What I’m Reading: Lost and Found Edition

Napkin Rose. Photo by Tavins Origami via Flickr.

Napkin Rose. Photo by Tavins Origami via Flickr.

1. “The life of a folded napkin is extremely short.” Over at NPR, they delve into the rediscovered art of napkin folding.

2. Speaking of rediscoveries, while the archaeological world was in a tizzy about the possible location of Queen Nefertiti’s tomb, National Geographic felt it wise to remind us that this ancient beauty has been “found” before. One quote following an earlier alleged discovery claimed: “…the identification of the mummy in question as Nefertiti is balderdash (good manners prevent me from using a stronger term.)”

3. Earlier this month, the British Library appealed to the public to help them solve a mystery: what is the indecipherable inscription on this 800-year-old sword? While the message board for speculation has been officially closed, the mystery has not.

4. If you were looking for a good time to get reacquainted with the works of great Irish authors, there is no time like the present. Ireland is in the middle of Yeats2015, a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of W.B. Yeats’ birth. Exhibitions, dance performances, plays, concerts, and more reflect the writer’s multidisciplinary approach to the arts.

5. Finally, it’s always fun to observe a museum through another person’s eyes. Go along for the ride when Abi King visits the Acropolis Museum or join Nana Tsay at New York’s Noguchi Museum.



I'm A Museum Person

I’m a Museum Person: Meredith Whitfield

Photo from tonynetone via Flickr.

Photo from tonynetone via Flickr.

My name is Meredith Whitfield, and I’m a Museum Person.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a D.C. transplant, originally from Tennessee. My “real job” is in internet marketing, but I spend a lot of time volunteering at the Folger Shakespeare Library here in D.C. (and cheerleading for it on Twitter). I fell in love with museums while at the Folger, and I’m in the midst of applying to museology graduate programs.

Why do museums matter to you?
Museums serve so many purposes, especially when they’re accessible, community-friendly spaces. They create supplemental and nontraditional learning experiences, they’re an alternative to consumption-based activities, they start conversations, and they connect us to others through objects and stories. I especially love museums that offer many different types of engagement opportunities. When you choose among art, films, artifacts, activities, social events, an online presence, and whatever other assets the institution has created, the more likely you are to find something that resonates with you.

What is your dream museum job?
For a while, I was convinced that I wanted to be Emily Graslie when I grew up, but I think instead I would love to one day invent the position of Chief Access Officer at a historical collection. Wouldn’t it be cool to pile an exhibition into a food truck/bus/trailer/caravan and tour around the area with stops at community events, like The Uni Project does for libraries? The Folger’s First Folio tour program is so inspiring in this way; our folios are visiting all 50 states, dramatically increasing the ability for Shakespeare lovers to visit a folio AND encouraging more people to discover Shakespeare.

A page from the Voynich Manuscript. Photo from Elusive Muse via Flickr.

A page from the Voynich Manuscript. Photo from Elusive Muse via Flickr.

When you think of the perfect exhibition, what is in it?
I don’t care what’s in it, as long as there’s a great story informing it. The Voynich Manuscript visited the Folger recently, and getting to tell a mystery story about an indecipherable code really got people into the object. I also love exhibitions that incorporate an interactive element. It provides a concrete outlet for interpretation and can start interesting conversations among visitors.

What is the most bizarre museum you’ve ever visited?
The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD. It is so worth the trip from D.C. to learn about military history, see how disease affects the human body, and see a row of fetal skeletons. It’s about a mile walk from the metro.

What frustrates you about the way museums operate today? On the flip side, what gives you hope for the future about the way museums operate today?
I’m so thrilled that museums seem to be moving past their more rigid, institutional pasts and are challenging industry standards in creative and interesting ways. It’s been so exciting, as a docent, to help contribute to the way the Folger is thinking about its visitor experience.

I hope one day that all museums will embrace the potential of technology like Cooper-Hewitt has done. Wouldn’t it be great if, for example, your Wikipedia or Google search let you know what artifacts related to your search live at institutions near you? If you could get, for free, the plans to 3D print your own mini Giacometti sculpture at the library? If your public library hosted a book club culminating in a tour of an exhibition curated as a companion to the book?

It’s so rewarding to live in a place where museum are mostly free, and I hope the future sees museums prioritized enough in other cities for this to become a trend. I want to see increased accessibility, exhibitions curated with underserved communities in mind, exhibitions that reflect and inform community trends and sentiments, greater responsiveness, and more FUN.


Thanks to Meredith for sharing her museum experiences with us. If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in the “I’m a Museum Person” series, send us an email at




What I’m Reading

Photo by CPG Grey.

Photo by CPG Grey.

1. Unarguably one of the world’s stranger museums, Iceland’s Phallological Museum is dedicated to dicks. Over at McSweeney’s, Eliese Colette Goldbach has penned an open letter to this niche institution, which includes such lines as “One minute some guy gives you a whale penis, the next you’re the proud owner of a dick museum,” and “The way I see it, you’re only achieving half of your genital potential.”

2. When Alex Marshall sought out the Museum of Mud while in Asuncion, Paraguay, he found that the Museo del Barro was actually a celebration of mud’s prettier, dryer cousin—clay—and a variety of other cultural artworks.

3. Having been on the road myself for the last three months, I was eager to read Andrew Dansby’s “Road Trip Essay: Stumbling Upon Snake Institutions” in the Houston Chronicle. But, it’s behind a pay wall, so it remains unread by me.

4. Not content with Internet Cat Video Film Festivals? Feline film fans can now visit the first ever mainstream museum exhibition dedicated to the phenomenon when “How Cats Took Over the Internet” opens at the Museum of the Moving Image this weekend. Reading about this exhibition, I was made aware of the existence of Meowchat, “where people swapped role-playing messages posing as their cats, talking in a sort of baby talk,” which was illuminating to say the least.

5. This week’s reading roundup ends—rather appropriately, I think—with death. Specifically with Lee Matalone’s trip to the Museum of Death in New Orleans. It’s a poignant visit, because, as the author notes, “the character you are celebrating is Death itself.”