2012’s best museum exhibits

Five memorable 2012 museum exhibits

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  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute

    Definitely one of the weirder exhibits this year, the Oriental Institute’s “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds of Ancient Egypt” featured 40 artifacts related to the ancient migratory birds that stopped along the Nile River. There’s a centerpiece coffin (also called an egg) decorated with gold, silver and rock crystal, a telltale indication of the ancient Egyptians’ odd reverence for the birds, which they mummified at death.

     

  • Pulling off the nifty trick of appealing both to kids and adults, “Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit” at the Museum of Science and Industry was a wonderful paean to Charles Schulz, complete with a replica of his California office, as well as a thorough collection and examination of his beloved Peanuts strip characters. An inside look at the much-described but never illustrated interior of Snoopy’s doghouse, a life-sized Schroeder piano and a scientific explanation of animation provided the special touches of one of the MSI’s sweetest exhibits.

  • Photograph: Svenskt Tenn

    Was Josef Frank single-handedly responsible for the rise of IKEA? Probably not, but “The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank” at the Swedish American Museum certainly suggests the Austrian-born architect had a penchant for brightly colored, borderline kitsch furniture.

  • Courtesy of the Field Museum

    Mummies are usually the bread and butter of the Field Museum, and this year was no different with “Opening the Vaults: Mummies.” After running CT scans on ancient Egyptian and Incan mummies, the museum decided that these rare and fragile artifacts were worth displaying to the public. The results were predictably awesome: Former Around Town editor Madeline Nusser wrote, “Some of the 20-plus very fragile mummies and mummy-like bundles weren’t even removed from their storage crates. As a result, it feels as if you’re walking through an earlier time when ancient Egypt held an air of mystery, and learning about it promised to reveal insights about the history of humankind.”

  • Photograph: Courtesy Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

    On loan from the Smithsonian at the DuSable Museum of African American History, “Word, Shout, Song,” highlights the West African origins of many English words now firmly in the American canon like voodoo and tote. The looped video display showing the Yoruba and Gullah origins of some of these words is a nice, interactive touch. You leave wondering if Jay-Z would still use Jigga as one of his many pseudonyms if he knew it originally meant insect in Yoruba.

Photograph: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute

Definitely one of the weirder exhibits this year, the Oriental Institute’s “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds of Ancient Egypt” featured 40 artifacts related to the ancient migratory birds that stopped along the Nile River. There’s a centerpiece coffin (also called an egg) decorated with gold, silver and rock crystal, a telltale indication of the ancient Egyptians’ odd reverence for the birds, which they mummified at death.

 

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