Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Tale of Two Museums

We met some friends in Philadelphia yesterday to tour two museums: The Mütter Museum (museum of medical oddities, including body parts encased in formaldehyde) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which is currently showcasing artwork by Frida Kahlo).

I would like to point out that The Mütter Museum was not my idea. I had vowed years ago that I would never tour the facility (I hate all things gross), but when my partner and friends dangled the Frida Kahlo carrot in front of my nose, I caved.

The Mütter Museum did not disappoint—I was queasy after the tour....just in time for lunch.

We had some time to kill before our appointment with the Kahlo exhibit, so we spent time exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where as luck would have it, a fine collection of various types of sculpture, paintings, metalwork, ceramics, and FURNITURE (woohoo!) from 1680 to present is housed in the American Art section. Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Wardrobe, 1779, walnut, yellow pine, oak, and sulfur inlay, and with rattail hinges.
  2. Side Chair, 1866, oak.
  3. Desk & Bookcase, 1827, mahogany, mahogany veneer, stained burl ash, white pine, yellow poplar, and stringing. The Franklin Institute's report on its 1827 exhibit in which this piece won an award stated that it was "the best piece of furniture" of its kind.
  4. Shaker Sewing Desk, Enfield New Hampshire community. Birdseye maple, cherry, walnut, and poplar.
  5. Spectacle Case, 1800-1850, cherry, Shaker. Note the ridged side pulls.
  6. PA German Painted Cupboard.
  7. Shaker Worktable, 1800-1850, white pine and maple.
  8. Giant Plug, cherry, from the Pop Art collection.
The Kahlo exhibit included a self-guided audio tour that was enlightening and informative, but we had some difficulty getting close to the paintings due to the large number of art lovers also on tour.

The museum closed before we had time to tour the other collections, which include European Art, Asian Art, Modern/Contemporary Art, and Arms & Armor, making it well worth another trip to Philly.

It was a fabulous Saturday—I've managed to erase the medical oddities from memory—and before we headed home, maybe because we were aglow from the spirit-lifting exhibits, maybe because we're a benevolent bunch, we decided to help a sister out with a little tweezing.
(click to enlarge photo)


anteakhuntr said...

VC You trip brings back found memories. I have 2 degrees from Philadelphia schools, and lived in the city for 6 years (and 6 in Delaware county). Sad to say my first trip to the art museum was not voluntary (that's another story)but enjoyed it none-the-less. They really have some interesting pieces for display. I really have to take the train from Harrisburg the next time I'm back, and walk the parkway (and pass the Franklin Institute?)to Logan Circle and do the museum. Next time your in the city, look up the E. A. Poe house - interesting story and some period early 19th century furniture. anteakhuntr

The Village Carpenter said...

Thank you for the recommendation! We are always on the lookout for historic sites to tour. Philadelphia is an awesome city.

Luke Townsley said...

Never actually been to Philadelphia, but I think you are the first person I have ever heard say it is an awesome city!

Anonymous said...

Very funny picture!! I don't know about the awesome city part but that sounds like a very cool exhibit, VC. Have you seen the 2002 film Frida? Pretty hot, and lots of beautiful scenes. I love Frida :o)

Shazza said...

It was definitely a great day! M and I really enjoyed it. We're waiting to see you build that plug...that would be a really cool project!

Wyldth1ng said...

That is frickin awesome!

The Village Carpenter said...

Luke,I'm a sucker for historic sites and museums....or maybe I'm just easy to please?

Meg, the film was terrific—agreed!

Shazza, I could build that in miniature, but the actual size probably wouldn't fit in our living room. :)

Thanks Wyld!

Al said...

WOW! Prety neat stuff, VC. And lovely pieces!!!

Stephen Shepherd said...


Great photographs from a great city, next time you go there have lunch at the City Tavern. And don't forget the Atwater-Kent Museum, another great one.

I enjoyed the Shaker eyeglass case, I am going to make one, thanks for the pic.


The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Stephen. I have added them to my list!

I think that little Shaker spectacle case may have been my favorite thing at the museum.

archiphile said...


It is to bad that you did not get to see the PMA in all of it's splendour, as an architecture student (hence the screen name) I would have to say that it is one of the most beautiful buildings that I have ever set eyes on. I am however glad to see that they (PMA) is maintaining the building. I had a chance to see the PMA two years ago with my fiancee, who attended Swarthmore College, which is located just outside Philly, on the R3, and all of the things that you missed are just as spectacular. As a side note, while I was tempted to jump up and down and yell Adriannn!!!! (Rocky IV), there was a wedding party taking photographs, and my fiancee would have disowned me. (she's never lets me have any fun. :))

I am glad that you had a mostly enjoyable day, sans the Mutter.



The Village Carpenter said...

Archiphile, you should have done the Rocky thing! : )

There were three wedding parties having their photos taken as we and others were leaving the museum. And by the looks on their faces, one wedding party was not amused that we were part of their special day. I've never seen such a grim-faced bride and groom.