museum

MiM 010 – Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Confession:  I am not a car person

I’ve always thought of the automobile as just a mode of transportation.  Nothing fancy, totally practical.  However, the marketing person in me completely understands the emotional appeal cars can have on people.  And the product manager in me can appreciate a good design in any form.  So I was completely surprised after my visit to the Lane Motor Museum when I had this strange desire to just pick up one of the microcars in their collection and take it home.  Maybe it’s my recent fascination with all things tiny (no Game of Thrones for me – I binge watch shows about tiny homes).  Or maybe it’s just the mash-up of something so practical in a package that seems so impractical.  Whatever the reason, their vast collection of microcars is just one reason to visit the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Home to the largest collection of microcars, and also one of the largest amphibious vehicles – the 60 Ton LARC – the Lane Motor Museum has enough variety to satisfy both the hardcore and casual car enthusiast (and even just the average museum nerd!).  Focused primarily on European cars — although there are cars from all around the world — the museum goes beyond the traditional car museum by collecting cars that are odd, unique, or are truly one-of-a-kind.  Most of these cars are models that were never sold in the United States, and most of them are not the type of car you’d find in the typical homeowner’s garage.  Whether it’s a prototype car, a test car, a modified car, a failed innovation, or a product designed for a very specific niche, all of the cars in their collection reflect a specific point in history and a specific cultural influence that drove its development. 

So let’s get started traveling through their amazing collection!

Museum Highlights: 

Lane Motor Museum – starting out with just 80 cars from the founder’s private collection, the building that houses the museum was originally a Sunbeam bread factory.  The original 80 cars have now grown to a total of 545 – with about 150 cars on display at any time — and the collection now includes scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, a few airplanes and some canoes.  Rumor has it that sometimes on a hot summer day visitors can still smell the faint odor of baking bread.   

Restoration & Care of the Collection – listen to the episode to hear about how they “exercise” the cars, the restoration process, and the challenges of finding parts for foreign cars no longer in production and never sold in the U.S. 

The “Vault” Tour – when you visit, make sure to take the Vault Tour.  This tour goes down into the basement where you see cars not on exhibit.  I love behind-the-scenes tours and this one doesn’t disappoint.  This area includes vehicles in the queue for restoration, ones that are actively being worked on, and some that are just waiting for their moment to be brought upstairs for an exhibit.    

The Vault Tour takes you behind-the-scenes and into the basement of the museum where you get to see cars not on exhibit
The Vault Tour takes you behind-the-scenes and into the basement of the museum

World Flags – don’t forget to look up when you visit.  Hanging from the ceiling throughout the museum are flags from around the world.  Underneath each flag are cars manufactured by that country.  In the U.S. we tend to think of the automobile as only an American invention, but around the world numerous car manufacturers have adapted, modified and developed cars uniquely qualified for their geography, their time in history, or for their specific customers. 

1947 Tatra T-87 Saloon – Tatra was a well-known Czechoslovakian automobile manufacturer.  This sleek, silver Tatra T-87 was the luxury car of its day and was regularly used as the chauffer vehicle of Czechoslovakian military officers.  Notice the big fin on the back?  These cars were very heavy, especially in the back end, so the fin was a design feature that helped with stability. 

Silver Tatra car with rear fin
Sleek, silver Tatra car with rear fin for stability

1938 Tatra T-97 – look closely at the front of the T-97.  Does that design remind you of any other car?  Ferdinand Porsche, father of the Volkswagen Beetle, was heavily influenced by the design of the Tatra and incorporated key design elements into the Volkswagen Beetle.   

Red Tatra car with front end design that inspired the Volkswagen Beetle
Red Tatra car with front end design that inspired the Volkswagen Beetle

How did the Tatra cars contribute to defeating Hitler?  Listen to the episode for the full story to find out how the design of the Tatra automobiles did their part in the war effort.  If you’ve ever wondered if design can have a direct impact on the world, then this story proves it. 

1958 Tatra T-603 – with its unique, 3-headlight design, the T-603 has a very rounded front end.   The back fin seen on earlier Tatra cars is replaced by a rear window for visibility, but the body definitely grew in size.  

Tatra car with a unique, 3-headlight design
Tatra car with a unique, 3-headlight design

1962 Citroën 2CV Sahara the 2CV is an iconic French car.  Developed before World War II, it wasn’t produced until after the war because the engineers wanted to hide it from the Nazis.  When it was introduced at the 1948 Paris Auto Show, journalists laughed at it.  They didn’t get it.  Made from thin sheet metal, with a tiny two-cylinder engine, seats that looked like lawn chairs, a rollback roof, and a very cushy, rolling suspension, the 2CV did not conform to what everyone at the time thought a car should be.  Of course, the engineers weren’t designing the car for the average Parisian, but to replace the farmer’s horse and cart.  After World War II much of the population in France was very rural.  This car was designed to be durable, travel across fields and in places with very few roads, and be simple enough to be repaired by a rural farmer with just hand tools. 

1938 Citroën Berline Traction Avant – introduced originally in 1934, the front-wheel drive of the Berline Traction Avant was a breakthrough in technology.  However, the company spent so much money developing this model that it actually bankrupted the company, and ended up being sold to Michelin. 

Of course, the museum wouldn’t just have the standard Berline Traction Avant.  Notice the large pontoons on each side of the front fenders?  During World War II, some of these cars were converted to run by burning wood or coal instead of gasoline.  Gasoline was rationed by the Nazis.  Instead of asking the Nazis for gasoline rations, French engineers came up with another solution.  This specific model in the museum runs on coal.  Coal would be put into one of the pontoons and lit on fire.  The methane gas from the burning coal would then run through a tube underneath the car and up into the second pontoon to cool down before being cleaned and filtered through a special carburetor.  The car couldn’t go as fast or as far as it could on gasoline, but those limitations were worth it instead of asking the German army for fuel rations. 

Mignet Flying Fleas – the Lane Motor Museum also includes a collection of unique, French staggered wing airplanes nicknamed “the flying flea”.  Originally sold as a set of plans that the owner could use to build the plane themselves, these planes were unique in the fact that they did not include a rudder pedal.  This meant the plane couldn’t roll, which supposedly meant it wouldn’t ever stall.  Of course, owners have reported that it’s true that they don’t stall – instead, they just kind of fall out of the sky, which is the reason most of these planes are equipped with parachutes.  The specific flying flea in the picture (HM.293) is unique for its foldable wings – a design improvement so the owner could just store the airplane in their garage versus having to pay expensive hanger fees. 

The French "flying flea" showing the unique folding wing design
The French “flying flea” showing the unique folding wing design

1964 Amphicar 770 – originally developed in Germany, the 770 was the most successful amphibious car ever produced.  Built on a very intuitive platform using the steering wheel to steer and the front wheels acting like rudders, the 770 is still taken out every August to a local lake and rides are given to visitors.      

The Amphicar - both a car and a boat
The Amphicar – both a car and a boat

1961 Chevrolet Corphibian – designed by two Chevrolet engineers as a side project, this amphibious vehicle prototype modified a Chevrolet Corvair pickup truck.  Once the truck was driven into the water, all of the marine controls are located in the bed of the truck.  Unfortunately, Chevrolet never went forward with the idea and this Corphibian is the only one in existence.   There is also a great video of the “maiden voyage” of the Corphibian on YouTube

The one-of-a-kind Corphibian amphibious prototype
The one-of-a-kind Corphibian amphibious prototype

1959 U.S. Army LARC LX – the largest amphibious craft, the LARC LX (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) is capable of transporting 60 tons of cargo.  Outfitted with four diesel engines (one for each wheel) the LARC is the largest vehicle at the Lane Motor Museum and sits out behind the museum due to its 62’ length, 26’ width and 20’ height.  The tires alone are 9’ high.  Listen to the episode to hear how the museum acquired the LARC and how it was transported from Florida to Nashville.  And, yes, it still runs – they actually used to crush cars with it.   

To get a sense of scale, the LARC LX next to the museum building and a modern car
To get a sense of scale, the LARC LX next to the museum building and a modern car

1964 Peel P-50 – recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest production car, this is where the start of my fascination with all things microcar began.  This single-seat microcar was built by a fiberglass manufacturer and is only 4’ high.  Weighing only 250 pounds, there was no need for a reverse gear.  The driver would just simply use the convenient handle at the rear of the car to pick up the car and turn it around.  Fun fact:  depending on the country, some microcars would only have 3 wheels because cars were taxed by the number of wheels. 

World's Smallest Production Car
World’s Smallest Production Car

1965 Peel Trident – of course, the next evolution in microcars would be the two-seater so the Trident was introduced with a clear, plexiglass “bubble top” design.  Don’t be fooled by the two-seater design – it wasn’t that roomy for two people.  And the bubble top – while great for visibility – was poorly ventilated and it quickly became as hot as an oven inside the car on a sunny day. 

The Peel two-seater "bubble" top car
The Peel two-seater “bubble” top car

1956 Heinkel Kabine 175 – now the Germans enter the microcar market with cars developed by the airplane maker Messerschmitt.  Prohibited from building aircraft after World War II, the company started making scooters and then microcars.  If you look closely at the front of the car, you’ll see a door handle.  This car had a very distinctive front opening door. The idea was you could pull up curbside, open the door, and step out onto the curb without having to parallel park. 

Heinkel microcar with unique front opening door
Heinkel microcar with unique front opening door

1957 BMW Isetta 300 – BMW made full-sized cars, but wanted an inexpensive car to supplement slow post-war sales.  Although this car is not painted to factory specs, over 3,000 Isettas were sold in the U.S. until a California ruling prohibited the car from being driven on their state highway system. 

BMW Isetta microcar
BMW Isetta microcar

1957 Messerschmitt KR200 – all the microcars up until now have been the “bubble” design and very compact.  Developed by the airplane maker Messerschmitt, this car is a significant departure from that design with a wide front end, extended front fenders, and a long body.  Unique to this car is the fact that the interior seating is more like an airplane cockpit with the driver in front and the passenger seated directly behind. 

1980 Subaru X-100 – looking like a rocket and built for speed, the test vehicle was specifically designed for the sole purpose of producing a car that could travel 100 miles on a single tank of gas.  Did it achieve that goal?   Find out if it did, and what happened to the project, by listening to the episode. 

The Subaru X-100 was built for one purpose only - travel 100 miles on one tank of gas
The Subaru X-100 was built for one purpose only – travel 100 miles on one tank of gas

1955 MG TF-1500 – the car that started it all.  When asked what he wanted for his 12th birthday, museum founder Jeff Lane responded, “my own MG.”  Rebuilding this car from pieces with his Dad, this 1955 MG was Jeff Lane’s first classic car and is still being driven to this day.  Next to Jeff’s car is his sister’s red MG, his dad’s car and his brother’s car.  Who would have guessed back then where Jeff’s fascination with cars would have ended up?

The green MG in the front is the museum founder's first classic car
The green MG is the museum founder’s first classic car

1932 Helicron – okay.  Let’s take a car and a plane and then mash the two together.  Yep, that sounds like a good idea.  That’s the Helicron.  With a giant propeller on the front of the car, it’s very distinctive in both looks and sound.  For some reason, though, the Helicron never quite caught on.  If you want to know why, just watch the video.  Can you imagine that sound on a city street? 

As I learned the backstories behind some of these cars, it made me appreciate the human ingenuity and the commitment required to design a machine this complicated and bring it to market.  The Lane Motor Museum showcases how the automobile has been an integral part of our cultural identity far beyond just as a mode of transportation.  From someone’s idea to build an amphibious car, or a plane with fold-up wings, or a microcar based on a scooter platform demonstrates both the innovation and the craziness that resides within us all.

Don’t forget – when you make the trip to visit the Lane Motor Museum, I highly recommend the behind-the-scenes Vault Tour that includes a visit to the “basement” to see cars that aren’t on display.  Really interesting. 

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or send me an email.

Resources:

Lane Motor Museum – their website has details on all the vehicles in their collection, upcoming events, and current exhibits.  The Rally for the Lane sells out quickly every year, but you can see all the vehicles they plan on driving in the event every year on their website. 

Virtual Tour – if you can’t visit the museum in person, they have an online virtual tour you can check out.  

MiM 008 – Worlds of Puppetry Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Confession:  I am a secret puppet person (I just didn’t know it)

I certainly didn’t think of myself as a puppet person before I visited the Worlds of Puppetry Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.  But after visiting and talking to Jill Malool, Director of the museum, I realized I’ve been a closet puppet person for years.  Roaming through their amazing collection, I kept seeing puppets that reminded me of various times in my life. 

