Fell Locomotive Museum (Featherson, NZ)

Trains are often depicted as heroes.

Thomas.
Chuggington.
Choo. Choo.

Nobody doesn’t love train rides. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying. When I was in college I knew a guy called “Chooch.” Trains are inherently interesting to everyone and for a good reason. The romance! The unparalleled ability to move stuff! The metaphor for determination!

The extraordinary specificity of the local museum!

Which brings us to Featherson and the Remutaka Range (this is the acknowledged spelling, although you will still see it spelled Rimutaka in places). Construction on the railway was authorized in 1871. The site for the Remutaka Incline had a gradient that was, in technical terms, “steep AF.”

As seen here.

The system chosen to get trains up and over the incline was that of the Fell locomotive. It was arduous and slow but ran from 1877 to 1955. And the Fell Locomotive Museum is in possession of one of the six Fell locomotives that served the line, and now the only Fell locomotive in the world. It’s been restored enough to demonstrate its movements, which you can see here with the power of your imagination (I do have a video but I refuse to upgrade my WordPress account at this time).

chugga chugga chugga chugga

The museum has been nicely funded, and the exhibits include a model of the railworkers’ settlement and film of the train and workers in action. Mr. Exhibitist felt the film was perhaps a rosy presentation of what was an extremely isolated lifestyle for the workers’ families, but it is very nicely done.

As long as you didn’t have any sort of urgent need because there was everything was a slow, arduous train ride away.

Various artifacts of the rail line (there is still a train running through Featherson, but not on the Incline–the Fell locomotives and the line they ran on were taken out of service when the tunnel was made), news coverage, and information about the operation of Fell locomotives are in the museum, and the very knowledgeable volunteer docent can tell you a lot about it. I absorbed roughly nothing of these facts, but I remember that these contraptions had to do with passing identification disks to and from the trains. I think.

Probably if you zoom in you can find out

The centerpiece of the museum is obviously the locomotive itself, and you can get pretty up close with it.

Shoveling coal probably sucked.

Anyway, the Fell Locomotive Museum is a nice way to kill some time in Featherson, which is itself a pleasant place to kill some time outside of Wellington. It’s also a Book town, with many small bookshops and literary events. Just a swell little town. Entry to the museum is $6 for adults, $2 for children over 5, and/or $13 for a family. There’s a little shop! I bought a tea towel.

Not my tea towel; a sidewalk mosaic.

Golders Cottage (Upper Hutt, NZ)

Happy 2022! Yes? February still ok for new year wishes? Has any of us emotionally marked time in any meaningful way in the last two years? Probably not. Have I been visiting museums? Still not like I used to. But having covered the country’s castle last year, let’s look at a slightly more modest historic home, built in 1876, five years after Larnach Castle.

Far more successful as a family home than Larnach, frankly

Golders Cottage was built by John Golder, the son of Scottish immigrants and a real DIY kind of guy. The house was occupied by the Golder family up until 1985. Several pieces of furniture and other items in the house were made by John and have spent their whole existence there, now keeping company with some other period displays donated by the community.

No Golder has ever needed an IKEA

John married Jane Martin the year after the cottage was built; they added 12 children and a few more rooms to it before John was killed in an accident in 1902. On our visit the guide asked, “Can you imagine 12 children in this house?” but frankly I cannot imagine 12 children. How do you think of names for them all. The original cottage was a bedroom and living/dining room downstairs with two small bedrooms upstairs, and the additions started in the 1880s, as it presumably got hard to breathe in there pretty quickly.

The eldest two children were moved to the upstairs rooms in 1889 and used them until their deaths in 1968.
Now I feel bad about throwing out my dried wedding flowers before moving to New Zealand

A kitchen and scullery were eventually added, but that was six kids in and Jane did the cooking over the fire in the living room up to then. John kept busy being a notable community person, but I can’t help thinking more about the monumental effort Jane had to make every day in a tiny space to keep the whole thing going, while being pregnant like, all the time.

Lots of stew.

The cottage is full of objects (as noted, some original to the house) from the late 1800s and early 1900s, from textile-making stuff to cooking implements to clothing to toys to books. Perhaps you’ve never seen how lace is made by hand:

Short answer: witchcraft

And I am, as always, pleased to report the presence of several unsettling human stand-ins, which I’ll never get tired of.

