One last Philadelphia post. While PJ and I were in Philly last week, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of non-eighteenth-century-related museums. I’ve been wanting to write a little about museums in general, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to post my thoughts on museums in general and the Philadelphia Art Museum, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and one or two other museums in particular.

I love museums. Art museums, science museums, historical museums. It doesn’t matter. But not all museums are created equally. Some really work, and some don’t. Maybe it’s obvious, but it seems to me that a museum should educate its patrons about its subject(s). I not only want to see great art and artifacts; I also want to be able to learn more about the ones that strike my fancy. For me, a museum is successful when I leave wanting to read more about something I say in it, an artist, a particular painting, or a historical event. When PJ and I visited Spain last summer, for example, I came away from the Museo del Prado wanting to know more about the work of Diego Velazquez, so I bought a book about his work from the museum’s store, which I read on the plane back. Since then, I’ve also watched a documentary on his painting “The Rokeby Venus,” which I’ve since seen at the National Gallery in London.

My two favorite museums thus far are the the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the National Portrait Gallery in London. I’ve always had a tendency to love Asian art. As a budding gay teen, for example, I dreamed of someday decorating my bedroom in a Japanese motif. I now love House of Flying Daggers, which is Chinese, of course. And I’ve started collecting images of Ganesh (mostly postcards and photos of sculptures in museums). So, when PJ and I were in SF last May, I went to the Asian Art Museum while he was at a conference. I had never been to a museum dedicated exclusively to Asian art. It was wonderful. It has excellent holdings from each nationality/ethnic group. And I felt genuinely educated about the works and their historical contexts. I bought two books there: The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco: Selected Works and A Curious Affair: The Fascination between East and West, a book about a special exhibit on five centuries of interaction between Asian countries and the west.

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