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Museums of Bogotá Guide — Preview — Museum of Contemporary Art

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Bogota, Colombia

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Bogotá, Colombia. Photo by Museum Nerd

Since moving to Bogotá, Colombia in 2016, I’ve still been going to museums and nerding out, but at a much more relaxed pace than the good old days in NYC when I’d frequently go to two or three museums in a day. Since the pace is slower, I thought maybe it’s time to crack open the old blog and write a bit about Bogotá’s fantastic museums for those who might want to visit and virtual tourists. Herein, I present the preview for what will obviously eventually be the book that makes me fabulously wealthy, Museums of Bogotá — a blog post series.

The first museum I shall write about is a bit lesser known, at least to tourists, because it’s rather far off the beaten path. The quirky museum is a rather nifty “mini Guggenheim,” as it was described to me once by a San Felipe gallery owner. Though not quite the inverted ziggurat that helped make Frank Lloyd Wright as much of a household name as any architect, Bogotá’s MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo) has some of the same swirly charm of that famous NYC institution.

Inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Bogota

Inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Bogota. Photo by Museum Nerd

This tiny blurb is just an intro (and frankly a motivational challenge to myself). I’ll be back soon to tell you about my past visits to the MAC, and perhaps I’ll  even trek over to the museum so I can give you the skinny on what’s up right now–a grad student show, I believe. While you wait for more, go visit a museum, but stay tuned.

What museum should I go to?

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I haven’t been to a museum for quite a while. I’d been to all the museums in Manhattan at one point, but now I’m one behind as I haven’t even been to the new Whitney yet. I certainly plan to do so, but what museum in the world should I visit on a very limited budget traveling from New York City?

Leave the where and why in the comments if you have a suggestion of a place you think I probably haven’t been.

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)

5. British Museum (1999)
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6. The Louvre (1999)

7. The Prado (1997)

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.



In case you don’t understand embedded links:

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!
 “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.

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


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.


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.


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.

Top 10 Museum Heist Movies • Now with Bonus Material, Lego Heist Film, and More!

1. How to Steal a Million (1966)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn & Peter O’Toole

Best museum heist movie of all time!

2. Topkapi (1964)

Starring: Melina Mercouri & Peter Ustinov (super handsome!)

I’ve been to the museum and seen the dagger! I didn’t steal it though.

3. The Hot Rock (1972)

Starring: Robert Redford, George Segal

I’ve been to Brooklyn Museum many times and they don’t show precious gems, but this is an amazing movie. So good!!!

4. The Thomas Crown Affair (1997)

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary

Renee Russo and Pierce Brosnan in Thomas Crown Affair

Rene Russo caused a splash by appearing nude as a woman over 40 years old. She looked fantastic. This shouldn’t be a surprise, nor should it have been “scandalous.”

5. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Starring: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway

Hot. Hot. Hot!  (Hot.)

6. The Score (2001)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando (!)

7. Entrapment (1999)Starring: Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ving Rhames

8. F is for Fake (1973)

Starring: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Joseph Cotten

Watch the WHOLE thing on YouTube!!! Orson Welles!!!

9. Conformist (1970) — Musee D’Orsay when it was a train station

10.  DaVinci Code (2006)

Starring: Hanksy Panksy

I guess you’ve got to include it. Not utterly horrible.

11. Once a Thief (1965) Not sure if there’s really a museum in this. Gotta watch it. Looks great.

Bonus Material!!! Online Clips and mini movies, etc.

Lego Heist Museum Heist Mini Movie

There’s actually an old Doctor Who episode at the Louvre!

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Other movies which feature museums prominently:
L.A. Story with Steve Martin (LACMA) HIGHLY Recommended.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Art Institute of Chicago) Duh. Awesome.
Woody Allen, multiple films (Mostly at the Met I think.) Can someone list ’em in comments? I’ll mail you a prize!

Cities & Museums as Memory Palaces


By Shaelyn (@heyshaelyn) Amaio

Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, [LC-D4-70017]

As I stepped off the curb to cross Park Avenue this weekend, I was suddenly, vividly reminded of a Saturday last summer when the city closed the street to motor vehicle traffic and my fellow pedestrians and cyclists hit the pavement. The cool, early September afternoon was very different from that muggy, warm August morning, but walking onto the expansive boulevard jogged my memory of an event I haven’t thought of in months. I have moments like this all over the place. Big and small moments, tucked into corners of the city waiting for me to stumble upon them again.