Knitted shawls please the guardians and keep them still

The garden of the cottage (which I definitely must put in a good word for because my own kid has started volunteering as a garden helper) still has a few very old specimens, such as this lemon tree, which is over 100 years old.

You will not age this well

There’s also this really lovely herb spiral, put in in the 1990s, and I want one. It’s so cool.

FREAKIN’ COOL

Golders Cottage is a great example of a well and long lived-in period home and worth a visit. It’s open on Saturdays and public holidays from 1:30-4:00. I believe for adults the entry fee is $5 (bring cash or be ready to make a bank transfer). Check out their website for more information about the cottage and the Golder family.

The Edwin Fox Ship and Visitor Centre (Picton, NZ)

I think we can all agree that 2020-2021 have not been great years for museum-going motivation. Even here in the relatively normal New Zealand, I haven’t got much energy for museums or blogging. I do have a few to catch up with though, so I’m going to power through it. But one place you should not just power through is Picton, NZ, however strong the temptation might be to view it as big ol’ ferry lobby.

Picton is the South Island end of the Wellington-Picton ferry services across the Cook Straight, but you’d be missing something neat if you don’t build in a couple hours to visit the Edwin Fox before boarding your own hopefully far more seaworthy vessel.

Scale model. Do not attempt to board.

The Edwin Fox ship and Visitor Centre is the site of the remains of the Edwin Fox, built in 1853. According to the Centre’s website, the ship is the last surviving (it meets perhaps the most generous definition of “surviving” but as 168 years is a long time to hold anything together, I will grant it) wooden Crimean War troop transport and the last surviving Australian convict ship. It’s also the oldest merchant vessel and the oldest wooden NZ immigrant ship.

Let’s start with a look at ship life for the convicts being sent from Britain to Australia on the 1858 prison trip, starting with this sampling of offenders. Marvel at the consistency of sentencing in the 1850s. Ten years for stealing pants? Presumably they were awesome pants. Six years for stealing an ox? Damn those pants must have been frickin’ amazing.

I’m sure there’s a logical reason for a 17 year old to be sentenced to 14 years for sacrilege.

Prisoners spent most of their voyage below decks, which I’m sure was singularly unpleasant. The holding space could only be accessed through one very tiny door.

Duck

And in the great tradition of unsettling museum mannequins, here’s this guy’s tear- and/or sweat-streaked face.

Yikes

But the Edwin Fox had quite the life outside that one time it was a prison bus. In addition to the merchant activities, it was also the immigration bus:

It ended its functionality as a refrigeration and storage ship, having been stripped of the parts unnecessary for a floating cooler, until it was finally abandoned to the elements in 1950. Fifteen years later there was interest in preserving what was left of the Edwin Fox and it wound up in permanent dry dock in Picton. Artifacts found with the ship are on display in the visitor centre:

After strolling through the visitor centre, visitors then move to the outside-but-covered area that houses the ship itself. It’s kind of spooky!

I like to think of the beams as flying buttresses
Inside the hull

The fun parts of the ship itself are the set ups that show what life was like on board. If you could avoid travelling steerage, I would recommend dodging it.

Mealtime spaces seem fine until you think about how many people were using them:

Like a perpetually damp picnic

But it’s still preferable to the steerage “cabins,” which housed the whole family (up to six: two parents and four kids). The straw mattresses would be frequently dripped on from the deck above. It stunk, literally. The whole trip would take 12 to 14 weeks. And instead of running full tilt down the gangway and on to dry land to put the memory of your journey forever behind you, you actually dismantled the bunks and used the wood in your house.

Up to six people. Six. SIX.

Of course, the prisoner cells were just a bit worse.

Not shown: the actual barred doors.

Not all of the ship accommodation was so tight and gross. I can’t remember exactly but this might be the replica for the captain’s bunk (or maybe first class?):

Look at you with your fancy drawers, lah-dee-dah.

Finally, there’s a nice replica wheel and compass on deck, which look a little jarring next to the haunted, not-wholly-there deck itself.

