December 28, 2008

Lifelike mannequins in Pequot museum

Connecticut museum a Native treasureThe museum was built in 1998 at a cost of nearly $200 million and takes visitors on a chronological journey, beginning with an ice age display featuring an escalator descending through a faux glacier and chilled air into exhibit space with a floor scraped and gouged as if by retreating ice masses.

The entire facility is an eye-opening experience, from a 185-foot glass-and-stone tower offering spectacular views of the heavily wooded hilly area to the re-created 16th-century Pequot village, eerily accurate down to the pores in the skin of the lifelike mannequins populating it.

In one display you'll find a huge mastodon replica, giant beavers, and dire wolves. A 50-foot diorama depicts a tribal family on a caribou hunt. Nearby another exhibit details the natural habitat of Connecticut, and there are 23 interactive computer stations around the museum.

The centerpiece is the Pequot village, a place you could easily spend hours staring into the extraordinarily lifelike eyes of its members to convince yourself they are not real.
Inuit Art Comes To Mashantucket MuseumIf James Houston were alive today, he would love the display of Inuit art at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

"He would say, 'It's gorgeous,'" said Alice Houston of Stonington. Her husband, who was 83 when he died in 2005, was a master designer at the Steuben Glass Co. and lived among the Inuits for 14 years. He set up an artists' cooperative on Cape Dorset on Baffin Island and helped expose Inuit art to the rest of the world.

"He'd be very pleased that a traveling exhibition would show the extraordinary cleverness of the Inuit people," she said Saturday during the opening of "Arctic Spirit." The show includes about 125 sculptures, textiles, prints and drawings from 30 different villages in Canada. The objects span 2,250 years of artistic creativity, beginning as early as 250 B.C. to the present.
Comment:  Some people have compared this museum to a Disneyland ride. I haven't seen the museum, but it sounds like a great way to present Indian history and culture to me. If people love a good Disney ride, why not make museum exhibits that fun and engaging? Who says learning has to be staid and stuffy?

Some people also have used this museum to justify portraying a casino with animatronic Indians. That's simply wrong. An educational museum display has nothing to do with a fictional casino display.

For more on the subject, see The Feel-Good National Museum:  Reviews of the National Museum of the American Indian.

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