Of course, there’s the classic Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street (sorry, Big Bird, Oscar is still my favorite).  And we all know Kermit and the fabulous Miss Piggy from The Muppets.  I then remembered that my sister, Vicki, and I had Ernie and Cookie Monster hand puppets when we were little that I had totally forgotten about until I was walking through the Jim Henson Collection (strangely, I don’t remember having a Bert).  

I turned the corner and saw Gumby and The Corpse Bride characters showcasing stop motion puppetry.  I remember watching Gumby on Sunday mornings before church.  There are puppets from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (that show still cracks me up!).  Then I wandered over into the Global Collection and saw marionettes, which reminded me of all the puppet shows I’ve seen growing up. 

At the time I visited, it was the opening of the Dark Crystal exhibit.  I hadn’t thought about that movie in years, but seeing the Mystics, Skeksis, Garthim and Jen reminded me of what a fantastic movie that was and how it was all created with puppetry.  

I also saw puppets I had never seen before:  shadow puppets from India, puppets that “walk on water” from Vietnam, and almost life-sized puppets from Japan.  The puppets were also in a variety of materials:  wood, fiberglass, leather, paper, felt.  I think they have puppets from every country and region in the world:  Italy, Central Europe, Indonesia, Myanmar, Turkey, China, Taiwan, Egypt, Korea, Japan and Mali.  Puppetry can be traced back hundreds and even thousands of years in some regions.  It didn’t hit me until I stood in the middle of the Global Collection and saw all the creativity around me that The Worlds of Puppetry Museum showcases how cultures around the world and throughout time have expressed themselves through puppetry to tell their stories and share their history. 

So let’s get started traveling through their amazing collection!

Museum Highlights:

The Worlds of Puppetry Museum – the original museum started out in an old elementary school building, but has been added on since then.  On the behind-the-scenes tour you get to visit the old classrooms upstairs where they offer puppetry making classes for kids. 

The Center for Puppetry Arts and the Worlds of Puppetry Museum share this building that started out as an elementary school
The Center for Puppetry Arts and the Worlds of Puppetry Museum share this building that started out as an elementary school
Additions have been made to the outside of the building to reflect its current  puppetry focus, but it still has a lot of the original school building features intact that you see when you take the behind-the-scenes tour
Additions have been made to the outside of the building to reflect its current puppetry focus, but it still has a lot of the original school building features intact that you see when you take the behind-the-scenes tour

Jim Henson Collection:

Muppet Workshop – when you enter the Jim Henson collection there are a series of workstations with corkboards on the wall covering a specific aspect of how to make a puppet.  Pinned to the boards are hand sketches showing how a particular puppet moves, photographs of Jim Henson, little pieces of fur and felt, and some of the most interesting notes about how to make a puppet come to life. 

At the beginning of the Jim Henson Collection, you walk through his workshop showing notes, drawings and photographs of how a puppet is developed.
At the beginning of the Jim Henson Collection, you walk through his workshop showing notes, drawings and photographs of how a puppet is developed
The "mechanics" board focuses on puppet movement.
The “mechanics” board focuses on puppet movement

Big Bird – since his debut in 1969, Big Bird has remained as curious as an inquisitive six-year-old.  So how do you animate a giant puppet like Big Bird?  Listen to how the puppeteer works his mouth, and both wings, while at the same time being able to see where he’s going inside this giant puppet.  Jill, the Director of the museum, shares a wonderful story between two generations and how they connect through this yellow bird. 

No one can miss the life-size, bright yellow puppet of Big Bird
No one can miss the life-sized, bright yellow puppet of Big Bird

Oscar the Grouch – my favorite Sesame Street character.   The same puppeteer, Caroll Spinney, made both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch come alive.  We all know the green Oscar of today, but you can see the original drawings for Oscar that pink was his original color. 

Here’s another fun fact about Oscar’s color from the behind-the-scenes tour.  In the first season on Sesame Street Oscar was actually orange, but the orange color didn’t show up very well on television so he became green.  How did they explain on the show how Oscar suddenly changed color?  Well, he visited a swamp and liked it so much he never showered again. 

Oscar the Grouch at home in his trash can
Oscar the Grouch at home in his trash can

The original drawing concept for Oscar the Grouch - pink and with a long neck.  Listen to the podcast episode to find out how he turned green (and what other colors he's been).
The original drawing concept for Oscar the Grouch – pink and with a long neck. Listen to the podcast episode to find out how he turned green (and what other color he had been).

Kermit the Frog – Kermit came from humble beginnings as a “found object” puppet because he started from Jim Henson’s Mom’s old coat and a couple of ping pong balls, but has developed over time into the iconic Kermit we know today.

Kermit the Frog in his director's chair.
Kermit the Frog in his director’s chair

Miss Piggy – fabulous in feathers, satin and diamonds, Miss Piggy was the ultimate diva with a mean “harrumph” karate chop.  Don’t mess with Miss Piggy.  I always liked that about her. 

The museum also had a picture of Miss Piggy from the Pigs in Space skit.  Who else remembers that?  I absolutely loved that skit because my family were also sci-fi fans. 

The fabulous Miss Piggy from The Muppets
The fabulous Miss Piggy from The Muppets
Miss Piggy in the Pigs in Space skit from The Muppet Show
Miss Piggy in the Pigs in Space skit from The Muppet Show

Global Collection:

Shadow Puppets from India – I think these were my favorite puppets in the museum.  The texture and details on each puppet is amazing.  With the light shining behind the puppets, you could see the tiny pinholes punched in each one that really bring out fine details and highlight specific areas on each puppet. 

Shadow puppets from India on a wall backlit from behind
Shadow puppets from India on a wall lit from behind
Close-up detail of a shadow puppet from India.
Close-up detail of a shadow puppet from India

“Puppets that Dance on Water” – during rice harvest celebrations in Vietnam, puppets started performing in ponds over a thousand years ago.  Hidden by a screen, the performers would stand waist-deep in the water and control the floating wooden puppets with submerged rods, cords and chains. The model the museum has would be a reflection of contemporary times where there are also indoor performances with specially built pools and pagodas. 

Model of a Vietnam puppet show where the puppets would actually float on water.
Model of a Vietnam puppet show where the puppets actually float on water

Horse Marionette – this wooden horse marionette from Burma shows just how large and heavy these puppets can be.  It’s a little hard to tell the scale from this image, but it’s probably 4’ tall to the top of the head and probably that long from nose to tail.  Imagine reaching your arms straight out and holding something this large and heavy for hours?   

Horse marionette from Myanmar
Horse marionette from Burma

Other Puppets from Around the World – we didn’t have time to talk about every puppet in the Global Collection, but I wanted to share a few of them to show the variety of this art form found around the world. 

Czechoslovakia puppet
Czechoslovakian puppet
Japan puppets
Japanese puppets
Taiwan puppets
Taiwanese puppets

Dark Crystal Exhibit:

Jen – one of the two main characters from the 1982 Dark Crystal movie.  Jen, a Gelfling, is tasked with healing the magical crystal by replacing the broken shards back into the original crystal that was split.  Of course, it’s not that easy as he’s constantly under attack from the Skeksis who rose to power after the crystal originally cracked. 

Jen, a Gelfling, and one of the main characters from The Dark Crystal
Jen, a Gelfling, one of the main characters from The Dark Crystal

Skeksis – the “bad guys” that are trying to stop Jen and Kira from healing the crystal.  Tall and vulture-like in their appearance, the amount of details in their costumes are amazing.  At the end of the exhibit, the museum shows the mechanics underneath the heads of the Skeksis puppets.  I love cutaway-type exhibits where you can see how something works.  Seeing the finished puppet first, and then how it works underneath, added an entirely new level of appreciation for the skill in creating these puppets.   

A Skeksis ( aka "bad guys) from The Dark Crystal.
Skeksis (aka “bad guys”) from The Dark Crystal
Showing the mechanisms underneath the puppet in order to operate the Skeksis head.
Showing the mechanisms underneath the puppet in order to operate the Skeksis head

Mystics – the “kind” wizards that help Jen and Kira and want the crystal united.  Look closely at the detailed swirls on the Mystic’s face – sometimes it looks like wrinkles and sometimes it looks like tattoos.  Over and over I saw this level of detail on puppets – even if no one was ever going to get that close to see it – because of the artistry and care each creator had for the puppets.    

A Mystic (kind wizards) from The Dark Crystal.
Mystics (aka “kind wizards”) from The Dark Crystal
Close-up of the Mystic's face showing the swirls carved into the face.
Close-up of the Mystic’s face showing the swirls carved into the face

Garthim – I came around a pole and, boom, this giant Garthim is right there.  With a hard exoskeleton similar in design to a crustacean, and crab-like legs that scurried about, these are the soldiers for the Skeksis.  As a body puppet, the puppeteer is inside and has to be both strong and flexible to maneuver these large puppets around the set. 

The Garthim (soldiers for the Skeksis).  You can really get a feel for the size of these puppets from this image.
The Garthim (soldiers for the Skeksis). You can really get a feel for the size of these puppets from this image.

Landstriders – I had completely forgotten about these characters until I saw this picture in the museum.  Jill shared a great story about how they developed the Landstriders’ gait and movement.  Sometimes opportunity knocks, but someone has to recognize it and open the door.   

Landstrider from The Dark Crystal showing how the puppeteer moved around the stage
Landstrider from The Dark Crystal showing how the puppeteer moved around the stage

The Worlds of Puppetry Museum showcases how cultures around the world and throughout time have expressed themselves through puppetry to tell their stories and share their history.  I had no idea that there were so many different types of puppets, the variety of materials used, or the mechanics and skill involved in making and operating a puppet. 

As part of the Center for Puppetry Arts, the Worlds of Puppetry Museum is dedicated to all things puppetry.  From displaying puppetry, performing puppetry and preserving puppetry, the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Worlds of Puppetry Museum work together to reinforce their vision that puppetry is an art form that can unite people all around the world. 

You may not think you’re a puppet person, but after you visit this museum you just might change your mind.  I know I did. 

Oh, as a side note, when you make the trip to visit the Worlds of Puppetry Museum, I highly recommend the behind-the-scenes tour that includes visits to both the puppet workshop and scene shop.  Absolutely fantastic!

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or send me an email.

Resources:

Worlds of Puppetry Museum – visit the museum’s website for all the details to plan your trip.

Center for Puppetry Arts – visit their website to learn more about upcoming puppet shows and other events.

Nashville Public Library – if you live in the Nashville area, or even just visiting, then check out their puppet shows, the local traveling Puppet Truck, or their marionette collection.

Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance – trailer for the upcoming new Netflix series.

MiM 007 – Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

Confession:  I am not a gamer.

I mean, I’ve played games in arcades.  I’ve played pinball machines in the local Four Thieves bar when I was growing up (don’t worry, it was small town Nebraska and the family-friendly bar was also the only place in town that served food).  We even had an Atari when I was a kid (Space Invaders Rock!), but that pretty much was the peak of my gaming experience.  I flirted with various handheld games over the years – and definitely spent too much time playing Tetris.  However, my recent gaming experiences have been with my nephew at the holidays where he basically challenges me to play video games just so he can see how badly he can beat me. 

I’m definitely a casual gamer, but even I was hooked on the excitement of the lights and sounds of The Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Sitting down with Tim Arnold, founder of the museum, allows us to peek behind-the-scenes and experience what it takes to keep this type of museum open.  

This museum is unique for a couple of reasons:

  • It features pinball machines from every decade starting in 1933 when pinball machines were a small, countertop game played with marbles to the modern pinball machines known today.
  • You can actually play every single machine in the museum.  Set up like an arcade, the 250+ machines on display have been fully restored and you can play every single one of them for either a quarter or fifty cents. 

Tim rescues pinball machines and always restores them with the “designer’s intent” in mind.  As Tim puts it, “We’ve got a strict set of rules here about designer’s intent and also the flavor of the game when we’re rebuilding a game. I could make all the old games just as powerful as the new games and make it really thrilling and make the ball go fast, but we don’t do that because that was not the designer’s intent and it’s not the original flavor of the game.”  That craftsmanship and attention to the spirit of the games really highlights the authenticity of every machine in the museum. 