Watch your step

Definitely check out the Edwin Fox and its visitor centre; it’s open every day but Christmas from 9 am. People 15 and up are $15 (the young are free). There’s a nice little swag shop, and they give little kids a free activity booklet.

Wellington Museum [Wellington, NZ]

Do you know what is generally incomparably delightful? A well-done city museum.

I know of what I speak.

We saw it in the wonderful Manaus museum in Brazil, and we see it again in the Wellington Museum. During my visit, I carefully selected my photo choices, ending up with a discerningly curated 50 or so. I, uh, will not be using all of them.

In the late 1800s, the museum’s building was the Bond Store, a warehouse for bonded cargo. I do have a video of the little holographic rat that runs around the storage room display, but WordPress issues require a workaround to post it and I’m not prepared to put that energy into it today. Use your imagination.

The first floor, Telling Tales, recounts the history of Wellington in the 20th century in vignettes and related artifacts.

Having just crossed the Cook Straight myself, I can confirm there was no sign of Pelorus Jack.

The little displays cover things like establishing libraries, local lawmaking, and social issues–including the banishment of a Chinese immigrant diagnosed with leprosy to a tiny island in Wellington Harbour in 1903, where he lived in a cave until his death the following year. His food was delivered by boat or by flying fox, and whether that was a zipline or actual giant bat is not clarified.

Time for labour rights struggles!

The general strike that year–following a broken miners’ strike the year before–nearly led to civil war, according to the display, with the striking workers ultimately on the beaten end of street brawls with the better-armed cops. The strike lasted a week.

The Turnbull Library is now a division of the National Library.

During World War II, the country had its own internment location on Matiu/Somes Island in the city’s harbour. Some internees were out-and-loud Nazi sympathizers. Some were just people with German names. The island’s prisoner population ended up including Jews, Pacific Islanders, Italians, Japanese, and actual Nazis all together. Shockingly, this led to some “tension and strife.”

Some prisoner art from the island internment camp.

And so on, around the room to the present day, as this blurry-ass photo somewhat illustrates.

Squinting won’t help.

That’s most of the ground floor. Next floor is devoted to the maritime history of Wellington.

Throughout, the museum has little interactive elements and multimedia displays, which of course I appreciate, and which I thought I’d mention here because I hadn’t yet, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with the photos.

“By the Sea We Live”

Part of the floor is devoted to the sinking of the Wahine ferry in the Wellington Harbour (Cook Straight has seen many shipwrecks) in 1968. Two storms–Cyclone Giselle moving south and another moving north from Antarctica–merged over Wellington as the ferry came out of the straight, in just about the worst possible case scenario. Fifty-three of the 734 people on board died.

Several items from the ship are on display.

A short film is shown in the Wahine area.

This man recounts how his friend and he each grabbed a child before going overboard. He lost his grip on the child and couldn’t locate his friend after he reached land. The friend’s name is on the victims list to the right.

The storm was truly a disaster; it also killed nearly 200 albatrosses in the Wellington area–birds that do not readily succumb to harsh sea conditions.

It’s the nature of history-focused museums to have some pretty emotionally difficult sections to them, and hopefully the physical space of the building is used to help ease the visitor back into the collections. In this case, the Wahine disaster is at the end furthest from the staircase, and so you do have the walk back to it to decompress a bit before ascending to the next floor.

The Ngā Heke floor houses a beautiful work of Māori art, Te Whanganui a Tara, and other works of contemporary Māori artists, and it also presents objects with imaginary histories “as a way to think about what history is and whose voice tells it.” Visitors can take tokens to choose which story they prefer for the objects.

Don’t mind the cat there; he had his own exhibit and appeared throughout the museum. More on him later.
Choose your own history with the tokens.

There was a Māori stories exhibit on this floor that was closed for a booked group when I was there, so I look forward to returning to see that.

Instead of making this just crazy long, I am going to Tiny Tour the Attic, which definitely has its own vibe, as well as the temporary exhibit on Mittens, noted Wellington cat. In the meantime, you can find the Wellington Museum on the city’s waterfront, being generally awesome from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week. Entry is free, so hit that amazing gift shop on the way out.

