Central Park and The Natural History Museum, NYC
I will share another post about my daughter Mistaya’s and my trip to NYC for her 18th Birthday present (last week). We were so busy in NYC that I had no time to blog while there (I also had a final copy-edit to finish in NYC so that took up the only working hours I could muster)! Hence, please enjoy a few blogs this week of our amazing trip to Manhattan. It was so much fun. I love NYC.
Our first Hotel in NYC, The Hotel Belleclarie, was only a few blocks from the Natural History Museum which, borders Central Park. Thus, our very first impressions of Manhattan were made in central Park and The Natural History Museum
Central Park, New York
Our first experience in Central Park was so New York that it almost felt as though it had been scripted: art films and love poems.
My daughter and I had only just arrived in Central Park when we were approached by two young men: the poet and the film maker; together they make ward winning short art films. The poet asked us if he might read us one of his poems, while the film maker recorded our reactions to the poetry reading. He said the poem was short. We said okay. We sat; we listened; we applauded. It was a love poem, a good love poem. They wrapped up the filming and were off.
I must say, although Central Park was most definitely a park (it does not resemble wilderness), it is a most beautiful green space, filled with trees and ponds.
Central Park is the heart of Manhattan; everywhere Mistaya and I explored somehow involved a stroll through Central Park and if it didn’t, I was disappointed. To me, Central Park is one of the very best places to be in NYC.
It is very easy to get turned around and confused in Central Park. Directions lose their meaning. There is a little magic at work in the park, Earth’s way of saying, leave the urban sprawl and feast on the living skyscrapers of trees.
New Yorkers relax in central park. On weekends it’s filled with family’s picnicking and friends playing ball.
The Natural History Museum
Did you watch the Friends episodes of Ross Gellar working as a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum or the Movie Night At The Museum? Pop culture is full of references of this grand, 138 year old museum.
Great museums (like the NHM) present so much stimulus that after a short time, my mind says, “Uncle!” I so desperately want to process every single artifact that I find but my brain cannot keep up. Yet, I am über curious by nature so I solider on, trying my best to absorb all I find with a brain that feels saturated beyond its limits. I think the soggy/thirsty brain combination is addictive because the best museums leave me wanting more and more. However, as much as I loved learning about everything, I found The Natural History Museum a somber experience because although it exhibits the Earth’s rich natural history, in all its splendour and intrigue, I could not deny what is happening today on Earth. I smacked myself with Earth’s present-day reality and the assault of this knowledge was not for the gentle.
* No flashes are allowed in the museum and the museum is very dark in general; thus, I have few pictures to share from The Natural History Museum.
The Natural History Museum in New York hit me hard. It was like life on Earth had come full circle for me. The halls and halls of stuffed wild life were disturbing. Over 100 years ago (the museum first opened in 1877), the halls of stuffed animals were representations of thriving ecosystems in exotic Africa and my home continent, North America.
However, forward to today: the stuffed white rhino family reminded me that the dead animals are representations of now extinct or at risk dying ecosystems. There are only 4 northern white rhinos left on Earth and they are all in zoos and none of them are of breeding ability. Our North American wolves, grizzly bears and big cats are extinct in many regions of our continent where they once used to thrive.
In 100 years, all that remains of some of the most majestic creatures on Earth are stuffed animals in museums. Taxidermied halls in museums are the new zoos. The horror of this reality sucked up my soul and spit it out on the museum’s marble floor.
Science reflects our modern human-centric view of life. Even long before Darwin studied other species, the method of research most often was to kill and then study (still is today). “‘That’s how science was done, down the barrel of a gun,’ museum docent Vickie Costa said.”1
If this had never been the case, if in the beginning, the scientific method required that all animals were treated with the same respect as human subjects, our world would be much different.
My favourite memories of the museum involve the displays about people of the Amazon. The ingenuity of the aboriginal peoples, who continue to live a wild-human existence, is fascinating. I was blown away by an isolated tribe that prepares a toxic root plant by processing it until it is no longer toxic; the root has become a staple in their diet. Also, I confess to being mesmerized by the grisly display of real shrunken human head trophies; there is something fascinating in historical macabre. Though, I could not take a picture of the tiny heads; it seemed disrespectful to who’s ever head it once was. The heads are a dark reminder of how brutal the human mind can be.
I also found all the African artifacts amazing. The costumes from various tribal ceremonies are fascinating—elaborately created with all natural decorations. I’ve included a few pictures of my favourite consumes (above and below).