Thursday, August 14, 2003

Picking up from yesterday and talk about smaller New England Museums, I took my partner to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA today as part of my birthday gift to him. This museum has always been outside of the Salem witch hysteria business, concentrating on the city's rich clipper ship trade with the Far East and other aspects of its past not connected with those tragic events of the late 17th century. Previously, it had been a very old fashioned place, not 100% a "mothballs" kind of museum but cramped, not overly lit, and somewhat dull in presenting its treasures. Recently, it has had a multi-million dollar make-over. Completely new is a great headline exhibit, a complete 18th century house of a Chinese merchant family disassembled piece by piece (lots of pieces-- 50,000 roof tiles alone) and rebuilt by skilled Chinese craftsmen working with American carpenters and conservators.

Wow! Incredible transformation. One of the more innovative things is that the audio tour devices are not only complimentary but when an item catches your eye, you can enter its code number which is recorded on a chip. Before leaving the museum, you download the item numbers onto a file you set up with your email address and you can access them any time via your "account" at the museum's website. I haven't encountered such a service at any other museum but for a designer like me it is a fantastic tool. I can walk out of the museum with all my research waiting for me at home.

I leave tomorrow morning for three days at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in Cooperstown, NY (yes, Virginia there IS something at Cooperstown besides the Baseball Hall of Fame!).

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