  Someone told me (I wish I could remember who) many years ago “we must embrace the differences that define us, not let them divide us.”  After attending the IBC, checking out the museums of Memphis, wandering Clarksdale and attending the First Baptist Church service, I say “vive la difference!”

International Blues Challenge

  Mike Clark (far right) with some of his new best friends jamming at IBC 2014.

Mike Clark (far right) with some of his new best friends jamming at IBC 2014.

In December 2013, a few of Mikey’s Juke Joint groupies (including myself) decided to head to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge (IBC) to support the Mike Clark Band and Tim Williams, both of who would be representing southern Alberta at the January 2014 competition.  It was a truly amazing experience, not only did Williams win the competition as the best single/solo act and best guitarist, but I developed a whole new appreciation for the history of the blues and the culture of the south that produced it.

This year’s Challenge happens January 20 – 24 with Calgary’s Mike Clark Band and Tim Williams again representing southern Alberta.

The Museums

One of the great things about visiting Memphis is their trio of music museums – Stax Museum, Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Sun Records.

The STAX Museum blew both Brenda (not so much a blues or music keener) and I away with its campus that includes not only the museum, but a charter school and extensive collection.  For anyone interested in the history of 20th century music in North America, this is the place to go. You will learn about the evolution and connections between numerous genres of music – blues, soul, jazz, Bebop, country, gospel, hillbilly, R&B, rock and Pop music.  What I particularly loved about the museum is there is its air of authenticity as much of the history actually happened in Memphis or in the immediate area.  

  STAX museum is located in an older neighbourhood, with a mix of both new and somewhat seedy buildings.

STAX museum is located in an older neighbourhood, with a mix of both new and somewhat seedy buildings.

The museum starts with a wonderful 20-minute film, after which you wander at your own pace through hundreds of displays that tell the story of the music with lots of memorabilia.  The highlight was when I complemented an elderly, distinguished-looking man on his great tie.  He thanked me and we got chatting about the museum and how he was visiting with his grandchildren who “wanted to see where their grandfather was” in the museum.  Turns out I was talking to Harold “Scotty” Scott of the Temprees, whose gold record for “Dedicated to the one I love” and other band artifacts we on exhibit.

One take away message I got from this museum was how the pain and hardship deeply penetrated the African American culture of the south and how they sought comfort and solace in their music.

I would recommend anyone visiting the museum, also take an explore a few around the museum, it will reinforced the link between poverty, sense of place and blues music.  The predominately black neighbourhood of empty lots, abandon homes, homes with what looked like religious shrines on the porches and numerous churches looked like many of the images we saw in the museum.

In chatting with Andrew Mosker, CEO, National Music Centre (NMC), who is currently construction a new museum in Calgary, I was told they would be incorporating some of the lessons learned from STAX on how to engage, entertain and educate the public about music.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if the NMC could match STAX museum’s authenticity as most of NMC’s artifacts will be imported from elsewhere. Also a big shiny new museum located in a glitzy new master planned urban community seems diametrically opposed to places that are the catalyst for artistic creativity. Time will tell.

  One of the things that make Memphis' museums great is their authenticity, as they are telling stories that are both local and global. 

One of the things that make Memphis' museums great is their authenticity, as they are telling stories that are both local and global. 

  Harold "Scotty" Scott. 

Harold "Scotty" Scott. 

The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, created by the Smithsonian Institute and located downtown next to the arena provides an excellent overview of the history of Memphis area music from the 1930s to the city’s musical heyday of the ‘70s.  The museum’s digital audio guide offers up over 300 minutes of information including 100 songs that you can listen to while surrounded by artifacts of the time.  It is a total music immersion program not to be missed.

Sun Records, located just outside of the downtown, is easily accessible via the tram and a short walk to the historic building. Like the STAX museum, I think you get a better appreciation for the history and the environment that produced the music when you walk the streets around it.

The lobby of Sun Studio looks like a '50s diner.

What is great and unique about Sun Records is that you get a personal tour led by a local musician.  Sun Records, an American independent record label was founded in Memphis in 1952, by Sam Phillips and financed by Jim Bulliet.  It was here that Phillips discovered and first recorded Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Phillips loved the music of African-Americans and wanted to bring that genre to a mass audience, which changed the world of music, but meant Sun Records struggled to be viable. 

The museum is full of artifacts and your tour guide has amazing stories to tell.  But the highlight of the tour is to stand on in the recording studio where Elvis, Carl, Jerry Lee and Johnny belted out your favourite songs. The building just oozes history - I am sure I heard Roy singing.

The modest entrance to Sun Studio.

One of  the many artifacts from the early days of Sun Studio.

The recording studio is still used today. It looks like a rec room from the '50s. It is hard to imagine that this is place where the legends of '50s and '60s music created their hits here.

Beale Street

Beale Street, truly one of North America’s iconic streets, is home to the International Blues Competition (IBC). The event utilizes 17 different venues along the street for the 250+ entries from around the world.  The street is hopping with music from noon to the wee hours of the morning. 

For me, the highlight of the Challenge were the midnight jams at the Daisy Theatre (every night various musicians from the competition and past winners put on an impromptu concert, the energy was electrifying).   There are certain art experiences that stand out in my life - seeing Baryshnikov dance from the front row of the Lincoln Centre (1984) and the Hermitage Show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1977) - and the IBC jams on Beale Street.

  Beale Street is animated by buskers and bands who provide great street entertainment. 

Beale Street is animated by buskers and bands who provide great street entertainment. 

  The International Blues Challenge midnight jam. 

The International Blues Challenge midnight jam. 

Clarksdale

No trip to Memphis for a blues lover is complete without a road trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi (90 minute drive), considered by some as “ground zero” for the blues. The entire city is a living museum complete with numerous historical plaques and a self-guided map. 

Clarksdale is home to the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 where legend has it iconic blues guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.   You can also visit the McKinley Morganfield’s (aka Muddy Waters) cabin on Stovall Road. There are lots of tiny cabins still inhabited that serve as a reminder of the poverty that begat the blues.  

When in Clarksdale check out The Delta Blues Museum, WROX radio station on Main Street and all of the other historic sites around town, it will give you a whole new appreciation of how the blues was germinated.

Ground Zero Blues Club opened in 2001 in an old warehouse building with “manufactured authenticity” complements of an old couch and other bric-a-brac on the porch and the tradition of graffiti-like visitors writing of their names anywhere they can find space. names of people who have been there on the walls.  We arrived mid day (nothing was happening), but we did manage to get on stage and pretend we were performing.

In chatting with Holger Petersen (veteran CBC and CKUA blues broadcaster), after his talk about the history of the blues at NMC a few years back he told me Ground Zero was one of his favourite places to listen to the blues. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering the streets of Clarksdale, checking out the museum, eating dinner and listening to an act Ground Zero and maybe even book yourself a room at the Riverside Hotel, established in 1944, where the the likes of Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williams and Ike Turner had been guests.

It truly is a sacred place.

  Ground Zero Blues Club looks like it was part of Clarksdale's heyday, but in reality it didn't open until 2001. It has established itself as the premier place for blues performers to play when in the area.

Ground Zero Blues Club looks like it was part of Clarksdale's heyday, but in reality it didn't open until 2001. It has established itself as the premier place for blues performers to play when in the area.

Panels like these are located throughout the city, creating an informative self-guided walking tour. 

WROX radio
  Clarksdale has numerous music related stores that are fun to explore.  It is a great place to flaneur - you will find everything from the charming Greyhound bus depot to the  Tennessee Williams historic district  of mega-mansions from the early 20th century. Tennessee Williams grew up in Clarksdale.

Clarksdale has numerous music related stores that are fun to explore.  It is a great place to flaneur - you will find everything from the charming Greyhound bus depot to the Tennessee Williams historic district of mega-mansions from the early 20th century. Tennessee Williams grew up in Clarksdale.

Barry (another Mikey's groupie) and I on stage at Ground Zero Blues Club. 

Gospel Revelation

No trip to Memphis is complete without attending a Sunday morning Gospel Church service. While many trek to the well-publicized Al Green church service near Graceland, we were fortunate to notice during our wanderings that at the end of Beale Street is the First Baptist Church (built in 1880, it is believed to be the first brick-constructed, multi-story church built by African Americans).  We like authenticity so this seemed like the perfect choice.

So on Sunday morning, when many IBC revellers were still recovering from their Saturday night festivities, we headed to church.   Wanting to be respectful, we tried toquietly walk in and sit at the back, but that was not to be.  We were immediately welcomed like long lost family, hands were shaken, we were given a program, and by the end hugs were shared and we were part of “the family.”  I have never experienced a more friendly welcoming. 

At the beginning of the service, all-newcomers were welcomed by name and where they were visiting from.  We were asked to stand to be recognized and invited to say a few words. Then amateur singers and preachers started to perform building to a crescendo with a large female choir and professional passionate preacher that made both your body and soul shiver. I don’t think I have ever heard so many AMENs in my life. 

Initially planning to only stay for 30 minutes or so, we were mesmerized we stayed for the entire two-hour service.  We were even invited to join them for lunch afterwards.  It was a magical experience. Amen!

insidechurch

Fort Calgary: Our sacred ground

While everyone’s attention in the East Village mega makeover is focused on the new library ($245M), the National Music Centre ($135M) and the St Patrick’s Island revitalization and bridge ($70M), Fort Calgary’s makeover has been “flying under the radar.”  

Perhaps you’ve noticed the red cubes along the River Walk or the red glass sentinels recently installed at the corner of 9th Ave and 6th St SE wondering what these are.  Maybe you noticed Buffy the buffalo on a little manmade hill on 9th Ave just west of the Elbow River and wondered how it got there.  It is all part of a devious $36.3 million master plan that started with the Spring Creek wetlands at the northwest edge of the site back in 2009.

With the help of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the City, Province, Federal Government and the community, Fort Calgary has been quietly raising funds to enhance the site of Calgary’s birthplace, respecting the past but preparing it for the future when 40,000 people will be living in the communities surrounding it (currently about 15,000).

What we have been seeing lately is the Edges, project, which marks the edges of the original Fort Calgary site, west of the Elbow River. Note: The land east of the Elbow River (Deane House and Hunt House) wasn’t added until 1976.  The red cubes along the Bow River mark the north edge, of the original site, the long red benches along 6th Street mark the western edge and along with the sentinels at the corner of 9th Avenue, they demarcate the entrance to the site from its southwest. They all have a very distinctive bright red colour – “RCMP red” in fact. The red markers are all equipped with LED lighting, creating an eerie site at night which I am told can be seen from airplanes preparing to land at the Calgary International Airport. I love the horizontal ones along 6th Street - at night they have a surreal glow like a campfire. 

Story board columns

The Fort Calgary site is also sacred to the First Nations people as it was a summer gathering place.

Fly fisherman at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers near the northeast edge of Fort Calgary.

Fort Calgary site with log buildings and replica Barracks in the distance.

New entrance to Fort Calgary from the southwest with LED sentinels and benches.

The Barracks building.

Fort Calgary 101

Did you know that Fort Calgary is a National Historic District? I didn’t! In fact it was one of the first National Historic Districts created by the Federal Government in 1925. It received this designation for two reasons - the important role the site played in the evolution of the RCMP and the fact it is the birthplace of a city. Not many Canadian cities can lay claim to knowing exactly where its birthplace is.

Fort Calgary is unique in that it was never a defence fort; the walls were not created for protection (there was never a battle here), but to define the settlement acting as a landmark so new settlers and First Nation people could see it from a distance.  

In 1914 the site was decommissioned as a Fort and sold to Grand Trunk Pacific Railway who had plans to build a railway line to Prince Rupert that followed the route of the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline.  After, Grand Trunk went bankrupt, the site became Calgary’s first industrial warehouse district, home to businesses like MacCosham’s huge warehouse, Calgary Scrap Metal, a battery factory and a slaughterhouse.

After 10 years of lobbying by Calgarian John Ayre, and on the Centennial of the arrival of the RCMP in 1875, the site was purchased by the City for $1.8 million in 1975. All the buildings were removed and the contaminated site was cleaned up.