The Wool Shed: New Zealand’s Museum of Sheep and Shearing [Masterton]

WHAT’S UP MOFOOOOOOOOOOOOS

Ok, so, like probably everyone, I’ve been doomscrolling various social media feeds as a primary activity. It’s not great! But despite all the hot garbage everywhere, I managed to find a job, and now here I am, trying to find my blogging rhythm again. I don’t know how readable the post will be, but I’m opting to dig into a museum that was a very sweet visit for my little knitter’s heart.

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You know, I generally have a good time in little museums that look like houses.

 

This is the Wool Shed, and here you will learn about the wool industry and its history in New Zealand. Two old, authentic wool sheds are packed with sheep- and wool-related artifacts, as well as vaguely unsettling mannequins, yet another museum feature that is near and dear to my heart.

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Do not ever, ever change these mannequins.

Sheep and sheep products used to be a seriously critical aspect of the New Zealand economy, and even today, there are 27 million sheep here–almost 6 sheep for every person.

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The town of Masterton hosts The Golden Shears, an International Shearing and Wool Handling competition, which describes itself as “three days of non-stop action and entertainment,” a claim I have no reason to doubt. I had no idea it existed before I visited The Wool Shed, and it is now on my bucket list. Sure, you can see it on TV, but as the website says, “you can’t beat the excitement of being there to witness history being made and to soak up the lanolin infused atmosphere as the sweat drips off competitors brows.”

Footage of the competition is shown at the museum, and it is indeed a richly lanolin-infused atmosphere. I deeply regret not capturing on video the part where the announcer says a competitor is “having the shear of his life.”

I’m gonna go some day, mark my words.

But back to the museum!

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an old-timey wool shed, but probably smelling better these days

The displays in the wool sheds show how the sheep were penned and various tools of the wool trade. Also, yes, that is an insane rat up there on that post. Having apparently just had a litter and munching on a weta.

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but why

But nevermind that! There are historic shears! Including this pair of left-handed ones, which as a lefty, I very much appreciate.

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You’ll also read some history related to labor issues for shed workers:

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As well as many examples of shed vocabulary and terminology.

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Absolutely sure the code “69” had no in-joke connotation whatsoever and would never besmirch the honor of early 20th century shed workers by suggesting otherwise.

As regular readers know, I also approve of interactive displays in museums, so I was of course very pleased to see this:

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An excellent teaching resource, where just about every single person can learn that they do not want to be a sheep shearer prior to electric clippers.

But maybe you’d rather familiarize yourself with some of the grimmer aspects of animal husbandry. No worries; the Wool Shed gotchu.

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Well off the top of my head, can’t think of many more traumatic ways to lose testicles.

One room of the museum houses this old hut along with examples of historic machinery and old wool presses. In the hut, you can select the oral histories of several people involved in the wool trade…

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…while simultaneously viewing more unsettling mannequins.

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HAHA OK THEN SO WHAT ELSE IS THERE

Well how about some fiber education!

 

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Any knitter will tell you, merino is some very nice stuff.

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*wolf whistle*

Suzy the feral sheep got her maiden shearing done at the museum by world record shearer Peter Casserly, losing about 15 kg of wool right before summer.

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the only mandatory summer weight loss

The museum also hosts spinning and weaving demonstrations and has a lovely collection of spinning wheels.

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But sheep are not only good for wool, of course.

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Finally, let’s have a look at some wool-related art, because this little place truly has it all.

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“The Golden Fleece” by Paul Jenson, 1994. Created for the World of Wearable Art event.

Obligatory Lord of the Rings entry:

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I mean, will I be going to the shop? Obviously.

So there you have it! Wonderful museum, chock-full of information and artifacts, good-sized shop full of wool swag. Open all week, 10am-4pm, $10 for adults, $3 for children under 15, $20 for families (two adults & four children). Children under 5 are free. Of course, if you just wanna shop or see the Golden Shears Wall of Fame, those areas are free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manaus, Brazil: Museu da Cidade – Paço da Liberdade [City Museum – Palace of Liberty]

Hoho, what do we have here?  A third country?!  YES!  It is time to visit some museums in an ENTIRELY. DIFFERENT. BIOME.

