Every Thing Learned Has Value

Years ago we worked on a project called Reflections: The American Funeral, this tour was a multi-year undertaking took us across the country to both small and large communities. People often balked at the thought of a funeral tour but enter any museum and what do you find? The funerary artifacts of a culture. We study their lives from how they honored the dead. While at the Nelson Atkins a year ago, what was most striking in a special exhibit on Saudi Arabia were archeological finds from tombs.

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There was once a reporter who, after learning about our work with this project called it one of our less glamorous assignment. I beg to differ, this was actually a very glamorous project. We were special guests in communities, attended conventions with well known public figures, met governors, and had access to countless media resources. Getting this truck noticed was much easier than many others. It makes me thankful that I was involved with it. By taking part in Reflections I gained exposure and experience in many avenues of the event marketing industry.  The owner at the time Harry, was wonderful in his faith that we could manage and represent a project he closely advocated to see created. I gained a trusted relationship with future mentor, made contacts that I would be lost without, and friendships I cherish. Working on Reflections was everything glamorous. The value from this less conventional project was immeasurable.

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Space and Rocket Center

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Over the last four years we have made a number of trips to Huntsville, AL but logistics have not allowed for an extra day to see the sights.  What we had seen of Huntsville before this year has all been lovely, we even have some friends who live there and never fail to show us a good time.  This past spring we finally had some extra time and we took full advantage by spending the day at the US Space and Rocket Center.

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I will say one thing, it was well worth the wait.  This place is a blast, in my opinion better than the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.  I thought that facility was very worn down, many displays were broken or missing.  The Huntsville collect was much bigger, incredibly interactive, and engaging for adults.  In Washington I felt that most exhibits were focused on children.

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Not only is the center engaging but there are just so many items from our history of scientific exploration.  We could have spent another few hours there, but alas security gave us the boot.  I encourage anyone making a road trip to find some time for a visit.

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The House on the Rock

If you are not familiar with The House on the Rock, I don’t fully know how to describe it.  I will share a link to the Travel Channel bit on it, but I felt like I was on a ride through the obsessive mind of a genuine eccentric.  The kind of person that others model their own odd ramblings after, hoping to capture an ounce of his creative drive.  The “he” I am referring to is Alex Jordan the creator of House on the Rock, the curator, collector, visionary and artist.

One of the collections alone (books, china, music machines, service sets, road signs, sculpture, ext.…) would be enough for an average person to fill their life with but not Jordan.  He saw a beauty in the art of collection and in the preservation, a mission to keep pieces of the past for the future.

We went just after Christmas when the place was still in full holiday regalia, a bit distracting for my taste.  I wanted to see more the architecture but the snow kept that as bay.  There are 1000s of images that exist of The House on the Rock so I will share just one that sums up our visit.

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A quite roam through the buildings with just a handful of other guests, at peace with the amazing place and this amazing mind.

History in Auckland

It takes watching just a few seconds of Lord of the Rings to get an idea of how beautiful New Zealand is. With so many wonderful places to go why would you ever spend a day inside or at a museum? For two people who often spend their days off at an exhibit missing some of these gems would have been tragic.

At the Auckland Museum

At the Auckland Museum

On our second day in New Zealand we spend the afternoon at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is situated in the middle of Auckland Domain Park within walking distance of a few other attractions. It’s a fairly large facility and took us a few hours to see the entire place. I would recommend this as a great day-one activity; get some history and culture before exploring everything else. Learn the lay of the land and a little better understanding of language.

The whole group together

The whole group together

We also went to a number of monuments, the names of which I don’t recall.  Like any country that was colonized by England (we know nothing about that) there are plenty of memorials to war and conflict.  Most were surrounded by beautiful gardens.

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One afternoon the boys when in to the New Zealand Army Museum, not that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing but I was really tired.  I get carsick and the roads in NZ are a bit whinedy.  I know Josh enjoyed seeing some machines that he doesn’t get to in US museums.

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And one strange but interesting facility was World of Wearable Art.  This crazy collection of pieces was from a yearly completion.  Designers create a piece of art that more only has to be worn but also has to move in some interesting way.  Their theater plays highlights from the shows and you can see how not only are these items beautiful but was the model or dancer moves in it the piece tells a deeper story.

These are just the highlights of the stops we made.  Don’t miss out on all of the cultural experiences there are.

Killing Time in Kilgore

We have often talked about how every small town has its own claim to fame and usually a little museum dedicated to its honor. Kilgore is no exception, actually there are two on the same block. We had some time to spare and thought a visit to the East Texas Oil Museum was just the ticket.

Located on the Kilgore College campus the museum’s entrance is marked by a full-scale drilling rig and you’re greeted by a local volunteer. Like many other museums we have been to with low patron rate you get a very personal tour. The guilds were more than happy to walk through with you, even if you were happy to go on your own. Just be prepaid to hear their take on the display materials.

Courtesy of ETOM

The 22 minute movie came highly recommended and we did sit through it. The movie covers the history of the area and the oil boom. They skips over the environmental effects of the massive drilling, the dramatic changes in social and economic changes to the area. The museum is a feast for the eyes, including animatronics, full-scale recreations of the original downtown Kilgore at the time of the boom and a large collection of artifacts.

However they try to skate around talking about the negative results from massive scale mining by claiming this is a museum about the town and life at the boom. They take full advantage of explaining mining techniques and technology while skipping any of the environmental results. It’s hard to take seriously a facility that is so biased.

Quite to the contrary across the street is the Rangerettes Showcase. Growing up near Western Illinois I always thought the Wranglers dance-line was just the best, so pretty and wow they can kick. The Rangerettes are only to be rivaled by the Rockets in precision drill. East Texas definitely has something to be proud of with a tradition like this.

Courtesy of the Kilgore Rangerettes