Then started the slow process of deciding what to do with the site.  It wasn’t until 2000 when Sara-Jane Gruetzner was hired as the President & CEO of Fort Calgary that a Master Plan was finalized.  She has stayed on to make sure that it gets implemented. Though the master plan didn’t call of an exact historical recreation of the buildings on the site, it does call for a mix of new buildings and monuments that will tell the story of Calgary’s birthplace.

  Monument to Colonel Macleod.

Monument to Colonel Macleod.

Colonel Macleod historical plaque.

Current Work

Work is currently being completed on the land on the east side of the Elbow River with the restoration of the Deane House, built in1914 for Captain Deane, whose wife wouldn’t live in the Fort and demanded he build her a house next to the Fort.   Also under restoration is the Hunt House (built sometime between 1876 and 1881), the only original Hudson Bay post in its original location. A replica of the original Deane House garden is also to be created as Deane was good friends with William Reader (Calgary’s first Parks Superintendent) who believed you could garden on the prairie. It is believe that the Dean/Reader garden is where the Calgary Horticultural Society was established.

Recently completed is the Elbow River Traverse ($3M), which crosses the Elbow River just before it empties into the Bow River.  It creates an important link in the City’s Elbow and Bow River pathways, which are only going to get busier with more people living in the surrounding area and the new ENMAX Park just south of 9th Avenue along the Elbow River.

Future work includes a major glass gallery addition to the second floor of the current Fort Calgary Interpretive center. The gallery will be designed by Calgary architect Lorne Simpson (who specializes in historical restorations) and DIALOG (Calgary architectural firm working on new Central Library) will offer a spectacular 360 degree view of downtown, CPR rail yards, Stampede Park and the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

There are also plans for a carved wood interpretive feature on the site of the old fort by Vancouver artist Jill Anholt. The piece will allude to the structure of the old fort, while also referencing the layers of cultural memories of people and place in a clever and creative manner.

Elbow River Traverse aka bridge for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bow River promenade at Fort Calgary with the new St. Patrick's Island bridge in the background.  This will become a very busy area with the densification of the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

The area around the Traverse is already becoming a popular meeting place.

Major Event Venue

While for most of the year, Fort Calgary perceived by many as a rather sleepy place it has evolved into a major concert venue. Annual events included the two Rotarian concerts during Stampede, while Chasing Summer and X Fest; each of these events attract over 15,000+ attendees. 

There are also a number of free events like WinterFest, Family Day, Heritage Day, Mountie Day (May long weekend to celebrate the anniversary of the formation of the RCMP in May 23, 1873) and of course Canada Day when 20,000 Calgarians invade the site for family fun activities.

Fort Calgary is also where the Calgary Stampede marshals the horses for the Stampede Parade.  I am told it is an amazing spectacle with 300 horses and floats calling Fort Calgary home for a night.  The public is invited to come down on the Thursday night and join in the fun with a free BBQ. Who knew there was a second “Sneak A Peak” event!

As far as hosting major events in our city, Fort Calgary is on par with Prince’s Island, Olympic Plaza and Shaw Millennium Park.

Last Word

In the words, of CEO President Sara-Jane Gruetzner “Fort Calgary is an old story with a new beginning; this is Calgary’s hallowed ground.”

 

By Richard White, October 25, 2014

An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald, titled "Fort Calgary makeover, respects the past, prepares for East Village's future," October, 24, 2014. 

Artist Jill Anholt's modern interpretation of Fort Calgary's original walls.  

Dublin: Iconic barracks makes for great museum

The National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History is located in the massive Collins Barracks built in 1702.  Architect Tomas Burgh, who also built the world famous library at Trinity College, designed this early neo-classical building. 

It makes for a perfect museum.  The four floors wrapping around a huge central parade square (the number of paces associated with the marching soldiers still exist on the walls above the colonnade arches) are easily divided up into over 30-flexible gallery spaces that accommodate exhibitions of silver, ceramics, glassware, weaponry, furniture, folklife, clothing, jewelry, coins and medals.  There is also a museum shop and quaint café with some very tempting pastries.

 One of the many fascinating fashion exhibits. 

One of the many fascinating fashion exhibits. 

   This hurdy-gurdy instrument is just one of the many exhibits of historical decorative arts and crafts in the museum.

This hurdy-gurdy instrument is just one of the many exhibits of historical decorative arts and crafts in the museum.

hurdy gurdy panel

Eileen Gray

For us, the highlight of the museum's numerous exhibitions was the Eileen Gray retrospective. It encompassed everything we love about mid-century modern design – its furniture, architecture and art.

Born in Enniscorthy, Ireland in 1878, Gray moved to Paris in 1906 where she spent most of her working life. In Paris, inspired to explore new ideas by the likes of Picasso and Modigliani, she was one of the first artists and furniture designers to employ lacquer techniques as part of her work.  She was interested in all aspects of design from furniture to architecture to interior design.

Gray loved to combine the opulence of Art Deco with the minimalism and clean lines of modernism as well as integrate the use of pure line and colour of the De Stijl artists.

  Gray's iconic end table named E1027.

Gray's iconic end table named E1027.

An example of Gray's use of lacquer in her furniture.

Model of contemporary architectural designed by Gray.

Pebbledash

I was also fascinated by the “Beyond Pebbledash” installation, a celebration of domestic architecture and design.  The installation consisted of a single pebbledash house (a common small Dublin home with exterior walls made of pebbles mixed with stucco).  In the mid 20th century, this façade covered up poor construction and kept costs down for affordable homes in both Europe and North America. Back story: The early 1950s home I grew up in had pebbledash walls.  We just called it by it less glamorous term "stucco."

This life-size house sitting in the middle of the huge parade square has a real façade but only a steel skeleton frame of the walls, interior doors, chimney and roof.  The curatorial notes say the installation is intended to provoke questions like:

  • What have we built?
  • Why have we built it here?
  • What is the nature of house vs. home?
  • What makes a great liveable city?

More information at: http://www.dublincity.ie/you-are-invited-launch-beyond-pebbledash

My personal fascination was mostly around how the pebbledash house was rendered almost insignificant in the massive parade square  (the size of about two football fields) and the equally massive barracks building.  To me, the “pebbledash home” installation spoke of the insignificance and temporary nature of most houses versus the timelessness of iconic structures. I also don’t get the link to the liveable city movement as the home is situated in what I would consider the most desolate and inhospitable urban environment one could imagine.

While in the past, a house became a home as most people lived in them all their lives. Often too multiple generations would live in the same house. Today, for most people a house is just a commodity to be bought and sold as part of their evolving lifestyle – they never really become a home.

The pebbledash house located at the far corner from the entrance to the museum is dwarfed in the stark parade square.

While wandering the museum, you get several different perspectives of the house. 

A view of the back of the house and the cafe spilling out onto the plaza gives some life to the parade square.

Close up view of the house. I found the ropes around the installation very distracting. 

  Side-view of the pebbledash house.

Side-view of the pebbledash house.

Last Word

Of all the National Museums we visited in Dublin, the Decorative Arts and History Museum was our favourite.  You could easily spend a few hours here.

The National Gallery unfortunately was under restoration and so the building and art did not meet expectations. The National Museum of Modern Art was also a bit of a disappointment as half of the gallery was closed for the installation of new exhibitions. 

On the good side, all of the Ireland’s national museums are FREE!  

 

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Dublin's Chester Beatty Library - Look but don't touch!

Can you imagine a library where you can’t touch the  books? The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland might just be the only library in the world where you can’t touch any of the books.  But don’t let that stop you from visiting. It is home to an amazing collection of books and book-related artifacts that will have your head exploding with information overload.

About Chester 

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was an Irish-American mining magnate and millionaire. Born in New York City in 1875, he graduated from Columbia University as a mining engineer. He made his fortune mining in Cripple CreekColorado, and other mining operations around the world. Chester was  called the "King of Copper"

A collector from an early age beginning with stamps, he had, by the 1940s, built up a remarkable and impressive collection of Oriental art and books. He also owned 19 ancient Egyptian papyri that he gave to the British Museum. He moved his collections to Dublin, Ireland in 1950. 

Knighted  by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, Beatty lived his later years in Dublin and was made honorary citizen of Ireland in 1957.  On his death in 1968, he was accorded a state funeral by the Irish government – one of the few private citizens in Irish history to receive such an honour. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Beatty saw collecting as “a great adventure." He obviously had a great eye for quality and loved books where the text and images formed a pleasing composition.  Fun back story: he could be considered an  early adopter of twitter acronyms using DCI for “don’t care for it” and NFE for “not fine enough” in correspondence and his own records.

  Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (photo credit: deartesethistoric.wordpress.com)

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (photo credit: deartesethistoric.wordpress.com)

No Touch Library

The Chester Beatty Library is really an art gallery where all the books are in well-lit display cases with  interesting didactic information and stories.  The depth and breath of the collection truly is mind-boggling. It doesn’t take long before your brain is saying “no more, no more!”

Perhaps the first hint that we were in for a brain freeze were the Chinese jade books at the beginning of the Art of Books exhibition; neither of us had seen anything like them. From there, we were presented the Great Encyclopedia commissioned by the Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle in 1403 and completed in 1408 – all 11,095 bound volumes.  Incredible!

Later we encountered Joan Blaeu’s Great Atlas of 1162, which consists of 600 beautifully bound, hand-coloured maps. Each of the bound volumes is about  20” high x 11” wide x 3” in depth; these are serious books.

There was even a small display of contemporary Chinese Ceramics that was definitely rooted in the 8,000 years of ceramic history in China.  Not sure how this fit in with the books but it was interesting nonetheless.

  Jade books (photo credit:: www.commons.wikiimedia.org)

Jade books (photo credit:: www.commons.wikiimedia.org)

  Yongle Great Encyclopedia (photo credit: www.lifo.gr)

Yongle Great Encyclopedia (photo credit: www.lifo.gr)

  Joan Blaeu's Atlas (photo credit: www.swaen.com)

Joan Blaeu's Atlas (photo credit: www.swaen.com)

Suffering

The collection included a series of Goya etchings from the 1892 edition of Los Desastier de la Guerra and the 1855 and 1876 editions of La Tauromaquia and Los Proverbois.  The pain and suffering portrayed in these works still haunts me hours later as I write this. It made me realize I have never really suffered in my life. 

Back story: when you visit a place like Ireland, you realize what human suffering is all about given  the millions who died in the famine between 1845 and 1852, or those who died in the numerous independence rebellions and senseless religious bombings.  This is a country whose people know suffering.

Later in another exhibition “Sacred Traditions” (the history of religions around the world), I found a didactic panel about Siddhartha Gautama (563 – 483 BC) with the text “be aware of the human inability to escape suffering.” We are then told Gautama decided to leave his wealthy home to seek the causes of unhappiness and the way to relieve suffering.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find out if he was successful.

Another panel about Buddha states, “the world is a place of suffering…joys are fleeting…life ends in decay.”  

Goya, Los Desastier de la Guerra  (photo credit: www.wga.hu)

Goya, Los Desastier de la Guerra  (photo credit: www.wga.hu)

Last Word

The Chester Beatty Library is a “must-see” for anyone visiting Dublin.  I would suggest you give yourself at least two hours and probably three to explore the art and text.  There is a great cafe on site so you could take a break and have lunch or a coffee and then go back for more.

There is also a tranquil rooftop garden if you wish to take some time to contemplate and absorb the centuries of history.  Outside the Library is a larger green space with a fun narrow brick pathway, as well as a sculpture garden.  

The biggest negative is that you can’t take photos (you can view photos on the Library's website); on the other hand, admission is free. 

maze

Calgary: Military Museums

By Richard White, September 4, 2014

Why is it that we wait until we have visiting family and friends to check out our local museums? I have been hearing great things about Calgary’s Military Museums for years. I drive by often and worked for five years almost across the street from it, yet I have never been in.  A few years ago when a history-loving nephew was visiting, I dropped him off and went to work, rather than joining him to tour the museum. Shame on me!

With my Mom visiting, we thought it would be an interesting activity for a Sunday afternoon. In fact last Sunday, we checked out the exhibitions at the Glenbow Museum, another place that I don’t make time to visit often enough.