The city of Manaus, in northern Brazil, is called “The Gateway to the Amazon” because it is smack in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.  Its boom age was the late 19th/early 20th century, when it was at the center of the rubber industry.  The rubber barons brought a lot of European sensibilities to the city as well as opulent displays of insane wealth.  It feels a little weird, looking around Manaus, as it does sort of give the impression that several shiny European buildings were plopped in the middle of the jungle.  Which, fair, I guess.

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Neoclassical!

The City Museum is housed in the old city hall building, constructed in 1879.  And it’s frickin’ neat.  The museum is tech-heavy, at least tech-heavier than I’m used to in a history museum, and it’s done really well.  You don’t even have to take my word for it:  The museum has an app.  You can go download it now (it’s called Museu da Cidade de Manaus).  It’s got an English setting.

If you’re actually at the museum, you’re definitely going to want the app.  If you don’t have it in advance, the museum has free WiFi, in addition to museum-grade air conditioning (yaaasssssssssss).

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One thing you really notice in the rubber boom era architecture and decor is that it is all aggressively Euro-jungle.

This is the ceiling of the Mayors Room, which displays the portraits of Manaus’s civic leaders through the years.  The app will have the biographical data on these guys, but it is sadly thin for this one:

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And entirely devoid of mention of his personal style.

Next up, the room of Growth Rings!

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SYMBOLISM

This is an interactive display about the growth of the city of Manaus.  You can trigger the projection of the history images by moving your hand over the tree rings where the maps are projected.  You can see the relationship between the city’s growth and deforestation.  If this all sounds very informative and you are wishing you could read more about it and see the projections yourself, you totally can because the museum has them on Youtube and the app links right to it.

Next up is the room of Flying Rivers.  Yes, all the rooms sound like they’re in Hogwarts.

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SCIENCE

See how the Amazon rainforest fits into the water and carbon cycles (including the impact of Manaus’s pollution).  The forest’s role in water circulation is known as the “flying rivers,” according to the museum.  I do love it when some good poetic turn of phrase is applied to science stuff.  Again, the room’s video is linked in the app.

Time for archaeology!

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This is the floor of the room, exposing the dig site from 2003 that uncovered funeral urns from the 7th to 12th centuries.  And, uh, that’s my toe.

The area around Manaus has been occupied for at least 11,000 years.  There’s been a lot of research in the region, and this room lets you take a peek, not only through the glass floor but also through VR headsets.

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VR stands for VERY RAD

The video is introduced and narrated by a Brazilian university professor with a pretty good speaking voice, which is great for Spanish speakers as it makes him easier for them to understand.  For non-Portuguese or Spanish speakers, you’re a bit out of luck, as the VR has no translation.  But it is still a very rad (heh) look at the sites and artifacts.  You can see the introduction portion, with English subtitles, through the app.

There’s a room with an art exhibit in it related to Brazilian poet Thiago de Mello–art inspired by him–and I’m tossing it in here because I really like this one.

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WEEEEEEE

And now, my second favorite room: the market!

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Can’t really do better than the app’s description: “The marketplace is where the cultural identity of a community manifests itself best–full of life, flavors, aromas, words, and sounds.”

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The herbarium, which is what I’m calling my spice rack from now on.

You can scan, with your phone, many of the plant labels for recipes and folk stories (also guess what ALL THERE IN THE APP YOU CAN DOWNLOAD RIGHT NOW), although the folk story animations also play in the bottom of this barrel:

Which sounds kind of weird but actually really works.

Wandering back over to the other side of museum there is my favorite room, Affluent Rivers.

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A representation of the rivers around Manaus, principally the Rio Negro and the Solimões (they join at the Meeting of the Waters to make the Amazon River).

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As you move along the water, the history of Manaus is projected onto the surface.  Once again, I can’t do better than the app:  “A timeline is like a river: flowing uninterruptedly, carrying different layers of time, which sometimes overlap, sometimes become separated and then reconnect.”

Again, the images are interactive, and can be triggered by the visitor’s hand movements.  It is such a clever and gorgeous concept, which makes it my favorite room.