Inside of the museum with the classic games lined up down the aisle
Inside of the museum with the classic games lined up down the aisle
Inside of the museum with pinball machines set up like a traditional arcade
Inside of the museum with pinball machines set up like a traditional arcade

Museum Highlights:

1933 Jigsaw Pinball Game – the “original” pinball game was a countertop game found in bars.   The main board would have metal pins and balls (hence the name “pinball”).  The goal is to shoot the balls into the pockets.  You add up your score and either win definitely adult prizes like a free beer, cigar or money. This game is how the entire pinball industry started.  Who would have thought that this simple game in 1933 would grow into the $80 million industry it is today? 

The 1933 countertop game that was the original pinball game
The 1933 countertop game that was the original pinball game

Video Simulation of Pinball Game  – because this is a museum, there are all types of pinball machines on display.  This video simulation pinball game proves the point – as Tim states in the episode, he keeps one video pinball machine on display, “just to remind people how bad video games are.”

Video simulation pinball game
Video simulation pinball game

Bowling Game  – this game used to be in every bar in America.  According to Tim, instead of going home after work and watching your big screen TV, you would go to the bar and play your friends on a bowling machine.

Bowling game
Bowling game

Joker Ball  – the game that every video poker machine in the world is based on.  The original “random number generator” is the rubber balls, which bounce around and determine which cards you get.  They made 200 of these machines in 1959 – only two are still known to exist.  An incredibly rare machine that you can still play at the museum. 

Joker Ball - the original game that lead to video poker
Joker Ball – the original game that lead to video poker
Close-up of the inside of the Joker Ball machine
Close-up of the inside of the Joker Ball machine

5th Inning Baseball Game  – similar in design to a traditional bowling game, this game is housed in a solid oak cabinet and features baseball instead of bowling.  Listen to the episode to find out about “the one that got away” and how a collector’s ex-wife strong-armed Tim into buying this game.   

Baseball game that looks like a traditional bowling game
Baseball game that looks like a traditional bowling game

SEGA Basketball Game  – one of the very first games produced by the Japanese video game manufacturer was an arcade basketball game wth an actual court and a rubber ball.  Whoever punches their number in first makes the ball go in that direction. 

SEGA basketball game
SEGA basketball game

“Wedge-Head” Pinball Machine Design – a sub-genre of pinball machine design are “wedge-head” machines versus the standard, square head.  The head is shaped like a wedge – wider at the top and tapering down towards the bottom – so you can put them in a row and still have room to touch the sides without getting too close. 

On the right is a "wedge-head" machine and on the left is the standard square-head design
On the right is a “wedge-head” machine and on the left is the standard design

2-Player Games versus Single-Player Games – 2-player games require the game to re-set every time the players change, so you have basically a one-ball game that you’re playing three or five times.  On single-player games, you have five balls to get through an amazing series of quests to get to the prize at the end.  Single-player games are more sought after by collectors than 2-player games. 

Back Glass Artistic Styles – the back glass art of a pinball machine are truly works of art by themselves, and can also provide valuable clues about the machine itself. 

First, you can pretty much date a game based on the clothing and hair styles of the artwork. 

  • 1970s machines show people with long shaggy hair. 
  • In the ‘50s, the men wore hats and the women’s dresses were below their knees.  
  • During the 1960s, the women all had miniskirts. 
  • And any game from the 1980s pretty much has aliens on it as influenced by the Star Wars movies.
Example of 1960s-era backglass artwork as shown by the miniskirts
Example of 1960s-era back glass artwork as shown by the miniskirts
1980s games were all about aliens as shown in the backglass art
1980s games were all about aliens as shown in the back glass art

Second, the images on the back glass are created by multiple layers of ink silkscreened on the glass – up to 12 different colors in many cases.  In addition, the ink had to be transparent enough for the light to shine through the design, so that usually means the ink isn’t that durable and can easily be damaged.  If you look closely, on some machines you can see the design starting to flake off.  

Close-up of backglass art flaking due to the delicate nature of the silkscreening process
Close-up of back glass art flaking due to the delicate nature of the silkscreening process

Third, the artwork can tell you the type of location where the machine would have been installed.  Games destined for bars and pool halls with adults as the audience would be more “suggestive” (i.e., scantily-clad women).  While games destined for the roller rink or family-friendly arcades would have happy clowns. 

The Arabian Nights backglass design is an example of pinball machines targeted to adults instead of kids
The Arabian Nights back glass design is an example of pinball machines targeted to adults instead of kids

Jumbo Flipper – as manufacturers tried to differentiate their games, there were experimental ideas about machine design.  One of them was the Jumbo Flipper, which was a game with 6 inch flippers that are much longer than the normal 3 inch flippers.  The longer flippers were only used on this one game because, as Tim states, “it’s a horrible game to play,” but it’s in the museum because it’s a part of pinball history and people want to see it.  

Jumbo Flipper - proof that not all innovations are good ones
Jumbo Flipper – proof that not all innovations are good ones
Close-up of the jumbo flippers
Close-up of the jumbo flippers

Modern Game Design – one section of the museum is dedicated to modern pinball machines.  You can definitely tell the difference between the modern games and the older games.  Modern games have more flashing lights, ramps and two or three levels of play.  Also, definitely more movie-themed games.   

Modern games are flashier and are frequently tied into movie, television or other game themes
Modern games are flashier and are frequently tied into movie, television or other game themes

Lady Robin Hood Game – manufactured by Gottlieb, this is the very first game that had flippers, which revolutionized how pinball was played.  It was 1948 and pinball factories had stopped making games during the war and were producing parts for the military.  After the war, Gottlieb made three or four of the same games they were making before the war, but they were not that exciting for the market. So then one day they decided to put some bats or flippers in the game and give the player some control. That was the start of flipper pinball.   

Look closely at the flippers in the Robin Hood game.  In the very first game with flippers, there was a total of six bats/flippers — three up each side — to propel the ball back up to the top of the game.  It didn’t occur to Gottlieb until two years later to turn them around and put the flippers at the bottom.

Lady Robin Hood game is an example of the first game to use flippers
Lady Robin Hood game is an example of the first game to use flippers
Look where they initially put the flippers?  On the sides (instead o at the bottom) and there were three sets
Look where they initially put the flippers? On the sides (instead o at the bottom) and there were three sets

Goalee Game – manufactured by Chicago Coin, the company decided to go all out on this game.  With a solid oak cabinet, ornate hand controls, and a spectator mirror, this one game cost as much as a car when it was produced in 1945.   

Goalee game housed in a beautiful wood cabinet
Goalee game housed in a beautiful wood cabinet
The "spectator mirror" of the Goalee game
The “spectator mirror” of the Goalee game

Crane Game (1950s) – along with pinball machines, arcades would have other games.  The crane in this “bean digger” game is actually on off-the-shelf toy.  Your job is to pick up the beans, put them in the hopper, and try to get a higher score.  Listen to the episode and hear how Tim responds to toy collectors wanting to buy just the crane in this machine.   

Crane game from the 1950s
Crane game from the 1950s

Helicopter Game (1968) – another game found in arcades, this Helicopter game is a perfect example of how Tim has to find workarounds in order to restore games to playable condition.  To find a motor that would work to propel the helicopter, Tim had to buy a slot car motor and re-engineer the back of the helicopter to make the motor fit.        

Space Pilot helicopter game
Space Pilot helicopter game
Close-up of Space Pilot game where they had to remove the back of the helicopter to get a retrofitted motor to fit
Close-up of Space Pilot game where they had to remove the back of the helicopter to get a retrofitted motor to fit

Star Trek Game – here was my “nostalgia lock-up” moment.  Huge Star Trek fan — I totally remember this game where you could sit in the cockpit like you are Captain Kirk and play the game.  I even remember the game buttons on the side of the chair.  Yes, it’s true, I was so cool as a kid.     

Anyone else remember this Star Trek arcade game?
Anyone else remember this Star Trek arcade game?

Game History Cards – initially when you walk into the museum, it feels like you’re walking into a really large arcade.  However, look closer.  On each machine you’ll find a handwritten history card including details like the name of the designer, the name of the artist, year of the game, manufacturer, the factory number of the machine, what makes this machine unique — just fantastic details and little tidbits of history about each machine.  If nothing else, visit the museum just to read the surprising and personal details Tim includes on every card. 

I love the history cards Tim puts on every machine in the museum.  Such great backstories of each machine!
I love the history cards Tim puts on every machine in the museum. Such great backstories of each machine!
Another history card example from the Goalee game
Another history card example from the Goalee game

Shooting Game – this 2-player gun game caused quite a stir with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when it was introduced.  Want the full story?  Then listen to the episode to find out what the controversy was all about.   

Shooting game that used real (but modified) rifles
Shooting game that used real (but modified) rifles

Bring a bag of quarters and get ready to play because you can spend hours at the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum playing machines that are so unique because you can literally play your way through the history of an entire industry. 

Trust me, even if you weren’t a huge pinball player, I guarantee there will be some machine in this place that will make you do the “nostalgia lock-up” just like I did and bring up a long-forgotten memory of fun.  So the next time you’re in Las Vegas, skip the strip and head on over to the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum and support this incredible museum tilting at windmills one quarter at a time.

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Pinball Hall of Fame Museum website

Gottlieb – based in Chicago, Illinois, Gottlieb was a pinball manufacturer of many machines found in the museum. 

Stern – outside of a few small boutique companies, Stern is the only large-scale manufacturer still producing pinball machines today.

Pinball Wizard by The Who – you know you can’t help but think of this song.  So here’s a link to listen just to make sure it gets stuck in your head. 

Want more Pinball?  Then you’ve got to listen to this episode of Zach Sharpe, the World Greatest Pinball Player of 2017 (yes, it’s an actual competition) featured on The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show.  If you’re looking for another podcast to listen to, then I highly recommend subscribing to The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show.  It’s full of interviews with quirky, odd, and geeky people – absolutely fantastic!   

MiM 006 – Museum of Design Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Confession:  I love product design.

As a product manager, my world revolves around products and how they’re designed.  When I tell people that my day job is a product manager, the usual response is, “What is that?”  I’m not even sure my family completely understands it.  A product manager’s job is to figure out what customers want and then work with the engineering team to develop new products and launch them into the market.  However, there is a huge gulf of understanding (or misunderstanding) between concept, launch, and ultimately whether a product is successful.

What is “good” design?  And how does design affect us in our daily lives?  And how can there be a museum about something as subjective as design?  What is the difference between design and art?

On this episode I sit down with Laura Flusche, Executive Director, of the Museum of Design Atlanta — which you’ll also hear referenced as MODA.  Located in Atlanta, Georgia, MODA is a museum dedicated to the world of design.  Laura defines design as, “a creative process that inspires change, transforms lives and makes the world a better place.”  I love the idea of exploring the abstract concept of what design is and then the reality of how we interpret and interact with design every day.

Front of the MODA building

Front of the MODA building

Inside the lobby at MODA

Inside the lobby at MODA. Who wants one of those chairs in their house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Highlights:

Normally, this is where I include images from the museum’s collection, but we’re changing the format this time.  Why the deviation?  Reflecting the fluidity of what design is, MODA is unique in that it doesn’t have a permanent collection, but rotates a different exhibit every 3-4 months.  So the exhibit they had on display when I visited – Craftivism – closed the week after I was there.  The next exhibit Design for Good:  Architecture for Everyone will be on display when this episode airs, but if you’re listening to this in the future, there will be an entirely different exhibit on display then.   In that spirit, below are some images of the museum and a few from the Craftivism exhibit to give you an idea of the space, but when you visit the Craftivism exhibit will be gone and a new one in its place.

Actually this constant change reflects the larger, overarching mission of the museum — how design impacts the world and inspires change.  That story flows through the museum regardless of the specific exhibit on display.  In this podcast episode you’ll hear Laura share the stories about the impact of many different exhibits – past, present and future – and how design affects people’s lives.  

Vintage purses with statements like me too, vote, nevertheless she persisted and girl power

Vintage purses make a statement in more than one way

Michele Pred – utilizing vintage purses, artist Michele Pred inscribes words and phrases with electroluminescent wire on this iconic female symbol.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ehren Tool – a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, Ehren Tool makes ceramic cups that reflect his military experiences.  According to Tool, “whether you are for or against a particular war, the point is to look at what is actually going on and not look away.”

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist's military experiences

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist’s military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist's military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist’s military experiences

 

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy – reminiscent of lace doilies that you might see on the back of your grandmother’s chair, this artist takes this decorative, homemaker art and gives it a new perspective by cutting out images of Chernobyl, Fukushima, Deep Water Horizon and Three Mile Island reminding us of the fragile balance that sustains our existence.

