Joyride Through Cyberspace By Caroline Wright

Who Needs The Guggenheim?
from the Internet Gazette, July 1997

This month’s Joyride is guaranteed to broaden your horizons, expand your mind, and stimulate your imagination.

Really!

The heady subject of this month’s column?

MUSEUMS.

Now wait, wait, wait. Before you turn the page, I gotta tell ya: it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m a seasoned veteran of countless tours of dusty halls filled with musty paintings made by tormented dead guys. And I wouldn’t DO that to you, gentle reader.

You’re already aware, I assume, that our planet is home to a number of truly incredible museums. The Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi in Florence, the British Museum in London, and MOMA in New York, for example, are known throughout the world to bored schoolchildren, earnest young aesthetes, and serious collectors alike.

Then there are the lesser-known museums and smaller galleries that merit attention. Some examples: the LA County Museum of Art, with its glorious Sculpture Garden filled with small Rodin bronzes; the Prado in Madrid, which houses masterworks by Goya, El Greco, and Velasquez; and even our own Bishop Museum, with its wonderful collection of Polynesian artifacts.

These museums are all online, at websites that range from quite good to nothing less than brilliant. If you’re in need of some serious culture, go to the clearinghouse of world museums, at http://www.comlab.ox.ac.uk/archive/other/museums.html. You’ll find all the places I’ve just mentioned, and many others.

But I have something a little less, um, cultivated in mind for this month’s column. Something way, way off the beaten intellectual path. My finely-honed sense of the utterly bizarre has caused me to eschew the Louvres and MOMAs of the world, so that I may share with you a few compelling museums that might otherwise have escaped your notice.

So join me now, as I swallow my Dramamine, climb into my virtual diving bell and descend to the bottom of the museum food chain.

A Virtual Tour of the World’s Best Lowbrow Museums

Everybody stick together!!! Let’s begin our lowbrow museum tour in Russia, at http://www.voicenet.com/~veraigor/Museum/Museum.html. I had a sort of epiphany when I visited this museum. I think I’ve figured out why historical Russian artists, writers, and poets seem to have had the corner on the world insanity market (never mind that French guy Van Gogh and his damn ear). As indicated by the displays here at the Museum of Russian Wallpaper, it may have had a great deal to do with the psychedelic images of cabbage roses and terrifying abstractions plastered on their walls. (Of course, war, famine and excess vodka might have had something to do with it, too.) This site, which seems to be not quite complete, will be THE place to visit, if you want to see actual wallpaper samples from the homes of Lermontov, Turgenev and Pushkin.

I was extremely disappointed that the website for Russia’s Museum of Bread (at http://www.museum.ru/museum/bread) was not functional. And I felt my disappointment most keenly when I discovered this site’s perfect complement: The Toaster Museum Foundation, at http://www.spiritone.com/~ericn. These webpages are the pet project of a Portland, Oregon couple. They’re currently seeking donations which will enable them to build a permanent home for their big collection of toasters. The site contains detailed photographs and fascinating historical information about toasters throughout the ages. Um, really, it does. And don’t forget to check out the Toasty Links page at the Toast Museum, for directions to locations like Toast Haiku:

Spirit channeling
Through my toasted breakfast treat
Elvis on my plate


As museums go, folks, this one gets the four slice award; it’s just wonderful.

For a superlative example of zen in action, we must visit the astounding Sand Museum, at http://www.yo.rim.or.jp/~smiwa/museum/e_museum.html. Built in Nima, Japan, this museum bills itself as the “symbol of singing sand in the world”. Sounding vaguely like a great premise for a Shirley Jackson story, here’s some Sand Museum info, lifted directly from the website:

"The meuseum consists of a claster of six glass pyramids. Inside this main pyramid stands the world's largest hourglass. One tonne of sand (whose millions of grains have been sorted to make sure each one is about 0.13 milimeters ) are flowing down from the upper bulb to the under bulb. The so-called "sand calender" are carefully turned over by a group of townspeople at twelve midnight on the last day of every year."

Our next stop, at http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/square/gf86, is the stimulating British Lawnmower Museum. (Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself.) Complete with photos of a dozen different models spanning a full century of lawncare innovation, this site is also home to “one of the first racing lawnmowers in the world. . . designed and built by the Curator, who was a lawnmower racing champion.” I feel duty-bound to mention here that the zany scientists in the Lawnmower Museum laboratories are working day and night to develop the fastest lawnmower in the world.

Our tour wouldn't be complete without a visit to the, um, curiously named Tom Tits Experiment, at http://www.tomtit.se/Menu2/Menu_uk.html. Founded in 1987, the Tom Tits Experiment is a permanent exhibition and learning center in Dodertalje, Sweden. The name Tom Tit hails from France and is more than one hundred years old. And get this: according to the webmaster, “The enigmatic figure of Tom Tit stands for science and amusment united.” My inner Beavis is having a field day.

The last stop on our lowbrow tour is the Lin Hsin Hsin Art Museum, by the rebel Singaporean artist of the same name. Her website, at http://www.lhham.com.sg, is an interesting juxtaposition of virtual and tangible art (some of it quite good), and poetry (most of it rather bad). My favorite stanza in Hsin Hsin’s Welcome Poem:

be sure to visit our toilet, learn about toilet culture
while you perform the calls of nature
even as you rush to flush, you can quietly trust
in paintings you nurture
in poems you mature

I suppose one must learn to appreciate inspiration in its many forms. If you are truly uninspired, skip everything and go directly to Hsin Hsin’s Toilet at this site, which you’ll find at http://www.lhham.com.sg/toilet.html.

There! We’re finished! No aching feet, no lost umbrellas, no Tour Bus Numb Butt Syndrome. See? Culture really can be painless.


Caroline Wright, of WRIGHT FOR YOU Word Services, is a freelance writer. A former resident of Hawaii, she now lives in rural South Carolina. Feel free to e-mail your comments to Caroline at cw@wrightforyou.com.