Tag Archives: museum

Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning

This weekend, I went to the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh. Among other things, this gothic skyscraper contains 29 nationality rooms–each of these rooms is decorated intricately in the design of a nation. The first 19 were built between 1938 and 1957, with ten built since 1987. The Turkish and the Swiss classrooms were dedicated in 2012, and several more are planned. If you are in Pittsburgh and have any interest in craft or design, I can’t recommend visiting enough.

To visit the classrooms, you can check out a key at the desk, or take a tour with a guide. We rented a key. Visiting each room felt like a treasure hunt; each room was so different, and full of intense detail. Each room had special walls, windows, ceilings, chairs, lecterns, and chalkboards. Even the light switches and doors were in style. Many contain intricate wood or stone carvings, or genuine artifacts. Most were designed by architects of the country.

You can learn more on the University of Pittsburgh website about the nationality rooms. This page allows you to virtually tour each room.

The Chinese nationality room.

The Chinese nationality room, dedicated in 1939.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939, 8 days before the Germans invaded in World War 2. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh. His son, Jan, spoke at the dedication of the room, foreseeing trouble in the future. Page 4 of this document details the interesting connection between Czechoslovakia and Pittsburgh.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the "The Path of the Birds" design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the “The Path of the Birds” design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called "notch carving" was simply amazing.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called “notch carving”, was simply amazing.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

Udvar-Házy Air & Space Museum

Did you know there are actually two Smithsonian Air and Space museum locations? There is one on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and a second in Virginia near Dulles Airport, called the Udvar-Házy Center. The Udvar-Házy location is an enormous hangar filled with historically significant aircrafts, aircraft parts, and spaceflight artifacts, including such highlights as the Enola Gay, an SR-71 Blackbird, and a space shuttle. If you are ever stuck at Dulles Airport and have some time to kill, there is a very cheap ($0.50 each way per person) shuttle between the airport and the museum.

For those unfamiliar with American aircrafts (as I mostly am), the Enola Gay is the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The SR-71 blackbird is the fastest plane ever built, even though it was built in the 70s. It flies so fast that at rest, its joints aren’t perfectly sealed, and it can leak fuel. This is because the metal expands significantly due to heat at high speeds. The museum also hold various antique aircrafts, aircraft oddities, engines and engine cross sections. Another area holds retired military planes, and a third area holds NASA artifacts. I went there a couple of years ago. My creative commons folder of images is here, and I include a few pictures below.

The SR-71 blackbird:

The Enola Gay:

 

 

Great kids books, great sources of inspiration

Whenever I go to a museum, I like to look at the kids book section. Often times, there are several really engaging and pretty books relevant to the museum’s collection. They’re often more fun and compact than the books in the adults section. I don’t need a coffee table book for every artist I like. I like to have little pieces of inspiration about my office, though. With my interest in writing children’s books, it’s even better.

The Smithsonian museums in DC have nice gift shops too. Many of the books are award-winning, and seeing them in person makes it easier to judge the book. Plus I don’t mind paying money to the Smithsonian. Below are a few of my finds:

  • Snowflake Bentley— A kid’s book biography of the guy who first photographed snowflakes (he has his own museum even). Beautifully illustrated, with a tone that appreciates science. If you like this book, there are also books of photos of snowflakes; those are great fun too. Below is one of the illustrations from the story (from childrensbookalmanac.com).

  • Oceanology— this one was in the Natural History Smithsonian. It’s a very interactive book written from the perspective of a teenager on “20,000 leagues under the sea”‘s the Nautilus. It’s written to resemble a logbook something like Darwin’s logbook from his journeys.
  • The Legend of the Lady Slipper–I found this one at the American Indian Museum (which, if you are ever in DC, has a great cafeteria). Like the cover, the illustrations have a lovely sense of movement, and nice colors. One of the artists is known for painting people dancing; this comes across in the people of the story, who are always in subtle motion.