A sojourn in New York City begins at The American Museum of Natural History

March 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm (books, New York City, Travel)

When my friend Helene and I are together, the talk of books is inexhaustible. I always come away with urgent recommendations that grow out of whatever we’ve been talking about. This time it was Russia and the Russians, and our perennial fascination with medieval Europe. I was receptive to the suggestion of the Stoppard play, having recently seen and hugely enjoyed his Arcadia. The Lewis title was new to me. I confess that I’ve had trouble reading this venerated author in the past, but I shall give it another go with this book.

I began my first full day in the city by going to the American Museum of Natural History. This is a place I used to visit as a child. I hadn’t been back in many years, but at Helene’s suggestion, I made it my destination. As I entered, I noted with satisfaction that the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall looked wonderfully old. (Was it always called that? I didn’t remember it being so.) The place was thronged with visitors. It took half an hour just to clear admissions – and I got there ten minute before the ten o’clock opening. I headed straight for the Rose Center for Earth and Space, inspecting some of the fascinating exhibits on view; from thence, to the Hayden Planetarium.

This was not the planetarium of my youth. The original building was demolished in 1997, to be replaced by a new state of the art facility. When it reopened in 2000, even sophisticated seen-it-all New Yorkers were stunned by what they saw:

The Hayden had also been equipped with the latest technological innovations. The the show that I attended was entitled “Journey to the Stars:”

Once inside the sphere, the visual and audio effects are mind boggling.

My next stop was the Hayden’s Big Bang Theater. In this venue, visitors arrange  themselves around a circular railing and gaze down rather than up, while Liam Neeson tells you about the origins of the universe. Shorter than “Journey” (which was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg), but no less impressive.

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Upon leaving the Rose Center I got lost, finally fetching up at “Body & Spirit: Tibetan Medical Paintings.” At the front of the long hall serving as the display space for this exhibit was a sign proclaiming: “This is a quiet gallery.” That alone was enough to persuade me to enter. Due most likely to the rather esoteric nature of the subject matter, the exhibit was sparsely attended. After the raucous exuberance of the crowds in other parts of the building, I was very grateful for the respite.

Here’s a brief video concerning the medical paintings:

Click here for more images from the exhibit.

I savored the contemplative interlude afforded me, and I loved this exhibit.

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Next up: Helene and I go to the opera…. 

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