Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Day At The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Every summer - and most school breaks, too - I make a list of all the places I want to visit with the children.  This year, my list included two museums, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum.  The last time I went to the Gardner Museum was during the brief 9-month period when Gordy and I lived in Boston back before any of the children were born.  I remember it being a wonderful, sunny place full of gorgeous art work and beautiful statues.  I also remember sitting in the museum's cheery central atrium and admiring the quiet and solitude offered amongst the water fountains and the various plants.  

Sadly, my memory has failed me and that last part - about the atrium and the moment of solitude amongs it's plants and fountains - that one might not actually be truthful.  

When the children and I arrived at the Gardner Museum, we found that you are not allowed into the atrium at all.  Were you ever?  Was I just remembering LOOKING at the various plants and water features?  Who remembers.  It was disappointing none the less.

I figured out out pretty early on in the journey, that none of my memories of the Gardner Museum were accurate.  I don't know what my deal was - or what the Museum's deal was - things have really gone down hill from my sunny, art-filled memory.  

First of all, the Gardner Museum was darker than dark.  None of the rooms had adequate lighting and the few rooms that had lights at all were only very dimly lit.  It was hard to see the paintings higher than eye level and almost impossible to see any of the statues or ceiling frescos.  Some of the art pieces themselves were covered by thick pieces of dark black velvet so that you would have to lift up the fabric and hold it out of the way so you could get a glimpse of the work underneath.

I mean, what???  There was No Sun.  Absolutely No Sun was coming into the musuem and like I said, there were equally no lights to be had.  How could these pieces of art be THAT light sensitive.  

The Museum is under-going renovations right now and maybe that explains why all the art seemed almost haphazardly strewn around the rooms.  And absolutely none of the paintings had identification cards next to the them to provide information about the artists, the work itself or how/when Mrs. Gardner acquired it.  Was the Gardner Museum this disorganized when I visited back in 1999?  My memory fails me.  I don't think so, but maybe it was.  

The lack of information made the museum almost impossible to navigate with children.  My children like museums, in general, but it helps to come up with various interesting tidbits and factoids to keep their minds from wandering over to lunch plans and the availability of snack foods.  

In the Gardner Museum's defense, each room had a small stack of laminated cards which patrons could pick up and study before looking at the art hanging on the walls.  These laminated cards DID have the name of the various artists and the dates, but since there were other museum patrons waiting to have a look at the card, you couldn't take one and wander around the room.  Nor were the cards short enough to memorize - remember, these rooms were COVERED with mis-matched pieces.  

The dark rooms, the hidden, unknown art works, the unusable garden... could the museum get any worse?  Yes.  Yes, it could.  You see, one of the ways I lured the children to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the first place was to tell them about the great art heist that happened there.  I told them about the robbers disguised as police officers and how they got the sole guard to open the door and how they tied the guard up and cut priceless works of art RIGHT OUT OF THEIR FRAMES.  

Henry, Georgia and Josie were rivetted:  this was a story right out of Scooby Doo!  Finally, a museum with a little drama, a little intrigue!  

I then told them how at the Gardner Museum, the curators left the empty frames up on the walls with little placards telling people which paintings had been stolen and how the frames would remain empty on the museum walls until the art had been recovered.  My children were very excited to see those empty frames.

Except they weren't there.  Nor were the placards or the detailed photos I remembered seeing of the stolen paintings before they were taken.  I could have made the whole thing up, as far as they knew.  Worse than anything, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum made me lose my street cred!

I would have liked to have shared a picture of their disappointed faces, but the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum does not allow photographs of any kind.  It's probably for the best, since the rooms were too dark for photography anyway.

I made up for the miserable experience by taking the kids to lunch at Northeastern University.

They all got salads and that is because they are half Californian.

I also allowed their Norwegian Side to be treated and we got some more sticky-buns.

Josie informed me that they were not as good as the sticky-buns at Ikea, but really, how could they have been?  What do the French know about sticky-buns?

The second half of our excursion was a bigger success.  Henry had really wanted to see "Rescue" on the Omni-max at the Science Museum.

We saw the other summer movie, "Tornadoes," earlier in the summer and we try to see them all.

Unfortanetly for me, the Gardner Museum hadn't taken as long as I planned and we were forced to spend more than a little bit of time waiting for our movie to begin.  We did what we always do when we wait:  we acted silly:

Acting silly took approximately 3/4ths of a minute and then the children decided that maybe arguing would be more fun.

Arguing was not more fun.  

At least not for me.

30 minutes and more than a few games of Eye Spy later, I allowed them to take photos with my camera.

This was the best one:

I don't think any of the children are going to be photographers.  

"Rescue" was a really good movie.  If you haven't had the chance to see an Omni-max movie, you must at your earliest opportunity.  Omni-max is Imax projected into a dome, giving you the feeling that you are actually in the movie itself.  It's absolutely amazing.  

The day was not a complete disaster, but it wasn't one of our better excursions either.

Hopefully, we will do better at the Peabody Essex.


elisabethellington said...

Laughed out loud when I read that being silly took 3/4s of a minute so they decided that arguing was preferable. STORY OF MY LIFE! I now see exactly what I missed out on by being an only child: lots of bickering and being told to keep my hands to myself and lectures about what it means to be a good brother or sister!

Martha said...

ha! That's so true! I'm SO TIRED of giving that lecture! Why do kids enjoy arguing so much... and they do, indeed, enjoy it. I could have been more prepared, though, and brought books or something to entertain them, so it's my own stupid fault. I also could have brought them to the gift shop to look around but at that point in the adventure, I just wanted to sit.

Guymons said...

I didn't ready your blog back in 2011...but just saw this on the bottom of your latest post and wanted to acknowledge the Dany Heatley Sharks shirt!!!! Woo Hoo! Go Sharks!!!

Martha said...

Yes! Henry and Gordy are both fans of the Sharks (Gordy is from Berkeley, so he always follows California teams!)

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