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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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

Mariner’s Museum

One thing we love about visiting a new area is the availability of new museums to experience.  While we have spent massive amount of time in Virginia, rarely do we get outside the Washington Metro.  Last week was the first time we made it to the Chesapeake Bay area and just couldn’t pass up going to the Mariner’s Museum.

Checking out artifacts

It’s a large facility with extensive labs for restoration and research on desalinating recovered shipwrecks.  The exhibition areas go in-depth about early of life in the Chesapeake Bay and its rich maritime history.

Unique paint job

One of the earliest shipyards in America is in Newport-News.  This influence on the town certainly can be seen in the museum and I would expect that they also have made large contributions not only to the collection but also to the facility.

Can’t have a museum about boats without a few model ships

My favorite area was a special exhibition of The Miniature Ships of Winnifred and August F. Crabtree.  These are just incredible and some were used in movies.  There is no way to describe the intricate carvings and details on these tiny works of art.  He was truly gifted.

I would highly recommend this museum, we enjoyed fours hours and had to rush a bit at the end.

Houdini Did It

What is there to do in Appleton, WI during winter? We certainly enjoyed the mall there, much nicer than I expected. But how long can you spend at a mall? So instead if spending our time hunting the isles of Macy’s for a deal we headed to an area museum. What could be a better cure for boredom than a Castle with a floor dedicated to Harry Houdini.

Like many Midwestern cities of the same size, Appleton has an industrial history. Large paper mills helped build the city into a place with colleges, arts and a strong community. The Museum at the Castle includes a series of well done exhibits highlighting some of the remarkable members of Appleton. Every small town has a story, this one just happens to have some magic in it.

It’s hard to believe that this little museum caused a bit of a controversy. The Houdini gallery creatively takes you through the progression of his career in more of a broad explanation of the industry at a time. The exhibit is kid friendly. It begins with a showcase about circus performers and early vaudeville, connecting each fun area with a skill Houdini mastered at a young age.

The strong man

The second area brings up more of how he polished his act and came up with his truly unique way of presenting tricks. The third area is where the controversy starts, it reveals how he was able to to many of his tricks. It by no means tries to downplay his skills, many of the displays give you a chance to understand how in depth his training and preparation was. There is one area where you can preform a trick with the stage and all. Had I been feeling better I would have videoed us doing the trick.

Josh is such a good sport

We had a blast playing with all the magic tricks and they do a great job with highlighting what makes Appleton special. Exactly what a local museum should do.