Thursday, May 27, 2021

Museum of the Earth


There are many reasons to visit Ithaca NY. The Finger Lakes are beautiful. There are many great hiking opportunities a short drive away. There are wonderful wineries. But one thing often overlooked is a great natural history museum - The Museum of the Earth.

The Museum of the Earth is run by the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), in affiliation with Cornell University.The museum opened in 2003 with a focus on earth science and the history of life on our planet. PRI has one of the largest collection of fossils in the United States, and they are shown to great effect in the museum.


When you get to the museum you enter into a small hall. On your left is the skeleton of an Atlantic Right Whale.This is not a fossil, but is the remains of whale that died in 1999, when it became caught in fishing gear. 

When you leave the lobby, you will walk down a long ramp to the main floor of the museum. Along the center of the ramp is a beautiful artwork titled “Rock of Ages, Sands of Time” by Barbara Page. This work is comprised of 544 hand-painted ceramic tiles. Each features a representation of a fossil. As you proceed down the ramp, you follow the fossils back in time, to the Cambrian Explosion.

As you walk through the museum, you take a chronological walk through the history of our planet. The floor is divided in to section, each representing an important era, with an explanatory video and room full of fossils of life typical to that period of history.


3 foot long Sea Scorpion

A look at how our interpretation of the appearance of a dinosaur has changed

One of the most popular exhibits is the Hyde Park Mastodon. It was discovered in 1999 in Hyde park NY, and contains 95% of the bones of the animal, making it one of the most complete finds in history.

My favorite exhibit was “Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology”. This exhibit explored the role of women in the development of the the study of the history of life on earth. It gave a great deal of weight to the obstacles that women in science have had to overcome to enter and be taken seriously, in science. It also discusses the issues of discrimination and bias that exist in science today.

Esther Applin's Office and tools

The Museum of the Earth is a wonderful exploration into many aspects of Earth Science. While it is aimed at children, it is great for kids of all ages.

Nuts and Bolts:
The Museum of the Earth is located at 1259 Trumansburg Road (NY-96), on a hill overlooking the western side of Lake Cayuga.
It is open Friday-Monday, 10:00 AM - 12 Noon and 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM.
Admission: Adults $9/ Seniors and Students $7/ Youth $6

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Block Island


Visiting a seasonal resort community out of season can be kind of a crap-shoot. The crowds are absent, but so are most of the things that you might expect to enjoy. So, when I visited Block Island in mid-April, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Block Island is ten square miles of beautiful land and views, sitting nine miles south of Rhode Island. It was formed by the same glacial movements that created Long Island. Before Europeans arrived, it was a summer settlement for local Indian peoples who grew corn, beans and squash, while hunting deer and catching fish. In 1624, Dutch explorer Adriaen Block named the island for himself, and so it has been for five hundred years.

Block Island has been continuously inhabited by European descendants since the 17th century, but it wasn’t until permanent harbors were built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that it became a summer destination. Today there are about one thousand permanent residents, and about an additional two thousand during the summer season.

One reason to visit are the many beautiful vistas. On of my favorites is the walk to the North Lighthouse. Drive up to the northern tip of Block Island, and there is a parking lot at Grove Point. From there you can walk along the beach at Cow Cove. It is a very rocky beach, and not really one for swimming, but it looks out towards Rhode Island, and rocks and seaweed provide a lot to look at. At the far end of the beach is stone building of the North Lighthouse. Built in 1867, this structure was created to replace the original one that was destroyed during a storm. As you approach, the light sits behind some dunes, and looks amazing.

 For some great views, take Spring Street south from the town of New Shoreham. The road twists and turns as it climbs to the top of the Mohegan Bluffs. You will find one of the most uniques lighthouses I have ever seen. Block Island’s Southeast Lighthouse is a brick building that was built in 1875. Taking advantage of being at the top of the cliffs, the light tower is only around fifty feet tall. The design of the building is unlike any I have ever seen. It is squat and strong, and has wonderful architectural features.

