On Thursday and Friday of last week, I was a scribe at The Open Exhibits Summit sponsored by Ideum. This exhibit was focused on multi-touch, multi-user table sized tablets to place in museums and other educational facilities. Ideum is developing software based on a grant from The National Science Foundation. (Side note, when I used to work in Arlington, my office in Ballston was next to an NSF building and me and my coworkers wished we had worked there instead of the crappy banking/financial job we had). Anyway, I was around a bunch of really smart, amazing, awesome museum people, programmers and educators talking about how they could make museums a more social, interactive experience using these tablets. It was, really, really cool and if you go to the link above you can start to read about some of the stuff I helped record.
Anyway, I met this guy, Sandy Clark, he was one of the scribes and he was going to some of the Museums here in Albuquerque. He is working on a master’s degree and is very interested in museums. He volunteers at the Discovery Center in Springfield, Missouri.
The cat was really interesting and works all in freelance while going to school, raising some kids in a really conservative part of the world and just being a jack of all trades kind of guy. It was awesome hanging out with him those two days and he invited me along to check out some of these museums for free. Part of the package was going to The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.
Nothing of course could make this day more topical than the devastation occurring in Japan. As that nation faces the likelihood of a nuclear reactor melting down I kept that in mind as we swept through the museum. What you will notice first about the museum is that out front there are rockets and missiles you can see from Eubank. When I drive by it, I can not help but remember driving down 395, past the Pentagon in the months following September 11th, seeing the missiles lined all around our great center of military intelligence. It freaks me out frankly, seeing this shit, reminding me of the paranoia and absolute distrust of my governmental leaders. But considering the museum’s location in the country and the fact that it is privately funded, it’s not really surprising. Getting up close and personal with, what are not replicas, but restored weapons of destruction is awesome. I don’t mean awesome in the way I normally mean awesome, but in the absolute, true extent of the word.
I wish I had more to say about the content of the museum. I didn’t read a lot of the information provided, mostly because there was so much to take in visually, that I really just wasn’t drawn into the content of the words on the accompanying plaques. It’s that kind of museum, much like The Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., the visuals are enormous, all encompassing and say more than language is capable of. They did not however overlook in their devotion to Einstein his membership in pacifist groups. They also included aspects of other types of energy sources, including wind and solar and listed pros and cons of all. So for its potential slant, I did see some evidence of an open, multi-view point museum.
Like I said, Einstein was everywhere in this museum which was awesome, because as I grow older, I love Einstein more and more and more. Not only is he all smart, totally controversial and made very important discoveries and observations in which science and thought evolve from, but he give me hope. HE gives me hope because he blossomed later in life, though I don’t really suspect that my mind is holding the keys to anything. But maybe I get that novel done and people sorta buy it, if there are book stores left in the future. Clearly, the coolest thing this museum did was have a robotic puppet of Einstein that talked all about science and math and physics. It was soooo cool. Like, the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a museum. If I had any type of organizational skills I would turn this Puppet into some public television kids broadcasting about science and stuff. But, I’m a blogger, into punk rock, having freakishly long hair, watching Jackass and trying to make money without getting a corpo job. That design is far beyond my abilities of focus and structure. Someone awesome, get on it.
The prize of the museum however, ended up being Heritage Park. Grand in concept, currently, it’s a five acre lot behind the museum that houses some rusted out planes, missiles, and parts of rockets and submarines. It’s amazing. The relics of one of my reoccurring nightmares lie in this park and somehow, I thought it was really cool. We met a person at the museum. She told us about the B-29 that was in the back yard. The stuff she told us made me wish I was able to retain information for more than 9 seconds, because I could stir up some shit here. Luckily, I can’t. Basically, we were told that the B-29 that was in the backyard, that I have pictures of, that I saw, and touched and looked inside of is “officially” at the bottom of the sea off of Korea or Japan or China or something. Anyway, this is pretty much one of four B-29’s in existence still aside from The Enola Gay and The Bockscar. I really wish I remembered the name of this thing. It’s really, really, really cool.
The other thing that was pretty unreal about this day was that I met a guy, very, very briefly who is one of the last surviving people who worked on The Manhattan Project. I was instantly reminded of Thomas Barnett from Strike Anywhere and his own stories about his grandfather’s involvement. I wish I could find the interview I read a few years ago where Thomas talked at length about it. It was pretty scary shit to read. Anyway, check out “Sedition” from Dead F.M. which is all about it. It’s pretty unreal to see living history in the face. It was just one of these moments where I kept wondering, and wanted to ask him so bad about what he thought about the implications of his work on the world. I wonder if he felt any kind of correlation between the past and the present, the devastation that Japan is once again about to experience, are experiencing. It made me wonder what he would have to say about this.
The visit to this museum was totally worth while. I had wanted to go since I drove past it on my apartment search. Sadly, we did have to sort of rush through the experience as we had some other stops to make in the day and I didn’t really get the chance to read more about everything. I can say that the museum did not gloss over the destruction of nuclear weapons at all, but also, they didn’t make that the primary focus. I found this well-rounded, provocative, engaging and full experience. I want to go back, of course I want to go back. That’s what good museums do, compel repeat visits.
As always, you can see more photos to the right or on my flickr site here.