This Belongs in a Museum

Once called the "Stephen Fry of Museum Blogging," this tumblog, written by a frustrated museologist, is dedicated to the small, random museums and weird attractions of the world. Always informative, usually funny, sometimes offensive.

Bringing you museum-approved grammatical errors and typos since 2010.

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I’d like to think I wasn’t a bad person during my younger days. Well, except for that time I tried to stab a boy with a carving tool in pottery class (he had been making fun of me for months but he probably just liked me???) that led to a school suspension. I also served a bunch of detentions during high school (usually for chewing gum or writing on my hand or wearing clothes with too many holes in them). Oh, and my best friend (who I haven’t seen in nearly 15 years) used to sell drugs in the park by her house and her boyfriend was in and out of jail (guess what for???). But all in all I was a pretty decent kid who just happened to be hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was like Lindsay Weir on the tv show Freaks and Geeks. Hey, at least they’re more interesting, right?

Anyway, I am glad I didn’t grow up in Germany during the 1600s. Private jail cells, known as studentenkarzers, were designated rooms the size of an apartment to punish unruly students. They were once the norm at many German universities between 1778 to 1914. One survives in its original state at Heidelberg University. Up some rickety stairs, visitors can see a graffiti-covered room with its original fixtures, like iron frame beds and wooden tables. Every inch of wall is filled with family crests, fraternity house symbols, scribbled spontaneous poems and silhouettes of the captive student’s faces capped with the red cap of the University uniform. Friends held together would line their faces in a group portrait, usually with signatures and the date of confinement. There is a door (now locked) that once allowed student prisoners to enter the Old University for classes during their stay. Imprisonment usually lasted from a couple of days to four weeks. Over time, being jailed in the studentenkarzer became a rite of passage for many students. Eventually visitors were allowed and the jails devolved into party rooms, where the locked-up students would invite people over to celebrate their incarceration. The Heidelberg Tourist Office describes “the much-coveted stay in the ‘Student Prison’ for such offenses as disturbing the peace, womanising, unruly drunkenness, and setting the townspeople’s pigs free.” Today the prison offers a brief glimpse into student life pre-World War I.

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I bet you didn’t know that October is Bat Appreciation Month. Or maybe you did. Who knows? There always seems to be something to appreciate…I mean a few weeks ago we were celebrating the octopus. Anyway, at the south end of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas is a large wind vane in the shape of a flying bat. Well, it’s actually a rotating metal sculpture created by the artist Dale Whistler in 1998. It’s called Nightwing. If you’re wondering why it exists in the first place, well Austin has the world’s largest bat colony, specifically 1.5 million of the Mexican free-tailed bat (which is also the official state bat of Texas). They summer under the bridge (and spend their winters in Mexico). The best time to see the bats is supposedly July/August but each year they attract 100,000 tourists who come to watch them. So if you’re into bats, it sounds like this bridge is the place for you. 

(Image Source)

Earlier this year the Getty Museum acquired 66 gelatin silver prints taken by the photographer Arthur Tress from his photo series “The Dream Collector” and “Theater of the Mind”. Beginning his career in the 1960s, Tress originally took ‘straight’ photographs, mostly street scenes, before moving in the direction of surreal, eerie images inspired by the dreams (or should I say nightmares?) of children. A random child was approached and they told the artist about their dreams, which he then artistically re-created in staged scenarios featuring the actual child as the main subject. The photographs, which were all shot in black and white, display the darker side of a child’s subconsciousness; sinister nightmares that usually take over a person for the rest of their lives. The artist, who turned an abandoned hospital into his artist studio in the 1980s, wanted to “explicitly visualize the terror, excitement, and confusion of childhood by placing children in the center of compositions and surrounding them with a destabilized world.” Some of the photos include Boy with Root Hands (1971), Girl in Mask (1975), Boy in Goldfish Bowl (1970), Child Buried in Sand, Coney Island (1968), Boy in Burnt Out Furniture Store, Newark (1969) and Hockey Player (1972).