Finally, I’m going to mention briefly the Bath of Origins room, which was too difficult to photograph, but you stand in the middle of several screens with projections of locals, who give their stories in turn.  They are all standing at the river’s edge, and after they talk, they dive in, and then you see them swimming on the floor you’re standing on.  The affect is cool, but there are no English subtitles.  HOWEVER, you can see the videos with English subtitles through the power of your imagination.  Just kidding, you can totally see them through the app, too.

The City Museum is amazingly well done.  The interactive elements are creative and well designed.  I can’t speak highly enough of the museum’s app–it’s the best museum app I have ever seen.  The museum has clearly been heavily invested in, and I hope it continues to be.  If the shop had been open, I would have bought a lot of swag because the museum frickin’ earned it.

The City Museum is free (FREE!), open from 9am to 430pm Monday through Friday, 9am to 1230pm on Saturday, and the second Sunday of every month from 5pm to 9pm.

 

Museo River Plate [River Plate Museum]

It’s hard to explain football culture to people who weren’t raised in places so deeply entrenched in it.  I certainly don’t understand it fully myself.  So, before I jump in here, allow me to create a bit of context.

Club Atlético River Plate and Club Atlético Boca Juniors are the biggest teams in Argentina, with a long and storied rivalry.  For utterly bananas reasons you can read about here, the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final’s second leg between River and Boca was played not in Buenos Aires, but Spain.  River won that game and the Cup, and this was a restaurant I happened to be near at the time (I live in the area of the River stadium).

So.  River Plate and Boca Juniors are kind of a big deal.

The athletic clubs are entire ecosystems, with different sports and teams and members and fans–but the team that is synonymous with the club name is the senior men’s football team.  The stadium museums are focused on them.  Which leads me to:

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The Museo River Plate is at the stadium, which has one large, non-sports-related claim on my interest:  Estadio Monumental is a major setting in The Eternaut, a famous Argentine sci-fi comic.

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As seen in a mural near The Monumental.

But on to the museum.  It begins with a futuristic look back at the team’s past.

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Those black tunnel-looking rooms to the sides give the team’s history and its wider context in that particular decade, and, given the dearth of artifacts, it does a creditable job of giving a physical sense to long history.

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Each of the tunnel rooms has some information about the teams of the time, and also a diorama that shows a notable non-soccer scene of the era.  For instance, for the 40s, you have the above team stuff, and also a balcony set for a Perón speech.

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Glare, glare, everywhere.

The stadium was also the site of Argentina’s win of the 1978 World Cup (the national team still plays its home games here).

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The 70s diorama is a newsstand (also haven’t really changed), and it includes a nod to “The Eternaut” (on the right, above the Vogue), which feels a bit poignant, as the author was disappeared and murdered by the military dictatorship in power at that time.

Eventually, the tunnel ends and you’re deposited among several years’ worth of team hardware.

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And this rather unique gift to the club from the national football association commemorating the club’s 100th birthday.

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…’kay.

There were a few other interesting things in that room, but with all the lights and glass, the photos rather prominently feature the back of my phone and hands, alas.

Famous players have their area, of course.

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I do not know a single one of them, which lessens the impact somewhat but the other visitors were pretty stoked.

Some of these pillars have QR codes that are supposed to show the player’s best goals, but I tried to download the app it required and watch them and could never make it work, which was a bit disappointing.

There’s some stadium history!  The current location dates back to the 30s.  There’s a pretty neat little model of the old gates and seating.

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And the current look:

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Textile nerds gonna textile nerd, so here’s an old jersey.  I bet that’s blood on it.

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It’s a two-storey building, which accommodates a theater and an overhead view of the entrance, where the current team hardware is available for photo ops.

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There’s also this, which must mean something but hell if I know what.

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Now, Mr Exhibitist is a lifelong fan of a different football club, so I am forbidden by the articles of marriage from patronizing the museum swag shop.  But dear lord, the merch.

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The variety rivals that of Hello Kitty.

It’s an interesting visit for those into sport, and stadium tours are also available on the hour.  For what it’s worth, every local football team I’ve googled has their own museum, although I imagine the River and Boca ones are probably the biggest and best funded.

