Museum cafes are almost universally overpriced. I figure that Iʼm paying a premium for the convenience of giving my feet a break, having a snack, and then resuming my mental stimulation with minimal delay.
A lot of museums think their food has to look like art, cater to waifs, and embrace the ”less is more” cliché.
But the New Orleans Museum of Art is different. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and its fried chicken sandwich is quite good.
Also, thereʼs paintings and stuff in the other rooms of the building.
I feel a little sad that I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the Egyptian artifacts, and only ended up taking the same old photograph that every other tourist does.
I think I just didnʼt feel inspired.
I can see that the HMNS tries hard. But it all comes off as very Disney-fied. Not real. Plastic shrink-wrapped for my protection. I know itʼs done to get children interested in the exhibits. But too often, museums forget that adults go, too.
I wonder if Iʼd still feel this way if I hadnʼt been to some other really amazing museums featuring Middle Eastern and North African artifacts. The Oriental Institute in Chicago is the best one Iʼve been to so far, with the Eski Şark Eserleri Müzesi in Istanbul a very close second.
The University of Chicagoʼs Oriental Institute feels like walking into Indiana Jonesʼ alma matter, and visiting it makes watching the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies a bit richer. The Jones characterʼs background includes ties to the University of Chicago. And George Lucas is also very fond of Chicago, where he tried to build a museum, but was rebuffed by special interest groups who believed a parking lot was a better use for land in a public park.
Eski Şark Eserleri has better stuff, but the facility is really run down from decades of what is euphemistically called “deferred maintenance.” Ordinary people call it just plain neglect. But itʼs certainly worth seeing, if youʼre in Istanbul, where there is absolutely no shortage of fabulous musea.
The Houston Police Department has its own museum. Your reaction to that may indicate where you were raised.
Iʼm East Coast, so I had never heard of such a thing until I started exploring the west. The first police museum I came across was in Phoenix. But it seems the concept has spread across the country, and a police museum even opened in New York in 1998.
I spent the morning at the tree museum. I think the Houston Botanic Garden will be really nice in ten years or so. Today, it looks a lot like itʼs just barely gotten off the ground. Lots of saplings on bare earth. Bulldozers. Sections cordoned off for construction. Urban hillbillies riding quads over the exhibits.
I became a member last year, but probably wonʼt renew. The benches that were nice for sitting on and looking at nature have been removed. Itʼs doing concerts now, farming for restaurants, and charging unwarranted prices to walk through its Christmas lights display. Even members have to pay, which is very unusual amongst serious musea.
It has a good location, and lots of potential. I suspect that the financial pressures of COVID have caused its leadership to lose its way in the forest.
Houston has a number of interesting second-line musea that often donʼt get the attention they deserve. One of them is the former Houston Municipal Airport terminal, now known as the 1940 Air Terminal Museum.
It is chock-a-block with exhibits of aviation history, with a heavy local focus, which is appropriate since so many airlines got their start in Texas, and Houston was formerly the home of several majors.
You can climb inside a vintage passenger aircraft, like one you might see in an old movie. And if you go on the right day, you can be escorted up to the top of the control tower.
That space is in an advanced state of decay, which is why the museum requires a chaperone, but itʼs a nice elevated location from which to take photographs of the adjacent Hobby Airport.