Friday, January 4, 2013

Natural History Museums

There are a couple facts that I don't mind restating over and over again. Have I mentioned I love my Kindle? Well, today's fact is that I love Natural History Museums. They're like zoos, only better! So much less guilt and the animals hold still so you can sketch them!

This year I managed to visit six Natural History Museums : Muséum national d'histoire naturelle (Paris, France), American Museum of Natural History (New York, USA) (been there before), Smithsonian (Washington D.C, USA), Muséum d'histoire naturelle (Geneva, Switzerland), Natur-Museum Luzern (Lucerne, Switzerland), Museum Mensch und Natur (Munich, Germany)

When I travel, I always look up two things at every location : yarn stores and Natural History Museums. Doesn't matter how many of them I've been to, I adore going to the next (or the same one again!) At NHMs I'm happy to wander and look, even if I can't read the signage... but I love even more the chance to sit down for several hours and sketch. A snippet from some travel ranting I wrote explains part of the not-sketching appeal :

... but in a nature or science museum, you are displaying information. Part of that display is equipment or dead animals, but how you show it and what you chose to say about it are in themselves a vital part of the exhibit. What you chose to show and neglect to mention- this is interesting. What is highlighted across a wide selection- interesting. It frames subjects in unique ways at each location, and it says something about the place you are visiting.

Why rant about that now? Well, Adam just recently made a quasi-spur-of-the-moment purchase (as much as someone like him can) and we now have a lovely, sleek, new Canon MG8220 Printer/Scanner. This means I can scan my lovely little backlog of sketches done at some of these museums!

Smithsonian     May 2012

Smithsonian : Rodents Smithsonian : Wildebeest
Smithsonian : Giraffe I've dreamed of going to the Smithsonian for many years and finally got my chance to this summer. Would have loved to spend more time there, but I also really enjoyed the other museums and monuments we visited while there. I gotta' say I was pleased with the layout of the NHM, the way there was lots of glass and open space around the specimens. It was far too crowded for sketching though, and I remember finding a nook with a good view to be hard. I especially loved my loose giraffe sketch, for which you can see the subject of in this photo. Good display layout

American Museum of Natural History     September 2012

New York NHM : Peregrine Falcone chick New York NHM
Have been here before, not one of my higher rated museums... This time some of the mammal halls were closed so I spent most my time with the birds. The taxidermy isn't that bad and I was able to sit out of most foot traffic while sketching.

There New York NHM : Prairie Grouseis a special place in my heart for friendly encounters I've had in museums while sketching. The first time in New York, someone handed me his card and we chatted about my sketching which he was very complimentary of. This time a young boy and his family came over. All but the father spoke some European language I was not clear on, but the kid didn't let that stop him. I handed over paper and pencils as I always do and he sat with me in front of the Prairie Grouses and sketched. (His choice bird was actually part of the illustrated backdrop, rather then one of the stuffed specimens which was... odd). He actually sat and finished his sketch, despite his siblings antsy-ness. The father was very supportive, which was great.

New York NHM New York NHM : Barn Owl

Museum of Man and Nature     November 2012

Munich NHM : Kleiner Ameisenbar

Munich NHM : SchuhschnabelThe best part about this museum is that it's right next to the Nymphenburg Palace which is worth a visit on it's own. Tiny, but delightful. Very open, lots of seating, almost no English. Meh. Win some, lose some. I spent all my time in one set of rooms and had burned myself out sketching before I realized there was another set of rooms with even *more* animals! There was a gannet and I failed to draw it! So sad! On the up side, I feel my sketches from here came out really well... freakishly well, given how rusty I was at that point...

I should note that while I sketched the Schuhschnabel (Shoebill) bird there was a video looping on the screen I used as a table. This meant I saw a cycle of cute little birds and then suddenly there'd be a monsterous closeup of the Schuhschnabel, face filling the screen and looking right at me around the edge of my paper, snapping it's bill. Turns out that those fellows are scary as fuck on the other side of a zoom lens when you're not expecting it.

Munich NHM
Munich NHM : Weissbauch schuppentier
Good times.

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