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Doily depicting Three Mile Island

Doily depicting Three Mile Island

 

 

 

Scraps of fabric with text from social media tweets and posts

Exploring whether we are truly engaged if we tweet, post, or like on social media

Jeana Eve Klein – this piece makes a statement about the passivity of social media as an activist tool and whether we are taking real action or just the illusion of it when we send a tweet, like a post, or add an emoji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of Welcome Blankets hung on the wall welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Welcome Blanket project welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Welcome Blanket Project – as part of their community outreach with the Craftivism exhibit, the Welcome Blanket project asked individuals to sew, quilt, crochet or knit 40 inch x 40 inch blankets and then add their own immigration, migration or relocation story.   At the end of the exhibition, all of the blankets received at MODA will be distributed to immigrants and refugees along with the notes of welcome written by their makers.  The Welcome Blanket project will continue beyond the MODA exhibition.  For more information and how to donate a blanket, check out their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifesize magnetic poetry on the wall of the women's bathroom

Probably one of the coolest museum bathrooms I’ve been in

MODA Bathroom – if you visit, and you’re female, you need to check out the women’s bathroom in the museum.  Where else but a design museum would you have a giant magnetic poetry kit on the wall? (By the way, I believe this bathroom was also featured in a movie.  Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what movie it was!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Museum of Design Atlanta gives us a behind-the-scenes look at design, how it affects every person every day, and explores both the functional and aesthetic sides of design.  Transforming the intangible, creative world of design into tangible processes and products is incredibly hard, but is so valuable.  Understanding the thought process behind design allows us to appreciate what is involved in developing a product, and why some products work and some don’t.  The next time you use a product and wonder, “what were they thinking?” – good or bad – well, you’ll have a better answer to that question after listening to this podcast episode and/or visiting MODA.  I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Museum of Design Atlanta website 

Classes and Workshops – if you’re in the Atlanta area, MODA offers a variety of classes, workshops as well as a dedicated workspace with hands-on activities tied to the current exhibit.  Professional lectures are also scheduled throughout the year.

In the episode, Laura referenced the next exhibit, Architecture for Good, and the companion book Design for Good:  A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cary.  If you can’t make it to the museum, but still want to check out the book, here is a link to find out more information.  

Want to learn more about how design works?  Check out the excellent 99% Invisible podcast.

MiM 005 – Embroidery Museum in Louisville, Kentucky

Confession:  I have never even tried embroidery.

I’ve done some crocheting when I was younger.  Took up knitting when I was older, but I have never gotten the hang of working with a needle and thread.  The closest was sewing lessons, but all I made was an apron and I was done.  The pinnacle of my needle and thread work is being able to sew a button on a shirt really, really good (I mean, like, that button is never coming off again).

I have always loved artisan crafts and admire the skill involved in producing a functional work of art by a master.  A friend introduced me to the John C. Campbell Folk School and I love to flip through their catalog of classes each year, but always figured I just don’t have the skills necessary to master any of these classes.  Recently though, I’ve become intrigued by Temari balls.  I had no idea of their connection to the art of needlecraft until I visited the Embroidery Museum in Louisville, Kentucky when Gwen shared with me how Temari balls were her gateway into the art of embroidery and needlecraft.

Sitting down with Gwen Nelson, past president of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America (EGA) and Cynthia Welch, EGA Administrator, opened my eyes to the beautiful world of embroidery and needlecraft.   The EGA operates the Embroidery Museum, which is both a museum and the headquarters of EGA.  The museum is small, and when you enter, you feel like you’re walking into a private art gallery.  And after you listen to this episode, I think you’ll agree that the amazing work and creativity by the embroiderers in this collection showcase how what started as a functional craft can be transformed into art.

Embroidery Museum front door

Embroidery Museum entrance

Embroidery Museum building

Embroidery Museum building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Highlights:

Doll House – created by multiple members of EGA, this is the penultimate doll house.  The “tiniest” details are embroidered into the furnishings – from the EGA logo in the chair cushion to the A-B-C sampler on the wall.

3 story doll house with hand embroidered furnishings

Doll house with hand embroidered furnishings

Doll house chair with EGA logo embroidered into seat cushion

Doll house chair with EGA logo embroidered into seat cushion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room inside doll house - check out the A-B-C sampler on the wall

Room inside doll house – check out the tiny A-B-C sampler above the fireplace

Doll house couch with hand embroidered coverings

Doll house couch with hand embroidered coverings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harold Gordon Band Sampler – featuring one of the “men of EGA” Harold Gordon’s love of embroidery started in 1944 when he was wounded and lying in a hospital bed.  A Red Cross nurse brought in some embroidery for patients to do (maybe to keep them quiet?).  In his later years, while visiting his wife in the hospital every day, Harold re-awakened his love of embroidery and created this sampler.  Note his 3-ring binder that is filled with his practice stitches.  Since samplers were considered practice pieces, who knew you had to practice before the practice?

Harold Gordon band sampler showcasing different practice stitches

Harold Gordon band sampler

Close-up of stitches in one band of Harold Gordon's band sampler

Close-up of stitches in one band of Harold Gordon’s band sampler

Harold Gordon's practice book of stitches

Harold Gordon’s practice book of stitches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackwork example stitch (although technically it's not blackwork because it's using blue thread)

Blackwork example stitch (although technically it’s not blackwork because it’s using blue thread)

Blackwork – a type of running, open stitch where the back should look the same as the front, blackwork is shown in this band sampler (although this is using blue thread).  There is also red work (red thread on white fabric) and white work (white thread on white fabric).  This is just the beginning of the wide variety of stitches and techniques used throughout the years in embroidery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muriel Baker “Stumpwork”stumpwork is a raised form of embroidery where stitched figures are raised from the surface resulting in a 3-D raised effect.  This piece shows that effect in both the figures of the man and woman in the design.

An example of "stumpwork" which creates a 3-D effect

An example of “stumpwork” which creates a 3-D effect

An example of "stumpwork" which creates a 3-D effect

Side view of stumpwork to better see the raised, 3-D effect of the man and woman figures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Chase Canvas – dated to 1834, Lucy was 8-years-old when she completed this embroidery canvas.  Lucy’s granddaughter donated this piece to the museum.  8 years old — are you kidding me?  The details and shading in this piece are amazing.  What was I doing at 8 years old?  Probably riding my bike, reading, and just generally goofing off.  Certainly not creating works of art.

Lucy Chase canvas - created when she was 8 years old

Lucy Chase canvas – created when she was 8 years old

Details of Lucy Chase's canvas showing exquisite shading with the thread

Details of Lucy Chase’s canvas showing subtle shading with the thread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Scene – the silk thread in this 1820 hunting scene from Austria brings a sheen to the piece and is an example of surface embroidery where the threads are stitched on top of the fabric or canvas instead of through it.  The detail in this hunting scene is fantastic – you could almost feel the hair on the horse and the delicate wings of the butterfly.

Hunting scene using the surface embroidery technique

Hunting scene using the surface embroidery technique

Hunting scene detail of butterfly and bird

Hunting scene detail of butterfly and bird

Hunting scene detail of horse and rider

Hunting scene detail of horse and rider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of crewelwork - one of my favorite pieces

An example of crewelwork – one of my favorite pieces

Crewelwork – Margaret Parshall, first president of EGA, in the 1940s created this example of crewelwork.  I really liked the look of this piece.  A beautiful dusty blue color, this technique is also referred to as the Jacobean style, which is a type of embroidery using wool giving the piece a slightly fuzzy look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crane on blue background

Crane on blue background

Crane on Blue Background – created by Dr. Young Chung, this is another example of surface embroidery.  The piece the museum has is about 6” x 6” and is incredibly fine, detailed work.  What’s even more amazing?  Dr. Chung actually has the original wall-sized piece in her studio (yes, wall-sized).  Who has the patience to embroider a piece the size of a wall?

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning sampler as indicated by the harp scene

Mourning sampler as indicated by the harp scene

Mourning Sampler – this sampler is unique because it’s obviously a work-in-progress.  The designs are at odd angles, you can tell the designer is trying out stitches.  It’s a “mourning” sampler due to the harp.  Although the artist isn’t known for sure, it has been dated to the 1870s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam & Eve samplers - done by yet another impressive 8 year old

Adam & Eve samplers – done by yet another impressive 8 year old

Adam & Eve Sampler – also done by an 8-year-old (seriously, these 8-year-olds are impressive) and dated to 1789, this sampler shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Unique to this garden though is a picket fence.   I think that’s known as creative license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Village Belle – stunning in both the size (29” x 19”) and the emotion radiating from the female figure, this is an amazing example of the power of embroidery in the hands of contemporary artist Liesl Cotta De Souza.  The subtle shading in the background is a form of “needle painting” and this technique also brings out the flesh tones and the richness of the fabric in her dress.

Village Belle - magnificent emotive piece; even the background is embroidered

Village Belle – magnificent emotive piece; even the background is embroidered

Close-up of Village Belle piece showing stitching detail

Close-up of Village Belle piece showing stitching detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebikhil – this seems like an odd piece at first.  On the front side is a man framed random threads just tangled and interweaving a frame around the central figure.  Flip it over though and all those random threads suddenly forms people, mountains, trees, fish, a sunrise, and numerous other animals.  I cannot even begin to figure out how to the creator figured this out and made this work.  Mind blowing.

Front side of piece - notice all the "random" threads framing the central figure

Front side of piece – notice all the “random” threads framing the central figure

Back side of the same piece - all the "random" threads are now animals, people, fish, and mountains

Back side of the same piece – all the “random” threads are now animals, people, fish, and mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audrey Francini bench showcasing crewelwork

Audrey Francini bench showcasing crewelwork

Audrey Francini Bench – another example of crewelwork, works by this artist are sold at auction for thousands of dollars.  Proof that this craft has arrived as a legitimate art form and is recognized as such by others.

 

 

 

Wall Tapestry of the U.S. – Made of multiple panels worked on by stitchers across the U.S.A., each person worked on the part of the U.S. they were from and then the pieces were put together over six years.  All different techniques are shown.  My favorite?  The gopher is pretty cute, and I’ve always been partial to beaded snakes.

Wall tapestry of the U.S.A. made by stitchers from all across the country

Wall tapestry of the U.S.A. made by stitchers from all across the country

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up showing a 3-D butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall tapestry close-up; many different techniques are shown including beading in this snake

Wall tapestry close-up; many different techniques are shown including beading in this snake

Wall tapestry of the midwest section

Wall tapestry of the Midwest section

Wall tapestry showing needle-lace trees

Wall tapestry showing needle-lace trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese portrait – when I first saw this piece, I actually thought it was a black and white photograph of a woman from the 1940’s.  I thought maybe it was the artist that created the piece next to it.  Nope.  Created in 2000 by the artist Huijun, this is an embroidered portrait of her grandmother from a 1940s photograph.  The technique used in this piece of silk embroidery is a style from China called Su Embroidery that was celebrated, banned and then resurrected.  What makes this style so realistic?  The silk thread is split and then split and then split again so it’s barely the width of a human hair.  Wow.  For more information on this form of embroidery, check out this article from the Art of Silk.

Absolutely stunning example of Chinese Su embroidery using silk threads the width of a human hair

Absolutely stunning example of Chinese Su embroidery using silk threads the width of a human hair

Close-up of Su embroidery technique

Close-up of Su embroidery technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could not capture a good picture, but this Tiger is a gorgeous example of thread painting

I could not capture a good picture, but this Tiger is a gorgeous example of thread painting

Tiger – a stunning example of thread painting by Jan Jellins, I could not get a good picture of this piece due to reflections on the glass.  However, it’s aptly named “thread painting” because it literally looks like a painting.  The tiger is fantastic and very life-like and stares right back at you.  As Cynthia noted in the episode, there are six different colors in the eyes alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florentine Sampler – if you’re a little intimidated, this piece should reassure you that not everything needs to be perfect.  Listen to the episode to hear Rand Duren from EGA share why he likes this piece, which hangs right by his desk at work.   Just a little reminder everyday that we’re not always perfect, but we’re still beautiful.  And if you want to see a picture of the Florentine sampler, EGA actually has notecards available to purchase online using the colorful blocks from this design.