The Military Museums lived up to it billing as a first class museum. It is actually seven small museums or exhibition spaces in one:

  1. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Museum and Archives
  2. The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Museum and Archives
  3. The King’s Own Calgary Regiment Museum
  4. Lord Strathcona’s Horse Museum
  5. Army Museum of Alberta
  6. Air Force Museum of Alberta
  7. Naval Museum of Alberta

In addition, there is also the Founder’s Gallery and a theatre space, all located in a decommissioned school with major addition.  Though not a signature building designed by a famous architect the building is more than adequate as a museum space. And quite refreshing to see how modestly repurposed building can become a major public attraction without spending 100s of millions of dollars.

 

The entrance to The Military Museums is subtle in design and statement.  

Once inside the museum your attention is immediately captured by a large mural that consists of 240 separate images.  Each image tells a story that you can read at the video terminal. 

  I enjoyed the many personal quotes that captured the various wartime experiences.

I enjoyed the many personal quotes that captured the various wartime experiences.

  It is good to be reminded that only 100 years ago Canada was a much different place psychologically. 

It is good to be reminded that only 100 years ago Canada was a much different place psychologically. 

Mind-boggling

The exhibitions are very text-based, well researched with lots of very interesting stories and factoids. There are excellent supporting artifacts, visuals and displays.  If you read all of the text and watch all of the videos, I expect you could be there all day.  There is a mind-boggling amount of information to read and absorb.

The one thing that seemed to be lacking were “hands-on” experiences for kids. Where was the opportunity to dress up like a soldier? Perhaps a chance to walk in a military trench with loud noises of simulated gunfire, bombs etc. What kid wouldn’t want to climb up onto one of the planes or amoured vehicles in the Naval Museum of Alberta? A lesson could be taken from the Calgary Stampede where kids climbing on the Canadian Armed Forces vehicles on display is a very popular activity.

  There are numerous displays depicting life on the battlefield. 

There are numerous displays depicting life on the battlefield. 

  The collection of medals is impressive.

The collection of medals is impressive.

Balkans

The Naval Museum space is impressive.

Lessons Learned

One key lesson learned from the visit was the incredible role Canada and Calgarians played in WWI and WWII.  In many ways, Canada seemed to be a bigger player on the world stage 100 years ago than it is today. I had a similar aha moment at the Glenbow last week reading about the accomplishments of Lord Beaverbrook and his influence on the economy and politics of England in the early 20th century.

Another aha moment came to me when I read a telegraph and realized it was not unlike a tweet in that the text was abbreviated to just the essential words.  While we always talk about how the world has changed, in some ways it is not that different. The abbreviations of a tweeter are similar to “shorthand” that was all the rage in offices in the mid 20th century.

You can look through a submarine periscope and see for miles....downtown looks like it is just a few waves away.

Another display that documents the hardships of life in the trenches. 

The science of shell making.

Outside there are several tanks and amoured vehicles, unfortunately you can't climb them.

Last Word

The Military Museums’ visit also reminded me that Calgary should have a Museum/Attractions Pass if it truly wants to be a tourist city. Why there is not a pass that allows a tourist to pay one fee to visit not only the Military Museums and the Glenbow, but Fort Calgary, Heritage Park, Calgary Tower, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, TELUS Spark and the Calgary Zoo is beyond me!  

Calgary has an impressive line-up of museums and attractions that are under appreciated locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. We really need market Calgary as a museum/attractions destination if we want to be more than just the gateway to the Rockies in the minds of tourists.

Seattle Insights

Guest Blog: Chantal Leblanc, August 9, 2014 

After going to Seattle for the first time in 2009 for a week, we just keep going back. We always find a new tour, neighbourhood or museum to visit.  It’s easy to get there from Calgary with a 90 minute direct flight.

From Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you can take the Link Light Rail, similar to our C-train, for $2.75 to downtown Seattle. That includes a transfer to a bus if you are not staying downtown. For us, it’s in the trendy neighbourhood of Capitol Hill. The first time we were in Seattle, they were introducing their ORCA pass. You load it and use it for easy access to public transit. We just calculate that we will spend $5.00 to $6.00 / day per person and since you can re-load on line, you can add to it during your stay. And you can even use it for Washington State Ferries. Now that is convenience!

One of North America's best markets.

Pike Place Market is probably Seattle's most well known landmark attraction. Come for the fish toss, stay for the people-watching.  Lucky for us, we get to actually shop there and cook our food in our apartment. Living like a local is our idea of being an everyday tourist. Besides the famous fish shop, you will find everything there, from produce to cheese, bread pasta and wine.

 

 

On a food tour, we met a couple from Vancouver who told us about SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival). The festival runs for almost a month from mid-May to Mid-June. On a one-week stay, we saw four movies, ranging from an animated film from Spain dealing with Alzheimer to a South African movie in three languages. They also have a free (pay by donation) Folk Music Festival on Memorial Day week-end. No matter when we go, there always seems to be something fun happening. 

Recently we checked out the Museum of Flight where everyone from 4 to 94 was just having a great time looking at small planes flying outside on the small air strip and the history of flights from mail delivery and bush pilots to space travel. We got to go inside Air Force One and a Concorde!

Museum of Flight

The Experience Music Project Museum (or EMP) is a must for music lovers of all ages and the entrance fee includes the Science Fiction Museum connected to it.  Back story, prior to moving to Chicago a few years ago, Boeing was the largest company based on Seattle. Today there are still several large aircraft manufacturing plants still in the metro area. 

The Chihuly Garden & Glass is a different type of museum – go if you like colourfull glass work – you won’t be disappointed. You can sit outside and have coffee or a glass of wine in the gardens and just soak up the visual extravaganza. 

Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum

Friendly

More than its museum, Seattle is home to friendly people – strangers talking to strangers on the bus – offering their seats if they think you should sit together, drivers helping riders with wheelchair and elderly women. They even thank you and wish you a nice day when you get off the bus. One driver got off the bus to give direction to an elderly woman who looked disoriented stepping off the sidewalk! And nobody in the bus seems to be upset for the extra two minutes it took.

From our first visit, we felt the city was very community minded. We discovered a well-established community garden set between two houses. Obviously a vacant lot where you could build a house, but the city had given this lot to the community for their garden. The City encourages its citizen to beautify every green space in the city. Traffic circle green spaces are being tendered by people living in the area, not city workers, as well as spaces between the sidewalks and street.

Even in 2009 they had separate garbage, recycling and compost bins pick up!

Art is very everywhere not just downtown. Sculptures can be found along sidewalks in many different neighborhoods,, sometimes in the form of bronzed dance steps or other images right in the concrete. Even the a "manhole” covers become artworks. 

 

Sidewalk art

Sculpture at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Foodies Fun 

The food scene in Seattle is fantastic. Surrounded by water and farm land it has a variety not found everywhere. Seattle offers many great restaurants, Farmers Markets and we enjoyed taking food tours guided by locals. We even took a wine tour that picks you up at your hotel or apartment then drives you back late afternoon. The tour took us Woodinville where many winemakers are making wine or have opened tasting rooms closer to the city.

Coffee Culture is very strong in Seattle. It is the birthplace of Starbucks and the original location is still open today, located at Pike Place Market. As any American city, they have lots of them. When you take the train link from the airport, you can see the beautiful brick building with the mermaid sign at the top of a tower of their head office. They are serious about their coffee and there are many independent coffee shops throughout the city that are a delight to visit, all with different vibes and personalities. I suggest you forego Starbucks and try a few different neighbourhood coffee shops while you’re there.

Oddfellows Café & Bar, one of our favourite breakfast places in Capitol Hill.

Explore

This year, we ventured to Ballard, another neighbourhood by the water known for its restaurants to see the locks and its fish ladder. In the past, we were under the impression that Ballard was far – wrong - two buses and we were there in about 30 minutes. Many restaurants in the area are not open for lunch but some and coffee shops are open early. Stores open around 11:00 am during the week. Weekend brunch is popular in this area, as well as a Farmers market on Sundays.

Editor note:  Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, built in 1911 and often nicknamed the Ballard Locks, provides a link for boats between the salt water of Puget Sound and the fresh water of the Ship Canal, which connects eastward to Lake Union and Lake Washington.Tourists and locals enjoy watching the parade of sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts passing through, as the locks' water levels are adjusted to allow their safe passage. Another popular spot is the fish ladder, built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water, and to navigate the locks. Glass panels below the water line make it possible to watch the fish as they swim through the ladder.

 

Quaint  Ballard

I suggest taking the walking tour of Freemont suggested in Frommer’s guide (available on line) and highly recommend going to Theo’s Chocolate Factory for their $10.00 tour. Organic, Fair Trade and delicious chocolate.

 Encounter with the Troll during the Freemont walking tour.

For a nice day trip out of the “city," take the Ferry to Bainsbridge Island ($8 round trip). You get a great view of the Seattle skyline from the water, as well as an opportunity to experience the island's quaint atmosphere with its hiking trails and restaurants.

View from the ferry coming from Bainsbridge Island.

Last Word

If you like to explore a city, Seattle has it all and you can access it easily without a car, from quaint neighbourhoods to beautiful parks, art, food and friendly people.

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Turner Valley Gas Plant A Hidden Gem!

Richard White, July 27, 2014

While the others played follow-the-leader with David Finch, our tour guide, I was busy flaneuring the Turner Valley Gas Plant (TVGP) – southern Alberta’s secret national and provincial historical site.  While the history of the birthplace of Canada’s oil & gas industry is interesting what fascinated me immediately was the untouched industrial design of the buildings and the equipment. 

Careful not to wander out of earshot of Finch (yes, I did get some dirty looks – mostly from Brenda - for wandering off), a human equivalent of “Google” with his wealth of knowledge not only of the TVGP but of Alberta history.  Who knew the Turner Valley Field continues to produce oil and gas using enhanced recovery methods? 

I learned the town of Royalties (that should be Calgary’s nickname, or maybe Stock Option City), at its peak in the late 1940s, was home to nearly 1,700 people. Today the only indication the town even existed is a monument 5.6 km from Hartell (3.2 km south of Naphtha, which has only four home remaining).  Royalties’ nickname was “Little Chicago” as the wheeling and dealing paralleled that the Chicago mafia and Al Capone.  And in the mind of locals, if Royalties is “Little Chicago,” then Longview must be “Little New York” especially given the high prices charged by the stores.  Other nearby town names included Snob Hill, Dogtown and Mortgage Heights – we need more fun names.

Another interesting factoid was that the “liquid” that gushed out of the Dingman #1 well in 1914 was so pure you could (and they did) put it directly into your car - a good thing as Calgary had no refinery back then.  Listening to Finch is like listening to a gusher; the stories and information just flow out of him. 

I would recommend the TVGP weekend tours to everyone – locals and tourists.  I am thinking it should be a mandatory school trip for children across southern Alberta. Tours happen Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays until the end of September from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is by donation.

For more information on the history of TVGP, check out the 100th anniversary You Tube video hosted by David Finch. 

  David Finch reciting a poem

David Finch reciting a poem

Gas plant as art gallery...

I have chosen just a few of the many images that allude to different schools of modern painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture that I found at TVGP.  The visual stimulation was equal to anything I have experienced in major contemporary art galleries and museums around the world.  I have given each piece a title, just for fun! 

Industrial Patina 

Fire Blanket 

Still 

Eye Balls

  Yellow Red Orbs

Yellow Red Orbs

Superman

Architecture & Industrial Design 

I think these images speak for themselves. 

globes

The Doors...

I was fascinated by the rusted, battered industrial doors.  I learned the red dot means their is a fire extinguisher nearby.  I did not learn what the green dot meant, perhaps I should have listened better. 

door red green
door half circle

Last Word

While David was a bit annoyed by my flaneuring at the beginning, I was able to partly redeem myself when I found some sulphur chunks on the ground. And just when he thought I wasn’t listening, (I was hidden from view taking pictures of some hidden gem I had found) I was able to repeat his Hitler story back to him.  By the end of the tour, he trusted me to lock the doors behind us.

Thanks David – you are the best tour guide ever.

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Stampede Park: Art Gallery / Museum

Richard White, July 7, 2014

Today I had a few hours between meetings so I decided to flaneur Stampede Park looking for some fun, funky and quirky things.  I was not disappointed.  I quickly found lots of people climbing and milling about the massive bronze sculpture "By the banks of the Bow."  I loved the fact that people were using the artwork like a playground. 

