Growing up in the New York City suburbs meant many class trips to the American Museum of Natural History. Starting in second grade, we would pile into the bus and spend a full day at the museum — a gaggle of 7-year-olds let loose around priceless artifacts.
I think I’ve visited the museum more than 20 times and every time I look forward to losing myself in the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals. When I read that the hall was being closed for renovations, my heart sank. What was going to happen to my all-time favorite place to go in New York City? Where would I get my 70s nostalgia fix? And, perhaps most importantly, where would I escape to and wait for my friends as they took forever to walk through the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins? (I really like to just get right to the Hall of Gems and Minerals.)
As a young girl, the space felt safe and personal — somewhere for me to be anonymous and explore new things. The series of dark-carpeted rooms were an unexpected treat after walking the large halls with marble floors and floor-to-ceiling glass displays. I especially admired the way the gems were displayed in a geometric burst of size and color as well as the seemingly random slabs of nephrite jade. And who doesn’t love a giant amethyst geode?
While I understand that cultural institutions need to keep up with current trends to attract new visitors, the renderings of the new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals seem to have left the personality of the Guggenheim Hall behind. The cave-like hall lent itself to the subject matter and added to the experience. It was about more than just gems and minerals, it was about discovery.
But nostalgia is a funny thing. I’m sure that first 7-year-old to walk into the new Hall of Gems and Minerals will be in awe — marveling at the size of some of the specimens, the sparkle, the vastness of the collection. I bet I’ll grow to love the new hall, too, seeing my old favorites in their new home and discovering new, breathtaking acquisitions.
Until then, I am glad I could stroll through the hall and soak it all in one last time.
See you in 2019, giant amethyst geode.
This fall at ThoughtMatter, we’re ending every week with a “Get Out Fridays” discussion. During each session, a different studio member will tell us about a recent event they went to that has inspired them, and can in turn inspire each of us here at ThoughtMatter. It can be any event—as long as it involves getting out of the office and thinking in a different space.