Museums of Boston
By Cliff Calderwood
As the premier historical city of the U.S.
east coast you’d expect Boston to have its fair share of museums
for residents and visitors alike. And Boston does not disappoint.
I’ve been told there are over forty major
museums in Boston and the surrounding area — I haven’t visited
them all… yet. But I’ve made a large dent in the collection
and I’ll share six of my family favorites with you here and
let you know what to expect.
Museum of Fine Arts– MFA:
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is
one of the oldest art museums in the United States. It first
opened its doors on July 4th, 1876 – the centennial birthday
of the nation – with a collection of about 4,600 pieces of
art. Today the building on Huntingdon Avenue in The
Fenway area houses about 450,000 works. The MFA continues to
have aggressive plans for growing exhibit space and collecting
works, and is a must visit for art lovers and connoisseurs
A visit to MFA is an all day immersion into
art in its many forms from past and present cultures. Expect
to see traditional European masters and ancient world artifacts
from Egypt and classical Greek and the Roman period, along
with displays of musical instruments and a highly regional
textile exhibit. And when you need a break from staring at
artifacts in glass cases or paintings on walls, relax in the
popular Japanese garden or the garden court.
The collections are split over two floors
with most American exhibits on the first floor and European
galleries on the second – African and Asian collections are
shared between the two levels. But within these two floors
is fine art of the familiar and the not so familiar. Yes, you
can see the Impressionist school and the Dutch and Italian
masters but there’s plenty to delight for followers of the
American schools and Native American art.
Make a point when passing through the domed
rotunda to look skyward and take in the magnificent murals
painted by John Singer Sargent during the last
years of his life.
The MFA reserves plenty of gallery space
for special and traveling exhibits and to get more information
on current offerings visit their website here.
Museum of Science:
This is one of the more popular museums in
Boston and a great place for families. We visit it at least
once a year – sometimes more if the Mugar Omni Theatre has
a not-to-miss IMAX film, or a special exhibit is visiting
town such as Body
Worlds 2 or last year’s Darwin
The Museum of Science, Boston encompasses
a wide range of topics in its exhibits. Creatures and wildlife
are as generously represented as the mechanical or technology
sciences. Popular permanent exhibits include the Theater of
Electricity – experience the awesome power of lightening – Mathematica
where you can enjoy the beauty and wonder of mathematics – and
the fossils and life size dinosaur exhibits. Lots of interactive
experiences and stuff to touch for young and old in the blue
wing of the building.
Be sure to check out the Computer exhibit
which contains the original displays from the Computer Museum
of Boston which the MOS took over in 1999. And for those fascinated
with astronomy the Charles Hayden Planetarium has
daily shows exploring the wonder of our solar system and the
The green wing is for nature enthusiasts
and is as good a place as any to learn about New England habitats
and the animals who call it home. A number of live shows are
given throughout the day with staff so you can get up close
and personal to reptiles and exotic animals and ask questions.
The museum has an interesting web site with
a trip planner and a full list of current and upcoming exhibits
and you can find it here.
Boston Children’s Museum:
Located at Fort Point Channel on Congress
Street the Boston Children’s Museum is a hive of activity
and the ultimate tactile and interactive experience for kids.
Favorite exhibits to check out include Arthur
and Friends, yes, still going strong building reading
and writing skills – the Construction Zone, exploring
basic engineering and building skills – the Japanese House,
teaching kids and parents about Japanese customs – and Johnny’s
Workbench, a chance to learn and use work tools in a
Kid Power is an interesting exhibit
providing an opportunity to let your children and you get moving
around and being active – like you need it I can hear you say!
And if your kid likes playing with water and vehicles that
travel on it then Boats Afloat provides the ideal
learning experience about water and its properties. And one
of my personal favorites is Science Playground where
your child gets to think like a scientist by exploring and
understanding and developing their curiosity – and its fun
for parents as well.
This museum has many more exhibits and they
themselves suggest “less is more." So plan not to
see and do everything but focus on what the child wants to
do and relax as a parent. The museum website has lots of suggestions
to make a parent’s visit as enjoyable as their child’s so check
out their tips section and their online guide to exhibits here.
In the summer months a lunch time break outside
on the wharf with a trip to the familiar Milk Bottle stand
for a sandwich or ice cream is as much anticipated by the kids
as the museum visit. And yes, there is a “golden arches"right
next door if they really do need a hamburger and fries.
We visited the MIT Museum a few years
ago on a dreary and nothing much to do day and now it’s become
one of our favorites. They’ve invented a lot at M.I.T. don’t
you know. Sometimes quirky but always entertaining this museum
of science and technology continues to grow and expand, and
is the place to visit if you want to learn about and experience robots and holograms.
This is not a huge museum and can be visited
in a few hours although at our first visit we got so absorbed
in the holograms that 2 hours passed by very quickly.
The major components of the museum include
the Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery where you
can see research and inventions on cars, cancer research, ocean
exploration, and some ingenious devices invented by the late
MIT professor Claude Shannon. Robots and Beyond explores
Artificial Intelligence and opens the window on what it takes
to build an intelligent robot that can interact with its environment
and behave and respond in human-like ways. M.I.T has been studying
A.I. for over 50 years and continues to perform pioneering
The Flashes of Inspiration exhibit
celebrates the amazing work of Harold Edgerton in
pictures, notes and equipment. Edgerton’s development of the electronic
stroboscope and the famous captured image of the “milk
drop"almost single-handedly connected science to art. The
stroboscope allowed us to see what our eyes or traditional
photography could never capture. In the exhibit Holography:
The Light Fantastic you’ll experience twenty-three historic
holograms from its applications in the field of medicine, engineering,
architecture, and even abstract art.
The theme of science crossing over to art
continues with Gestural Engineering which presents the
work of Arthur Ganson. The sculptures are whacky,
whimsical, and utterly mesmerizing. Ganson describes himself
as “a cross between a mechanical engineer and a choreographer."This
exhibit will definitely stretch your parameters of both.
There’s much more to discover at the MIT
Museum but I’ll leave that for you to uncover yourself. For
more information check out their website