One of the techniques for memorizing information is creating imaginary buildings where you can store tidbits of information. In your mind, you train yourself to walk inside the front door, turn left, go into a particular room, open a certain cupboard, and, oh! There’s that bit of information you needed to remember. In the case of my experience on Park Avenue, my city functioned as a real-life, physical memory palace, and a stroll was all it took to revisit my past self. As you spend time in a place, memories become stacked in locations you frequent like boxes on shelves, adding depth and complexity to the layers of meaning you’ve created in a place, and the city becomes home. You break it in, like a sturdy pair of shoes, and it belongs to you in a way that is unique and personal.

This doesn’t just happen on a grand, city-wide scale; it can happen with places you vacation, diners you always visit along a highway to your hometown, the airport you always get stuck in going to or fro. And it can happen with museums. Especially those sprawling, traditional museums that have long-term exhibits that you can visit multiple times. For me, it has happened with the Met – no matter how many times I climb those steps, it will probably always remind me of a field trip I took there in eighth grade. I also experience it with Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Visiting that constant museum is like going to see an old friend who always has your favorite drink on hand. Even though I know I’ll always be able to notice some detail anew there, it’s comforting to be able to go and visit my own memories of the museum, too.

Even as museums make great strides to engage with their publics on social media, or make their collections available online, or create digital walkthroughs of exhibits (all valuable distance and/or community-building engagement strategies), there’s nothing that replaces a first-hand experience of objects in the context of a museum. Much has been said of placing objects in environments that mimic their original contexts, but I’d also like to make a case for the museum context and its ability to link memory to place.

If the first visit to a museum is a gateway, an exciting and overwhelming glimpse of the scope of a museum, the second visit is the one that will really get visitors hooked. The disorientation of the first visit has (hopefully) passed. You know what to expect of the collection, and where to find it (at encyclopedia museums this is less true, but still applies). You know where the bathrooms are. The priority is no longer saying that you SAW THE MUSEUM, but that you deepened your knowledge of — and relationship to — it. The second visit to a museum is, in my view, the richer visit.

The tricky thing is, if someone isn’t already a museum person, they’re probably not going to think they need a second visit. Museums need to encourage and incentivize a second visit. Discounted return visits, membership deals, event calendars and programming can help, as can providing support to help people get to the museum. Teach high schoolers how to take public transit to your museum, give school kids tickets to return with their grown-ups, create serial programs that invite people directly to come back.

Once visitors return, they probably already have some memories stashed in some of your galleries. That eighth grade field trip on the steps of the Met. A first date in the giant heart at the Franklin Institute. A childhood play at a day camp at a local nature museum. A visit to a museum is a sensory experience — it’s easy to create strong memories in that context. People like to reflect on themselves and their experiences as much as they do on interesting objects. It helps them feel a personal connection and become invested in a place. Help visitors build their own memory palaces in your museum. When they bring friends, they’ll share the stories that they’re reminded of when they see the objects they’ve seen before, and their friends will have a new connection to the museum, too.

Museum professionals are often deeply invested in a collection, in the objects it contains, the value they hold, and the stories they tell – and rightly so. Objects make it into museum collections because they’re important, interesting pieces. For someone without deep knowledge of the field, though, the social – and, yes, nostalgic – reasons for visiting can be just as important as the educational ones. Those social visits inevitably include some learning on the side, which also gets stored away in the museum memory palace, to be unlocked again on the next visit. On that eighth grade field trip to the Met, I didn’t just etch those steps into my memory. That trip was also the first time I learned about the 19th century graffiti on the Temple of Dendur. More recently, I experienced the Temple lit on a Friday night, an image that also comes to mind when I enter the space, even during the day. All of these moments, and the conversations I’ve had with others about them, are part of the memory palace I’ve built within the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The more I visit, the more memories I have, the more invested I am in my experiences there, and the more I am inspired to learn about the collection. And every in-person visit I make to a physical museum helps to enrich my experience of the collection on each subsequent visit.