Sunday, September 26, 2010

Losing Paradise? Endangered Plants Here and Around the World

Where: National Museum of Natural History

When: until December 12, 2010

I was a bit concerned that this exhibit would be depressing. It's not just polar bears or ice caps that are disappearing; plants are vanishing as well. Not the sort of thing to pick up one's spirits at lunchtime. Rather than skip the exhibit, however, I remembered that the point of this exercise is to see everything, regardless of whether or not I think I'm going to like it, so off I went.

As has happened before, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, plants are endangered, but scientists are working to save them, and the museum has developed a way to pinpoint the plants most in need of attention quickly and accurately, thus leading to more plants saved.

The exhibit consists of botanical drawings of endangered plants - really lovely and very detailed. The artists work from specimens that are in the museum's collection and from the field, providing a visual description of the plants to further the work of scientists in saving them.

What was especially interesting is that on Mondays (when I went), one of the illustrators is actually in the exhibit room, working on a new drawing. I've never been to an exhibit where the artist was "in residence." How cool is that, to see the person who is responsible for such beautiful and important work, sitting in the back of the hall, creating more art?

Verdict: well worth a lunch time visit - try to go on Monday, when you can see one of the illustrators at work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Hello fans of museum exhibits, and welcome to my blog. I'm lucky enough to work just a few blocks from the National Mall in Washington, DC, and I take advantage of my close proximity to the museums to visit them at lunch time. I go to:
  • all the museums on the Mall,
  • the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery (on F Street, between 7th & 9th),
  • the Renwick (close to the White House),
  • the Building Museum (on F Street, between 4th and 5th) and
  • the Postal Museum (by Union Station).
I get a little exercise, I learn a little something, I get away from the office - what could be better?

You can get museum reviews from the Washington Post, or from any number of other sources, but I'm going to focus on what you can see in a short period of time, and what's most memorable (good or bad) about the exhibits I visit. I have no academic background in museum studies or art history, so these are merely the views of a lay person, but I hope you'll find this entertaining enough to check in periodically and see what's worth visiting in town.

If you'd like to know what exhibits are currently on view at local museums, check out these links:

I first started systematically visiting museums in August 2009, and since then, I've been to over 100 exhibits. Some of them have been wonderful; some have been bizarre (not mutually exclusive categories); some have been dull; some have been less than I hoped, but I've learned an enormous amount since I started this, and I always come back to the office feeling better after my trip.

My system is that I visit the current exhibits that are closest to closing; for example, when I started in August 2009, I went to all the exhibits that were closing in September. Right now, it's September 2010, and I'm visiting exhibits that are closing in December. Some months, there are over a dozen exhibits closing; other months there are only a handful. I haven't been doing this long enough to know if there's a regular ebb and flow to the year, as far as exhbit openings and closing are concerned, but I noticed that last year, no exhibits closed in December, and this year, only two exhibits are closing in the last month of the year. January, on the other hand, has been a big month for closings, both in 2011 and 2010, so perhaps there is a method to the madness?

Stay tuned for reviews of exhibits, and information on upcoming museum offerings - if you live in the DC area, you're in the best place in the world for visiting museums at no cost!