"Needlework done by the mouth" - find out what that means in the episode

“Needlework done by the mouth” – find out what that means in the episode

“Needlework done with the Mouth” – If you listen all the way to the end, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible story of how Martha A. Honeywell made this piece.  An incredible story showcasing how someone’s love for the craft didn’t stop them from creating beautiful, delicate pieces despite a physical handicap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Embroidery Museum highlights my love for artisan crafts.  Combining both the functional and artistic sides, embroidery embellishes and personalizes everyday objects.  Not just for “little old ladies sitting on their front porch” this museum showcases where the craft started, how people engaged with it over time, and contemporary artists that are pushing the boundaries of what it can be.  I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then you have got to add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Embroiderer’s Guild of America website

Find a Chapter – want to learn more about embroidery or any type of needlecraft?  Check out EGA’s website for a list of chapters to find a local chapter close to you.

Classes – EGA offers in-person classes at their annual event, through correspondence courses, or online.  Check out their full list and maybe find something that you’ve always wanted to try (there’s even a course for Temari balls!).

60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee – if you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky area on October 3-7, 2018, then check out their 60th celebration.  We talk about some of the activities in this episode, but we don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

Gift Shop – as part of supporting these great independent museums, check out the online gift shop.  Rand mentions the Florentine notecards in this episode, but check out their great online gift shop to find everything they offer.

If you are visiting the Embroidery Museum, don’t forget to check out the Museum for the American Printing House for the Blind also located in Louisville, Kentucky.  Check out that podcast episode and show notes for details.

MiM 004 – Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky

Confession:  I love manufacturing.

I work in the manufacturing industry, so when my travels combine both a factory and a museum – sign me up!  Have you ever watched the television show, “How Things Are Made”?  I am completely sucked in when I come across an episode – I’ve even recorded it (check my DVR if you don’t believe me.)  I’ve worked in product development at various manufacturing companies for years and I still love watching how an idea gets turned into a physical product.  Pair that with a museum that covers a niche topic like the history of Braille – something we probably all sort of learned in school, but really don’t know a lot about — and then showcases incredible individuals that take what everyone thinks of as a life sentence and completely flips it around is a definite must-see on my travel to-do list.   So that’s how I found myself at the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind  located in Louisville, Kentucky.

Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind building in Louisville, Kentucky

Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind

On a beautiful Friday morning, I sat down with Michael Hudson, Director of the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind.  The organization (also referred to as APH) is a unique combination of both a printing house and a museum with a distinctive focus – preserving and presenting the remarkable contributions of people who are blind, and the history of printing materials for the blind or visually impaired community.

I’ll admit that my experience with history of Braille is sparse.  I knew Louis Braille developed it, and it was made up of different dot patterns, but really nothing beyond that.  As I talked to Michael, the whole fascinating story of “tactile” writing emerged.

 

 

 

The museum tour is like a 3-in-1 experience:

First, there is the museum itself, which starts with the history of tactile languages, the development of Braille and the “war of the dots,” in the 19th century and leads up to contemporary examples of people and technology impacting the blind or visually impaired community today.

Second, is the factory tour of the printing house itself – this is where you’ll see Braille books being printed, tactile graphics being made, and even the original mechanical machines (like the “old Pearl”) that are still used for specialized tasks today.

Third, is a little side trip into the educational materials the APH has created to improve the lives of blind or visually impaired children.  It’s amazing the creativity and dedication of this organization as they continue to develop new products to help kids in the classroom.

Museum Tour Highlights:

The museum is broken up into two galleries:  the 1883 Gallery, which focuses on the history of the APH and its contributions over the years; and the Callahan Gallery, which focuses on the history and education of blind people.  If you can’t visit the museum in person, you check out a virtual tour on their website.

Temple Entrance – as you enter the museum, there is a large covered gateway with ancient tactile languages.  I never thought about how ancient languages were designed to communicate both by touch and visually – carved into stone or tablets – and that these languages could be read by the eyes or by the fingers.

Fire Doors – look closely behind the exhibits as you enter the 1883 Gallery and you’ll see huge fire doors – another nod to the original 1883 factory building.  The doors have a cable attached with a weight at the end and a little metal strip that melts at 200°F.  If there was a fire in the factory, the metal strip would melt and the large metal door slides across shutting off that part of the factory.  I love seeing the old bones of a building providing hidden touches of history.

Image of Valentin Hauy who created the first school for the blind in France

Valentin Haüy – created the first school for the blind in France

Valentin Haüy – this is the man that really started it all by creating the first school for the blind and visually impaired in Paris, France.  Michael tells an incredible story of what some blind people had to do to earn a living, which stirred Haüy into deciding there had to be another option which provided opportunities and kept a person’s dignity.

Image of Francois Leseuer who is the first student at Hauy's school in France

Francois Lesueur – first student at Haüy’s school in France

Francois Lesueur – Haüy’s first student.  One of his jobs was to pick up Haüy’s mail every day.  Haüy had a side job as a translator for the King of France and would occasionally receive embossed invitations from the King.  Lesueur could “read” the embossing on the invitations, which gave Haüy the idea to develop “raised letter” books for the blind.

 

 

 

 

 

War of the Dots – many systems were developed in the early 19th century; even different countries had different systems.  Most initially started with just raising the letters of the existing alphabet, but the curves in writing weren’t always clear.  So then different typefaces were developed to make it easier to read the raised letters with your fingers.

Moon Type – an example of one of several different “arbitrary codes”  that were developed.  It was kind of based on the alphabet, but used different symbols for the letters.

Hauy's earliest example of the "raised letter" writing he developed

Haüy’s earliest example of the “raised letter” writing he developed

Example of 19th Century raised letter writing

Example of 19th Century raised letter writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example of Moon Type - a "arbitrary code" writing system

Example of Moon Type – an “arbitrary code” writing system

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of Louis Braille who inventor of the Braille writing code

Louis Braille – inventor of the Braille writing code

Louis Braille – born in 1809, Louis was the son of a harness maker and became blind due to an accident with his father’s tools.  Amazingly, Louis happened to live in France and was sent to Haüy’s school for the blind in Paris.  How was the Braille system developed?  It’s a fascinating story of a French soldier, a code called night writing, and a young boy with the smarts to simplify and build a new system that revolutionized communication for the blind.

 

 

 

 

Slate & Stylus writing tool

Slate & Stylus writing tool

Slate & Stylus – at this time, a blind person could read printed books but had no way to write notes themselves.   Another technological leap forward was the slate and stylus.  A rectangular tablet with a perforated bar that slid across the page allowed a person using a stylus – like a punch or an awl – to finally write Braille on-the-go.   Consider it kind of the first portable, personal tool for writing Braille.

Hall Braille Writer (top, in case) and Perkins Braille Writer (bottom)

Hall Braille Writer (top, in case) and Perkins Braille Writer (bottom)

Hall Braille Writer & Perkins Braille Writer – the Hall Braille writer was a mechanical device invented by an American named Frank Hall 70 years after the slate and stylus was invented.  Hall was a superintendent for the Illinois School for the Blind and developed the Hall Braille writer in 1892 in conjunction with a local typewriter company in Chicago.

The Perkins Braille Writer is really the penultimate modern Braille writer.  Solid, dependable, reliable — the company still makes these today.  And you get to try one of these machines in the museum.  I wrote my name – totally cool!  (If you visit with kids, then check this exhibit out.)

The museum has over 40 different mechanical Braille writers in their collection, but the Hall and Perkins are the iconic representatives of this technology.

30” Globe – how do you represent the world to someone who can’t see it?  Globes with raised mountains and recessed rivers can let a child explore the world with their fingertips.  Originally wooden maps were hand carved, which was labor intensive and more expensive to produce.

30" World Globe with raised geography

30″ World Globe with raised geography

Wooden map that had to be hand carved

Wooden map that had to be hand carved

 

Stevie Wonder's baby grand stage piano used while in school

Stevie Wonder’s baby grand stage piano used while in school

Stevie Wonder’s Piano – a stage, baby grand piano, this was the piano Stevie Wonder used while attending the Michigan School for the Blind.  I had no idea that Stevie Wonder had his first hit song at the age of 12 and was touring the country, which posed a problem for the Detroit Board of Education.  Being blind posed an additional challenge.  So how could Stevie keep touring and keep up with his studies?  Listen to the episode to find the ingenious solution that really allowed Stevie Wonder to develop into the superstar of today.

 

 

 

 

 

1959 World Book Encyclopedia printed in Braille

1959 World Book Encyclopedia printed in Braille

1959 World Book Encyclopedia – the picture won’t do this justice, but this is a staggering display of the largest Braille project ever done.  Braille takes up more space than the same standard printed book – and this exhibit shows that.  It also shows the dedication of the APH staff to make sure that information was available to everyone.  Now, of course, all that information can be found on the cell phones in our pocket.  It’s amazing the technology that has developed over the last several decades.  Where will we go in the future?

 

 

 

 

 

Factory Tour Highlights:

Example of tactile graphic and the printed graphic of the moon phases

Example of tactile graphic and the printed graphic of the moon phases

Tactile Graphics – I never thought about how blind would be able to “see” a graphic image.  Well, they’ve figured it out at APH – layers and layers and layers of a specialized ink printed on top of each other causes the ink to build up on the paper creating raised images.  How was this discovered?  Experimentation.  Another reason why manufacturing companies need to give their employees the time and freedom to play with new ideas.

 

Proofreading – team of two people.  A Braille reader that reads out loud every word, paragraph and punctuation mark.  The other person is a copy reader.  As the Braille reader reads the Braille text out loud, the copy reader follows along in the printed text to make sure everything matches.  Attention to accuracy is key – if there is a typographical error in the print version, then APH will reproduce it in the Braille version.

 

 

Stereograph machine orignally used to manually translate printed text into Braille

Stereograph machine orignally used to manually translate printed text into Braille

Stereograph – how Braille translations were originally created – manually, by hand – before the current digital process.  Someone sat at this machine, read the printed text, and then literally transcribed the text one Braille character at a time.  It’s sort of like play chords on a piano – the keys to form each Braille letter are pushed down at the same time.

Tip – a single Braille character is made up of a “cell” which is a combination of 6 dots – 3 high and 2 wide.  Corresponding to the letters in the standard English alphabet, it even includes ways to add punctuation and capitalization.

Correcting tongs (the Braille version of whiteout)

Correcting tongs (the Braille version of whiteout)

Correcting Tongs – what if someone made a mistake on the stereograph machine? Then you had to use a set of correcting tongs to punch in the missing dot or flatten out a wrong dot.

 

Pearl machine used to print tactile graphics using plates

Pearl machine used to print tactile graphics

Pearl – one of Michael’s favorite machines, the Pearl sort of looks and operates like a sewing machine.  Used for making tactile graphics plates, the Pearl is still great at producing volume prints of tactile graphics.

 

 

 

 

 

Little Pearl Companion printed special map characters

Little Pearl Companion printed special map characters

“Little Pearl Companion” – a very specialized machine for making map symbols.  Bought in July 1906, the Little Pearl still works today.  How many other machines from the turn of the century are working today?  I love seeing old machinery still functioning and still valued today.

Nemeth Code – how does Braille work for mathematics?  Well, that’s where Abraham Nemeth comes into the picture.  Hear his full story in the episode, but let’s just say he was a kid that loved math, but was told he couldn’t pursue that dream because he was blind.  Go into sociology they said, so he did.  And then couldn’t get a job.  Get an advanced sociology degree they said.  So he did, and couldn’t get a job.  Finally, he said, “I can either be an unemployed sociologist or an unemployed mathematician,” so he chose the mathematician route and adapted the existing Braille code for mathematics.  The beauty of his system is that it uses the existing Braille characters, but assigned them new mathematical meanings.  So a kid didn’t have to learn a new system, but just know the mathematical alternative for the same character.  Genius.

 

 

 

 

Heidelberg Pres - one of three presses converted to print Braille

Heidelberg Press – one of three presses converted to print Braille

Heidelberg Original Cylinder Press – a recurring theme of the APH is taking an existing technology and re-purposing it to fit the needs of printing Braille.  The three Heidelberg presses are classic examples of that ingenuity.  Originally designed for traditional printing, the APH modified them so they could use embossing plates to print Braille instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Collator is unique because it's designed to not crush the raised Braille text

Collator is unique because it’s designed to not crush the raised Braille text

Collator – this looks like a basic machine, but its unique skill is lifting, sorting, and collating pages without crushing the Braille text.  Think about that.  What kind of precision does it take to have mechanical “fingers” pick up and sort sensitive pages of Braille?  Listen to the episode to find out how it used to be done and why this basic-looking machine was such a revolution for the APH.

