That the Ruthven museum would be closing for good within two weeks didn't mean they didn't still have a special exhibit going. Inside a room labelled ``Object Lessons'' they had a couple exhibits about the history of the museum. Right up front and interesting: part of the wrought-iron gate and chunks of rubble from the former University Museum building, the one the Ruthven building replaced in 1928. Implying that someone saved pieces of all this when that building was torn down. That didn't happen until 1958, but it still means someone looked at, like, a relief showing a hippopotamus fighting an alligator and said ``Yes, we need to keep that''. I'm glad they did, and it allowed them to create a bit of art about museums as human constructs. Still seems like ... well, how did these pieces come to be saved, and was it for this purpose?
Some of the documents kept on file: the state House of Representatives's authorizing a geological survey of Michigan, July(?) 1837. And one of those ancient, mid-19th century maps in faded colors showing off what counties had got organized by then and which areas were still just Jeffersonian Townships. Pressed leaves and branches and such.
One room held an ostrich(?) skeleton, and some mementos of old museum work. The wooden desk that a past museum head had used. A supply trunk for the Museum of Zoology, Division of Birds. The ancient tiled floor, revealed again after a later generation of floor wsa torn up, showing off the old checkerboard pattern visible beneath the new flooring grout. An old surveying tripod and theodolite. Lecture series posters from as far back as 1951. Those old, hand-drawn illustrations of evolutionary webs. The enormous wooden cabinet-drawer organizing everything you'd need in a university office: Selectric ribbons and stamps, Catalog card projectors and labels, Letterheads, Envelopes, First Aid.
And then up one more flight of stairs to exhibits about animals of the current day and as seen in Michigan. Taxidermied skunks and raccoons behind glass (and with faded fur; something in the process or just the result of being well-lit for years?). (Also a old mail drop slot, the kind you see in cartoons with a glass cover and a tube to make letters fall.) House sparrows and herring gulls. Dioramas of the natural surroundings of Michigan: ``Northern Bog: The Continuous Development of Successive Plant Communities''. ``Beech-maple Forest''. ``Just below the surface: life in a Michigan pond''. ``Life in a single drop of pond water''. And a view from overhead of the prehistoric life exhibit, putting you nearly on eye level with the suspended skeletons of ancient whales and all that. Stuffed figure of a wolverine and a paragraph about that time in 2004 that someone actually saw a wolverine in Michigan. Exhibits of rabbits and foxes and a big old heap of opossums in the trillium.
Most of this surely is going to the new facility. (``This endangered species [ the Kirtland's Warbler ] nests only in a small area in three northern-Michigan counties. These specimens were collected in 1903. The nest is the second ever taken.'') The things like the very 1980 semiparabolic plexiglass dome over a speaker, that showers someone underneath with the sounds of the water? More marginal. The labels here are more modern --- the Helvetica typeface gives it away --- but still date to when you might speak well of skunks by saying it's ``one of our most useful animals'' (``because it eats grasshoppers, grubs, other insects, and field mice''). That's probably not going to stick around.
We ambled around the public areas a little more, looking at corners and alcoves and looking for little forgotten places. Busts on pedestals, empty spaces with spotlights on them, that sort of thing. And we reached the time that they pulled 'Museum Closed' signs across the entrances to exhibition halls, and turned off the lights. We got our coats back from the coatroom, double- and triple-checked that we hadn't forgot anything, and left the building for the last, and for me first, time.
Trivia: For the thousand days before the start of the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics the organizing committee auctioned a T-shirt bearing the number of days until the games opened. The auctions raised more than $300,000 total. The final T-shirt sold for $7,500. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.
Currently Reading: Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection, Catherine Price.
PS: Pinball At The Zoo, 2017 Edition! We got in Friday to put in qualifying games; Saturday would be for finals.
Main floor for Pinball At The Zoo. It's a mix of people showing off their pinball games, and the tournament, and people selling off parts, some for pinball machines and some for video games. Note in the upper right edge there an 'Alien' game, a boutique game based on exactly what you think.
And doesn't it just look like someone set up one pinball machine and then a bunch more huddled up next to it for herd safety against predation? ... I assume they're all bunched up because a power strip was available there, but it just looks funny is all.
And one of the vendor booths, this one with a lot of arcade game toppers along with bunches of parts. They'll surely be at Pinball At The Zoo this year so if you see something you have to have, let me know. We can probably work something out.