Monday, April 19, 2010

Michigan - Land of Riches

When I was growing up on the outskirts of town, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Being a young geek, what better place was there than a building full of stuffed animals, dioramas, a visible human model and a planetarium? I spent at least one summer at a camp downtown, with my parents driving me in every morning and picking me up in the late afternoon. When I grew up, I moved out of town for a bit, the old museum was closed, while a new building was built along the Grand River.

Museums also changed, becoming less a place to view stuffed animals and learn about the environment to a resource about the community. Part of me mourns this change, because the old style exhibits helped instill in me a love for nature. Part of me likes this change since those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Even local history. It's a lesson learned to see the ebb and flow of the furniture industry in Grand Rapids that is now being repeated in the auto industry. I'm sure that if the city becomes dependent on another single industry, it will be repeated.

I was delighted to learn that the old museum building was going to be open on selected dates, and artists were being invited in to customize the old rooms. The museum is trying to figure out what to do with the space and since it hadn't been opened for over 15 years, they needed some sort of display to show off the space and solicitate comments. I wanted to see if the old building was as big and wonderful as I remembered. I also knew someone displaying at the building and I wanted to see what he came up with.

It turns out that what I consider the back half of the museum, where the old gaslight village and the planetarium had been converted into archival storage for the museum and were not open. The front half was open, and full of a lot of the old displays. As usual, a lot of the art I didn't understand and there were not a lot of placards explaining the thought process. It was still fun to walk through and see everything. Someone even hung a paper whale where the old whale skeleton used to be.

And yes, it was as big and wonderful as when I was younger.

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