the joyful traveller

two museums

Two Museum Exhibits Bring Visitors to the Ocean’s Depths and to the Surface of the Moon

Two awe-dropping experiences in one afternoon.  How can you beat that? Well, consider that two of the world’s most preeminent institutions sit like bookendsalongside the mid-section of Central Park.  We have the American Natural History Museum on the west side, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east with the Park’s 81st Street roadway to connect them.The AMNH is presenting a 3D movie that takes visitors on a “global odyssey” to the ocean floor, and the Met’s Apollo 11 exhibit would send visitors up, up, and away to the Moon. What an adventure that could only be done in New York!No Dramamine necessary.

The 3:30pm showing of Oceans: Our Blue Planet already had a line of ticketholders upon arrival. By the time the 3D glasses were handed out, the line had increased so much that every seat in the enormous theater was filled.  Right in the center, I was told by the hostess, is the best place to enjoy the Imax screen, which measures 40 feet high and a whopping 66 feet wide in all its 3-dimensional wonder.  So immersive is the experience, one can almost feel the sea wind in your hair.Seniors, young couples, families with little ones, all with glasses in place, quieted down as actress, Kate Winslet, with hervery proper English accent,narrated a totally thrilling and astonishing film depicting newly discovered creatures living and being rather clever on the ocean floor.

The creature that created the biggest reaction was therarely seen tusk-fish thatwho scours the sea floor for food, specifically clams.  Grasping the clam between its fish lips, the tusk-fish carries it to a piece of hardcoral and begins to hit it against the hard surface.  Blow after blow, the fish knocks it against the coral, occasionally dropping it, but its patience is never-ending. It’s fascinating to consider a fish using a tool to break open a clam.  Next we see an octopus evade capture by using its tentacles to pull shells around its body, so it blends in with the ocean floor.  Using new scientific and diving equipment and very brave camera people, viewers are given vantage points never before seen. There was not a sound in the theatre, not even by the many children, who were just as enchanted by the film’s hypnotic quality.

And now, onto the moon. 

Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photographyfeatures more than 170 photographs, drawings, prints, paintings, films, videos, that celebrate the moon since the dawn of photography, and new works inspired by the ‘69 moon landing.  The exhibit would not be complete with a living room set-up with an old fashioned black and white TV playing a loop of the Moon landing for those who never saw the footage and hear Armstrong say those famous words “The Eagle has landed.”  For those who did witness, it’s still a riveting experience.

The exhibit chronicles the progress of astronomical photography and how over the years the images have become sharper and shaper.  One particularly interesting photo, taken on the day Apollo 11 crew left the earth, depicts a group of people standing near the Cape Kennedy launch site.  With eyes upward and a plume of smoke lingering in the skies, in its simplicity it stands as a reminder that at that moment, history was being made miles above the crowds. The moon’s surface, we learn, has become a celestial museum of its own since astronauts have been leaving behind personal items.  Take Charles Duke of Apollo 16 who left a family snapshot with the names of his family, and knowing what we know of the moon, it probably lies right where he left it. Other items left on the moon include various flags, plaques, associated spacecraft and other samplings from our visits over the years.

AMNH “Oceans: Our Blue Planet” continues through January 5, 2020.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Apollo Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography: Moon continues through September 22.

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