10 Vintage Museum Web Pages from the 90s

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, here are 10 classic museum web pages I dug up on the Internet Archives’ “Wayback Machine.” The web may be 25 years old, but the bravest museums got their web pages up about 18 years ago in 1996. Enjoy the nerdiness—AMNH and LACMAweb especially cracked me up!

1. American Museum of Natural History (1996)
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2. LACMA (1997)
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3. SF MOMA (1996)
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4. The Met (1996)
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5. British Museum (1999)
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6. The Louvre (1999)
Louvre

7. The Prado (1997)
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8. Guggenheim (1996)
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9. Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.45.54 AMNew Museum (1997)

10. Seattle Art Museum (1998)
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Charles Marville’s Paris coming to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’m excited for an upcoming show of about 100 photos of a newly haussmannized Paris which opens January 29th. Charles Marville, one of photography’s early powerhouses, started taking photos in 1850 and twelve years later was appointed Paris’s official photographer. His photos helped to ingrain the romantic, iconic Paris so many of us carry in our minds and draw forth when reading Emile Zola or imagining the Impressionists making their way through the city’s streets.

3. Flèche de Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc, Ar (Spire of Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc, Ar[chitect])

Charles Marville (French, 1813–1879); Spire of Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc, Architect; 1859-1860; Albumen silver print from glass negative; 49.5 x 36.5 cm (19 1/2×14 3/8 in.)
The AIA/AAF Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, D.C.

Not all of Marville’s subjects were as lofty as Notre Dame, as evidenced by the following photo of a Jenning’s System urinal outside of a theater.

Charles Marville (French, 1813–1879); Urinal, Jennings System, plateau de l’Ambigu
1876; Albumen silver print from glass negative; 26.7 × 36.4 cm (10 1/2 × 14 5/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris; © Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

From the Met’s press release:

Marville photographed the city’s oldest quarters, and especially the narrow, winding streets slated for demolition. Even as he recorded the disappearance of Old Paris, Marville turned his camera on the new city that had begun to emerge. Many of his photographs celebrate its glamour and comforts, while other views of the city’s desolate outskirts attest to the unsettling social and physical changes wrought by rapid modernization.

Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris

Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., NYC)
January 29–May 4, 2014

Google Outdoes Itself with Doctor Who Video Game

The Google Doodle has always been an inspired sort of thing. This time, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, they’ve created something special—a WHOodle. Just click the orange “play” button, and Bing (!), you’re playing a video game.

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In case you don’t understand embedded links: http://www.google.com/doodles/doctor-whos-50th-anniversary?doodle=10152301

Best Museum App I’ve Seen In a While — Museums of Romania

Got this in my inbox and was curious. The app is pretty amazing. Tons of content for dozens of museums. Good stuff, Romania!
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 “Museums and Collections of Romania” (Muzee si Colectii din Romania), in Romanian and English, features over 900 Romanian museums and museum collections and more than 5200 photographs.

https://itunes.apple.com/ro/app/muzee-si-colectii-din-romania/id732309915
&
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Cultural.Collections&hl=ro

James Turrell at LACMA — The Video Game!

Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective is a simple, fun video game that installs directly into your browser (Firefox is best). It’s described as edutainment and it sure is! Give ‘er a whirl.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 4.27.59 PMThis is one of the most wonderfully bizarre games I’ve ever played. One minute, you’re walking into a Turrell work that you shouldn’t be, and the next you’re bobsledding in a coffin. Then comes the Blue Oyster Cult. Just play it. Trust me on this!

Bubsy 2 Bubsy 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Damn, B.”

Missing Palaces — World’s Fairs, Crystal Palaces in New York and London

By Lola @RunLolaRun Arellano-Weddleton

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The history of museums in the United States and of World’s Fairs are deeply intertwined, but easy to overlook. Several of the museums that we know and love today– including the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Queens Museum in New York City– have World’s Fairs as part of their origin story. World’s Fairs themselves, and the comprehensive, wonderful, complicated exhibitions that characterized them, transformed the nature of collection building and the tradition of exhibition in ways that are still reflected in our modern museums.

Even so, two notable structures built for international exhibitions that are no longer extant are two of the most remarkable: London’s Crystal Palace, and its slightly later New York counterpart. The present-day absence of these awe-inspiring structures is the kind of thing that easily captures the imagination– as evidenced by the proposal to reconstruct London’s Crystal Palace that was announced recently.

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The original Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park in London for the Exhibition of 1851. It was subsequently reconstructed in Sydenham, a short train ride’s distance from London proper, in 1854. New York City’s counterpart, also known colloquially as the Crystal Palace, was built for the city’s first international Exhibition, the same year that the Sydenham Palace opened. Both buildings, constructed of iron and glass, were possible to build because of recent technological advances that made these materials less expensive and available in larger quantities.

