I don’t visit the Carnegie Museums as often as I should, given the wealth of exhibitions on display — both permanent and changing.
I was reminded of this after reading this month’s Places We Love item by PM Managing Editor Sean Collier, where he visited the Scaife Galleries at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exquisite collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by such masters as Monet, Renoir and Degas — as well as later pieces — celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.
The most interesting immersive experience I’ve ever had in Pittsburgh took place in the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History in the fall of 2017 through Bricolage’s performance of “DODO: The Time Has Come.” Funded by a $10,000 NEA grant, the production — a collaboration between the innovative theater company and museums — took a year to research and put together.
After the museums had closed to the public each night, actors guided small groups of us on a 90-minute journey throughout public spaces and hidden chambers. Each group visited different parts of the museums under the premise we were following along on a mission with a secret society that had existed since 1760, “steadily growing in number and influence … in direct response to a pressing need by the natural world.”
The experience was designed to alter how modern audiences interact with cultural institutions — and indeed it did.
On my tour, we walked through the art galleries, mostly shrouded in darkness, and visited the Egyptian tomb — which seemed much more mysterious at night.
I was fascinated by the places visitors don’t typically see. We walked along the catwalk in the rafters of the natural history museum and also visited the research collection of 190,000 bird specimens — including 40 species of extinct birds. Most of these are in drawers in a back room. I remember the drawer filled with giant albatrosses — which have the largest wingspan of any bird at 10 to 11 feet — and one with tiny colorful hummingbirds. Many of the specimens were collected in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Even if you don’t have access to these hidden chambers and back rooms, there are still so many wonders to see. On your next visit, seek out places you haven’t visited before beyond the popular dinosaur exhibit or the special art exhibition.
Our September issue has other worthy features. Two of our summer interns — Emma Malinak, a rising junior at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, and Abby Yoder, a rising senior at Point Park University — write about how the rapidly changing artificial intelligence technology is impacting local colleges and universities.
Kristy Locklin notes how more and more food trucks are parking permanently at various venues around town in her story on page 29. And if you want to extend your outdoor activities into the fall, contributor Meg St-Esprit offers suggestions on some fun camping trips in the region on page 48.
There are ever more places I want to explore — inside the museum and out.
Virginia Linn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.