I also found the children's midway rides bordered on public art and playgrounds with their bright colours, shapes and forms.  It seemed their were historical murals everywhere I looked. Even in the animal barns I found the metal and wooden calf  in the demo roping area to be sculptural. 

Of course, the RoundUp Centre had been converted into a large gallery space, with strong traditional Western Art bent, but I also found some contemporary pieces, as well as some fascinating historical photos, a quilt show and some Stampede Queen fashions from the past 60 years.

The biggest surprise was wandering around the lobby of the Stampede Corral and finding old photos of hockey players, curling and figure skating.  It was like a mini sports hall of fame. 

Before I knew it my 2 hours were up and I had to rush off...but I will be back...I know there are more artworks and artifacts to be uncovered. 

Stampede Park as an art gallery

"By the banks of the Bow" is a massive bronze sculpture that serves as a great meeting place.  It is a popular photo spot and also a wonderful work of art that enhances the sense of place at Stampede Park.

The "Lollipop" ride reminds me of the two public artworks by Jeff de Boer at the Calgary International Airport. 

This looks like something the surrealists would have done.

A close up of horse sculpture which didn't do much for me from a distance, but I loved the shapes, surfaces, patterns and colours up close.

This photo of a First Nation Dancer caught my eye for its colour and movement.

Alberta Blue by Wanda Ellerbeck was completed as part of the Stampede Ranch program where each year artists get to spend time on the range for inspiration. I am always amazed at how contemporary artists interpret their ranching experience.  This would be a good addition to our collection.

Stampede as a museum

It is hard to believe this was Stephen Avenue. Today it is home to billion dollar skyscrapers, convention centres and museum. Today $5 would get you larger latte at Cafe Rosso.

Who knew Calgary had such a long history of playing cricket.  Today Calgary has no passenger train service?

Urban agriculture is not new.

Loved this map from both an art and artifact perspective.

There is an wonderful exhibition of about 20 Stampede Queen outfits from the '50s to present day, each in their own display case.  It reminded me of the Elvis costumes i saw in Memphis at the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio Museum. Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum and Graceland.

Stampede Park as a sports hall of fame

The photos in the lobby of the Stampede Corral is literally a who's who of hockey in Canada.

There is also some curling history

An everyday tourist reader responded with: 

Cool piece, the “Frenchy” D’Amour photo would be from the 1948 Brier that was held in Calgary – probably at the Corral. The advertising was interesting to see on the scoreboard - “Smoke British Consols” which were a brand of MacDonald’s tobacco products.

The Brier playdowns into the 80’s were know as the Consols playdowns. The dude with the raccoon coat was David Stewart son of the owner of MacDonald Tobacco. David Stewart later became a Senator.

 

This figure skating photo intrigued me.

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Calgary Postcards: Things to see & do

By Richard White, June 30, 2014

Summer is Calgary’s busiest tourist season. It is when family and friends love to come to Calgary, not only for the 10 days of Stampede, but for all of July and August. However for most Calgarians’ the top-of-mind place to take visitors is to Banff and the mountains. I would like to change that!

I thought it would be fun to put together a blog of postcards reflecting the many things to see and do in Calgary with tourist this summer and anytime. 

I have tried to find “everyday” things to see and do, not just the obvious attractions – Glenbow, Calgary Tower, Heritage Park, Zoo, Science Centre, Calaway Park, Chinook Centre or IKEA (now that Winnipeg has its own IKEA, you are going to have to find someplace else to take visiting Winnipeggers).

I have tried to identify “off the grid” uniquely Calgary spots versus obvious touristy things.  I have also tried to identify a diversity of things to see and do that will appeal to a variety of interests. And, most of the things are FREE!

I hope these “everyday tourists” postcards from Calgary will be a catalyst for Calgarians to spend more time exploring Calgary with their visiting family and friends this summer, or anytime of the year for that matter.

Calgary's downtown is home to the world's most extensive elevated indoor walkway system - the +15. The name comes from the fact the bridges are 15 feet off the ground.  Over 60 bridges, connect over 100 buildings to create a 20 km walkway.  Unfortunately it is a bit like a maze and it is not contiguous, but it is a unique and fun way to explore the downtown especially for kids. Along the way amongst other things you can find a bush plane hanging from the ceiling in the lobby of one office building and the skeleton of a bison in another. Download +15 Map

Calgary has several great pedestrian districts - Kensington, Inglewood, 4th Street and 17th Avenue. This is the little "no name" plaza on 10th street where buskers are entertaining people passing by - it is always animated and didn't cost a half million dollars to create.   These streets are great places to do some local shopping, sample some of Calgary's great cuisine scene or one of our craft beers.  All of these streets have great patios for relaxing and people watching. 

  This is  Canada's Sports Hall of Fame  at Canada Olympic Park.  For anyone who is interested in sports this is a must see - lots of hands-on activities.  While you are there, you should wander around perhaps bring your bikes and do some mountain biking or one of the other activities available.  Did you know Calgary is also home to Canada's second largest  military museum ?  It is also worth a visit, I have never heard of anyone who was disappointed.  

This is Canada's Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park.  For anyone who is interested in sports this is a must see - lots of hands-on activities.  While you are there, you should wander around perhaps bring your bikes and do some mountain biking or one of the other activities available.  Did you know Calgary is also home to Canada's second largest military museum?  It is also worth a visit, I have never heard of anyone who was disappointed.  

Calgary's Power Hour happens Monday to Friday on nice sunny days when over ten thousand downtown workers head out for a power walk along Stephen Avenue at lunch hour.  This phenomena is something visitors will enjoy seeing and participating in, it is a people watching extravaganza. (photo courtesy of Jeff Trost)

Calgary has one of the world's largest urban pathway system - over 750 km.  While you are walking, running or biking along the north side of the Bow River at the Louise (10th St) bridge you should consider stopping and checking out the new Poppy Plaza - Calgary's newest monument to Canada's war and peace keeping efforts. 

Who needs to go to the mountains when Calgary has over 5,000 parks including two of the largest urban parks in the world - Fish Creek Park and Nose Hill.  This is Edworthy Park home to the Douglas Fir Trail - perhaps Calgary's quintessential trail.

Floating down one of Calgary's two rivers is a great way to spend a summer day with visiting family and friends. You could even try your hand a fly fishing as the Bow River is one of the best fly fishing rivers in the world. 

This is just one of hundreds of public artworks in and around Calgary's downtown.  You could easily spend a day wandering the streets, parks, plazas and gardens to see how many you can find. Hint: There are still several of the fun cow sculptures on the +15 level of the Centennial Parkade.  You can also download the City of Calgary's public art tour. FYI...this piece is titled "Ascension" and was made by INCIPIO MONDO and is located in a mini-park at the southwest corner of 4th Ave and 9th St. SW. Download Public Art Tour  

Calgary has many historical buildings and districts in the inner-city, from the majestic early 20th century sandstone schools to old city hall. Stephen Avenue (8th Street SW) from Centre St to 4th St. SW is a National Historic District and Inglewood has a heritage Main Street.  If you have a history buff visiting you will want to be sure to take them to our two historical districts, along with maybe Fort Calgary, Glenbow and Heritage Park.  A great resource to have  is "Historical Walks of Calgary" by Harry M. Sanders, it offers 10 different self-guided tours of Calgary historical communities in and around the downtown. Or print off the City of Calgary's self-guided tour of Stephen Avenue and you are all set for a half-day of exploring. (Photo credit: George Webber, one of Canada's most respected photographers). 

Central High School (photo credit: George Webber)

When in Calgary, eat like locals do?  Chicken on the Way and Peter's Drive-In are two of Calgary's iconic eateries. Click here for:  Top Ten Places to eat like a local?

Explore your own neighbourhood, on foot or on bike - you might be surprised what you will find. We love to take visitors to our favourite local spots like this musical fence. 

Calgary has a great cafe culture. Caffe Rosso located in interesting places like the Old Dominion Steel site in Ramsay is just one of the many independent cafes. Learn more: Calgary's cafe scene.

Riding the train can be a fun and an inexpensive way to spend a day, especially with young children. You can buy a day pass and hope off and on as much as you like.  You can combine a train trip with exploring downtown, or perhaps a trip to the Zoo or the Science Centre - both are easily accessible by the train. 

This is the Sunalta LRT station just outside of downtown, from this station you could walk to Mikey's Juke Joint for their famous Saturday Afternoon Jam or to Heritage Posters & Music to browse their  wonderful collection of posters, records and music memorabilia. 

Calgary has a festival pretty much every weekend through out the summer, including Global Fest fireworks completion in lovely Elliston Park, August 14 to 15, 2014. 

  If your visitors are into music you might want to suggest one of Calgary's live music venues.  You can catch Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition (solo/duo) and best guitarist for free on most Tuesday evenings at Mikey's Juke Joint or on Saturday when he hosts an afternoon jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood. There are live music venues throughout the city.  Best place to find out what is happening and where is to get the  Swerve Magazine  in the Calgary Herald every Friday. 

If your visitors are into music you might want to suggest one of Calgary's live music venues.  You can catch Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition (solo/duo) and best guitarist for free on most Tuesday evenings at Mikey's Juke Joint or on Saturday when he hosts an afternoon jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood. There are live music venues throughout the city.  Best place to find out what is happening and where is to get the Swerve Magazine in the Calgary Herald every Friday. 

If your visitors are into history or reading, bookstore browsing is a fun activity.  Calgary is home to one of the Canada's most unique bookstore - Aquila.  Located at 826 - 16h Avenue, right on the TransCanada Highway it specializes in polar expeditions, Western Canadiana and Canadian Pacific Railway. Yes those are two authentic Inuit kayaks hanging from the ceiling. 

Pages in Kensington is also a great bookstore with lots of readings and FairsFair is a great used bookstore and has several locations. 

If you really want to show your visitors you are "hip" and "tin he know" you might want to take them to Salvage in Ramsay, just down the road from Cafe Rosso and not very far from the Crown Surplus and Ribtor in Inglewood. You could easily spend a day pretending  you are on the set of Canadian or American Pickers TV show. Anyone into retro or vintage artifacts or antiquing or thrifting would love these places. 

Footnotes:

If you are interested in walking tours the City of Calgary’s website has several, including cemetery tours.  You can also pic up David Peyto’s Walking tour books or the iconic "Historical Walks of Calgary" by Harry M. Sanders.  You can even book your own private tour with Calgary Walks

I am always interested in new ideas and places to explore, so please send me your suggestions for Calgary Postcards and I will add them to this blog or perhaps create another one.

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Why Mr. Potato Head loves Blackfoot, Idaho?

There is something about being an “everyday tourist” and liking quirky off the beaten path places.  Last fall, on our road trip through Montana, Idaho and Washington, we unearthed (pun intended) Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho.

Located in the former Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot (130NW Main Street), the museum is as unpretentious as potatoes themselves. No high-tech videos or animated displays here; this is a down-to-earth museum (again pun intended) that you would expect in a small farm town.  But we weren’t – nor should you be – there is something intrinsically charming about its simplicity.

The price is right - $3 for adults, $1 for youth 6 to 12 years old and free for kids 5 and under.  Plan to spend about 45 minutes to an hour watching the films, looking at the displays and reading the interesting storyboards.  Perhaps the museum’s biggest claims to fame are that it has the largest potato crisp ever made by Pringles, as well the original potato planted in Idaho.  

This planter was used from the last 1800s to the early 1900s. 

The Pugh Potato diggers commonly used four horses to pull it.  The chain shook the dirt out to allow the picker to access the potatoes.  Later diggers turned the chain upside down to avoid bruising the potatoes. Chains today are rubberized to avoid bruising even more  Potatoes grow as far as 8 to 10 inches deep. 

Idaho Potato History 101 (source: Idaho Potato Museum website)

Rev. Henry Spalding planted the first potatoes grown in Lewiston in 1836. It was a successful crop, but his missionary work was brought to an end by the Whitman massacre (1847) and the Spaldings were forced to leave in 1850.

Later in the 19th century, Utah pioneers were sent northward to settle other areas, one of which was Cache Valley. Thinking they were still in Utah, they were unaware they had actually crossed the border into the Idaho Territory and began to establish their farms there.

