Monday, September 28, 2009

MSU Museum, Botanical Garden and Travellers' Club

My apologies for not posting sooner-- the past month has indeed been taken up with moving to my new home in Haslett, Michigan. Luckily, through the providence of visiting relatives, I have a had a chance to explore a few of the steadfast institutions in the area, although I have yet to experience the more turbulent and controversial Michigan Historical Center, currently undergoing reorganization.

The MSU Museum is your classic university natural and cultural history institution although uniquely a Smithsonian affiliate. Although the 1980s evolution timeline in the basement along with a rather strange anthropological amalgum is lack-luster and in need of an up-date, there were a few notable exhibits. I loved the Michigan Foodways exhibition and thought it made decent use of a small space without sacrificing artifact-density. Historical cooking implements are too fun to pass up! My favorite exhibit was probably the historical general store complete with docent in period-dress. My enjoyment of the full-surround experience contrasted with my desire to differentiate between original elements and reproductions. I found myself needing to step back and consider the purpose of the store environment. Would a child walking into a place like this for the first time care whether the cash register was a authentic to the original store or merely a period piece? More interesting to point-out would the the clear comparison between a place like this and the Target or Walmart of today. What have we gained or lost from our contemporary shopping experience?

The agricultural university boasts a unique approach to the botanical garden-- not ashamed to be more catalog than ornament. The layout and signage in the MSU botanical garden encourages visitors to emulate bees, buzzing from plant to plant as they spark our interest. Sometimes such a basic, lexicographical layout can be refreshing.

Finally, I need to mention a downtown Okemos staple-- the Travellers' Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum. This eclectic institution merges the interests of its proprietors of the past 26 years, Jennifer Byrom and William White. William is the tuba player (tubist?) and delivers his collection of instruments that adorn the walls with a healthy side of ethnomusicology. A morning or evening at the Travellers' Club inevitably sparks the kind of questions asked in every excellent museum-encounter. Thus, I think the name of the institution is well-deserved.