When was the last time you visited a museum? We're ashamed to admit that too long ago was the answer for our family. Our move to the suburbs has brought us closer to a wide range of large and small eclectic museums, including the Brandywine River Museum, which houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Andrew Wyeth's historical American art, the Please Touch Museum, aimed at getting children involved with a wide range of physical learning activities, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which offers an expansive compilation of classic art across the world, notably Asia, Europe and our fair country. During our recent visit to the Philadelphia Museum, a special exhibit for Van Gogh was on display, which we were eager to see. However, poor planning left us crowded out of the popular exhibit as the required separate admission was sold out. Nonetheless the museum on its own offers a broad array of interesting collections.
Pennsylvania German art and woodwork
Amid the sculptures and paintings from Asia, most stunning is the reconstruction of a Japanese garden. On the right hand side is an original Buddhist temple from Japan constructed during the Muromachi period (1392-1573). Believe it or not the entirety of this temple originally existed in the Katagiri village in the Nara prefecture until the Philadelphia museum acquired it in 1928. A beautiful ceremonial Japanese tea house, on the right, also brought from Japan, is constructed of bamboo, wood, metal, stone, and fabric. Imagine taking these babies home for souvenirs!
We brought along our little boy along holding our breath. How would a one year-old react to the restrained activity of quiet observation and deep analysis? Alex took in the dark rooms and silent hallways with curiosity, initially testing out the acoustics with iterations of screams so that he could hear his voice echo through the halls. He did this like a million times! Although nearly out of everyone's sight, I'm pretty darn sure everyone heard the ruckus. I'm surprised we didn't get kicked out.
Across from the museum and situated before the Schuylkill River is Waterworks, America's first municipal water delivery system which was built in 1812 to provide clean water amid scarcity during the Industrialized Revolution. Most striking about this facility is its classic elegant exterior which disguised the industrial nature of its activities. Waterworks quietly ceased operations in 1909, and today a restaurant remains in its place.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art was established in 1876 in conjunction with the Centennial Exposition making it a worthy historical site to visit. If you are in town during the first full weekend of each month you can gain free admission to this museum and others if you present a Bank of America card (although I'm not advocating that you open an account, it's just a tip). Also Sundays are donation days, so you pay what you wish, which also means you can pay above the general admission of $16. But why do that? Because you are nice and our museums could benefit from it.