One of these early settlers in Franklin was William “Goforth” Nelson. He recorded, in the summer of 1860, “We all camped in our wagons the first summer, but we all got homes built by winter; these houses were built in the present meetinghouse lot in a fort. I spent the summer working on ditches, canton roads, and hauling poles and wood from the canyon. I raised thirty-three bushels of potatoes, which is all that was raised in Franklin that summer except for a few onions.”

This is the first recorded planting of potatoes in Idaho in an area where the settlers remained and the crop is still grown to some extent today.

The spread of potato agriculture to eastern Idaho was only a matter of time. Henry E. Jenkins was a freighter hauling a load of potatoes from Farmington, Utah, to Blackfoot, Idaho. The recipient of the shipment was Judge Stephens, who was encouraged by the freighter to plant the potatoes, which were believed to be the first planting in the Blackfoot area.

The Blackfoot area quickly became one of the principal potato producing areas in Idaho. Those first Idaho settlers were pioneers mentally as well as geographically as they had the initiative and willingness to better their conditions regardless of physical hardships and uncertain futures. In the river valleys, where water was easily diverted, and with the rich volcanic-ash soil, these hearty people raised a more potatoes than they needed and discovered the extra potatoes were a good cash crop. From this small beginning, Idaho’s farmers set out on the conquest of the potato markets of the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s potato crop estimates for the state of Idaho were first made in 1882, at which time they recorded 2,000 acres harvested, with a total of value of $250,000. In 1904, there were 17,000 acres harvested for $1,328,000.  Eleven years later, in 1915 more than three million dollars was realized from 33,000 acres. Production grew to 16,146,000 hundredweight by 1930 and Idaho potatoes, by then, were gaining their national reputation for baking quality and the higher grading standards of Idaho shippers. Today, 320,000 acres produce approximately 12 billion pounds of potatoes worth almost one billion dollars.

 

This could well be my favourite poster of 2013.

We both enjoyed the names and graphics of the potato sacks. 

Russet Burbank

The famous Idaho potato, the Russet Burbank, is known as being large, white and delicious. It was developed by Luther Burbank, beginning in 1872 when he planted twenty-three seeds from an Early Rose parent plant. All produced tubers, but one was superior in yield and size. Originally smooth-skinned, the familiar netting is actually a mutant of the Burbank and it is more resistant to blight than the original.

The University of Idaho Research Experiment Station in Aberdeen has provided valuable service in helping the potato industry. First started in 1914, experiments have been carried out concerning optimum distance between rows and plants, seed piece sizes, planting and harvesting equipment, storage facilities, diseases, irrigation practices, and research for new varieties.

These planter shoes were invented and donated by Masa Tsukamoto. The shoes are designed to lift the dry loose soil up and out of the groove it cuts without compacting the soil. The seed piece is deposited into the moist soil ready to sprout and set out new potatoes in a favorable seed bed. 

The Spudnik Loader loaded potatoes from the potato cellar into bulk potato trucks rather than sacks. A potato fork was used to prior to this time to remove potatoes from the pile of potatoes in the cellar.  The loader represents a major step in the efficient loading  and transporting of potatoes. 

Wall of potato masher makes for quirky wall display. 

Yes the museum has a collection of Mr. Potato Heads. 

Fun Facts

  • The potato is 99.9% fat free, yet a nutrient-dense food having more potassium than a banana.
  • Potato chips are the most common snack food in the world – billions of bags are consumed each year.
  • The sweet potato is only a distant relative of the potato. They are a great source of vitamin A, by the way.
  • Pringles are made from mashed potatoes that have been dehydrated and reconstituted into dough and then formed into chips.
  • August 19, 2014 is National Potato Day in USA.
  • The world’s largest potato weighed in at 8 pounds 4 ounces.
  • Mr. Potato Head, the kids toy, was born May 1, 1952.
  • China is the world’s leading producer of potatoes. 

The world's largest potato!

Last Word

There are actually several potato museums around the world - three in Germany, one in Denmark and one in Albuquerque.  Canada’s Prince Edward Island in the town of O’Leary claims to have the world’s largest collection of potato related artifacts. So if you find yourself on Interstate 15 near Blackfoot, Idaho definitely worth the stop is the Idaho Potato Museum.

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Exploring Phoenix Without A Car!

Richard White, June 20, 2014

One of the things that has discouraged us from visiting Phoenix is that we thought you had to have a car to explore the city.  First off, we are thrifty so adding hundreds of dollars per week to a vacation is something we avoid. Second, we love to walk and take transit when we travel as it allows us to to see more and experience the city more like a local. (Blog: Everyday Tourist Transit Tales)

But our recent stay at the Red Lion Inn and Suites in Tempe (RLIST) proved us wrong - in fact you don’t need a car to explore Phoenix’s many attractions.  “How could that be you ask?” 

Red Lion provides an airport shuttle service that will pick you up at the airport and take you back.  And, while you are staying there, two vans are available to take guests to anywhere within a five-mile radius. What a great amenity!

Five Mile Zone

Within the five-mile zone of RLIST, you can get dropped off and picked up at the following places:

  • Arizona State University campus (a great place to explore and during football season, you have easy access to college football games.
  • ASU Karsten, Pagao, Rolling Hills, Rio and Coronade golf courses
  • Old Town Scottsdale (where you can shop ‘til you drop).
  • Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Beach Park
  • Tempe Marketplace and Tempe Mill Avenue District
  • Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the last commission of Frank Lloyd Wright.  
  • Downtown Tempe where you can catch the LRT train to downtown Phoenix giving you access to baseball and basketball games and the Science Center. Or, stay on the train to Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Art Museum (great gift shop and restaurant) and the hipster Melrose district.
  • During spring training you can get dropped off at the Cubs’ Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, the A’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the Giant’s Scottsdale Stadium.
  • Popular festivals include: Arizona Renaissance Festival, Great Arizona Beer Festival, Scottsdale Culinary Festival and Tempe Festival of the Arts. 
  Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Phoenix's downtown wayfinding sign lists many attractions. 

Theatre/Performing Arts Centre 

Heard Museum's lovely patio restaurant. 

Modern On Melrose is just one of several antique and second hand stores that make for a fun place to explore.

Papago Golf Course is just minutes away from RLIST. 

"Her Secret is Patience" by Janet Echelman is just one of many public artworks in the downtown. 

Exploring the Desert Botanical Garden was one of the highlights of our visit. 

ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale is a 30-year tradition.  Dozens of galleries open their doors to locals and tourists to browse the galleries every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm.  Old Town is several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.  Not far way there is Scottsdale Fashion Square a two million square foot mega luxury shopping centre with flagships stores like - Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, Microsoft and Banana Republic concept store. 

Extended Stays

RLIST in its former life was an apartment complex, making the suites more like comfortable, and one-bedroom apartments. With Food City within walking distance, you can easily walk to shop for ingredients to make dinner or lunch. (Note: the hotel provides a complimentary hearty breakfast).

The lobby, with its soft seating has a café-like atmosphere for those who want to read or take their laptop to do some work or surf the net.

The Inn also has an attractive outdoor pool area if you want to relax poolside or enjoy a refreshing swim. There’s even BBQs so you can grill up your favourite food to enjoy poolside just like home.

And for golfers who want to work on their putting, they have a carpeted putting green.

RLIST's very functional living room, kitchen, bedroom layout. (Photo credit: Red Lion) 

Large bedroom with space for chair and desk. (Photo credit: Red Lion).

Your own private putting green....12+ on the stimpmeter. 

Footnotes

 If you need a car for a day or two to travel further afield, the shuttle can also drop you off at several car rental offices within the five-mile zone. We’d recommend checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright campus and the Musical Instruments Museum if you decide to rent a car.

The advantage of the RLIST shuttle for couples is that you can go off in different directions in the morning and meet up later for your own poolside Happy Hour chat to share stories.  

We are definitely rethinking Phoenix as a potential winter getaway next year.

P.S.  If you do have a car, RLIST has great free parking that makes it easy to drive to some activities and take the shuttle to others (perhaps you want to enjoy an adult beverage or two). 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Postcards: Musical Instruments Museum 

Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesen West: A must see

Melrose: Phoenix's emerging vintage district

Denver vs Calgary: A Tale of Two Thriving Downtowns!

Richard White, June 15, 2014 (An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald, Saturday, June 14, 2014 titled "Downtown cores: Denver vs Calgary).

A recent visit to Denver reminded me of how similar yet different its downtown is to Calgary’s.  Downtown Denver is divided up into 10 districts encompassing an area of about 8 square kilometers. This would be the equivalent in Calgary of – Downtown Core, Downtown West, East Village, Beltline, Sunalta, Hillhurst, Sunnyside, Bridgeland and Inglewood.

The Downtown Denver is thriving with twenty-six, new projects completed in 2013, totaling 2.2 million square feet (residential and commercial) and valued at $1.8 billion in private and public sector investment. Since 2008, 78 projects have been completed, are under construction or planned, totalling over 5 billion dollars. 

From January 2013 to May 2014, the total value of building permits for Calgary’s downtown was 1.2 billion dollars.  Since 2008, Downtown Calgary boasts 100+ projects completed, under construction or proposed since 2008, including over 7 million square feet of office space alone.  

Denver has a healthy mix of old and new architecture.

Calgary's downtown sense of place is dominated by office towers like The Bow, designed by Norman Foster. 

Denver vs Calgary at a glance

While Calgary’s central business district has twice as much office space and significantly better shopping (Denver has nothing to match our Hudson Bay department store, The Core or Holt Renfrew), Denver offers up more museums, a baseball park and a huge convention centre.

Both cities have two waterways that are lined with parks, pathways and condos - Denver has South Platte River and Cherry Creek, while Calgary has the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

While downtown Denver focuses on professional sports facilities, Calgary’s downtown forte is its recreational centers. Denver boasts its Elitch Gardens (a summer midway fairground and botanical garden) Calgary has Stampede Park and the Calgary Zoo.  Denver’s spanking new Union Station is the hub for an extensive regional transit system while Calgary’s 7th Avenue serves as its transit hub.

From a public space perspective, Denver has 152 acres of parks (Civic Centre Park, Confluence Park, Commons Park and Centennial Gardens), Calgary can go toe-to-toe with its 150 acres consisting of Olympic Plaza, Prince’s Island, Memorial Park, Shaw Millennium Park, Fort Calgary Park, Eau Claire River Promenade and East Village River Walk.

From a contemporary architectural design perspective, Denver’s contemporary gems are the Denver Art Museum (architect, Daniel Libeskind) and Public Library (architect Michael Graves).  Calgary easily matches that with The Bow (architect, Norman Foster), the Peace Bridge (architect, Santiago Calatrava) and Eighth Avenue Place (architect Pickard Chilton) and Hotel Le Germain (architect, LEMAYMICHAUD).

Denver's uber contemporary Art Museum. Calgary lacks a major arts museum.  

Denver was one of the first North American cities to connect signature architecture and downtown library.  Calgary is a late adopter in the iconic contemporary architecture competition.

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" on the plaza of the Bow office tower in Calgary.

Larry Kirkland's sculpture titled "East West Source Point" sit on Denver's municipal plaza.

Denver's Millennium Bridge allows pedestrians to cross the railway tracks to get to the river. 

Calgary's Glenbow Museum is both a history and art museum.

Calgary's downtown library.

Eight Avenue Place is one of several new major office towers constructed in downtown Calgary over the past five years.

Calgary's Peace Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava is a popular place for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists to cross the Bow River. 

Denver's LRT map

Calgary's LRT Map

Tale of Two Malls

From an urban design perspective, both cities’ downtowns are dominated by their pedestrian malls, which serve as their urban backbone, linking their respective neighbourhoods, attractions and amenities.

The creation of downtown pedestrian malls was all the rage in the ‘70s and ‘80s, like bike lanes are today.  However, most have not succeeded in revitalizing their downtown as a shopping and dining destination, especially in large cities.  Most of the North American pedestrian malls have been abandoned, while others have added some car or transit traffic to them. Calgary’s Stephen Avenue Walk and Denver’s 16th Street Mall are two of the more successful large city pedestrian malls in North America.

