Museums might have temporarily shut their doors, but art has a way of finding its audience. There is rawness to its truth and solace in its interpretation. Whether it is the visceral reminder of the largest human migration in Amritsar’s Partition Museum, the timeline of evolution at The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, or a repository of Vincent van Gogh’s masterpieces at the eponymous museum in Amsterdam—we bring to you some of the greatest works of creativity, history and culture that best speak for themselves.
The Neo-gothic-style museum built between 1855 and 1860, is in itself a grand business, and for any natural history enthusiast worth their salt, it only gets better inside. On display are giant ‘footprints’ of dinosaurs—the behemoths considered extinct about 65 million years ago, two taxidermy bears, and five cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) skeletons hanging from the ceiling. Not to forget there is also a whole section of live collections of various insects from the Madagascar hissing cockroach to the Brazilian bird-eating spider. The experience of walking around the museum for the whole day is fabulous. And the temporary closing of the museum does not rob one of this pleasure as one can still set out on its virtual tour.
Read our story on the museum here.
#Letsmuseeum, created by Rea Eggli and her cultural event agency, is a whistle-stop art tour at the Kunsthaus Art Museum in Zurich. Photo courtesy: © Kunsthaus Zürich, Franca Candrian
An unconventional, whistle-stop art tour at the Kunsthaus Art Museum in Zurich called #Letsmuseeum, created by Rea Eggli and her cultural event agency swissandfamous promises “useless details, weird stuff, little known facts about art works and an original perspective into art.” The tour starts outside the museum at the towering bronze cast, and is peppered with trivia such as of Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece “Gates of Hell,” inspired by Dante’s Inferno and Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”—which weighs 8 tons, has 186 figures and took him 37 years to execute completely. Expect stellar works of Italian drawing and exhibitions devoted to the stylistic heterogeneity typical of transformative years in 1920s.
The Broad has a collection of contemporary art from the 1950s to the present. Photo By: Santi Visalli/Archive Photos/Getty images
Los Angeles is packed with hundreds of cultural spaces. There are the iconic institutions that are worth a trip in their own right: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Broad Museum, the Getty Center, and Griffith Observatory. Then there are temporary exhibitions, eclectic personal collections and historic homes, exploring everything from death to disgusting food. Robby Gordon, a former veterinarian, showcases his collection of art (think yarn art, colourful mannequins and bulldogs) on the walls and ceilings, in passages and in the bathroom of Hollywood Sculpture Garden in Hollywood Hills. At The Museum of Jurassic Technology, there are letters to the astronomers at Mt. Wilson Observatory, the string game cat’s cradle and its collectors, micro-mosaics, and collections from LA trailer parks. The Broad houses one of the world’s most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art. There’s Jeff Koons’ giant balloon animals, Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can,” and a corner for Roy Lichtenstein’s pop-art.
Read our story on the museums here.
Dubai’s Coffee Museum houses both traditional Arabic and international coffee implements. Photo by: Charukesi Ramadurai
The Coffee Museum in Dubai’s heritage Al-Bastakiya neighbourhood, was built over seven years and is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Various Arabic coffee implements are on display. There is a massive iron griddle called al mehmas used for roasting beans and a mortar and pestle for grinding known as al menhas. In the adjoining room, one can sip on cardamom-infused Ethiopian coffee or move to the central courtyard that has an over six-foot-tall, custom-built Egyptian coffee machine that looks almost like a small throne attached to the wall. There are small but varied collections from vintage European coffee tins to Yemeni clay pots and Turkish coffee bean roasters with folding handles.
Before visitors can browse the displays, every tour at the Museum of Failure begins with a talk on failing, and learning from it. Photo Courtesy: Museum of Failure
With a population of only 1,30,000, Helsingborg in Sweden had little to boast of in terms of tourist attractions. However, when the quirky Museum of Faliure, the brainchild of curator Samuel West, propped up in 2017, the city would soon experience a different fate. From Apple’s ‘Newton’, Heinz’s green ketchup and Coco Cola’s coffee-drink (Coca-Cola Blāk), the museum celebrates many infamous corporate failures across the world and offers a deeper lesson to ‘learn from it’.
Read our story on the museum here.
Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits occupy pride of place at the Van Gogh Museum and tell a compelling story of his growth as an artist. Photo By: Jan Kees Steenman/Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is a paradise, not merely because it holds the largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in the world, but also because it tells his tragic life story through every artwork on display, and through the letters he exchanged with his brother, Theo. The seasoned eye will catch the most famed of the artist’s work here—”Sunflower,” “Almond Blossoms” and “The Potato Ears.” The museum is temporarily closed due to panic around coronavirus, but is offering virtual tours of its galleries to fans of the Dutch painter
Read our story on the museum here.
