Archives for category: Culture

Mona Lisa at Madrid's Museo del Prado. Photo Credit Javier Soriano/Getty Images

Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa might be one of the most copied pieces of art in history, and certainly one of the best known. But recently, curators at  Madrid’s Museo del Prado are claiming to a certified, genuine copy of Mona – a copy that had Leonardo’s seal of approval.

While comparing these two paintings (using infrared technology), one can see that various layers and steps the artists completed – both paintings have almost identical layers and both artists appear to have made the exact same changes at the same time.

“The changes mirrored the changes which Leonardo made on the original,” Martin Bailey, correspondent with The Art Newspaper in London, tells NPR’s Melissa Block. “[Conservators] concluded that the two pictures had been done side by side in the studio, and it was probably on easels which were two or three yards away from each other.”

Bailey went on to suggest that the artist who painted Mona Lisa‘s twin is likely to have been one of Leonardo’s main assistants: Melzi or Salai (who was rumored to have been da Vinci’s lover). Scandalous!!

The Original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci at the Musee du Louvre in Paris. Image Credit Jean-Pierre Muller/Getty Images

While the two paintings are very similar, the newly discovered copy is noticeably brighter and much more colorful. Layers of varnish that has darkened and cracked over the decades, obscures the face of the original Mona Lisa. The copy brings a whole new life to Mona, and more vibrant detail to a world famous painting.

What do you think of the copy?

Do you think it’ll ever be as popular at The Louvre’s original copy of The Mona Lisa?

– Ann Erling Gofus

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Hilarious… and a little offensive. Ha.

Postcard: Leap year, 1908 Description: Cartoon on theme of women proposing in leap years. Caption: "Maidens are eagerly awaiting ..."

One extra day in February means one extra history lesson for 2012. Because who doesn’t want to learn about Lead Year?

According to Wikipedia, “A leap year (or intercalary or bissextile year) is a year containing one additional day (or, in the case of lunisolar calendars, a month) in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year.”
Blah blah blah, this is NOT the interesting part. What’s interesting are the fascinating traditions that come along with a Leap Year.

One folk tradition states that women can only propose during a Leap Year or on Leap Day. Supposedly, this tradition started with either St. Patrick or St. Brigid in 5th century Ireland.According to tradition, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man. The fine differed from country to country – some places it was fabric for a new dress, a kiss, money, or a pair in gloves.

Now, note the postcard (pasted above):

Maidens eagerly waiting Leap Year (1908) for their chances to propose to a man. I love how these women are armed with guns, axes and a telescope. I’m also loving how their bear trap is baited with a bag of money.

I promote women proposing to their prospective mates whether or not it’s a Leap Year, but if you need an excuse (and a little extra courage) what better day than TODAY! (Leap Day!) to pop the question??

Postcard: Leap Year, 1908 Description: "In 1908 / 'Be Careful, Clara, that's a fine Specimen!'"

 

– Ann Erling Gofus

The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Image Credit: http://nmaahc.si.edu

On Wednesday (22 February) ground was broken on the National Mall in Washington, DC  for The National Museum of African American History and Culture – the newest addition to the Smithsonian museum family.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will explore the richness and diversity of the African American experience. The museum has been collecting artifacts and documents since 2005, and expects to open in 2015. Museum director Lonnie Bunch was quoted in an NPR piece saying that most major moments in this nation’s history have been shaped by race issues. The African-American experience is central to the American experience, he said, so the stories the museum will tell are for everyone, or every race (via npr.org).

President Obama, who spoke at the ground breaking, said on Wednesday that the museum was a long time coming – I totally agree. The last Smithsonian museum to be built in DC was the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. African American history plays such a large role in America’s story, it’s about time there was a museum in our nation’s capital exploring this history and culture.

Now all we need to do is wait 3 years until it opens.

– Ann Erling Gofus

The Hutmacher Farmstead in Dunn County, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

Green is the new black as more and more people adjust their lifestyles in the hopes of throwing global warming off its track. From fuel efficient cars to buying organic, being environmentally aware has become one of the nation’s hottest trends. And who would have guessed that tucked away in a western county of a plains state a German Russian family would be making Al Gore proud decades before his activist streak?
In 1911, Frank Hutmacher and his family emigrated from Russia and settled in Dunn County, North Dakota, where the construction of an environment friendly stone-slab home began. Using only what the prairie had to offer, Frank Hutmacher set about building a home of sandstone slabs that features a roof of branches, brush, straw, and clay. Presented with limited resources, Frank did what he could to provide shelter for his immigrant family while also blending into the area’s natural surroundings.
Environmentally safe building hasn’t changed much since then. Modern green architecture still puts to use sustainable building materials, and building techniques that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Although, examples of modern green buildings are slightly less obvious than the earthy Hutmacher farmsite; modern green homes can be built from recycled or all natural materials, such as cardboard or clay bricks.
The currently standing Hutmacher home was constructed mostly in 1928 and 1930, but prior construction had begun when the family immigrated in 1911. As the years passed, various additions were built, and as time wore into the 50s and the 60s, the Hutmachers continued to live in and maintain their earthen home. Although difficult to fathom now, the Hutmacher family lived without electricity until 1961, when the house was wired to run electric appliances. This stone-slab home was comfortably lived in for almost 70 years until it was finally abandoned in 1979.

