Author Topic: Favorite unexpected learning moments  (Read 381 times)

Offline Wilbur

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Favorite unexpected learning moments
« on: February 27, 2018, 07:33:15 PM »
I was reading an article earlier on a hidden gem at the Louvre, Napoleon III's apartments. My wife and I visited France a few years ago, and stopped by the Louvre for a few hours. A few things hit me-a lot of the "famous" exhibits were not very busy (Winged Victory over Samathrace, Venus de Milo, etc.), while the Mona Lisa was PACKED...with people facing away, snapping selfies. Kind of amazing, hardly anyone actually looking at it.

The unexpected educational moment I had came at a few different times, looking at Napoleon III's apartments in the Louvre was one. Another came when looking at "Le Petit Palais", with it's 20 ft golden doors, built as a Mother in Laws suite.


Walking in the Jardin des Luxembourg brought the same kind of appreciation. Now a public park, and reduced to ~20 acres from about 80, this was a noblemans walled garden, so they could walk without being mobbed by poor people.

Seeing all this really brought upon an appreciation for the French Revolution, the sheer opulence and extravagance the aristocrats enjoyed compared to the rest of France. Any other "aha!" moments others enjoyed?

Edit: Thought it'd be good to note that I'm not a big fan of the guillotine, sometimes you really just have to see things to understand the history.

Offline BrewBama

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 12:25:42 AM »
One of my European ‘Aha’ moment: The town outside the gates of the Army Airfield where I was stationed in Germany, was settled in the yr 800.  That was staggering to think about while imbibing with the locals at the Gasthaus.  The town I live in now was founded in 1809 — over a thousand years later!


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Offline Robert

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2018, 01:08:14 AM »
I might have just had one of those moments!

Something that struck me and has stuck with me was my first time in the British Museum.  Inside is the reconstructed facade of a Mesopotamian building, you know, from one of the first cities on earth.  The scale is just overwhelming:  columns easily four stories high and massively thick carved from a single piece of stone, and so on.  It hit me that the scale of architecture was so far beyond the human scale, compared to Greek, or medieval, or modern....By the time you get to even the most imposing classical facades of 19th century courthouses or the like, the scale is just so much smaller.  It's like people started building at the grandest scale, and architecture has steadily withered.  Now you walk through a utilitarian door just tall enough to pass through even in buildings of a ceremonial nature, like a religious or government building.

That always stayed with me, and I sort of understood it, but Wilbur's post ties in.  These first civilizations' architecture was not on a human scale, it was on the rulers' scale:  it was meant to make humans feel inferior and to point out that the rulers for whom these were built were superhuman.  As the gulf between rulers and ruled has narrowed, architecture has progressively reflected this.  Now something so extravagant as the Luxembourg garden inspires less reverence than revulsion. And maybe a few beheadings.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2018, 01:24:33 AM »
Many places come to mind. Here is a counter example. The doorways in the sites in the desert Southwest. Most are about 4 ft or so high. That was not because the Anasazi were of that height, they were only slightly smaller than the current average height.

So why the short doorways? One explanation is that it moderates the temperature, as the stone dwellings will keep the the cool during the day, and the warmth during the night. Another explaination is that if you are an attacker, you must bend down to enter a room, and are vulnerable to a blow on the head as you come through the short door.

As an aside, i was at one site and a guy was saying, man these were little people. He was about 6’7”. I was tempted to say, look down at the cars in the parking lot, those must be used by little people. Sometimes I keep my opinions to myself.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 02:05:19 PM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline ethinson

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2018, 01:03:57 PM »
I'm sure I've had plenty of those moments, I just can't think of one right now, but the story about the Mona Lisa reminded me of what several people have told me about it, mainly that it's really small.  Especially with all the hype and glory around it and it's only a foot wide and 2 foot tall.  Big, but compared to some of the other pieces that literally take up a whole wall.  I know several people who have seen it and their reaction was... "meh.." Most of the other da Vinci pieces get ignored as well, or at least aren't *as* famous.  I'd love to go to the Louvre.  My wife has been, so hopefully someday we'll get to go together.

It also reminds me of the last time I went to the Natural History Museum in D.C.  It was about 10 years ago and I don't remember if this was a permanent exhibit that just opened or a temporary exhibit but in the gemstone hall they had a huge collection of Harry Winston jewelry, including the Hope Diamond.  They had it on a circular pedestal in the center of the room, that rotated and people were packed 10 deep to see it.  It was interesting, but it's just a rock.  The whole rest of the museum was empty.  The closest I could get to it was 5 people deep.  Not to push stereotypes, but it's accurate in this case, it was a bunch of Asian women and I was tall enough to see over them, so I didn't need to get too close. 
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2018, 02:20:04 PM »
I was surprised by the Mona Lisa room too.  It was so crowded and everyone pushing and jockeying to get a better look at the lady.  When you turn around the entire other wall is a painting of The Wedding at Cana.  It is massive and gorgeous and no one even noticed it.  I wanted to hang out and just spend time that painting but the folks I was with had their list of "have to sees" so we moved on.

The British History Museum has so many amazing things in it too.  My wife and I wandered in it for 4 hours until the doors closed.  I could have spent 2 more days there.

