Tuesdays at the local culture morgue

by Stefan Fletcher April. 14, 2009 6358 views

I referred to museums as "local culture morgues" in my previous post, a term that struck a chord in more than one viewer.

They are beautiful places, full of imagination, awe, mystery and curiosity - all the nice things you can ascribe to someone. They relate stories of horror, courage, endurance, pity - the whole gamut of human experience.

The most moving museum I know is the International Red Cross museum where the index cards of four million + soldiers who died in the First World War are displayed - row upon row upon row of people's lives.

The most tedious one I know is the French National Antiquities Museum in the château of Saint-German-en-Laye: display cases of rocks gathering dust under bad lighting.

In between are all the marvels and joys of discovering who we are - although no one seems to relate museums with a personal discovery, a journey backwards and forwards into ourselves, our culture, our sense of position.

Again, I say that museums are all about the future, not the past. And again, I grieve to witness hundreds of people take in a hot exhibition - never mind the permanent collection - rather like a musical.

I always hang around the exit of a museum to look at visitors' expressions. As I said in the last post, it can happen that someone leaves with an awestruck, illuminated, thoughtful face, but it happens all too rarely.

I hope you find the time soon to go to your local museum. But if you're curious, read about the opposite of what I'm considering: Stendahl syndrome [en.wikipedia.org].

Technical notes (before I become any more sanctimonious):
I went to my local museum early this morning without realising the sun was exactly in the wrong place for a measured, calm study of what is in fact a fairly ugly building.
In a fit of pique, I blew out the highlights, upped the contrast and turned it into a very high-key mono - and liked the results so much I did the same to all the others.
As you've noticed, they're all in mono except for the interior of a charming little museum made all the lovelier for those warm, embracing blues and the fact that the museum itself is located in the ugliest town I know: Elefsina, home of the ancient Eleusinian mysteries. Unfortunately, the only mystery remaining today is how anyone can still live there.
Hope you enjoy the contrasts.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens, today

Emmnuel Benaki museum contemporary annex, Athens

The Uffizi, Florence.

Elefsina archaeological museum

The Uffizi again. Sorry. This post [photoblog.com] features the undoctored version

Stoa of Attalos, Athens

Guess where? The Uffizi!
If anyone's wondering why only Athens and Florence get a mention, it's because I haven't been anywhere else recently and taken photographs of its museums. Remember, many museums have a strict ‘no photography’ rule both inside and outside.

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There are 23 comments , add yours!
Jessica 11 years, 1 month ago

There's nothing better than visiting musuems to learn about where you've come from, to know what you may have done had you been born hundreds, perhaps thousands of years earlier than you have been. I like what you've done with the photos - especially the third shot.
We're quite lucky in Melbourne that we have one particularly good musuem - remembering that as far as colonised people come, the history of those people is only 200 years old. The culture and people of this country, not of the colony, is well over 40,000 years old.
What I think strikes me the most, is that human behaviour, at the most base level, has really not changed that much. The contexts, the technology, all has. Take that all away, and what are we?
Great post, Stefan.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Marsha 11 years, 1 month ago

Shots with great perspective and impressive editing - #6 is wonderful! Also, enjoyed your interesting commentary.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Soulcurry 11 years, 1 month ago

Great photos and a really thought-provoking post about museums. The term ''culture morgue'' strikes a chord.
You folks who live in or around cities with great museums are so lucky. We have a stupid paltry one which has a small pathetic collection with lousy lighting.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ela 11 years, 1 month ago

great shots. I especially like #2 i'm adding it to my favourites. Great b&w and composition.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Mike 11 years, 1 month ago

Very beautiful shots and beautiful buildings.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Mikkal Noptek 11 years, 1 month ago

Beautiful compositions.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Rob Tulk 11 years, 1 month ago

The high contrast really works well in these pictures but the strongest point in them all is the composition.It's nice to see you're not afraid to break the 'rules' and put your horizon in the centre in two shots.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Tim 11 years, 1 month ago

Very strong b&w, it is fascinating the effect that colour photo causes in the middle of this set, it would usually have disturbed me, but the blue tones are lovely,,, 6 and 7 for me :)

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Laura 11 years, 1 month ago

Gorgeous set! Love the black and white!

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jacki 11 years, 1 month ago

I like #6, very nicely done!

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jarvo J 11 years, 1 month ago

Neat shots. I'm a big fan of high contrast b&w. I particularly like the reflections in 3&5, but the Stoa of Attalos went into my faves, I think mainly for your angle showing the roof ornaments.

If you ever have the misfortune to see the Jarvo family as they leave a musee you'll see us darting into to the shop to get the souvenirs (I fact, I think I am usually the only one of us that is more interested in the exhibition than the shop and even I must get the obligatory post card). I don't think we are alone in this though. I heard a story the other day that the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas had an exhibition based on anceint Egypt made entirely of fibre glass, yet in the shop you could buy a genuine mummy if you had enough money - just how bizarre is that?

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jordijoan 11 years, 1 month ago

espectáculo de líneas !!! maravillosas fotos !!!

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Susan Jane 11 years, 1 month ago

Fabulous lines and angles and reflections! Wonderful set!!!

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Hanna Westesson 11 years, 1 month ago

I like the composition of the 2nd last picture.
In the last Uffizi - how did you manage to get a photo without hundreds of queuing people? :-)

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Boszorka65 11 years, 1 month ago

Great shot. Very good B/W photos. My favorite #3:))

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 11 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I hate it when I go somewhere and am not permitted to take photos. So lame. Love the B/W contrast by the way.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Kecskemétiné Nelli 11 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for reminding me about the local museums, I have been planning to visit them for for some months because I visited them a long time ago..
I know pretty well what to expect but there are always some temporary exhibitions as well. =)

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Dorothe 11 years, 1 month ago

Interesting post and great pics. 6 and 7 are my favs. I love our local history museums. Most of them are full lof stuff I know from my parents or grandparents. It`s about their live and its interesting.I`m always bored, when I see sculptures and pictures of people which have no relation to real life.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Piyali 11 years, 1 month ago

Your note about museum is thought provoking, I wish I had a local museum around here so that I could go and revisit your ideas. Wonderful post, love No#7.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Weirdworld 11 years, 1 month ago

Beautiful, 3: perfect mirror ;-)

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Brian 11 years, 1 month ago

I like the results too, especially in 3 and 6.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jan Eljapa 11 years, 1 month ago

thanks for the extra info, i like #2 and 7 most.

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
Peace4kidss 11 years, 1 month ago

gr8 shot

11 years, 1 month ago Edited
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