Cooperstown, New York was where I first fell in love with museums.
Obsessed with baseball growing up, I convinced my sports-adverse dad to take us to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located in a small, quaint town in upstate New York. Seeing so much history and memorabilia that I had previously only read about was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Playing catch on the baseball field next door and drinking glass after glass of limeade on the porch of the house we were staying in helped, too.
Since then, I’ve developed a museum habit. My wife’s love of art has taken us to a growing collection of art museums. A family trip to Washington D.C. provided an abundance of amazing museums of nearly every kind, many of them free. The Newseum, dedicated to media and journalism, was easily the best modern museum I have visited.
In the U.S., most 20th Century presidents have a library and museum dedicated to their time in office, which sounds peculiarly American, now that I think of it. I’ve found my way to five of them so far.
More recently, we stopped at two very different museums in the span of a few days: Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. They were both great experiences that clarified what draws me to museums in the first place.
I love to learn about people and their work. Which people and events shaped them? How did they master their craft? I’m fascinated by the contrast between early efforts and later masterpieces, hits and misses, victories and defeats.
The Hall of Fame was an incredible collection of music memorabilia, but I really wanted to learn more about what it’s like to be a musician—to write a song, spend a year in the studio, tour, and go in a new direction even when people just want more of the same.
The Museum of Fine Arts, on the other hand, featured an exhibit on the sculptor Auguste Rodin. It captured the methods, influences, and ideas behind his work better than any exhibit I’ve seen.
Ultimately, museums state unequivocally that people matter, history matters, and the work we do matters. Everyone builds on what came before. At museums, we celebrate and marvel, mourn and reflect, and question and learn. Then, inspired by possibility, we return to continue crafting our own part in this story.