 

 

 

 

 

Educational Products:

This whole section of education products amazed me.  As a sighted person, I take for granted being able to see everything going on in a typical classroom.  Close your eyes and imagine a classroom.  How would you learn if you couldn’t see the board, or a presentation, or a 3D model?  Luckily, the APH thinks about that every day.  Do not skip this part of the museum tour because it really makes you think how the sighted world is translated for the blind and visually impaired.

Draftsman - used in classroom for creating quick tactile graphics on the fly

Draftsman – used in classroom for creating quick tactile graphics on the fly

Draftsman – it kind of reminded me of an Etch-A-Sketch, but this simple tool is helping teachers create quick tactile graphics in the classroom on the fly.  Imagine the teacher drawing a symbol on the board – how would a blind student “see” it?  This tool allows the student the same access to information in real-time as everyone else in the classroom.

Lots of Dots – designed to teach kids the alphabet and punctuation.  How do you capitalize in Braille?  Find out by listening to the episode.  (By the way, I totally want a Lots of Dots for myself!)

 

 

 

 

Periodic Table in Braille used in classrooms

Periodic Table in Braille used in classrooms

Periodic Table – flashing back to my Chemistry days, the periodic table is a classic tool but is also a totally visual tool.  How would you translate this visual table into a tactile form?   That’s what the APH thinks about every day.

(Oh, and if you really want to nerd out, there is a fascinating book about the Periodic Table called The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean.  In fact, all his books are excellent!)

Human Anatomy kit with tactile graphic skeleton

Human Anatomy kit with tactile graphic skeleton

Human Anatomy Kit – 3D skeleton models have been available, but how do you connect the words with the specific bones?  This tool does that and, to quote Michael, includes a “cool” quiz kit (seriously, I had to call Michael out on that – what kid thinks quizzes are cool?)

 

 

Orbit 20 – the latest product developed for both kids and adults, the “refreshable” Braille display and note taker is truly a remarkable piece of technology.  Developing a product durable enough and fast enough to translate printed text into Braille and back into printed text allows for near real-time translation.  Demand has been so great that it’s on backorder.  (Side note – as a manufacturer you always want to have products available for the people that want them, but you also know you have a good product that really serves your customers when demand exceeds supply.)

 

I think one of the most important things we can do as human beings is to try and see the world through someone else’s eyes.  What does the world look like to them?  What experiences shaped them?  How do they see things differently – and how do they see things the same as me?  The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind is a great example of that philosophy.  As a sighted person, I can never fully understand what it’s like to be blind, but it gave me a small glimpse into the struggles facing the blind and visually impaired community and the impressive strides that have been made to overcome everyday obstacles the sighted take for granted.

The historical and interactive nature of the museum along with the impact the printing house has on kids today is a unique combination and is well worth a visit.  If you’re a museum nerd like me, then you have got to add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind website

Visiting Hours and Admissions – since this information could change, please visit the museum’s webpage to find the most up-to-date information.

School & Group Tours – if you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky area, the museum can host group tours.  Contact them for more details.  Trust me – the kids will get a total kick out of visiting this museum and writing their name in Braille.

Virtual Tour – If you can’t visit the museum in person, you check out their virtual tours on their website.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

Kentucky School for the Blind – right next door to the museum, this organization has a long history and has made important contributions to the blind and visually impaired community.  Visit their website and find ways you can support them, or search for a school in your area (schools everywhere need our support!).

MiM 003 – Beechcraft Heritage Museum – Tullahoma, Tennessee

Confession:  I am not a pilot.

I love flying, but I can’t fly a plane.  I’ve flown in huge commercial airplanes on 14 hour international trips to Asia, and I’ve been in small four-seater Grumman planes flown by a friend.  I would fly to work every day if I could instead of driving.  Yet I’ve never gotten my own pilot’s license; never had the desire to fly the plane myself.  To me flying is a small cocoon of happiness where I can read, or stare out of the window, or just be silent.  Let someone else worry about all the logistics of getting me there; I’m just here to enjoy the ride.

View of the main brick building of the museum with a grass lawn and trees

View of the main building on the gorgeous campus of the Beechcraft Heritage Museum.

And as a beautiful mashup of my love of flying and my love of museums, naturally I love going to aviation museums.  The designs and shapes of the planes; the ingenuity and technology needed to get a person aloft; and the personality of each plane is unique.  Why are there so many brands of planes?  How has plane design changed over the years?  And what makes one plane different from another?  With all those questions and more, I found myself on a sunny afternoon at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Road sign pointing the way to the Beechcraft Museum

If you’re visiting Tullahoma, you might also schedule a visit to the George Dickel Distillery.

I’ve been to other general aviation museums around the country, but the Beechcraft Heritage Museum is unique because it is solely focused on one brand of aircraft – Beechcraft.  Started in 1932, the Beechcraft company has been building planes in Wichita, Kansas, and still produces airplanes there today.  So my first question was, why is there a museum dedicated to this specific brand of aircraft at all?  And, secondly, why is the museum located in Tullahoma, Tennessee?

This was just the start of my questions when I sat down with Charles Parish – Executive Vice-President and son of the museum founder – along with Jody Curtis (Director of Marketing & Membership) and Sherry Roepke (Resident Director).  Some of the stories Charles shared include why the Beechcraft airplane design is unique, how the first plane was designed, and the evolution of the plane’s design since 1932.  Charles talks about his father acquiring Big Red — the Beechcraft plane that really started the museum – and shares the backstories of the planes and people that helped kickstart the museum into being and continue to propel it into the future.

 

 

Beechcraft Staggerwing design with upper wings set back from lower wings

Iconic Beechcraft Staggerwing design with upper wings set back from lower wings.

Drawn on a napkin by Walter Beech and his chief engineer, Ted Wells, they created the “staggerwing” design iconic to the original Beechcraft airplane.  In most biplane designs the upper wings are forward of the lower wings.  The staggerwing design flipped that and put the upper wing behind the lower wing.  This design improved performance, visibility and the stall characteristics of the airplane.

Positioned as the “Cadillac” of aircraft, Beech and Wells also designed the first Beechcraft staggerwing as a “cabin” class airplane.  Before that, planes had an open cockpit – the passenger sat in the front and the pilot sat in the rear in the open air.  Cabin class meant the pilot and passengers were inside the aircraft and the pilot moved from the rear to the front of the plane.

Also amazing is the number of “firsts” in this museum.  They have Serial #1 Travel Air (predecessor company Walter Beech was involved in prior to starting the Beechcraft company), Serial #1 Staggerwing, and Serial #1 Mystery Ship.  In addition to the Beechcraft staggerwing airplanes, you’ll also see Bonanza and Baron branded planes.  Still part of the Beechcraft family, the Bonanza and Baron lines were introduced to target new markets, take advantage of new technologies, and are still manufactured today.  The original staggerwing was a biplane with two sets of wings with a fabric-wood-fabric construction.  The Bonanza is an all metal, single-engine Beechcraft with one set of wings that was first produced in 1947, and the museum has the #9 and #18 planes ever produced.  The Baron is a twin engine Beechcraft.

Small jet fighter style aircraft sculpture attached to a utility pole

Tullahoma is an aviation town as evidenced by small planes attached to the utility poles.

University of Tennessee branded, white and orange sculpture on the ground

Plane sculptures are also located on the ground in front of local businesses.

If you’re driving to Tullahoma and wondering if you’re in the right town, then just look at the utility poles lining the streets – small, painted fighter jet style airplanes are attached to many of the light poles.  Still need more convincing this is a plane-crazy town?  Then check out some of the plane sculptures by the sidewalks in front of local businesses.  (Living in Tennessee I naturally had to include a picture of the University of Tennessee Space Institute plane.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the key objects in this impressive collection include:

Big Red airplane, the staggerwing plane that started the museum

Big Red and Gilmore (yellow plane in background) sit front and center when you walk in the door of the museum.

Big Red – you can’t miss the giant red airplane as you walk into the front lobby of the museum.   As the first vintage plane Charles’ father acquired at the Antique Airfield fly-in (which is still held today in Blakesburg, Iowa) in the late 1960’s, Big Red is the plane that started it all.  Flown by his father until it took up its permanent place in the collection, Big Red’s beautiful lines and presence welcomes all visitors to find out more about how the museum started.

Gilmore – next to Big Red in the front lobby is a bright yellow plane named Gilmore.  Look closely and you’ll see a lion decal on the plane.  Why is the plane called Gilmore and why is there a lion decal on the plane? Listen to the episode and hear the story of a stunt pilot named Roscoe Turner, a lion cub, and a man named Deline (pronounced de-lion) with a sense of humor.

(Oh, and for those that listen to the story and want to know where is Gilmore today?  Find the “real” Gilmore at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum)

Staggering plane with the fabric covering removed so you can see the structure underneath

Staggerwing plane with the fabric covering removed so you can see the structure underneath.

Uncovered Staggerwing – whether you’re interested in restoring a Beechcraft or just like to see how things are put together, this model shows the wood frame of the plane without the fabric covering.  One of my favorite displays at museums are cutaways, stripped back examples, or windows that peek into the hidden parts of an object to see how everything works inside.

 

Twin Beech – as an evolution from the original single-engine Beechcraft, the Twin Beech (Beech 18) is unique for its two-engine design.   There is also a C45 military version of it on display.

 

 

 

Bonanza airplane with highly polished, reflective finish.

Bonanza with highly polished, reflective finish. Imagine the work that goes into maintaining that mirror finish.

D-18S Twin Beech – the “bling” of airplane finishes, the D-18S reminds me of a flying Airstream trailer.  With a highly polished, silver reflective surface, this plane’s exterior finish definitely catches the eye – and requires a significant amount of maintenance to keep that exterior shine.  It’s actually in flying condition today and is used regularly by its owners.

Beechcraft War Effort – Beechcraft has a long history as both a civilian and military aircraft.  Civilian uses include personal and corporate transportation while military uses include bomber training and transportation of personnel.

 

 

 

Navy training plane with a large mouth and sharp teeth painted on the front of the plane

Navy training plane (love the teeth!) representing Beechcraft’s long history of supplying military aircraft.

T-34C – on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.  Used for jet pilot training purposes, the open mouth and aggressive teeth painted on the front of this plane has the classic look of a military plane from the 30’s and 40’s, but was actually used into the late 80’s or early 90’s.  The tandem seating cockpit was also different from other Beechcraft planes, which allowed for the instructor to sit behind the pilot during training exercises and is the way most fighter jets are configured today.

#18 Bonanza – another plane with a high polished exterior and a red trim, this is the 18th Bonanza to actually roll off the assembly line.

 

 

#1 Travel Air – before it was the Beechcraft company, it was originally the Travel Air brand.  The very first Travel Air can be found in this collection and is unique because it was a water-cooled engine versus the more common air-cooled engine.  Another thing I love about the museum?  The placards next to each plane (and, yes, I’m completely okay with the fact that I read every single label in a museum).  For instance, on this one, the cost for this plane in 1924 was $3,500.  What’s that in today’s U.S. dollars?  Around $51,000 in today’s dollars.

Photos of the Beech Factory – since I work in manufacturing, I love seeing old photographs of the early manufacturing plants.  Surprisingly, the Beech factory seems pretty efficient even though every Beechcraft airplane was basically put together by hand.  No automated machinery or robots, but experienced hands and a caring workforce delivered a quality product.

Travel Air “Mystery Ship” – designed for speed, the Mystery Ship was a closely guarded secret.  No one was allowed to see it until it raced.  Similar to NASCAR cars today, the Mystery Ship was mainly a promotional tool for the company because as Charles notes, “People paid attention to things that were fast and won races.”   Listen to Charles revealing the secrets to why it was a fast airplane.  Want to see a picture of the Mystery Ship?  Then you’ll have to visit the museum because in keeping with the spirit of the plane – no photo here; we’re keeping this one under wraps.

#1 Staggering - the very first Staggerwing plane to come off the assembly line.

#1 Staggerwing – the very first Staggerwing plane to come off the assembly line.

#1 Staggerwing – as the first Beechcraft branded plane ever made in 1932, this is the most significant airplane in the collection, but with a short life as it crashed in 1935.  We can only scratch the surface on how the plane parts were recovered, how it was restored, how the plane came to the museum, and the mysterious arrival of the missing data plate is an entire story just by itself.

