After my fab visit to the NMAI, my cohort (hi Kevin Coffee!) and I split and I set off on foot to Foggy Bottom to meet some of my crew from my Rome years. But on my way, it popped into my head that in Julie & Julia they visit Julia's kitchen at the National Museum of American History. So I thought I'd poke in and have a look.
There's just one thing I want to point out about this exhibit, which was such a pleasure overall. When we get into structuralist analysis, we sometimes describe artworks (literature, visual arts, music, architecture) in terms of a conversation between the artist and viewer. Relatedly, I've often said that while I love visiting museums, I also can't not go anymore without really analyzing what's going on -- I read an exhibit the way I'd read a single painting or a text. Most of the time, that makes for a rather serious intellectual exercise -- and something that makes my brain itch, not smile.
But I exclaim what fun! about this Julia Child exhibit, because in this case, it did make me smile and make me think that the curators and exhibit designers were having a good time while they were doing their job:
Julia Child is often credited as being a major influence on the development of Americans as wine connoisseurs. On her ground-breaking TV show, she dug deeper by enjoying a glass of wine at the end. But on television, it wasn't some Mouton Rothschild from the Child wine cellar -- it was a mixture of Gravy Master and water! Now we have even more reason to love Julia, because she was capable of ingesting not only divine bœuf bourguignon but also this crazy spotiote of Gravy Master and water.
And so what made me smile about the exhibit design? First, the 'setting apart' of this most banal, humble, and pop-culture-50s-housewife of "flavor enhancers" in an obviously custom acrylic case. So we're having fun playing with high/low culture here when Gravy Master gets similar display treatment as the Venus of Willendorf. And that's further ratcheted up a notch when behind the Gravy Master is a facsimile of the Child wine cellar inventory.
Good to see that Museum People don't always take ourselves too seriously!