Virtual Museum Impressions: Fort Ticonderoga, New York

September 2, 2021

        As the summer is winding down, I decided to take another virtual trip and I chose to visit Fort Ticonderoga located in Ticonderoga, New York. Fort Ticonderoga exists today to preserve, educate and provoke active discussion about the past and its importance to present and future generations; and they work on fostering an on-going dialogue surrounding citizens, soldiers, and nations through America’s military heritage. It preserves 2,000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, and Carillon Battlefield, and has the largest series of untouched Revolutionary War era earthworks surviving in America.

The first thing I did was I joined the History Camp America tour of Fort Ticonderoga led by Stuart Lilie, the Vice President of Public History at Fort Ticonderoga. Since I was a participant in the virtual History Camp America conference, I had access to this tour and was able to revisit the tour if I chose to do so. Lilie started the tour by providing an introduction to the history of Fort Ticonderoga. According to Lilie, the word Ticonderoga comes from the Mohawk word that means a place between the waters. Fort Ticonderoga sits between Lake George and Lake Champlain; specifically, he was standing where Lake George drains north into the LaChute River and the waterfalls drop two hundred and twenty feet into Lake Champlain.

Fort Ticonderoga was originally known as Fort Carillon when the French used the fort as a defense against British invasion during the Seven Years War (it was also called the French and Indian War). It was renamed Fort Ticonderoga after the British blew it up and General Lampert renamed the ruins Fort Ticonderoga then began the reconstruction. During the American Revolution, Ethan Allen, and his band of Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by Benedict Arnold, who held a commission from Massachusetts, attacked the British stationed there and took over the Fort on May 10, 1775. The British later recaptured Fort Ticonderoga and later abandoned it after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781. Fort Ticonderoga became a site for tours beginning in 1909.

        Lilie continued the virtual tour by showing viewers around Fort Ticonderoga to demonstrate what they do with visitors each day they are open. For instance, he had a discussion with reenactors about tailoring soldiers’ uniforms. He also had discussions with reenactors about shoemaking and gardening. Participants were also able to see some of the artifacts from the vast collection at Fort Ticonderoga. It was really cool to see inside the Thompson Pell Research Center where they hold their collections and view artifacts that they catalogued and stored most of their artifacts and documents to give us an idea of warfare at Fort Ticonderoga. Some artifacts include but are not limited to rare books which document the art of war and military science published in Europe and North America, textiles (i.e., camp flag of Loyalist-colonists on the side of the British-group), fine art, shovels, axes, ceramics from England, France, and China, wine bottle fragments, shoe buckles, over 2,000 decorative buttons, and pipe fragments. We also were able to see the Carion battlefield which the Fort Ticonderoga staff today preserve the long history of where the battles took place. Once I finished this virtual tour, I visited their Center of Digital History on their website.

At the Center of Digital History, I was able to see virtual exhibitions, their online collections database, and explored their YouTube channel which offers options for at home activities and an in-depth look into the collections and discussions. The virtual exhibitions include a sample of artifacts that are included in the in-person exhibitions and background information about the exhibits. Some of the virtual exhibitions include but are not limited to A Patriotic Service: Sarah Pell’s Enduring Legacy which focuses on Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell who devoted her life to advancing the rights of women through historic preservation and political action; Object Lessons: Perspectives on Material Culture; Iron and Stone: Building Fort Carillon which focuses on the construction of Fort Carillon; and Ticonderoga, A Legacy. While I appreciated learning a little bit of Fort Ticonderoga history in each of the exhibitions, I would have liked to explore more of the exhibit in a virtual space.

         In addition to the virtual experience, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, boat cruises, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year; they are open to the public May through October. I would like to at some point visit Fort Ticonderoga to see more of what they have to offer in person.

Have you been to Fort Ticonderoga before? If you have, please let me know what your experience was like.

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Links:

https://www.fortticonderoga.org/

https://www.fortticonderoga.org/learn-and-explore/center-for-digital-history/

https://www.historycamp.org/

Virtual Museum Impressions: Salvador Dali’s Dali Theatre Museum

June 10, 2021

Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.

I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Main Entrance

One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!

Fan Collage in the Dali Theatre-Museum

         As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.

Courtyard
Rainy Taxi

Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.

What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb.  While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.

Salvador Dali’s Labyrinth and his tomb

        The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mae West Room
Mae West Face

One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.

Babaouo

        I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.

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Links:

Dali Museums

Virtual Dali Theatre-Museum

Rainy Taxi Installation Story

The exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains

Dali Theatre Museum: Destino

Virtual Museum Impressions: Charles Dickens Museum

April 15, 2021

Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

        The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.

         As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.

        Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.

       In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.

      Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.

      I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.

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Links:

Desk and Chair

Mahogany Clock and Shelf

Interactive Tour

About the Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum Online Collection

Charles Dickens Museum Collections Database