 

 

 

Louise Thaden Library - re-created log cabin with pictures all over the walls and a table to sit down and read through all of the documents in the collection

Louise Thaden Library – plan on spending time to read through all of the documents highlighting her amazing aviation career.

Black and white photo of Louise Thaden next to her airplane

Louise Thaden – aviator, racer, record holder — and during a time and industry that wasn’t exactly the traditional route for women

Louise Thaden Library – aviator, racer, world-record holder – a fascinating woman and one of the reasons the museum was started.  Louise Thaden donated her entire collection of memorabilia to the museum documenting her amazing aviation accomplishments throughout her long life.  Honestly, I spent hours in the log cabin library reading through documents, looking at photographs and articles about her.  Charles’ description of her as, “a quiet lady, but with a very strong personality” only hints at the determination she must have had to race – and repeatedly win – against men starting in the 1930’s.  Make sure to find her original pilot’s license (and check out who signed it!).

 

 

 

 

Wooden, scaled, wind tunnel model used by the Beechcraft comapny when developing new plane designs

Wooden, scaled, wind tunnel model used by the Beechcraft comapny when developing new plane designs

Wind Tunnel models – the original scaled, wind tunnel models of the Beechcraft Bonanza built out of wood in the early 1940’s.   Prototyping new designs was just as important back then as it is today and would have taken a master craftsman to build a wooden model that replicated the exact dimensions of the finished aircraft.

 

 

 

Cutaway of the Bonanza design showing the plane's structure underneath the outer covering

Cutaway of the Bonanza design showing the plane’s structure underneath the outer covering

Bonanza Cutaway – another cutaway plane display, but of the Bonanza single-wing design.  When you visit, look at the front of the plane, you can peek through a window to see behind the instrument panel and understand how the instruments and avionics connect together.  (I did mention earlier that I loved cutaways and really seeing how things work, didn’t I?)

 

 

 

Olive Ann Beech – throughout my conversation with Charles, both Walter Beech and his wife Olive Ann Beech figure prominently in the success of the Beechcraft company.  Walter Beech passed away in the mid-1950’s and his wife, Olive Ann Beech, took over the running of the company and successfully did so for the next 30+ years.  If you happen to stroll down a hallway painted baby blue, that was Olive Ann Beech’s favorite color.  The hallway is painted that color, the furniture in her chapel in the museum is painted that color, her office at the company was painted that color, and her Twin Beech 18 airplane was painted that color.  As Charles sums it up, she was definitely “one-of-a-kind.”

“Around-the-Worlders” – unique to the museum are three “around-the-world” Bonanza airplanes that traversed multiple times around the world.  Not as part of a competition, but just for fun, at least one of these planes has done this four times.  Listen to the story of a surprise landing in Moscow, Russia, during the height of the Cold War and find out why the fuel tanks are sometimes referred to as “Dolly Parton” tanks.

View looking down on a sleek white plane with sharply angled wings and a long nose.

The innovative Beechcraft “Starship” really pushed the boundaries for plane design at the time. Only three are still in service today.

“Starship” – very different in design from the other Beechcraft airplanes, the Starship is a canard design with a long nose and dramatically angled wings back toward the rear of the plane.  When I saw this design, I thought of fighter jets and the way their wings sweep back towards the rear.

 

 

 

“Duke” – the very last Beechcraft Staggerwing built, the Duke looks like “it’s going 300 miles an hour just sitting still” – and Charles is certainly right about that.  As beautiful as the #1 Beechcraft built, the Duke closes out the Staggerwing chapter of the Beechcraft brand, but not the legacy of the company.  Still being manufactured some 85+ years later in Wichita, Kansas, you can still purchase a new Beechcraft airplane today.  And don’t forget to check out vintage airplane shows where you might just find an old Staggerwing just waiting for someone to restore her.

The first time I took my sister’s family to visit Graceland, my brother-in-law Brad spent hours looking at Elvis Presley’s cars.  He talked about engines, and model years, and design changes, and paint jobs.  He talked to random strangers about them.  At one point he lay down on the ground so he could get a better look underneath one of them (seriously, I thought at any moment museum guards were going swoop in and kick us out).  When I visited the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, I kind of understood the fascination – although for me it’s planes and for him it’s cars.  The beauty of the planes, the lines of the designs, imagining myself sitting inside while flying over the earth – I get it.  Even if you’re just a general flying enthusiast like myself, you will definitely appreciate the beauty and design of the Beechcraft.  And if you happen to be traveling to the museum with a hardcore aviation enthusiast, well, I hope you understand if they just walk around every single plane multiple times and stop to read every plaque.  Oh, and if they decide to lay down on the ground to check out some obscure thing on the underside of the plane, then just volunteer to be the lookout and be patient with our inner museum nerdness.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add the Beechcraft Heritage Museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Beechcraft Heritage Museum website

Beech Party – the museum hosts this annual event every year in October.  Whether you own a Beechcraft or not, this event is great for any aviation enthusiast with educational programs and access to planes flying in from all over the country.  Check the museum’s webpage for additional information and specific dates.

Glider Academy, Scott Perry Academy – the museum also hosts several programs for kids.  I am completely jealous that I’m too old to take the Glider Academy, but if you know a budding aviator then these are fantastic programs for them to get started.

Visiting Hours and Admissions – since this information could change, please visit the museum’s webpage to find the most up-to-date information.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

Picture of an Art Deco-inspired museum t-shirt

Love this museum T-shirt – cool graphics (on back) and the the Art Deco-inspired font matches the Staggerwing era of the 1930’s.

Beechcraft key ring

Beechcraft key ring

Gift Shop – as part of supporting these great independent museums, I always purchase something from the gift shop.  It may be something small like a keyring or a book, but my favorite item to purchase is a T-shirt (yep, another fun fact about me, I love T-shirts!).  When you’re at the museum, check out their great gift shop or go online to find everything they offer.

Partner Organizations:

During the interview, Charles, Jody and Sherry mentioned several partnerships with aviation organizations.  I’ve listed them below along with a link to their websites so you can find out more information about the programs they offer.

Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)

Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF)

American Bonanza Society

King Air Society

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)

Carpenter Avionics

Eagleville Soaring Club – the museum hosts a great glider program for kids, but if you’re an adult and want to try gliding and live in the Tennessee area, then check out this group for more information about their guest rides.

MiM 002 – Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky

Confession:  I have always loved rocks.

During my undergrad, I had a fantastic geology teacher that had the best field trips.  We spent weekends roaming the southern countryside for pink quartz, mica schist and gneiss rocks.  Going back even further, I remember as a little kid picking through the rough gravel around the farm to find the prettiest or most interesting-shaped rocks (yep, I was a nerd from the beginning).  One of the things I always wanted, but never got, was a rock tumbler.

Even without the advanced technology of a rock tumbler, rocks that looked boring and basic on the outside revealed patterns, layers and flecks that sparkled when rinsed off and cleaned up.  They were also so different everywhere I went – commercial gravel was different than what I found on the farm versus what I found when we would visit my Mom’s family in Colorado.  The entire history of an area can be found in the ordinary rocks under our feet.

With that background, I was so excited to visit the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum.  I’ve been to other mineral museums around the country and visited geology collections within large museums, but most of these have been more generally focused, which is great to get an overview of all different kinds of minerals that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in one place.  However, the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum is remarkable for its singular focus – it’s all about the mineral fluorite (also known as fluorspar).  How interesting can a museum be that’s focused around just a single mineral?  Very interesting, as it turns out.

Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum

Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum – rainy days are perfect times to visit museums!

Driving to Kentucky on a rainy weekend (which, is perfect museum-visiting weather), I sat down with Ed Clement — son of the founder — of the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum.  Located in Marion, Kentucky, the Clement Mineral Museum is a mineral museum with a very distinctive focus – the mineral fluorite.  Fluorite is probably one of the most commercially important minerals that you’ve never heard of.  Ed and I discussed the history of fluorite and the stories behind mining this mineral in Western Kentucky.  Ed is a natural storyteller and the stories he shares about his family, how the museum got started (in the backyard of his father’s house), and the backstory behind some of the objects in the collection are fascinating and really highlight his family’s personal connection to this museum.

As a huge museum nerd, I’ve visited many mineral and geology-focused collections, but I have to tell you there are objects in the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum collection that I have never seen before.  Remember when your chemistry and geology teachers said, “You need to know this stuff because it will come in handy someday”?  Well, this is the day.

Originally this area of Western Kentucky focused on mining the mineral galena for the lead and silver content.  Fluorspar was originally a waste product of the mining process.  Then in 1873 it was discovered that fluorspar lowered the melting temperature of iron to remove impurities (flux) during smelting.  After that discovery, additional uses for fluorite in steel, aluminum, chemicals, glass, and nuclear processes lead to a mining boom in this area of Western Kentucky from 1900 – 1950 due to the unique geological forces that created a fluorspar pocket.

Ben Clement leased mines in this area and recognized the beauty in the unique, cubic structure and variety of colors found in fluorspar when it was still thought of as a by-product to be thrown away during the mining process.  His expertise and connections allowed him to collect truly unique and stunning examples of this mineral.  Some weigh hundreds of pounds while others fit into the palm of your hand, some may be damaged or broken on the outside but reveal inner beauty.   Each object in the collection is a rare specimen in the mineral world, but also carries a unique acquisition or personal family backstory.

Some of the key objects in this impressive collection include:

George Wild Family Carved Collection – one of two carved collections at the museum, this group includes animal and facet carvings in fluorspar by a world-renowned, family of carvers, led by George Wild from Idar-Obserstein, Germany.  Very expressive faces in the squirrel, owl and bear.  Fluorite is so soft that it can be carved, but too soft to be worn as jewelry.  Listen to Ed tell the story of what happened when his Mom was holding one of these carved pieces.  If you visit, see if you can spot the green one that’s “flawed” from this story. (Note – I couldn’t find a specific website about George Wild, but saw numerous references to gemstone carvings by him and found other Wild names in the gem carving industry.  Hopefully, the family carving dynasty still remains today!)

German Family of Carvers created a collection showcasing both classic facet or jeweled-shapes type of carving and animals.

German Family of Carvers created a collection showcasing both classic facet or jeweled-shapes type of carving and animals.

German Family of Carvers carving a squirrel, owl and parrot into fluorite

German Family of Carvers carving a squirrel, owl and parrot into fluorite

German Family of Carvers carving of a bear in fluorite

German Family of Carvers carving of a bear in fluorite

Purple Fluorite Cubes – beautiful examples of the variety of colors found even within a single shade of color.  There is also an interesting sample of purple fluorite sitting on top of white “dog’s tooth” calcite (look for the sharp white points on the bottom that look like teeth pointing down).

Example of the variety of shades within the single color of purple fluorite

Example of the variety of shades within the single color of purple fluorite

Example of the variety of shades within the single color of purple fluorite

Purple fluorite on top of “dog’s-tooth” white calcite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chipping of the edges of the cubic fluorite produces perfect octahedron shapes

Chipping of the edges of the cubic fluorite produces perfect octahedron shapes

Octahedron Collection – unique to its natural cubic shape, if you chip off all the corners of the cube you get an octahedron.  Of course, you’ve got to perfectly chip off the corners at the right angles to get a perfect octahedron.  This collection is also a good example of the variety of colors found in fluorite.  Natural fluorite is clear, but various impurities create the nine different colors found.

 

 

 

"Bird in Flight" - an incredible example of black fluorite naturally formed into a the shape of a flying bird with perfect cubes form on both the top and bottom

“Bird in Flight” – an incredible example of black fluorite naturally formed into the shape of a flying bird with perfect cubes form on both the top and bottom

“Bird In Flight” – gorgeous, black fluorite specimen unique for two reasons:  its shape looks like a black bird in flight, and the fact that it’s known as a “floater”.  If you visit, look underneath the “bird” – you’ll see the same cubic shapes all over the bottom as you find on the top.  That means the fluorite cubes formed on a softer surface, which then wore away without damaging the cubic shapes.  Very rare and very unusual to find such a specimen whole and undamaged – and just wait until you hear the story of how it was found.  This is one of my favorite pieces at the museum.  Every time I looked at it during my visit, or when I see this picture, I am amazed.

 

 

 

 

Tiny, perfect, small, purple fluorite cube sitting on calcite. How did it not get damaged?