Denver’s 16th Street Mall is 16 blocks running from their Civic Centre district through their Central Business District (CBD), LODO and terminating at Union Station and the South Platte River. Technically, the 16th Street Mall is no longer a “pedestrian mall” as it now has a free shuttle bus (the equivalent to Calgary’s free fare LRT zone) that runs back and forth every five minutes relegating pedestrians to the sidewalks.

While the 16th Street Mall links several districts, most of the major attractions are several blocks off the mall including the Library, Art Museum, Convention Centre, Performing Arts Centre, Children’s Museum and Aquarium.

While Calgary’s Stephen Avenue Walk (also not a true pedestrian mall as it has traffic on it at night) is only six blocks long, however it connects pedestrians to the front door of an amazing number of its downtown activities and attractions such as City Hall, Olympic Plaza, Performing Arts Centre, Glenbow Museum, Convention Centre, historic district, Devonian Gardens, Financial and Fashion districts. 

However, after visiting the 16th Street Mall, I think it might it be time to consider extending Stephen Avenue all the way to 11th Street SW making it 12-blocks long? In so doing, it would provide a pedestrian-friendly link from the thousands of new condos planned for downtown’s West End, as well as to Shaw Millennium Park and the potential new contemporary public art gallery (at the old Science Centre) to the downtown core and the downtown’s burgeoning east end. An expanded and redesigned Stephen Avenue could also accommodate cycling.

The days of restricting urban streets to just one mode of transportation are gone. Good urban design evolves with changes in urban living. Today, the focus for creating vibrant urban places is on creating good pedestrian, transit, cycling and vehicular access. 

Denver's 16th Street Mall 

!6th Street Mall at the LODO warehouse district 

Biscuit Block (currently being renovated) is one of many warehouse buildings along downtown Calgary's Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.  

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Walk is a very popular place at lunch hour. (photo credit: Jeff Trost)

Calgary's flagship Hudson Bay Store on Stephen Avenue.

The CORE shopping centre on Stephen Avenue. The massive skylight spans three city blocks, seamlessly linking  three office retail complexes, as well as the Devonian Gardens. The natural light emulates an outdoor promenade. The skylight is the world’s largest point-supported structural glass skylight.

Downtown Living

Denver has made significant residential development gains in over the past 15 years especially along the South Platte River and in LODO.  Currently, 66,000 residents live in their 10 downtown districts, with another 7,000 condo units under construction or planned.

A similar comparison of the ten communities surrounding Calgary’s downtown adds up to 65,000 residents. Recently Altus Group (Calgary Herald, May 15, 2014) estimated there are an amazing 12,447 residential units proposed, pre-construction and construction stage in our City Centre; this doesn’t include those communities north of the Bow River or east of the Elbow.  Most of Denver’s new condo developments are mid-rise (around 10 to 15 storeys) compared to Calgary’s multiple 20+ story condos).

Denver’s LODO (lower downtown) district is the equivalent of Calgary’s Beltline. Both are vibrant hipster and yuppie hangouts with diverse restaurants, pubs and clubs next to their respective central business districts.  Twenty years ago, LODO was just a vision - today it is a lively urban village. This argues well for Calgary’s East Village.

What downtown Calgary has that Denver lacks are the mixed condo/single-family residential villages next to its downtown - Hillhurst, Sunnyside, Bridgeland and Inglewood. There is nothing in downtown Denver that matches the street life of Kensington, 17th Avenue or 9th Avenue SE in Inglewood.

One of Denver's highrise condos.

One of several mid-rise condos along Denver's downtown railway tracks. 

Denver's Cherry Creek pathway and condos.

Calgary's Bow River and the Eau Claire condos.

Calgary's Eau Claire Promenade is popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists year-round.

Calgary's First Street SW is one of several pedestrian zones on the edge of downtown.

Calgary's 17th Avenue is a popular retail and restaurant row just seven blocks from the central business district. 

Mixed-use development in downtown Calgary includes major office and condo towers with urban grocery store. 

Last Word

 Calgary’s greater downtown offers an amazing diversity of urban living options from highrise to midrise, from townhouse to single-family and from riverside to parkside.  Few cities in North America under two million people can match the diversity of urban living options Calgary has in its downtown neighbourhoods.

The fact Calgary can go toe-to-toe with Denver’s downtown is significant given metro Denver has not only three times the population, but a downtown considered by urban planners to be one of the healthiest in North America.  Calgarians (citizens, politicians, architects and developers) should be proud of the downtown we have created.

While there is always room for improvement and we can’t be the best at everything, what we have accomplished for a city of just over one million people is significant.  There’s no need to apologize to anyone.





Glenbow: A new kind of art museum

By Richard White,  June1 , 2014

(An edited version of this blog appeared in the New Condos section of the Calgary Herald, titled "Vibrant vision fires up Glenbow fans" on Saturday, May 31, 2014)

Great cities have great museums! New York City has several - Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paris has the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay and Rodin Museum.  Everyday tens of thousands of locals and visitors invade the city centres of London and Paris to be entertained, educated and enlightened by a museum experience.  The diversity and quality of the museum experience is critical to understanding of a city’s history and sense of place, both for locals and tourists.  The importance of museums in defining a city was reinforced during our recent 6-week US road trip, where we toured 24 different museums and art galleries in places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Denver and Helena.

In Calgary, the Glenbow Museum is both our art and history museum.  For many years now it has struggled with this dual role.  Attendance and membership have not grown over the past 25 years despite the city’s doubling of population, as well as the number of its downtown workers.  

Recently, Donna Livingstone celebrated her one-year anniversary as Glenbow’s President & CEO. I thought it was timely to check in with her learn about her plans for the Glenbow.

The Building

Livingstone was quick to say the Glenbow has no plans to move out of the downtown. In fact, the current Glenbow building is in very good shape and what is needed is just modest renovations to the exterior and interior exhibition spaces.

She reminded me that when the Glenbow was designed and built (in the mid to late ‘60s), 9th Avenue was THE place to be with its new Calgary Tower, Convention Centre and hotel, as well as the train station and the grand Palliser Hotel. Today, 8th Avenue has become Calgary’s signature street so the museum needs to re-orient its entrance to the northside.  Her vision includes a new welcoming Stephen Avenue Walk entrance with an enhanced gallery shop, cafe and bold new signage.

Livingstone would also like to see the second floor look like a contemporary art gallery, not a convention centre space. This could be accomplished with a new ceiling and lighting, as well as the removal of the carpet to allow for a polished concrete floor, a relatively “mini-makeover” so to speak. 

Livingstone is looking at a mega-makeover of the third floor, which, in the past, has always been reserved for a major history exhibition that is on view for 10+ years without any changes (often leading to the comment “nothing ever changes at the Glenbow”).

She sees this floor becoming a multi-purpose space for art, artefacts, readings and performances that explore both the new West to the old West from multiple perspectives, genres and artistic practices. Using in-house expertise, combined with guest curators and other cultural groups locally, nationally and internationally, she wants to aggressively program the space to tell Calgary, southern Alberta and Western Canada stories. It is an ambitious and compelling vision that integrates and hybridizes modern art practices with historical documentation. It is the beginning of what she calls “a new kind of art museum.”  

As the fourth floor doesn’t have the high ceilings needed for today’s contemporary art and history exhibitions, her vision is to transform this space into a “hands-on” educational gallery for people of all ages and backgrounds.  In addition to the educational activities, it will include display cases filled with art and artifacts from the Glenbow’s collection that will rotate on a regular basis so “there will always be something new at the Glenbow!”

The Glenbow from 9th Avenue looking northwest. 

Many many years ago I attended a visioning workshop on Downtown Calgary and the group I was in looked at how the Glenbow and the Calgary Tower might look in the future.  This is the image we create of the future Glenbow.  

Glenbow's entrance from Stephen Avenue Walk.

While regular passenger train service not longer exists in Calgary, Downtown's 9th Avenue is home to the Canadian Pacific Railway Pavilion, which houses the vintage early 20th century passenger cars.  

Building Partnerships

One of Livingstone’s greatest assets is that she is a Calgarian; she knows the community and key players. Over the past year, one of her priorities has been to foster the Glenbow’s relationships and build new community partnerships. So, in addition to working with art gallery and museum groups like Alberta College of Art, Military Museums, Fort Calgary, University of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary (formerly the Art Gallery of Calgary, Triangle Gallery and Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art), she has also reached out to theatre and literary groups to let them know the “new Glenbow” is open and keen to work with them to bring its exhibitions and collection to life.  She is also working with the Calgary Stampede to create something celebrate our cowboy and western culture year round.

One recently example of a new partnership was with Calgary’s Verb Theatre who perform “Of Fighting Age” right in the gallery space containing the “Transformation: A.Y. Jackson & Otto Dix” exhibition (an exhibition of war art on loan from the National War Museums). For Livingstone and those who attended, the synergy of the visual and performance art was illuminating.

Building Community Support

The Glenbow’s signature fundraiser, SCHMANCY, has been recognized by Maclean’s magazine as one of the top five power galas in the country.  This year’s raucous evening of art and culture featured the likes of Bryan Adams, Rebecca Norton (Kung Fu Panties) and George Stroumboulopoulos. This is the new Glenbow – young, cheeky and schmancy. Oh yes, it also raised $280,000!

Exhibitions like “Made in Calgary: The ‘90s at Glenbow” by guest curator Nancy Tousley - with its 100 artworks by 55 artists - are critical to fostering the support of the local visual art community, something the Glenbow and most major Canadian art galleries struggle with. 

From June 7 to August 24, 2014, the Glenbow will feature Calgary’s young (under 40 years of age) whimsical glass art collective Bee Kingdom in an exhibition titled “Iconoclast In Glass.” To enhance visitors’ appreciation of glass art, the Bee Kingdom’s exhibition will be paired with an exhibition showcasing the Glenbow’s collection of historical and contemporary glass (which happens to be the largest in Canada).

In the past, the emerging and established local artists would often complain the Glenbow was ignoring their work.  This is no longer true!

The Bee Kingdom have exhibited their tiny, fun colourful creatures internationally and are now  at the Glenbow.

Last Word

For Livingstone, the duality of the being both art and history museum is something she wants to capitalize on, not complain about. With the largest, most diverse collection of art and artifacts in Western Canada (three times more art than the Vancouver Art Gallery), one of the largest collection of corporate head offices in North America in her backyard, as well as one of the strongest and most diverse cultural communities in Canada, she feels the Glenbow is well positioned to become the “new type of art museum” she envisions.

That is, a museum that tells the story of Calgary’s “sense of place: past, present and future” to Calgarians and visitors.  A museum that integrates historical and contemporary multi-discipline story-telling experiences which speak to everyone.  And, a museum that offer programs at noon hour, happy hour, weekday and weekends!

The fact Livingstone has no money to do any of the physical and programming changes she envisions doesn’t seem to faze her. She is confident the Glenbow will become Calgary’s the great museum (my words not hers) that Calgary deserves. It will be very interesting to watch the Glenbow’s transformation over the next few years. 

Donna Livingstone showing off her lassoing abilities.  A new kind of art museum, needs a new kind of President & CEO! (Photo credit: Calgary Herald)

Postcards: Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix)

By Richard White, May 6, 2014

I had no idea the world’s largest museum of musical instruments (15,000 instruments from over 200 countries) was located in Phoenix when we arrived there.  It was only by chance that I found a mention of it while surfing the net.  It looked interesting so I took a chance and after a "too short" visit I can safely say it is very impressive. 

What is just as impressive though is that Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and Chairman of Target Corporation, was able to accomplish the feat of building this world-class museum in just five years from its inception. 

The story goes (according to one of the museum’s gallery educators) that Ulrich was in Europe in 2005 looking to purchase some major artworks when he got the idea to create a major new museum focusing on musical instruments.  Using his Target store opening experience, he set a very ambitious goal of having the museum open in five years.  This is unheard of in museum circles where even planning and fundraising for a museum expansion or renovation can take decades, let alone one that had no land, no collection and no staff.

Ulrich immediately hired Rich Varda (who oversees Target’s team of store designers) as the main architect to create the building and exhibition displays.  He also hired Bille R. DeWalt, a cultural anthropologist (University of Pittsburgh) as the founding president and director to guide the development. 