Museo River Plate is at Figueroa Alcorta 7509, part of the stadium complex (the stadium’s official name is Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti, but it’s only ever called The Monumental).  It’s open every day from 10am to 7pm, although I would guess not on game days.  I would not advise being anywhere near the stadium on game days, in any case.  The entry fee for the museum alone is 340 pesos, although I believe that’s the price for Argentines and local residents–foreigners pay a bit more.  The guided stadium tour is extra.

Museo de Armas de la Nación [Weapons Museum of the Nation]

Across from the Plaza de General San Martín, which is a lovely, large plaza near the Retiro train station, in quite a stately building, is the Museo de Armas, originally founded in 1904.

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Right there, below the official oval.

I’m not particularly interested in all the tools humans use to disassemble each other, but swords are neat, so I went to check it out.

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Pretty stately on the inside, too.

The first displays are of medieval armor and weaponry, both replicas and originals.  There was also some disconcertingly incongruous pop music playing in those rooms.

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Replicas of a war hammer and a flail, my favorite medieval weapons.

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Lobster tail helmet from Great Britain, 1600s.

A great variety of pointy things is available for examination, though without much of anything in the way of information–just the sort of label you see above.

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Fancy shmancy French saber.

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Spanish-made saber for the Argentine Army.

Firearms were of course already a thing by the time these swords were made, but the museum also has some artifacts from those more transitional times, when one might still find a rifle’s effectiveness reduced to that of a spear.

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Bayonets have always creeped me out; something about the desperation that must attend having to use one.

Artistry wasn’t limited to swords in the 1800s; this is a hunting rifle that belonged to President Victorino de la Plaza.

Prettier and less bayonet-y, for sure.

But you know what is even cooler than fancy sabers with official ovals and detailed German hunting rifles?  Bonkers cane weapons.

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Debonair, dashing, DANGEROUS

Cane swords AND cane pistols.  Wonder if there’s a safety on that thing.

Of course, there’s plenty of more modern kill stuff.

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*yawn*

But there’s also a few box sets of dueling pistols–including this one, which says it was used in the duel between Pantaleón Gómez and Lucio Victorio Mansilla on Feb. 7, 1880.  Both men were former soldiers, politicians, and journalists, but Gómez ended up the dead one in a story that the Wikipedia entry made sound kind of insane.  Dudes gonna dude, I guess.

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I can’t even.

As weaponry is always pretty closely tied to the military, the museum also has several minifigs that illustrate the history of the uniforms.

The items on display aren’t limited to melee combat and small caliber things, of course.

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Both of these are mid-19th century, the bottom one being a Gatling design, Gatling having been a medical doctor who rather blew off that whole Hippocratic Oath thing. 

Remember what an absolute, unique horror show World War I was, with its meeting of traditional cavalry and horse-drawn supply wagons and mechanized death and chemical warfare?

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Imagine putting a gas mask on a horse, or, hell, being a horse that had to wear a gas mask.

Look, an anti-tank mine.  It’s smaller than my backpack.

 

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That circle to its left is the size of my palm and designed to blow up a human being.

There’s also a room that’s full of weapons from all over Asia, which at least can restore the more comfortable feeling of looking at museum pieces with some artistry to them instead of just efficient kill boxes used within living memory.

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14th century Indonesian.

 

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*sigh* stupid glass cases

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Small utility knife. Nazis ruin everything

So there you have it!  Certainly a very interesting collection of early firearms, fancy swords and Argentine military history.  Not much on the informational side of things, but certainly more interesting than I thought it would be for me.  The Museo de Armas de la Nación is located in Retiro at Santa Fe 702, right across from the Plaza, and very near other sights, like the Kavanagh building and the Basílica Santísimo Sacramento.  It’s easy to get to from the C and E subway lines and Retiro train station.  As of this post, the entry fee is 100 pesos (about US$2).

Tinytour: Archivo General de la Nación: Huellas de Mujeres Trabajadoras

Popped into the National Archive for the small, temporary exhibit on women workers!  Not super sure on the best translation.  Let’s go with “Impressions of Working Women.”

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That guy’s got nothing to do with anything; it’s just the best photo I got of the door.

There’s an exhibit room just inside the Archive, where visitors don’t have to go through security.  It’s pretty small, but a nice place for a curated show of documents.