A NYC fixture, the Museum of Modern Art is all set for its grand reopening. Photo by: Maremagnum/Photolibrary/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
After five long years of planning and half-a-billion dollars spent, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) got an exquisite facelift in 2019 that only seemed to add to its reputation of being one of the world’s largest curators of modern art. Home to the most priceless paintings like Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and Pablo Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, the renovation has afforded MoMa with 40,000 square feet of extra space for a wider display of all genres of artists, integrated galleries for a more accessible viewing experience and large expansive glass panels to make it look trendy but sophisticated. Art-lovers and enthusiasts can log on here, every Thursday, to be a part of the museum’s virtual exhibitions and witness its collections.
The 175th million HMT watch has been showcased to commemorate a time when the company was thriving. Photo By: Vishal Dey
While the gates of the iconic watch brand ‘HMT’ have all but closed, its legacy is preserved in the form of HMT Heritage Centre and Museum in Bengaluru, where along with its iconic watches, other divisions like tractors, machine tools, bearings and lamps are also kept on display. With its fantastic display of clockwork, which include Braille watches to help the visually impaired read time and the Gold Biscuit Watch that has a one gram gold biscuit embedded on the dial, the ground floor can be mistaken for a literal time machine. The two-storied museum spans over 4246 square feet, while the landscape surrounding the building is spread over 4.17 acres.
A tour of Vimor Museum of Living Textiles brings visitors face-to-face with a handloom collection from India and the world over, some of which are either openly displayed or viewed from behind glass cases. Photo by: Rashmi Gopal Rao
Fashion and history come together at the Vimor Museum of Living Textiles in Bengaluru’s Austin Town. The museum, which opened in July 2019, houses a collection of 50 rare sarees—some passed down as family heirlooms and some donated by family and friends of Pavithra Muddaya, a textile connoisseur and a champion of handlooms. At the entrance is a bright pink annam jarithari saree woven in Tamil Nadu with motifs of the famous gandaberunda—a mythical bird with two heads which is also the emblem of Karnataka. There is also the 3.5-metre datthi seere, which were woven for children and a rare Chanderi saree that has a width of a whopping 64 inches.
Without the wooden sailboat, the romantic portrait of Kolkata would remain incomplete. Photo by: Soumya Bandyopadhyay Photography/Getty Images
Tracing back to the 6th century, Bengal’s maritime history is a rich one, with the state once being hailed as the ‘home of shipbuilding in India’. Under the tutelage of former welfare minister Dr. U.N. Biswas, Kolkata’s Boat Museum was established as a tribute to this heritage. Located in northeast Kolkata, the gallery displays 46 types of the 150 wooden sailboats native to West Bengal and Bangladesh, including a remodelling of Rabindranath Tagore’s Padma. The models, handcrafted by the Rajbanshis of Dakshin Dinajpur district in West Bengal, are made from high-quality teakwood.
The Tree of Hope in the Partition Museum carries messages of peace. Photo by: Hindustan Times/contributor/Hinduatan Times/Getty Images
En route to the famed Golden Temple in Amritsar, a stroll through the Town Hall will have you stumbling by a brick archway, where a white board that reads ‘Partition Museum’ will catch your eye. Inside too, the museum holds a simple elegance—its seven galleries offering a chance to witness, through archives, the India that was partitioned in 1947. Newspaper clippings, original video footage and most importantly, letters—describe the collective grief that plagued the country when the boundary line was drawn; of the families and friends that were torn apart on either side of the border. While the museum is temporarily closed due to the lockdown, it frequently hosts interesting virtual webinars, talks and other interactive sessions, which can be followed here.
With installations depicting games children play (left) and legends related to musical instruments (right), the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum is an ode to the region’s tribal cultures. Photo: Shraddha Bhargava
The vast galleries of Bhopal’s Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum are canvases for locals and artists from the Gond, Bhil, Korku, Baiga, Sahariya, Kol, and Bhariya communities, who have crafted exhibits and installations showcasing their everyday life and folklore so accurately, that you’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside it, and into a day in their lives. Replicas of mud-and-brick huts built by each tribe, figurines of village-folk, musicians and cattle, and a room dedicated to spirituality and their version of the afterlife, makes a day spent at this museum a humbling experience.
To read our archive of issues dating all the way back to 2012, head to Magzter or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.
Hey there! Like what you see (or not)? Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.