Tiny, perfect, small, purple fluorite cube sitting on calcite. How did it not get damaged?

Pale Purple Cube on Quartz – perfect, small, tiny purple cube perched right on the edge of quartz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First fluorite specimen collected by Ben Clement. Featured in a 1920 geology book sitting above the crystal.

First fluorite specimen collected by Ben Clement. Featured in a 1920 geology book sitting above the crystal.

Close-up image of the first specimen collected. Unique for the multiple square facets across the surface of the crystal.

Close-up image of the first specimen collected. Unique for the multiple square facets across the surface of the crystal.

First Specimen Collected – a delicate shade of mauve in color, this is the first specimen Ben Clement collected and kept at his house before there was a museum.  See the book sitting above it?  This specimen came from the Holly Mine and was featured in a 1920 geology text because of the uniqueness of the specimen.  What makes it so rare?  Look very close in the image – see the multiple faces?  The twinning of the crystals during formation is incredibly unique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knife-edge fluorite - distinctive for its razor sharp edges

Knife-edge fluorite – distinctive for its razor sharp edges

“Knife-Edge Fluorite” – natural, high-polished finish, this specimen is slick, beautiful and dangerous.  Razor sharp edges finished to an extreme perfection.  As Ed puts it, “we’ve never seen its equal in edge sharpness in a specimen this size.”

Purple fluorite cube literally divided in half by a thin, horizontal layer of quartz

Purple fluorite cube literally divided in half by a thin, horizontal layer of quartz

Divided Cube on Quartz – perfect purple cube of fluorite split in half by the quartz it grew on.  The white quartz grew in a perfect flat plane finding a tiny crack within the fluorite that literally split the cube in two.  Incredibly rare and almost impossible to imagine how this formed and survived intact.

 

 

 

Purple fluorite cube literally divided in half by a thin, horizontal layer of quartz

Crystal Cathedral – single spire-shaped quartz growing straight up on a “roof” of fluorite

Crystal Cathedral – a quartz crystal spire sitting on a “rooftop” of purple fluorite cubes – Ed’s Mom’s favorite specimen.

Perfect "puffy" shaped ball of white calcite.

Perfect “puffy” shaped ball of white calcite.

Acicular Ball – this one is remarkable for the calcite formation on the fluorite.  Looking like a puffy white ball, this acicular ball of calcite is remarkable because all of its spikes are perfect – no breakage, damage or chips.  Now, how did that survive underground?

 

 

 

 

“Slab” Specimen Room – stepping into this darkened room filled with “slab” or cross-sections of fluorite lit from below highlights the beautiful internal patterns showing how the cube structure forms.  Similar to tree rings, you can actually see the cube rings in the cross-sections showing how the crystal grew.  Want a cool fact to drop at your next party?  Crystals are the only inorganic object that grows. Boom.

Stunning "slab" room showcasing cut cross-sections of fluorite lit from within

Stunning “slab” room showcasing cut cross-sections of fluorite lit from within

Close-up of fluorite cross-sections where you can see the "rings" of how the crystal grew.

Close-up of fluorite cross-sections where you can see the “rings” of how the crystal grew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corner piece chipped off reveals a tiny unique world inside

Corner piece chipped off reveals a tiny unique world inside

 

Slab Specimens Close-Up – Corner Knocked Off – it was so hard to actually get a good picture, but when you visit the museum, find this unique specimen featuring a bright, little yellow triangle on one corner.  The corner was knocked off, but this gives you a tiny view into the inside of the crystal.  Stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squire Riley carved collection of animals

Squire Riley carved collection of animals

Close-up of the back of the dog showing the file marks used to create its fur

Close-up of the back of the dog showing the file marks used to create its fur

Squire Riley Carving Collection – Squire Riley was a night watchman that was a master woodcarver.  Picking up files and rasps instead of chisels, he turned to carving fluorite due to its softness (sitting at 4 on the Mohs Hardness Scale).  Looking closer at the backside of the dog, you can see the file marks used to create its “fur”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glow-in-the-Dark Rocks – all I can say is “Wow!”.  Totally unique and rare collection.  With the room lights on, it just looks like a normal wall of ignoble rocks.  But turn off the fluorescent lights and magic happens – a wall full of glow-in-the-dark rocks!  What?  Find out why they glow in the episode, but this room will totally bring out the kid in you.  And if you happen to be visiting the museum with kids, ask them, “Can you find Nemo?”  They’ll totally get it.  (psst – if you want to see a picture of Nemo, email me and I’ll send you the secret photo).

Looks like a wall of normal igneous rocks, right? Well, wait until the lights turn off.

Looks like a wall of normal igneous rocks, right? Well, wait until the lights turn off.

Same igneous rocks, but a completely different look when the lights go out.

Same igneous rocks, but a completely different look when the lights go out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography Collection:

After talking about some of the specimens in this collection, we moved on to the photography collection.  Photography is one of my hobbies, so it was a real treat to see photographs depicting the mining industry in the early 1900’s.  Listening to Ed tell the story of Hudson Mine collapse really brought home the dedication of the miners and the dangers they faced every day they went underground.

Hudson Mine Drain Hole – listen to how the Hudson Mine flooded when the water basin above the mine broke and flooded down into the mine.  Find out why there was essentially a lake sitting on top of the mine while the miners were digging horizontally underneath it.  In the pictures you can see the water sitting in the basin, and then see the drain hole where the water flowed down into the mine.

Hudson Mine - originally started as an "open cut" or a bowl-shape dug on the surface. Eventually this bowl filled in with water and debris

Hudson Mine – originally started as an “open cut” or a bowl-shape dug on the surface. Eventually this bowl filled in with water and debris

Hudson Mine - after the mine collapsed, the water and debris sitting on top drained down through a hole into the mine shaft below

Hudson Mine – after the mine collapsed, the water and debris sitting on top drained down through a hole into the mine shaft below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hudson Mine - drill highlighted on the far right drilled down 900 feet

Hudson Mine – drill highlighted on the far right drilled down 900 feet

Hudson Mine Original Drill Shaft – the decision was made to drill a 900 foot shaft next to the original mine and then dig horizontally underneath the water basin.  Hear Ed tell the stories he collected from the miners that actually experienced the mine collapse and how they already had their survival plans in place because they figured the mine would collapse at some point.  And yet they still went to work every day.  Remarkable people.  Even more remarkable – all the men trapped underground for a week survived.

Hudson Mine - during the rescue operation, they built a twist drill (tripod shape in center of photograph) to drill down to the trapped miners

Hudson Mine – during the rescue operation, they built a twist drill (tripod shape in center of photograph) to drill down to the trapped miners

Hudson Mine Rescue Twist Drill – I’ve highlighted a tripod structure in the middle of this photograph.  As part of the rescue efforts, a twist drill was put together to drill down and punch a hole into the shaft below to get air to the trapper miners.  Look closely – you’ll see a man at the very top of the tripod structure.  Hear Ed tell the story of this 18-year-old and his efforts to save the trapper miners.

Hudson Mine - both national support and the local community efforts to rescue the trapped miners. The car highlighted in the bottom right is Ben Clement's car

Hudson Mine – both national support and the local community efforts to rescue the trapped miners. The car highlighted in the bottom right is Ben Clement’s car

Hudson Mine Rescue Efforts – in this photo I’ve highlighted a car in the bottom right.  Guess whose car that is?  Ben Clement, founder of the museum.  All of the people in the area were part of the rescue efforts.  Listen to Ed tell the story of how the National Guard was called in, how rescue equipment broke, how this made national news coverage, and there’s even a crazy psychic.

 

 

 

 

Additional items at the museum that we didn’t have time to cover in the podcast:

Ben E. Clement’s office – Ed literally took his entire father’s office from the basement of their family home and re-built it exactly in the museum.  The jacket his Dad wore is hanging up in the recreated office as well as his desk totally cluttered with notes, documents, books, and reference material.  On the back wall, journals filled with notes and lectures he was still giving into his eighties.  Geology texts and books dating back to the turn of the century.  In fact, Ed shared one story about randomly opening up a 1905 geological survey book to find a letter addressed to him tucked inside the book from his father.

Personal correspondence – letters from his Dad to his Mom while they were courting.   Notes from his Dad to Ed about mineral core samples pulled, where to find the reference for them, and instructions about them if “he ever opened a museum”.

Equipment used by the miners (pre-1950) – miner headlamps (that used live flames to provide illumination underground), handmade mining equipment, a 9-foot-wide flywheel that powered a mill and a 12,000 pound steam engine (located outside, of course).

Get out there and visit!

It may look unremarkable from the outside, but the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum is a truly spectacular museum.  No fancy signage, no fancy building, old-fashioned typed labels – this is exactly the type of museum I want to showcase on my podcast.  Highlighting these hidden treasures built from a focused passion with more stories housed in one building than you could cover in a single visit.  If you’re a museum nerd like me, then you have got to add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Ben E. Clement Museum website

Gem, Mineral, Fossil & Jewelry Show – the museum hosts this annual event.  2018 marks its 13th year and was held on June 2nd and 3rd.  Check the museum’s webpage  about the show for additional information and future dates.

School Programs – if you live near Marion, Kentucky, the museum also hosts programs for school groups.  This would be a fantastic place for kids to explore and learn.

Visiting Hours and Admissions – since this information could change, please visit the museum’s visitor info webpage to find the most up-to-date information.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

MiM 001 – Introduction

Confession:  I am a HUGE museum nerd!

Welcome to the first episode of my podcast Made in Museums!  I’m your guide, Sandy DeWald.  On this podcast we’ll explore the world of independent museums that were started because of someone’s passion for a very, very specific subject.

Museum Tourism Sign

Museum Tourism Sign

Have you ever seen one of those brown – or sometimes blue or green — tourism signs along the highway or on some city street and thought, “Now, why would there be museum about that?” then this is the podcast for you.  I mean, who hasn’t wondered — why is there a National Bird Dog Museum, or an International Towing Museum, or a barbed wire museum?

I love traveling to off-the-beaten path, odd, or quirky places.  If it’s some place only the locals know about, then that’s where I want to go.  And if I can learn something new or it makes me think by opening up an entirely new world I never knew existed – bonus!   I am wholeheartedly in!

Who is this podcast for?  Well, let me ask you this:

  • Are you the type of person that reads every label in a museum?
  • Do you casually drop such scintillating conversational tidbits at a friend’s party like, “You know, there are more than 530 registered patents for barbed wire resulting in over 2500 different types of barbed wire?” (yep – totally true)
  • How about this one?  When you go on vacation, do you research all of the local museums ahead of time, and then plan an intricate route to see how many you can visit?
  • OR…have you ever negotiated with your family that, yes, you’ll agree to visit the 27,000 touristy things they want to do if they’ll, please, please, please, let you go to the museum featuring jewelry made from human hair or a psychiatric museum or a museum with glow-in-the-dark rocks>?

Does any of this sound like you?  Then embrace your inner museum nerd and join me on this really interesting, curious, and sometimes crazy, journey!

Each episode will highlight one specific museum, and we’ll talk with someone connected to that museum.  It could be the founder, a curator, a tour guide – really just about anyone – and we’ll discuss how the museum got started and why.  We’ll uncover the stories connecting that person to the museum, the backstories of different objects found in the museum, and then how the museum connects with their community.

Over the years I’ve visited many small, independent museums. Museums make us think — exposing us to new ideas that transform how we view ourselves and our relationships to the objects around us.  Museums make us who we are.

Sometimes they may be creepy (seriously, side confession, doll museums have always kind of freaked me out).  Some focus on mundane household items like quilts, teapots, or cookie cutters.  Others feature traditionally beautiful objects such as minerals, airplanes, and silk tapestries, while others might just be more than a little macabre like lunatic asylums, medical museums, or former prisons.

There are over 35,000 museums in the United States.  My goal is to highlight the smaller museums that you may have never heard of, but have truly fascinating collections and fantastic stories.  I want to share the stories behind the labels, highlight the “must-see” items, and then give you the information to plan your own trip to these incredibly interesting places.

Museums aren’t stodgy relics that focus on the past, but are vibrant, odd, challenging places that spark curiosity.  So let’s give a voice to museums, let’s get out there and visit these places, and together let’s answer the question, “Now, why is there a museum about that?”

In the show notes for each episode you’ll find bonus material for each museum visited – including a downloadable travel guide. You can also find Made in Museums on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email at sandy@madeinmuseums.com.