Proper Culture

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I am a twenty-something in New York on a mission: to visit every museum within city limits.

Use this as a resource for New York museums and worldwide museum news (and I'll occasionally toss in some history into the mix)!
~ Saturday, April 28 ~
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Smithsonian museum explores the art of gaming

“My first exposure to video games was back in the 1970s with Pong, the original Pong,” said Melissinos, who is 42.

Pong was essentially a screen version of table tennis, with a dot bouncing back and forth off sliding bars controlled by players. Everything about the game was basic, but it was one of the first video games kids played at home.

“It was amazing and exciting, and we didn’t really know what it all meant,” he said.

What it meant for Melissinos was a fascination that he turned into a career as chief gaming officer for technology company Sun Microsystems.

His love of and work with video games have led him to put together an exhibit about them at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“The Art of Video Games” takes visitors through the 40 years of video games. It includes interviews with early game creators and a funny video showing people’s expressions while playing video games. It showcases 80 games from a variety of platforms, including Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation, and explains what was new or unusual about the games when they first appeared. And it offers visitors a chance to play five games, from a 1981 version of Pac-Man to 2009’s Flower, with screens projected onto gallery walls. Visitors may have to wait their turn, but that gives them a chance to cheer on other gamers.

Visitors also might pause to consider a question that has gotten the exhibition a lot of attention. Are video games art?

For Melissinos, there’s no question. “Video games are literally the collision of technology and art,” he said.

Kids visiting the museum recently may not have thought of video games as art before seeing the exhibition, but they were open to the idea.

“It’s a different genre of art,” said Gabriel Quinn, 11. “It’s interactive.”

Gabriel, who lives in Cooper City, Florida, was visiting the museum during spring break. He had just put down the controls to Flower, in which the player becomes the wind and glides over fields and hills that burst with color as petals are collected. He said that game and his favorites at home — the action-adventure Call of Duty and Super Mario Bros. — can all be considered art.

Regan Monigan, 10, of Dayton, Ohio, said the visual and creative elements made games fun. “I like the ones where you get the exciting plot twist . . . and where you can see things from different perspectives,” she said.

Regan’s cousin Sean Healy, 9, of Potomac said he liked the realistic artwork of today’s games but was interested in trying the exhibition’s older games, such as Pac-Man.

“Even if some video games are old, they can be fun,” Sean said.

Melissinos said his own kids discovered the same thing after seeing the exhibition.

“They came back and said, ‘I want to play these older games you haven’t shown us,’ ” he said.

Melissinos hopes kids and parents will use the games at the museum as a way to connect with one another.

“People remember why the games were so important in their lives. They rediscover. Now they understand why [the games] are important to their kids.”

Tags: Smithsonian American Art Museum Smithsonian American Art Museum Art of Video Games video games art technology museums Sun Microsystems Pong Pac-Man washington dc Call of Duty Super Mario Bros
~ Monday, April 23 ~
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Do We Need a Museum of Racism? Probably

The Jim Crow Museum, which will have its grand opening on April 26th, says it has the largest collection of artifacts from the segregation era.


A former sociology professor has used his 2,000-piece collection of racist memorabilia to start a museum dedicated to the worst excesses of the segregation era.  The exhibits range from a full-size replica of a lynching tree to a T-shirt that reads: “Obama ’08″ accompanied by a cartoon monkey holding a banana. On one wall, a poster shows four young black children sitting by a river, with the caption “Alligator bait.”

The objects “should either be in a garbage can or a museum,” according to David Pilgrim, the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. The former professor at Michigan’s Ferris State University started the collection as a teenager in Alabama in the 1970s, and donated it to the school in 1996. Now, thanks to university donors, it has a permanent home in an exhibition hall on campus. It will have its grand opening ceremony on April 26th, the Associated Press reports.

The museum says it has amassed the nation’s largest public collection of artifacts spanning the segregation era and also features many objects from the civil rights movement to the present.

Pilgrim, who is black, told the AP the controversial nature of the objects is justified. The museum isn’t a “shrine to racism” he said, but rather is meant to “get people to think deeply.”

Discussing race in a museum setting is a touchy subject. Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture aims to tell the story of black life in America. But with the opening scheduled for 2015, the museum is still grappling with the question of what story to tell and how to tell it.

The Jim Crow Museum is meant to delve into that story and go beyond just stimulating sadness or anger in viewers, which is why Pilgrim created a “room of dialogue” as the last stop of the tour, designed to encourage people to discuss what they have seen. “The only real value of the museum has ever been to really engage people in a dialogue,” he said.


Tags: Jim Crow Museum racism David Pilgrim Michigan Smithsonian