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Including not happy documents, like this 1942 petition to a charity for assistance from a nurse who contracted tuberculosis in the course of her work.

Plenty of great old photos, which, of course.  It’s the Archive.

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From the School of Nursing affiliated with the Eva Perón Social Help Foundation in 1947.

Actually, though, know what was most impressive?  The freaking exhibit room.

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That’s all for this minipost!  If you’re in Microcentro taking in the government-affiliated tourist sights, you’ll be close to the Archivo General de la Nación.  Pop in for a few minutes to see whatever historic documents they have out for eyeballing and the amazing exhibit room at 25 de mayo 263, weekdays from 10 to 5.

The Cemetery Series: Cementerio de la Chacarita

La Chacarita is the national cemetery of Argentina, and also the country’s largest.  It doesn’t get near the attention that Recoleta gets, which might explain why I saw maybe 10 other people and was asked twice if I was looking for something in the 90 minutes I was there.

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Yeah I am. I’m looking for ideas.

The enormous cemetery was established in 1887 following a yellow fever epidemic and is 230 acres.  It is chock full of notable figures including scientists (Nobel laureate Bernardo Houssay), artists (Antonio Berni, whose work I included in the MALBA post), and tango luminaries (Homero Manzi, Ángel Villoldo, Osvaldo Pugliese, and many others).  There are a number of former presidents, though they seem mostly from dictatorship eras, and also labor leaders and at least one guerrilla leader.  Botanical garden designer and namesake Carlos Thays is buried here, as well.  La Chacarita is absolutely full of Argentina’s history.

It is, unsurprisingly, also chock full of fancy, fancy vaults.

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Tribute to a beloved mother, now missing its inverted exclamation mark

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Very modern design for this crypt.

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Just like in Recoleta, some crypts are in really, really bad shape.

Group pantheons and vaults are also very common.

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Spanish-Argentine Mutual Society Pantheon

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Military pantheon

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The vault for the Sociedad Tipográfica Bonaerense, a 160 year old labor union of typographic workers, one of the first unions here.

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Here lie the founders of the Boca Juniors; I literally cannot overstate the importance of football (soccer) or of the Boca Juniors to it.

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Municipal employees, just in case you want to be buried with your closest co-workers.

Let’s look at two of the most famous burials in La Chacarita.  First up, Carlos Gardel, immensely famous and important tango guy.

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I was there around 4 pm and the shadows were terrible for photos.

The figure on the left is the man himself, who died tragically at the height of his career, at age 45.  Visitors often leave lit cigarettes in his hand.  The figure on the right mournfully hunches over a broken lyre.

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This is the tomb Jorge Newbery, aviation hero and namesake of one of Buenos Aires’s airports (although generally, that airport is referred to as “Aeroparque”).  He died in a plane crash at age 38.  Whoever designed his tomb really brought the drama.

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“Sorry, did you say there’s going to be a carrion bird on the tomb?”  “No, I said there’s going to be five carrion birds on the tomb.”

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“One of them is going to lurk over the actual crypt door.”

Don’t for a second think that I don’t believe with my whole being that this is incredibly awesome.

There are some pretty nice sculptures in La Chacarita, too.

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The broken columns and crumbling look are intentional, by the way.

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This is the memorial and tomb of Enrique de Vedia, a writer and teacher.

Just in case you’re not flush with crypt-levels of cash, the cemetery has several columbarium walls, the oldest of which (at least, as it appeared to me) serve in places as the cemetery’s border wall.

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The newer interments of this type are actually below ground, in a sort of open-air cavern of columbarium walls.

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I didn’t get a picture of the main entry of La Chacarita, as I came in one of the side gates, or a bunch of other buildings and tombs; the place is so freakin’ big, you guys.  I didn’t go into the British or German sections at all (I didn’t even find them).  I’m going to go back at some point, so I will post on those sections when I do.

El Cementerio de La Chacarita is the largest single thing in La Chacarita, with several bus lines and a few stops on the B subway line right near it.  It’s open from 7:30 am to 5 pm.  There’s a free tour in Spanish on the second and fourth Saturdays every month at 10 am (cancelled if it’s raining); check the website for the most up to date information available.