True to his word, the Musical Instrument Museum opened five years later, in April 2010. The $250 million dollar museum has five huge galleries devoted to Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. There are almost 300 vignettes, each with historical instruments from the country, related artifacts and a short video about the people and the instruments.

With the videos using the latest Wi-Fi technology, you don’t have to press any buttons. As soon as you get near the videos, the headphones you are provided with pick up the sound and all you need to do is listen. The museum also has a theatre for concerts, a conservation lab and an “experience gallery” where visitors can play the instruments.  You could easily spend all day there. They even have a two-day pass to allow you to come back if you haven’t given yourself enough time to digest everything in one day.

My only complaint is the museum is located at the edge of the city, making it accessible only by car. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t designed as an anchor for a new urban village or perhaps closer to some of the other Phoenix museums to create a museum district.

The guitar exhibition in the lobby.

Lyre guitar, France, c. 1815. I loved the mask, folk-art quality of this guitar

Harp guitar, Germany, 1994 (replica of 1920 harp-guitar by W.J.Dyer % Bros.)

The integration of the local costumes relating to the music and culture was impressive.

A framed collection of harmonicas.

The trumpet call harmonica was probably my favourite piece. 

The evolution of the bag pipes.

Binzasara (rattle), 20th century, wood and rope

One of the five exhibition gallery spaces each the size of a Target store.

Look from the second floor galleries to the lobby below.

Footnotes:

The Musical Instrument Museum is impressive not only as a music museum, but also as an art museum and a cultural history museum.  It is definitely a must see if you are in Phoenix.  

When you think of Phoenix you don't think of it as a cultural mecca.  However after spending six days in the Phoenix and area my image of the city changed significantly because of the impressive museums we visited. And we only visited a few.

Here is quick list Phoenix museums: 

  • Phoenix Museums
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • The Heard Museum
  • Arizona State University Art Museum
  • Arizona State University Museum of Anthropology
  • Arizona Science Centre
  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture)
  • Desert Botanical Garden  

If you like this blog, you might like:

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West: A Phoenix Must See

Desert Botanical Garden: Right Place, Right Time

Melrose: Phoenix's emerging vintage district?

 

Denver's tallest office tower is transformed into an art gallery

By Richard White, April 30, 2014

"Scrounge" is a great name for an art exhibition, as most artists I know love to explore thrift and second hand stores, as well as rummage and garage sales "scrounging" for artifacts. I even know one artist who regularly roams the back alleys of his inner city community to see what he can find. Society's new mantra of "recycle, reuse and repurpose" is just beginning to catch-up with what visual artists have been doing for centuries.  

The Arts Brookfield's exhibition "Scrounge"  in the lobby and lower level of the 56-floor Republic Plaza office tower in downtown Denver is a very ambitious project.  Yes, lots of office building lobbies have public art and yes some even host exhibitions from time to time, but rarely do they have a curated exhibition with 26 different artists and over 100 works of art.  

The diversity and creativity of the art in this exhibition is impressive - everything from recycled clothing fabricated into weird and wacky figurative sculptures to robots made of household appliances.  While some of the works are modest, folk art-like pieces, several are major works of art. "Scrounge" is a fun, thought-provoking exhibition. 

One of the unique things about the visual arts is that you can take the experience home with you and live with it for years.  Too often public and private galleries make it very difficult find out if it is for sale and if so, the price.  Most of the art in "Scrounge" is for sale and a copy of the price list are easy to obtain from the office lobby. 

Unfortunately, the Republic Plaza's walls and lighting are not ideal for art. I don't understand why the interior design of office lobbies (and for that matter, public buildings like libraries, hospitals and courthouses too) aren't designed so they can better accommodate art exhibitions. In most cases, I expect it would be cheaper than the cost of fountains, gardens, trees and living walls. 

Here are some of our favourite artworks from "Scrounge," the exhibition continues until June 5, 2014 (8am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday).

  The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

Jimmy Descant is famous for his robots and spacemen made from household appliance parts.

Owen Gordon's "Waisting Time" is a quirky artwork that incorporates lots of pants, belts and a chair. 

Close-up of "Waisting Time."

The integration of numerials, mathematics and space travel is a recurring theme in the exhibition.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a huge "Scrounge" exhibition title artwork in the lobby entrance with eight artists from the exhibition each creating one 4-foot letter. The letter "S" by Deborah Jang using an old traffic sign, spindles from a staircase and recycled wood. It employs a playful sense of line, pattern and shape. 

"Ducks in a Row" by Mario Rivoli is a very fun piece, but suffers from too much reflection off the glass and the distractions of the mottled wall.  Below is Rivoli's artist statement which is a fun read, capturing the spirit of many artists, not just those who work with recycled materials. 

artist's statement

I love the simplicity of Craig Robb's "Second Twilight" made of steel and rubber tubing. 

Bernice Strawn had several of these wood and metal simple figurative pieces (each piece had a hint of colour, either red or blue). I was very tempted to purchase one of these to add to my collection. 

Footnotes:

Scrounge was a wonderful surprise as we flaneured the streets and buildings of downtown Denver.  We were just walking by on our way to Denver's Cultural Zone and the Art Museum when Brenda spotted the art though the lobby's large glass walls.  It turned out to be the highlight of our downtown Denver walkabout.

Kudos to Arts Brookfield for facilitating the exhibition.  I wish more Brookfield-owned offices would enlist in the program. (Arts Brookfield is a global initiative which engages communities by invigorating their public spaces through free, world-class cultural experiences.)

Let's hope Brookfield's new office tower, Brookfield Place in Calgary will have a purpose-built gallery at street level that will accommodate ongoing art exhibitions like "Scrounge."   I would also hope that Telus' new Sky Tower, also in Calgary would have a gallery/lobby space for exhibitions to animate the building and street seven days a week.

Kudos to Calgary's Eight Avenue Place which is currently using its lobby and +15 (second floor) retail spaces as an art gallery and event space in the same way as Denver's Republic Plaza.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Iconic Canadian Art Hidden in YYC Office Lobby!

Flaneuring Bow Valley College's Art Collection

A-mazing University of New Mexico Campus 

Fun, Funky, Quirky Colorado Springs

Richard White, April 27, 2014

When visiting a new city we always look for things that aren't in the tourist brochures or on the first page of Google.  We call it FFQing (fun, funky and quirky)!

Most often they are not planned; they just happen as we explore the streets and alleys of urban neighbourhoods on foot with our eyes and ears wide open. Sometimes the FFQ experiences do happen at the tourist hot spots, but even if they do happen there, we try to find an offbeat twist.

Here are a few of our favourite FFQ moments from a recent walkabout in 'Colorado Springs, Colorado.  

This is the boys' washroom of the Ivywild School which was an elementary school until a few years ago. The art adds a whole new dimension to learning your ABCs.  

Ivywild is a huge yellow brick 1912 school that was sold to two local young cultural pioneers who have converted it into a multi-use community hub. It now is home to a Bristol Brewery, a bike shop, bakery, charcuterie, cocktail/coffee lounge and an art school. It also hosts many events, including a farmers' market. We will be writing more about this exciting urban revitalization project in the future.

We were impressed by how they retained the fun elementary school character of the space by retaining the wall murals throughout the building. 

We loved walking around downtown Colorado Springs as there were lots of interesting shops, restaurants and cafes.  This storefront dance studio had three painted blue pads on the sidewalk, each showing the foot work of a different type of dance. We loved the "freestyle" dance the most. The black lines are the shadow of a patio fence, which add a quirky sense of perspective.

We love "window licking" (the literal English translation of the French phrase for window shopping is "window licking"). The crazy quilt collage-like imagery is a wonderful reflection of the city's street culture. The Colorado Running Room had one of the best FFQ windows in Colorado Springs.

Downtown Colorado Springs is very pedestrian-oriented with its wide sidewalks, clean streets/alleys and mix of historic and new architecture. It is definitely worth a couple of hours of flaneuring.  

Brenda loved the Blueberry Lemon Streusel pancakes at the Over Easy diner - the best she has ever tasted. The combination of favours was fun and the presentation was funky.  

A short walk out of the downtown through the mansion district lies the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre - definitely a FFQ place to visit. Not only is the 1936 art deco building with its 2008 modern addition a fun space to explore, but many of the exhibitions and artworks had FFQ elements.

This is world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly's "Orange Hornet Chandelier" - or as most people call it the red pepper sculpture. It consists of 300+ glass vessels linked together to create it. It will be the centerpiece for the blockbuster exhibition of his work running from May 3 to September 28, 2014. 

This was one of many fun folk art pieces in the gallery. Some were very large like this one while others were more small scale. There was even art made from chicken bones.  

One the edge of the city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods.  It is truly a sacred place with it surreal, orange rock formations.  I was intrigued when a young boy asked me "have I had seen the Indian Head?"  When I answered "No" he quickly took me to see it.  I couldn't believe I missed it given how obvious and huge it was.   

The "Balancing Rock" is the signature rock formation in the Garden of the Gods. It is a fun place to walk around and under (if you dare). It is amazing how accessible the formations are to the public and just a 15-minute drive from downtown. You could have spent all day there walking the trails, having a picnic and watching the movie at the Visitor Center. 

Perhaps the quirkiest experience I've had in a long time was feeding the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Barely get in the gate, visitors are welcomed by several hungry giraffes with their long tongues sticking out waiting to be fed. Two dollars gets you a handful of lettuce. 

One of our most fun experiences wandering around downtown was to happen upon a house that had been converted into a funky, landscape architecture office.  Brenda needed a stamp so we went in to ask about the design of the house, as well as where we might purchase a stamp.  We left not only with information on the home-to-office conversion but also with a free stamp (the woman insisted on giving Brenda the postage for her postcard).  Yes, we still send postcards!  

However, the stamp didn't stick very well so then we needed some scotch tape. As we were passing another intriguing street office space with the words "ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD" on the window, Brenda decided to head in and see if they might have some tape.  Inside were four young people with their laptops, two on couch and two at desks.  After the shock of unexpected visitors, they quickly asked how they could help us.  After first bringing some "duct" tape (she should have been more specific), they quickly found the scotch tape she needed.

In the meantime, I was busy taking photos of their street front window, being as intrigued by the words and their juxtaposition with the cathedral across the road.  Once I had finished taking my photos, we started chatting about things to see and do in Colorado Springs and what they did.  Ironically, they develop apps and one is for enhanced photography - VSCOcam.  We quickly downloaded it and they gave me a quick tutorial (more info at VSCO.CO)

Now that was a fun, flaneuring experience! 

Just in case you weren't yet convinced that downtown Colorado Springs is an FFQ mecca, I'll end this blog with an ice cream cone window cartoon character inviting you to a sidewalk peanut butter tasting (Pad Thai, Pumpkin Spice, S'mores etc.) - that was a first for us! 

A-mazing University of New Mexico campus: Albuquerque

Richard White, April 25, 2014

Sometimes I think all university campus planners should be shot. This was never more true then a recent visit to the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque (ABQ) where even the people in their Visitor Center had difficulty explaining how to get to buildings. Why? Because the campus’ random connection of sidewalks, pedestrian malls, plazas, patios, gardens, alleys and ponds are not intuitively understood.  It seems like every time the university wanted to add a building, they threw a dart at a map of the campus and built wherever the dart landed (as long as there wasn't a building already there). The end result is an A-MAZING campus design!

Why can’t campus planners use a grid system (or some pattern that is easily understood and communicated) that would allow everyone to negotiate their way from building to building in a straightforward manner?

Why can’t there be sight lines so you can see more than one building at time?

Why can’t the building's name also be placed at the top where it can be viewed from a distance? Too often the building's names is hidden by trees and shrubs. Sometimes you can be standing right beside the building you are trying to find and not even know it. Universities are not unique in this; it happens with downtown office buildings, retail and restaurants (bring back the blade sign).

UNM is not the only poorly planned campus. Most university campuses I have visited lack a coherent street or sidewalk pattern that allows visitors to easily navigate from building to building.

UNM however suffers more than most universities because all of its buildings are designed in the same Pueblo Revival architecture style. While the design is lovely, authentic and timeless, it is hard to tell the buildings apart because of their same colour and materials. Thought it is nice to have synergy and continuity in design, you need some differentiators.

That being said, with some perseverance and luck, we were able to find some "amazing" places and spaces at the UNM.

