Saturday, April 16, 2011

The U.S.S. Enterprise is coming to New York!

Well not quite, it was announced earlier this week that the OV-101 Enterprise is going to be landing at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. This is a fascinating story which signifies the end of the Space Shuttle era. This is a mix of both science and history which I love to see together. Plus, this is a story which began and ended for me to witness and experience in my lifetime and I find that it is a part my personal history in a way. I have always loved the shuttles and I am sorry to see them retired. The Enterprise was the prototype to the Space Shuttles which performed the very first atmospheric and landing tests of the design. It was never designed for actual space travel but paved the way for the Columbia and her sister space vessels.

All of the surviving decommissioned Space Shuttles were designated to their new post NASA homes. The Atlantis will remain in Florida. The Endeavor is going to California. The Discovery is going to the Smithsonian in Virginia and the Enterprise which was at the Smithsonian is going to New York. This disperses the shuttles across the country.

However, like all political decisions, NASA despite its scientific veneer is still a political entity, this decision does not come without controversy. The Space Center Houston adjacent to the omnipresent Mission Control in Houston feels left out of the mix. More on this story here.

I can't say for certain that the 2012 elections have anything to do with this. I don't think that anyone visiting the Smithsonian in Virginia is going to vote for Obama in the next election because the shuttle is there. However, a snub of Texas is not beyond them. So the usual Congressional investigation is promised as a result of this decision.

I personally think that this limited division of shuttles was not going to make everyone happy. There were 21 institutions in the mix wanting a shuttle. Personally, I think that the only fair way to do this is to make the shuttles traveling exhibits, but move them every five years or so to prevent too frequent a move. We wouldn't want to damage them in transit.

The good news in all this though is the fact that we have moved on. Yes, the shuttle age is over. I remember watching the very first shuttle launches on TV back in the late 70's and early 80's. I was transfixed by their sheer awesomeness. I was watching actual 'science fiction'. The Space Shuttle era is over now, but that is only to make way for the next generation of space flight technology. Despite our current economic troubles we will not be grounded forever. The Space Program has been one of the best government expenditures of money boosting both science and the human spirit. I look forward to watching what the next generation of space travel will bring us. 

The very first Space Shuttle launch. April 12, 1981.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Library Week

Hey! Guess What!

Its National Library Week! I'm sorry to say that I was reminded of this when I was watching Craig Ferguson last night. I knew it was coming up, but I forgot. However, the fact that the event has garnered some national attention is a good thing. The event started on Monday and will run through this week.

To get a little social networking buzz for the week the ALA is encouraging supporters to offer up twaikus based on your love of libraries to the plugged in masses. This is the first that I have heard of a twaiku. I must say that I approve of the twaiku. (A twaiku is simply a haiku submitted to Twitter.) They're offering prizes! Not bad for trying to come with something deep and philosophical and having come out like something babbled out while totally inebriated.

For more info...

ALA Homepage

And in Springfield...

Springfield Mason Square Library slated to reopen Wednesday with three-day celebration

Click here for the Masslive article on the opening.

I have one more branch to visit!

Citizens celebrate!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Joseph Allen Skinner

Late last month I had the opportunity to visit the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke to listen to a speaker. It had been awhile since I had the time to take in an event like that so I jumped at the chance. I was glad that I did. It is nice to do something educational while supporting the arts. The proceeds from the event went to support the museum so I was happy to pay the small fee that they were requesting.

The event was small, but the people that showed up to listen to the speaker were courteous and in good spirits. The location was the renovated Carriage House located on the Wistariahurst campus. The topic of discussion was the collection of Joseph Allen Skinner. The speaker was Cheryl Harden, Assistant Curator of the Skinner Museum located at Mount Holyoke College. For those of you unfamiliar with the Skinner family they were a turn of the century family who were very successful in the silk industry. They had many philanthropic endeavors and were successful industrialists of the day.

Joseph Skinner was the second son of the family. He was born to wealth and over his years amassed quite the collection. The topic of discussion was his diverse collection of everything. This is not just his 'stuff', but his self-described collection of items. Starting from a scientific curiosity of rocks and shells as a child. Then branching out into art and various properties. His many travels added cultural objects from around the world which was added to his amassed textile-era Americana.

The discussion delved into his history and how he became a 'collector'. This was a subject which I was able to relate to quite easily being a collector myself. It truly is a mindset that one has lurking in the psyche. There is a desire to preserve history through objects, particularly ones own history. A collection has just the same importance as a journal might have to another. It is an activity were one can look back feel a connection to the past.

The particular pivot point in history for Joseph Skinner which pushed him into that fold was destruction of his father's mill and property during a flood. It was at that point where the young Skinner, in Ms. Harden's theory, attempted to hold onto and reconstruct what was lost. That initial need to reconstruct which started with collecting little bits of what was lost in that flood and news about it snowballed over the years. It certainly is a plausible theory.

I would like to emphasize that the collection is quite diverse and is large enough to give birth to a museum.

If you would like to see a representation of his collection you can follow this link.

The Skinner Museum