The Encyclopedia Britannica defines museums as “institutions dedicated to preserving and interpreting the primary tangible evidence of humankind and the environment.”
While that descriptor might be as dry as, well, dinosaur bones, museums have also been aptly described as repositories of the “real thing,” drawing visitors away from a world of plastics, reproductions and a deteriorating environment into a realm of wonder, reality, permanence and nostalgia.
Indeed, there is something magical about seeing or even touching the actual thing from that long ago or created by someone that world-renowned.
The history of museums is rich and long. Tomes could – and have – been written about the evolution and significance of the mouseion (Greek for “seat of the Muses”) throughout the ages. Suffice it to say that at some point, history’s “powers that be” realized the value of public access to the world’s precious collections.
Some of the largest and most visited museums in the world are art galleries, suggesting that people have a particular fascination with humankind’s creative form of expression.
The Louvre in Paris is the most popular museum worldwide. Also among the most-visited museums are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Modern and National Gallery Museums in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Italy’s Vatican Museums and Uffizi Gallery contain some of history’s most revered works of art.
But one doesn’t have to step outside Milwaukee to enjoy world-class museum experiences. The Milwaukee Art Museum is a work of architectural art itself, its striking Quadracci Pavilion soaring against blue lake and sky. This addition has made the museum with roots dating back to 1888 an international icon and a beacon of fine art in America’s Heartland.
Housing such beloved paintings as Henry Vianden’s “Landscape with Mountains and River” and Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Shepherdess,” Milwaukee’s iconic art museum has been offering virtual tours of its many collections and other online experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, too, have several of Milwaukee’s other museums (33 in all, including The Milwaukee Public Museum, the Streets of Old Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum, addtional art galleries, and many more).
Just two miles south of Eastcastle Place, the Milwaukee Art Museum will reopen its doors to the public in phases, beginning July 16. Admission will be free of charge for the first month. Many of the city’s museums are either currently open or will soon be as well. This is welcome and wonderful news for enthusiasts of art, history, motorcycles, even Bobbleheads!
We at Eastcastle are exhibiting our quest for enlightenment, too. Among several activities focused on arts and entertainment, our “Monday Museums” video program explores some of the world’s great art collections. Our curious and cultured residents can tour them from the comfort and safety of home.
Until we can enjoy Milwaukee’s rich cultural experiences again in person, we’re thankful for all that’s virtually possible!