As the late, great Billie Holiday once sang:
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, bloggers gotta blog.
I started this damp Saturday by boring the socks off of the nice folks who use Convoglio email. They were treated to a longish discourse on two alternative ways to train Spam filters. Count yourself lucky if you were not among them.
Bore others into stupefaction: done. Now what?
I was looking that the photos from our recent trip to New Zealand to see if I could milk them for one more blog entry. Maybe, maybe not. But that’s now a project for another day. What I realized is that I really like small museums.
I don’t mean “small” as in “Eugene, Oregon has a nice art museum on campus.” I mean more like “Fairfield, Iowa has a Museum of Spoons”. Which, so far as I’m aware, it does not.
I want to share with you some photos from a few unexpected surprises that we’ve come across in our travels.
The Cimarron Heritage Center – Boise City, Oklahoma
Just after I retired in 2013, we made an 11,000 kilometer loop around the states that lie west of the Mississippi River. Having recently watched the excellent Ken Burns series on the Great American Dust Bowl, we made a detour of several hundred kilometers just to visit the place where it began: Boise City, OK.
Extra credit: Unlike the town in Idaho, the locals pronounce the name Boyce City.
We arrived late in the afternoon, maybe 4:00 or so. We’d been living in a cocoon of comfort inside Mary Anne’s new Audi. Opening the door in the museum parking lot was like stepping into a sauna. It was 113 degrees farenheit (45 celsius) and a strong wind was blowing.
The place was supposed to close at 5:00 but the nice ladies running the place told us to take as long as we’d like. I could have spent days. The museum spans many buildings and is filled with everything someone thought that others might find interesting.
I have no idea why I have only three photos of this special place. But I will be sure to take many more, should we ever return.
The Prairie Village – Rugby, North Dakota
We were heading west on U.S. Highway 2, the most northernly route across the states. Imagine our surprise to discover that the exact geographic center of North America turned out to be conveniently located right beside the highway! (A little too conveniently, perhaps?)
But it was worth a stop because nearby was an entirely reconstructed prairie-era village. This was at least as cool as Boise City.
Over the past two hundred years or so, many small towns in the area were abandoned for one reason or another. Some thought that they would thrive when the railway came through, only to be bypassed. Others were abandoned when years of drought drove farmers away.
But those who remained began collecting buildings and their contents that were left behind. On this large, flat piece of land, they assembled a collection of buildings gathered from here-and-there into a town that never was.
The C.M. Russell Museum – Great Falls, Montana
Charles Marion Russell (1864–1926) was many things: consummate Westerner, historian, advocate of the Northern Plains Indians, cowboy, writer, outdoorsman, philosopher, environmentalist, conservationist, and not least, artist.C.M. Russell Museum
Charlie Russell was a lucky guy – an artist recognized in his lifetime and able to make a good living off of his art.
We found ourselves here because I can’t count. We were due to meet friends in Missoula, Montana on a certain date for some river rafting. As the day drew near, I realized that we were one day ahead of schedule on our loop-the-west road trip.
A quick phone call later, we were booked into a room at Glacier National Park for the night, which left plenty of time for lunch and a tour of the Russell Museum in Grand Falls.
Mangawhai Museum – Mangawhai Heads, New Zealand
We had just spent three great days at Mangawhai Heads while heading south to meet friends in New Plymouth. Beaches were visited, as was a very earthy, friendly local pub, and a French restaurant on Valentine’s Day.
As we left town, Mary Anne spotted the museum. We decided to have a look.
The first thing I noticed when we pulled into the parking lot was the restored school and other buildings across the street. It brought the Prairie Village in North Dakota to mind.
Inside there was something for everyone: local Maori history, sea and seabird ecology, lifestyle exhibits, and a display of wood carvings by a local artist who died young.
Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room – Southwold, England
We made a day trip to Southwold while visiting nearby friends. After a rendezvous with still more friends, lunch on the pier and a stroll through town, we found ourselves outside the Sailors’ Reading Room.
One part museum, one part social centre, the Reading Room is in my opinion exactly the sort of thing one travels to England for.
You may say that I didn’t take a lot of photos. I say that I took plenty for a place festooned with No Photography signs.
This could go on forever. Perhaps you feel that it already has.
Big museums are great. Where else are you going to see a Picasso or a Van Gogh? But for my money, the best entertainment values are the small places filled with items of local interest.
If you know of other great small museums, feel free to mention them in the comments section.