School of Architecture and Planning, one of the newest buildings on campus. 

Hodgin Hall the oldest building on campus.  Originally built in 1892, it was converted to the Pueblo Revival style in 1908 and has been recently renovated to keep it looking new.  

Art Spaces

While the university has a walking tour of public art on campus, none of it really excited us. What did excite us though was some of the amazing student artworks in the School of Architectural and Planning building. We struck up a conversation with a student who was doing some photography near the "ping-pong ball" wall that we thought might be public art. He explained that two years ago, he and his fellow students made the "ping-pong" piece, as well as several other artworks inside the building (note many of the artworks are no longer there).  We accepted his kind offer of a studio tour where we got to see lots of design ideas in progress, as well as desks full of funky and quirky desktop vignettes.

We also noticed the Tamarind Institute across Central Avenue from the Architecture and Planning Building, which is one of the world’s leading lithography studios and should be on every art lover's must-see list.  They have a little gallery with some wonderful artworks by the likes of Jim Dine and Roy De Forest.  If you are really interested, they have file drawers full of artworks – and they are for sale.  This would be a great place to buy your first lithograph or add to an existing art collection.

We also spotted Frontier Restaurant and while technically not a campus building, it has been part of the UNM campus culture since 1971. It is huge. And the place is full of kitschy folk art (especially John Wayne portraits). A perfect contrast to Tamarind.  The food is served cafeteria-style. And though I would not choose to eat here, it has been recommended in publications with the likes of the New York Times.

Ping-Pong artwork as seen from the sidewalk in front of the Architecture and Planning Building.

The Ping-Pong artwork close-up. Too bad there was no plaque with title and artist.  We loved moving the balls to create different designs. 

One of the many vignettes found on students work stations. 

A close-up of 8-foot pencil sculpture in the building's lobby. How fitting is this for an architectural school?

Anonymous, Sean Mellyn, seven-colour lithograph, 2001, edition of 20, 22.25 X 17 inches, collaborating printer: Bill Lagattuta. Just one of many fun lithos to look at and potentially buy at the Tamarind Institute. 

This stencil for an artwork was hanging from the fluorescent light fixture. It made for an interesting found artwork in and of itself at the Tamarind Institute.

One of the many file cabinets filled with artworks at the Tamarind Institute.

A small sculpture court can be found near the Hodgin Hall Alumni Center.

A colourful public artwork that fits with the Hispanic culture of the campus. 

Quiet Places

The Zimmerman Library is located in the centre of campus.  Architecturally, it is considered to be the one of the finest examples of modified Spanish Pueblo Revival-style architecture. While the new half is like any new library – high ceiling, little ornamentation and loud - the older building is amazing.  

It has a warmth, richness and seriousness that is lacking in most new libraries where flash, glitz and glitter design often rule.  The design was noticeably subtle, quiet and somber. It invited one to think, ponder and reflect. Yes, space and design does influence the way we think and behave.

The Zimmerman Library is a reminder that we need more quiet spaces in our lives.

Zimmerman Library entrance to the new wing.  

The hallway of the original wing with its rich carpet, wood book cases, murals and decorative ceiling.

Close-up of the wonderful decorative ceiling. 

One of several murals celebrating the pioneers of New Mexico.

Old index card file.

Footnotes:

Everyone suggested we check out the duck pond, but it really wasn’t anything special in our view.  The Anthropology and Art Museums looked interesting but both were closed on Monday (we should have done our homework).

The Meteorite Museum is unique and could be a hidden gem, except it is open by appointment only.  It has over 600 meteorites and is part of the UNM's Institute of Meteoritic, the premier institution for study of early solar system and planetary evolution in the world.

The UNM campus is an "A-MAZING" two-hour walk in amongst historic and contemporary pueblo buildings.  Unique and authentic to Albuquerque and New Mexico, it is definitely worth a visit.

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Footnotes: University of Arizona Resort vs. Research

Flaneuring Bow Valley College

 

 

 

Footnotes: University of Arizona, Resort vs Research

By Richard White, April 10, 2014

One of the things we love to do when exploring a new city is to check out its university or college, especially if it is adjacent to downtown.  Experience has shown us that in most cases, you will find lots of urban vitality (pedestrians, cafes, galleries, shops, pubs, live music, etc) in and around urban post-secondary schools.

The University of Arizona in Tucson did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. What we thought might be a 3-hour morning flaneur turned out to be an all-day walkabout.

Visitor Center

As we entered the campus, we saw the  Visitor Center (yes, they have their own visitor center) and decided to drop in and see if they had a map and some suggestions for lesser known places to explore. Yes, I know flaneurs are supposed to just wander with no particular place to go.  

The front desk person was very helpful - at first, she pointed out all the obvious things to see and do - they even have a brochure "Things to Do at the U!"  However, when we asked for some hidden gems, she suggested the School of Pharmacy which has a museum of sorts spread out over two buildings and on various floors.  

Brenda, having read the College of Optical Sciences is the world's premier institute of its kind, asked if there were any displays of artifacts there. We were told there might be, but a good place to check out was the Flandrau Science Centre and Planetarium with its great mineral collection. We had also read that the Creative Photography Center had the largest collection of photographs in the world, so thought this might be a place to check out.

We ended up leaving the Visitor Center with a map with 12 places to check out.  The Museum of Art turned out to be a bit of a dud as there was an installation in progress and the gallery attendant wasn't clear what exhibitions were open to visitors. 

Across the street was the Photography Centre which was very interesting and free. It was too bad that we were the only people there.  Next, we headed to the Architecture and Landscape Architecture building next door. It was a bit more animated with students coming and going, as well as an exhibition of drawings and sculptures in the lobby. Exiting the building, we happened upon a wonderful garden oasis that is a serene setting to study or chat with a friend. 

Schaefer Poetry Center 

Aiming for what I thought was the Pottery Centre, turned out to the the Poetry Center (a case of middle-age eyes).  Glad for the misread.  It is one of only three such centers in North America, the others being in New York City and Chicago. 

The building has a wonderful soft light that makes for a great place to read, write and reflect. In fact, they have a residence as part of the center for visiting writers or special guests. Though it is a non-circulating library, the public is invited to read the books on site in the lovely indoor and outdoor reading areas.  In addition to the 70,000 poetry-related items in their collection, the Center also has an engaging exhibition of handmade artist's books by Alice Vinson. They even have a charming children's section with a huge blackboard inviting the kids to create their own poetry.  

This the kind of stuff we love to sniff out - art, architecture and ambience.  The Poetry Centre is definitely a hidden gem.

The Poetry Center's indoor/outdoor working spaces are separated by an intriguing two-story slanted wood and glass wall.

First of three examples from Alice Vinson's exhibition.

A single page from one of the books.

"Less Than" art book cover

Pharmacy Museum

Moving on, we quickly found the College of Pharmacy, but there were two buildings so we were unsure which one had the museum.  Luckily, there was an outdoor lunch event and we were able ask a staff member who told us there were lithographs on the second floor of one building and the museum in the other.  She tried to find us a self-guided tour booklet, but they didn't have any in the first building. 

With a couple of false turns and sneaking into a keyed door, we found the lithographs nicely displayed in a hallway. It turns out there was 40 lithos depicting the "Great Moments in Pharmacy." For more details, see photo below. 

We then wandered over to the other building and asked about the self-guided tour booklet. They didn't have any, but they kindly photocopied an electronic copy and off we went (persistence pays off).  There were major displays on all four floors, as well as lots of glass cabinet vignettes with themed artifacts in the hallways. The highlight was the 102-drawer wood pharmacy cabinet used in the '50s to store natural medicines (see photos below). 

Depending on your interest, you could easily spend an hour or more at this museum.  We can't believe it isn't in the "Things to Do at the U" brochure.

Louis Hebert was the first Canadian apothecary. He settled in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605.

This is one of two walls lined with the "Great Moments in Pharmacy" lithographs. 

On one floor, there is a mock old time drug store that you can walk around and into.

The use of show globes (like this yellow glass one) dates back four centuries as a symbol of pharmaceutical and medical care. Sailors landing in English ports knew that a show globe in a store window meant medical treatment was available there.  In America, a red show globe could mean the town had some kind of quarantine or disease while a green one indicated the town was healthy.  Dick Wiedhopf, Curator, History of Pharmacy Museum, informed us in an email that "pharmacists took great pride in creating colours for their show globes. There are several books on how to make these colours, but today we use common food colouring. The yellow colour has not meaning, other than it is attractive." 

One can only wonder what pharmacists used poisons for in the 19th century.

Homeopathic medicines such as Humphreys Specifics were common in drugstore windows at the turn of the century.  Customers ordered by the number printed on the display box. 

During the 19th century, pharmacies were places to meet and socialize.  In addition to medical care, in the past drugstores have offered everything from pinball to punchboard games (like the one above) to entertain and attract customers.  Ironically, we purchased a game similar to this one for $5 in a Las Vegas Goodwill a week earlier. 

On the fourth floor elevator lobby is a 102-drawer '50s cabinet filled with natural plant and mineral products along with vintage medicinal bottles and fascinating details about how natural products were used. Note: the cabinet is located next to the College's modern natural products lab. 

The doors pull out and then swing open. 

Each file is full of artifacts and information.  Brenda wanted to take one home.

Just one of hundreds of artifacts that document the evolution of pharmacy over the past two centuries. 

The Resort Campus

Then it was off for some lunch at the Student Union Building to hang out with the students.  It was abuzz with students, dressed and acting like they were at the beach - tank tops, short shorts and flip flops (it was +30 Celsius). The campus is full of outdoor patio seating with shade umbrellas that enhance the resort ambience.  The only thing missing was the beach and pool. The campus has a huge pedestrian mall with thousands of students walking, biking and hanging out. The animation reminded us Frankfurt's green beach and Calgary's downtown Stephen Avenue Walk on a hot day.

It had the best campus buzz I have every experienced. I would also have to say it has the most active bike culture I have seen to date including Portland, Oregon. 

Just one of many resort-like seating areas.

The central pedestrian mall is a beehive of people moving from building to building. With the palm trees and sand, the only thing missing is the water. Students had set up three slack lines that made for a circus-like atmosphere. The UofA's Central Mall is the Champs-Elysees of university campuses. 

This is the penthouse study area in the College of Optical Sciences building. 

Cycling is a popular mode of transportation on the UofA campus.  The bike racks, like these ones on the central mall are well used. 

Museum of Optics (MOO)

Founded in 1964, The College of Optical Sciences (OSC) located in the Meinel Optical Sciences building is the world's premier institute of optics - three faculty members have won a Nobel Prize. The MOO was established in 2011 but the college started the collection in 2003. Today, it holds more than 700 antique and historic instruments, some built as long ago as the 1700s. 

MOO also has a self-guided handout.  Fortunately, they aren't too hard to find; just look for the display rack on the ground level lobby.  The tour starts here, directing you to go up to the eighth floor and work your way down. 

The building not only has a cache of optical instruments that includes telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, sextants, eyewear and opera glasses, but a penthouse lounge with the best view of the campus (see photo above.)  

Sculpture  by Don Cowen from a block of unannealed pyrex; portion of a pour by Corning Glass works, circa 1935.  

A close up look into the "Desert Flower" glass sculpture in the lobby.

There is an entire display cabinet of glass crystal.

The "Sphere" sculpture in the lobby captures what is happening outside on the mall and inverts it to the viewer.

A few of hundreds of binoculars in the collection.

Who knew there were so many different opera glasses?

Just one of several vintage camera and camera accessory display cases.

This telescope, made by Italian Domenico Selva Venezia in 1710, is believed to be one of the oldest telescopes in the world. 

  The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.

The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.

Footnotes

Pretty much every major city has a history museum, a science centre, a museum of art and a garden of some sort, but how many have a Poetry Centre, Museum of Pharmacy or Museum of Optics?  

In hindsight, I wish we had spent 30 minutes reading and trying to write some poetry as I felt the Poetry Center had an inspirational vibe. The same could be said for the Architecture & Landscape Architecture garden. 

I have toured a lot of post-secondary campuses over the years and would have to say the University of Arizona's campus was one of the most interesting with its animated, resort-like student areas contrasting with its quiet, contemplative research spaces.  A perfect concoction!

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