North Dakota State University students working to preserve the Hutmacher Farmstead in Dunn County, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

The Hutmacher home is earthen, energy efficient and environment friendly; three aspects of going green that are often difficult to accomplish in modern green architecture. The building materials were gathered directly outside the Hutmachers’ front door, making annual repairs to damaged walls and roof simple. But best of all, the various buildings on the Hutmacher farmsite blend almost seamlessly into the prairie setting.

Dunn Country, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

This simple perfection can be appreciated by even the most hardened city dweller as one sets sight upon the Hutmacher farmstead. Eyes flow easily from the prairie grass, to the stone walls, to the earthen roof, and finally to the sky. Beautiful, natural and environmentally safe, the Hutmacher farmsite is a historical example of what it means to go green.
– I wrote this back in 12 March 2008 when I was still Ann E. Erling, sans the Gofus. I wrote it for some North Dakota publication. Not sure if it ever got published, but here it is. In the almost 4 years since I wrote this story, The Hutmacher Farmstead’s preservation. I’m planning on following up with the Hutmacher Farmstead’s people and writing us all an update.
When Ryan and I first started dating we went on a weekend trip to Paris. Oh, I know, oh la la is right. Ryan had never been to Paris before, so we hit up all the typical Parisian sites, but I insisted on one stop: I wanted to see Oscar Wilde’s tomb at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus

Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus

The place is huge: winding paths, soooo many graves and although it’s a cemetery, it was really interesting to wander through. I gave Ryan the map to navigate. In the 3 years since meeting, I have learned that Ryan has a terrible sense of direction. Looking back, I realize now how hard he was trying to find the place – and after an hour of searching, we found it.

Ryan looking at a map in front of Wilde's tomb in Paris. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus

Wilde’s tomb stone was designed by Jacob Epstein – it depicts an angel who appears to be in flight, his wings trailing behind him. The angel originally had male genitalia, but has since been vandalized. I think it looks a bit Art Deco-esque, and Wikipedia informs me that Epstein’s style was considered avant-garde at the time.

Oscar Wilde's tomb stone in Paris, France. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

Since the ‘90s, it’s been a bit of a… tradition…? to kiss Wilde’s grave marker, leaving behind a lipstick mark. Wilde’s tomb is covered with kisses of all different colors and sizes. A sweet, cult tradition? A strange tourist attraction? A form of affection? Either way, the kisses are starting to damage the stone.

Kisses on Wilde's tomb in Paris, France. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus

Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, said the lipstick had become a “serious problem” because the grease sinks into the stone. “Every cleaning was causing a bit more stone to wear away,” he said.

After its most recent cleaning, the tomb will reopen with a glass barrier protecting it from greasy lips. I’m sure people will continue to kiss the glass, but will it ever be the same?

As a pro-historic-preservationist, I totally support the glass barrier. It’s someone’s grave, for goodness sakes! Show some respect!

What do you think?
And while we’re answering questions, what other bizarre, cultish and awesome “tourist traditions” can you think of? We’re talking Old Wive’s Tales/Myths/Ritualistic things that we read about in travel books. Like, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland for the gift of eloquence. Or throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain to return to Rome someday.

Any ideas?

I know, I know, this is old news, like 3 years old news, but I recently re-watched this video and just HAD to share.

Photograph of Jesus by Laurie Hill in association with the Getty Images Short & Sweet Film Challenge from Hulton Archive on Vimeo.

I found this video a couple years ago, and forwarded it to my old colleagues at the North Dakota State Archives and Research Library. In places like that, an important aspect of your job is assisting researchers. Some researchers know what they’re doing – they are experienced genealogists or college professors – but many are just curious, college students or first-time researchers. Many of the research requests we got at the ND State Archives were amusing – at best.
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Just one more (short) break from regular Musely programming:

Click HERE to learn more about what The God’s Child Project is doing to prevent and treat Childhood Malnutrition, and how YOU can help little babies like Alberto:

Alberto upon arrival at Casa Jackson. Photo Credit: The God's Child Project

Baby Alberto! Photo Credit The God's Child Project.

Yay! Babies!

I wanted to take a moment from regular Musely postings and write about a cause close to my heart.

© Tayler Aubin

I’m not a particularly shy person and never have been, but when I started 9th grade at my high school it was like all the courage was sucked out of me. I vividly remember my first day of class, my unsteady feet under my corduroy skirt and clinging to my few friends I knew from grade school.

A couple days into school I accidentally smeared charcoal all over the front of my shirt AND my only friends were out sick that day (amazing, I know, that all 3 were sick on the same day). It was a bad day. I was embarrassed and lost – I remember scanning the lunch room for a place to sit and feeling like I couldn’t breathe, like everyone was watching me, like I was some kind of helpless, friendless weirdo.

So, I ate lunch in a bathroom stall.

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As a 20-something, my friends and I like to daydream about the future. What kind of great careers we’ll develop, how well we plan on aging and how awesome our dream houses will be. While most of my friends are years away from taking the dive into a mortgage, it’s still a hot topic of conversation.

Everyone is looking for something different. My husband and I often dream about a home in DC, on the metro, with a big yard and lots of character and history. But a close friend recently told me that she and her husband want a brand spankin’ new house, something that they helped design themselves, that no one has lived in before them.

Repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new. (Photo: Flickr user AdamFranco/preservationnation.org)

I understand why people might lean towards brand new. The thought of a “fixer-upper” can be overwhelming and chances of hauntings are higher in older homes (just kidding! OR AM I!?) But stop! There are soooooo many positives to buying a historic/older home or renovating/rehabilitating an existing structure:

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