The Palaces were the pinnacle of modernity, in terms of both industrialization and international outlook; they were not only the height of architectural splendor but also of technological advancement, and they presented these two achievements as wholly symbiotic. As both Palaces burnt to the ground—first New York’s, in 1858, and later London’s, in 1936—the Crystal Palace as a hallmark of modernity proved to be at once fleeting and portending of modernity’s dangers. But, for those brief four years, Crystal Palaces stood as beacons of industrialization’s promise on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, the two structures differ greatly in terms of the remnants they have left behind. In London, the neighborhood where the Crystal Palace once stood is now known by that name. The former site is now a park, with a sculpture—really a memorial of sorts—marking one corner of where the building stood. Large marble sphinxes still flank steps. There are traces enough that it seems tantalizingly within reach to rebuild the Palace to its former glory, however complicated that project might actually be to execute.

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Conversely, although the New York Crystal Palace was placed on what were the outskirts of the city,  it occupied a piece of land that is now familiar to New Yorkers and tourists alike: Bryant Park.

Next door to Bryant Park, the New York Public Library has extensive holdings related to both Crystal Palaces, including many primary documents; for those of us not in the vicinity of the library, its digitized collection includes a large collection of images. Fittingly for exhibitions intended to be accessible by people across class boundaries, and luckily for those of us fascinated by the history of collecting, the Crystal Palaces are relatively easy to research, even without an educational affiliation. Because of the popularity of the exhibition (as with other World’s Fairs, also), souvenirs, reviews, and reactions to the exhibitions were numerous and remain plentiful in library and archival collections—even better, much has been digitized.

1854 saw the publication of official guides to the exhibitions of both Crystal Palaces. Today, these texts can be mined for insight to the practice of exhibition⎼going in United States and England at the time. They’re a fascinating hint as to how the Palaces functioned within societies grappling with the onslaught of a new modern age.

An overabundance of statistics and figures—the dimensions of the building, the amount of glass and steel it took to construct them—reveals a concern with translating the technological advancement of the edifices into layman’s terms. The highest transept of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, for example, is said to stand six feet higher than London’s Monument to the Great Fire. The New York guide extolls the virtues of the Crystal Palace’s dome, while admitting it remained a poor substitute for grander ones abroad but still awe-inspiring for “our untraveled countrymen.”

Such blunt reference to class is unsurprising, as the guidebooks seized the opportunity to gently guide the development of good taste for the working class. “Unity in architecture is one of the most requisite and agreeable” qualities of a building, says the London guide. It describes the Crystal Palace as being an example of “Modern English” architecture, a new tradition inaugurated with the reconstruction of the Palace in Sydenham. The exhibition guide in New York likewise gives recommendations for what to appreciate about the Crystal Palace. “Study this first view carefully,” it suggests, “for there is no place on this side of the Atlantic from which you can form so good an idea of the natural alliance of sculpture and architecture.”

For the museum nerd wishing to sink her teeth into the history of exhibition practice via primary sources, the Crystal Palaces are a great and accessible place to start. As debate surrounds the rebuilding of London’s Crystal Palace, it’s particularly useful history to reexamine.

Here are some resources I’ve found particularly useful and interesting. If you come across something, add it to the comments—perhaps they can serve as a crowd-sourced bibliography.

A New Velazquez (Courtesy of Photochopping) Illuminates the Love Triangle of Mars, Venus, and Vulcan

Funny excerpt from a paper I wrote for the great art historian Jonathan Brown. (I got an A.)

Dumbed-down (TLDR) version: Velázquez_-_La_Fragua_de_Vulcano_(Museo_del_Prado,_1630) 

Apollo (in a tattletale’s smug lilt): Yo Vulcan, Venus is cheating on you with Mars.
Vulcan: Huh?

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Mars: Oh Venus, that’s my p***s!

Vulcan: Gotcha!
Mars and Venus (in unison): Doh.

Source Paintings:

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“Velázquez’s Mars Resting has provoked new thought about this adulterous god. Is Velázquez eating his brazen words about painting only course people and avoiding the more “important” subjects? Indeed he is not. He has taken history painting on in his own way.

Only by understanding and assimilating the “Grand Manner” is Velázquez free to reinterpret these stories and bring them closer to the human heart. We can picture this post-coital Mars sitting on the edge of the bed he shared with Venus (perhaps the very same bed of Venus at her Toilet (The Rokeby Venus) and see his expression as ultimately dissatisfied. Though Ovid states that upon catching the adulterous lovers, “one of the gods, undismayed, prayed that he might be shamed like that,” Velázquez’s Mars seems nonplussed by the Pyrrhic victory of his spoilt love affair––perhaps not by the shame of his exposure to ridicule, but by the hollowness of lust fulfilled without greater substance. These two works combined, (though never meant to be a pair), form a thought-provoking denouement to the exhilarating story started by Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan.”