Both lights have been deactivated, but they have been preserved by and now house museums and offer tours during the summer season. Which brings me to the downside of visiting off season. Most of the island attractions were closed, and weather prevented total enjoyment of what was there. In mid-April it was really too cold and windy to spend a lot of time on the beaches. Almost all of the stores were closed, and there were only 4 restaurants open for lunch and only two for dinner, and they were really bars, with limited menus.

One of the few hotels that is open all year is the 1661 Inn. It is located just south of New Shoreham, along Spring Street, as It makes its climb up the Bluffs. The rooms are spare, but they all offer beautiful views of the marshes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Coming to a resort off season can offer al of advantages. Prices are lower, and crowds are sparse. But be prepared for the fact the not all of the amenities will be available, and you will have to adjust your expectations.

Getting There:
Off season, the only ferry runs between Port Judith, Rhode Island and New Shoreham. There are two or three ferry’s each day. There fee is $21 per person round trip and an additional $77 for a car. During the season several other ferries are in operation.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Morgan Library and Museum


John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was one of the biggest financiers and bankers of the “gilded age”. He was a driving force in the creation of many of the largest companies on the United States. In the process he accumulated a fortune that would be the equivalent of $1.2billion on today’s dollars. Near the end of his life he used much of his fortune to amass a collection of books and artworks.

JohnPierpontMorgan.jpgderivative work: Beao, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1902, he decided to build a library to hold his collection. He built an Italian style building based on villas from the 16th century. He built the library amid a block of land on which he had built homes for children.

In 1924, J.P. Morgan Jr. turned his father’s collection and the library itself into a public institution. The Morgan Library and Museum continued to expand it collection and its space. Over the decades, it bought the surrounding land and built annexes and offices. The buildings underwent a major renovation from 2003-2006, creating a new entrance and an enclosed courtyard, along with gallery space. Today, its mission is to “preserve, build, study, present, and interpret a collection of extraordinary quality.” The museum also creates and displays exhibits of art and related materials.

The original library holds Morgan’s collection of classic Italian art and old books from around the world. On one side of the original building is Morgan’s study, complete with a pro train of the man, along with renaissance paintings and sculptures.

J.P. Morgan by Frank Owen Salisbury

The opposite wing is Morgan’s library. Here there are thousands of books, on three levels. The books are from all over the world, and from Amy centuries. There is also beautiful artwork in the library.

In between the two wings is the rotunda. This was the original entrance to the building. The dome is decorated with paintings inspired by Raphael’s works in the Vatican.

The museum has created several galleries for exhibitions. The lower level galleries were hosting two small exhibits drawings. On one wall was “Sublime on the Small Scale,” a collection of small drawings

Ischia and the Bay of Naples by Moonlight by circle of Pierre Henri de Valenciennes

Jungfrau, Münch and Eiger by Carl Morgenstern

On the other was a set of drawings by Édouard Vuillard (through May 30, 2021).

The Theater Box

Young Woman Seated on Sofa

In the 2nd floor gallery was “Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection” (through June 6, 2021). This exhibit shows a wide range of drawings spanning from several centuries.

Study of a Draped Woman by François Boucher

Reclining Nude by Pablo Picasso

Study of a Seated Youth by Giovani Battista Naldini

Apollo Driving the Chariot of the Sun by Lelio Orsi

Untitled by Joan Miró

In the main gallery, on the first floor was “David Hockney: Drawing from Life.”(through May 30) This exhibit included dozens of portrait drawings done over the entirety of Hockney’s career. The exhibit presents multiple portraits of a few people done over many years. It presents a wonderful look at the different styles Hockney employed over his life.

Self Portrait 1954

Mother, Bradford, May 19, 1979

Artist and Model, 1973-74

An image of Gregory, 1984

Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003

The Morgan Library is another one of the often over-looked, smaller museums that makes New York a fantastic place to find culture without having to visit the larger institutions, and without having to fight large crowds.

Nuts and Bolts
The Morgan Library is located at 225 Madison Ave, at 36th Street. It is a short walk from all of the subways that stop at Grand Central Terminal.
Entrance fees: Adults $22/ Seniors $14/ Students $13