Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Living Museum

I visited a Folk Arts Museum in the state of Rajasthan, India back in 1979. Standing next to me looking at an exhibit of women dressed in their “folk costume” were two women dressed in the… same folk costume. It struck me forcefully that the folk life being depicted in the museum was alive and well and vibrant outside of the museum. That was strange. And instructive. 

For mostly museums are collections of things “they way they used to be,” a collection of objects, facts, stories, images from times long past. As such, they can be interesting and occasionally fascinating, but lean much more to the nouns of life than the verbs. As such, many museums (except for the hands-on science varieties) are deadly dull for kids and can be a challenge for adults as well. I often spend more time looking at the people looking at the paintings of people than I do at the paintings themselves. 

So here on my last full day of Stockholm, I had to choose between visiting one of the many, many museums or wandering around or working on my book. And so I did all three. Wandered to the Museum of Modern Art, a walk that included buying a Pippi Longstockings book for my granddaughter and stopping at a Brazilian samba dance workout at the Folk Festival stage, had a curry soup in their cafĂ© and sat looking out at the river editing Chapter 5 of my book. Which meant looking at the screen instead of the river, but still lovely to look up every once in a while. And then wandering a bit through the gallery actually looking at some paintings. 

By the way, those “many, many museums” add up to 97 according to the Museum Map of Stockholm. They include topics such as sports, silk-weaving, ABBA, the army, toys, Vikings, the Post Office, Russian pillaging, royal coins, porcelain, dance and movement, the police—and of course, many types of art. That would keep the museum-fan busy!

But I was happy to edit my words, look out at the river and see a little Picasso. And then read a bit of Pippi Longstockings on a lovely summer’s day. 

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