Museums are where we put our best stuff. An item might belong in a museum if it’s rare, expensive, irreplaceable, or so ordinary and beloved it becomes extraordinary. A self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, a can of SPAM, a Romanian mud hut, a narwhal horn, a discarded red stiletto: They can all be found in a museum somewhere in the world.
But exhibitions in museums are more than mere collections of striking items. Museums are vital institutions that take on the tasks of collecting, interpreting, and caring for artifacts — both precious and charmingly ordinary — so they can be experienced by the general public.
The Ancient Greek word mouseion means ‘seat of Muses.’ In classical antiquity, a museum was a place for contemplation and philosophical debate. When art moved from the open air, larger-than-life statuary of the Greco-Roman era to more intimate, human-scale paintings and objects, the definition of museum changed, too. It became a place to visit to see art — and anything placed in a museum became art.
In this episode, we romp through the delightful hoarding behavior behind Renaissance Wunderkammers, learn about the first museum curator (spoiler: It was a woman!), and celebrate the majesty of the Louvre. Then we recommend books that transported us to museums around the world, including two nonfiction books devoted to art appreciation, a historical novel about 17th-century Amsterdam, coffee table books that celebrate cabinets of curiosities, and a fantastical story that goes behind the scenes of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. (show notes / transcript)
Top image courtesy of rafaellsilveira/Shutterstock.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is ©2023 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.