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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Patti Smith once sang in the song Gloria these immortal words: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” Well, today is the day, guys. On Wednesday I told you about some bronze statues peeing outside the Kafka Museum. But now I have a completely different collection of sculptures for you. In Yucca Valley, Desert Christ Park depicts Jesus’ time on Earth. As visitors walk around the 3.5 acre site they are greeted by 40 all-plaster statues, with the main highlight being a massive “last supper” that people can add themselves into, you know, for a Japanese tourist photo. If you’re wondering how Christ Park started, you need to go back to 1951 when the property was owned by Reverend Eddie Garver. It was his vision to establish a Christian-themed park as a light for world peace. He soon met Frank Antone Martin, a sculptor-poet and engineer, who came up with the idea to create “Jesus” statues out of steel-reinforced concrete. Desert Christ Park was dedicated on Easter Sunday of that year with a resurrected statue. Anyway, here we are over 60 years later and the park is still with us. Unfortunately, it’s free so a few statues are missing limbs and there is a lot of graffiti on the trail. But art, whether Christ-like or not, will always be disrespected, especially when it’s out in the elements of the harsh desert conditions. That it survives at all is a miracle!

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Actor Kirk Douglas, star of the 1956 film Lust for Life, posing with a Vincent van Gogh self-portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Nearly one hundred Vladimir Lenin statues have been toppled in the Ukraine since anti-government protests began in December. A Lenin statue that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere is the most random one of all. On the corner of N. 36th Street and Evanston Avenue N in the Fremont neighborhood is one of Seattle’s strangest attractions, a 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin. Sculpted by Bulgarian Emil Venkov under commission from the Soviet and Czechoslovak governments, his statue fiercely marches while surrounded by flames and symbols of war. Several months after being removed from Lenin’s Square during the 1989 Velvet Revolution, a Seattle resident named Lewis E. Carpenter (who happened to be working in what is now Slovakia) found the statue, which was ready to be discarded and saved it after much effort and expense. He died in a car accident and the statue was left in his backyard. In 1995, his family placed it in Fremont with the help of a local brass foundry. The statue has evoked a wide range of responses, both good and bad, but has become an artistic part of the community as it is decorated with Christmas lights, dressed up in drag for Gay Pride week, and has even been painted as a clown. We’ve covered weird statues before, like the Boll Weevil Monument in Alabama, the Beatles of Kazakhstan and of course the "Child Eater" of Switzerland, but nothing beats a random statue of a Communist revolutionary in an American city. Especially when you consider the fact that the current U.S. President is a socialist communist fascist atheist progressive Nazi…or something.

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A few years ago, I told you guys about Salvation Mountain, an art installation piece created by Leonard Knight of nearby Slab City, California, which is located not far from the Salton Sea. Knight was forced to leave his mountain due to failing health, but it lives on as “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection”. A nearby road sign proclaims Slab City as the “Last Free Space,” home of hippies and anti-government types who live in a collection of trailers and sculpture sites in the middle of the desert. It is a free campsite and you can stay as long as you want. One of its best known art pieces is called Rockette Bob’s “Church of Broken Toys”. It’s basically a camper with an attached decked out truck. Various pieces of old playthings and junk are glued all over it, including a broken television and an old Santa figurine. So it’s more of an aesthetic design than a practical one, if you know what I mean? Anyway, I believe several churches on wheels exist, which is great because we definitely need more cars and trucks with bling. 

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Even though he was known for killing lots and lots of animals, the cute lil’ teddy bear was named after President Teddy Roosevelt due to an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902. An American Black Bear was cornered, clubbed, and tied to a willow tree after a long chase with the hounds. Roosevelt refused to shoot it, believing this was unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery. How lovely! At the same time, the Steiff firm, unaware of the American teddy bear, produced a stuffed bear from a German inventor’s toy designs, which had been exhibited at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903. So remember these useless bits of trivia next time you are a contestant on a game show.

Anyway, South Korea’s Jeju Island is home to the Teddy Bear Museum, which features teddy bear versions of famous works of art, artists/celebrities and historical events. As you can see from the photos above, there are recreations of Mona Lisa, Creation of Adam, and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte as well as a Vincent Van Gogh teddy bear. Also, the fall of the Berlin Wall and D-Day invasion are enacted by teddy bears…of course. But the museum is more than just wacky teddy bear displays. There are antique examples over 100 years old, including some items from the original German company Steiff. Visitors can also see two of the world’s most expensive bears, the LV bear and the Diamond Bear. And outside in the garden, replicas of the Korean black bear family are placed throughout the grounds, probably scaring all the children.

If museums are supposed to be educational, I guess visitors learn that humans are basically useless without the important accomplishments of all these teddy bears.

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