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Online jeffy

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2018, 07:23:10 PM »
I once went to see a traveling impressionist art show in Denver that was timed entrance.  They'd let 20 people in every 20 minutes I think and it was so crowded that when I finally got to stand right in front of a painting, I was determined to look at that particular painting no matter what it was.  Fortunately it was a Pissarro, one of my favorite artists. 
Then the guard told me I was standing too close.  It was not my favorite museum experience.
My favorite museum experience comes because my wife is a former art museum employee and gets us in almost everywhere for free by showing her ID card.  More money for beer later.
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Offline ethinson

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2018, 10:23:19 PM »
I once went to see a traveling impressionist art show in Denver that was timed entrance.  They'd let 20 people in every 20 minutes I think and it was so crowded that when I finally got to stand right in front of a painting, I was determined to look at that particular painting no matter what it was.  Fortunately it was a Pissarro, one of my favorite artists. 
Then the guard told me I was standing too close.  It was not my favorite museum experience.
My favorite museum experience comes because my wife is a former art museum employee and gets us in almost everywhere for free by showing her ID card.  More money for beer later.

When we were at the Denver Art Museum back in Feb of 2017 they were doing an exhibit of Star Wars costumes and concept art and I really wanted to do it, but it cost a fortune and it was the same as you describe, you had to wait in line for three hours until you got let in with your 1:15PM Group.  We skipped it but saw a lot of the other stuff.

I don't know if I would call it a learning moment, but more a sobering realization, the Denver Art Museum has a huge collection of Native American art, a lot from the NW, including the famous Thunderbird on masks and totems (a variant of which is now the Seattle Seahawks logo).  They also had intricate bead work on bison hide that had to have taken YEARS.  As much as I enjoyed that exhibit it was sad at the same time.  Not to get too political, but this was right after the inauguration and thinking about the "America First" crowd that wants to destroy this culture or, more accurately, pretend it never existed.  All the rhetoric with "This is our country and you can get the F out!" Very somber.  But I thought to myself, we have to save this culture, this is important!
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2018, 11:15:23 PM »
I once went to see a traveling impressionist art show in Denver that was timed entrance.  They'd let 20 people in every 20 minutes I think and it was so crowded that when I finally got to stand right in front of a painting, I was determined to look at that particular painting no matter what it was.  Fortunately it was a Pissarro, one of my favorite artists. 
Then the guard told me I was standing too close.  It was not my favorite museum experience.
My favorite museum experience comes because my wife is a former art museum employee and gets us in almost everywhere for free by showing her ID card.  More money for beer later.

When we were at the Denver Art Museum back in Feb of 2017 they were doing an exhibit of Star Wars costumes and concept art and I really wanted to do it, but it cost a fortune and it was the same as you describe, you had to wait in line for three hours until you got let in with your 1:15PM Group.  We skipped it but saw a lot of the other stuff.

I don't know if I would call it a learning moment, but more a sobering realization, the Denver Art Museum has a huge collection of Native American art, a lot from the NW, including the famous Thunderbird on masks and totems (a variant of which is now the Seattle Seahawks logo).  They also had intricate bead work on bison hide that had to have taken YEARS.  As much as I enjoyed that exhibit it was sad at the same time.  Not to get too political, but this was right after the inauguration and thinking about the "America First" crowd that wants to destroy this culture or, more accurately, pretend it never existed.  All the rhetoric with "This is our country and you can get the F out!" Very somber.  But I thought to myself, we have to save this culture, this is important!

The Star Wars Costume exhibit is coming to the Detroit Institute of Arts this summer. We will go, as we get admission with our membership.

The Denver Art Museum has a fine section of Native American Art. Some museums have returned certain items to tribes that have requested them back.

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Online jeffy

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Re: Favorite unexpected learning moments
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2018, 12:53:23 AM »
I once went to see a traveling impressionist art show in Denver that was timed entrance.  They'd let 20 people in every 20 minutes I think and it was so crowded that when I finally got to stand right in front of a painting, I was determined to look at that particular painting no matter what it was.  Fortunately it was a Pissarro, one of my favorite artists. 
Then the guard told me I was standing too close.  It was not my favorite museum experience.
My favorite museum experience comes because my wife is a former art museum employee and gets us in almost everywhere for free by showing her ID card.  More money for beer later.

When we were at the Denver Art Museum back in Feb of 2017 they were doing an exhibit of Star Wars costumes and concept art and I really wanted to do it, but it cost a fortune and it was the same as you describe, you had to wait in line for three hours until you got let in with your 1:15PM Group.  We skipped it but saw a lot of the other stuff.

I don't know if I would call it a learning moment, but more a sobering realization, the Denver Art Museum has a huge collection of Native American art, a lot from the NW, including the famous Thunderbird on masks and totems (a variant of which is now the Seattle Seahawks logo).  They also had intricate bead work on bison hide that had to have taken YEARS.  As much as I enjoyed that exhibit it was sad at the same time.  Not to get too political, but this was right after the inauguration and thinking about the "America First" crowd that wants to destroy this culture or, more accurately, pretend it never existed.  All the rhetoric with "This is our country and you can get the F out!" Very somber.  But I thought to myself, we have to save this culture, this is important!

The Star Wars Costume exhibit is coming to the Detroit Institute of Arts this summer. We will go, as we get admission with our membership.

The Denver Art Museum has a fine section of Native American Art. Some museums have returned certain items to tribes that have requested them back.
The Seattle Museum has a couple floors or that.  It is pretty cool.
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