Fourteen experiences I loved

In 2017 I did a post on experiences I loved, as sort of a Valentine's Day post. Some of them were from the blog, and the others were similar topics to the blog. I could have sworn that was only a year ago, but here we are. I've decided to make it a tradition.

Blog experiences I've loved (in no particular order)

1. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is a seriously good book. I'm certainly not alone in loving it, but you can read my blog post about it here.

2. After visiting Boston Light, I worried I might be spoiled for other lighthouses.

3. The period of time I spent digging into decorative orbs, after I bought one at my favorite antique market.

4. The book "Tendríamos asistencia perfecta/Attendance Would Be 100%: Student Proposals for High School Redesign Boston" was really thought-provoking, and helped me understand a lot more about what high school is like for kids from low-income and immigrant families, although I'm sure there's still a lot I don't understand.

5. The African Burial Ground National Monument Visitor Center in New York was a really thought-provoking experience. I wrote about the museum itself, as well as about catching myself mentally distancing myself from the difficult, emotional content.

6. I really enjoyed the Public Health Museum in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, and I wish more people knew about it!

7. I found looking for graves for the website Find-a-Grave to be a meaningful experience, if not exactly one I loved. I haven't returned to it after that first month, as it's just slightly lower priority to me than my other, more established hobbies and I haven't made the time, but it's worth reflecting on.

8. My blog post in response to my visit to the Mütter Museum was highly critical of some of the display choices they have made, or not made, and some of the areas they haven't updated, but that doesn't mean I didn't love my visit. Part of me wanted to turn off professional-brain and just revel in how interesting, weird, and cool their collection is. At the same time, I find delving into questions around the politics and ethics of display to be enjoyable in a not-fun-but-satisfying sort of way. The questions that are thrown into high relief when you visit a place like the Mütter, about how museums can confront the problems we've inherited rather than perpetuating them, are some of the most important questions in our field today.

Experiences not in my "catalog of curiosity"
9. This one's a bit of a cop-out, but I'm okay with that. I'm having trouble thinking of great experiences I've had relating to history, museums, or writing that I haven't already recommended, because I've been writing about them in my monthly newsletter -- but it's fair to say that I love the experience of doing the newsletter!

10. Also in the self-promotional vein, in late 2017 and early 2018, I wrote a book chapter that is, to date, the published piece of mine I am most proud of. It appeared this past fall in the book State of Museums: Voices from the Field, which is a collection by mostly New England authors, published by MuseumsEtc. You can read an excerpt from my chapter, about how museums can be forums for ideas in a world that includes hate, on the publisher's blog. I loved the experience of reading the other chapters, and seeing the ideas we converged on, and which ideas were quite different.

11. This is an experience I can't directly recommend to most of my readers because you're largely in the U.S. and for accessibility reasons but on my honeymoon last spring, my spouse and I visited a couple of small, weird museums that I wouldn't characterize as having a lot of professionalism, but were delightful anyway. The Isles of Scilly Museum, on St. Mary's Island off the southwestern coast of England, includes the history of local people and industry, and the loot from hundreds of years of shipwrecks. The Old Operating Theater and Herb Garrett in London has artifacts and replicas illustrating the state of medicine in the early modern period and into the 19th century. Both museums are a mess in some important respects; the labels are impossible for people with low vision to read, the aisles are impassible for a wheelchair or walker, and the interpretation was... disorienting. It took work to piece together how the artifacts were related and where they were situated in time. On the other hand, both museums were really enjoyable, because they felt like a treasure hunt, or like exploring a magical, off-the-beaten path antique shop. The experience was a bit similar to my visit to the Boston Fire Museum. To an extent, you can't get the special something these museums have in a setting with more polish. Since then, I've been trying to find ways to replicate at least some of the sense of discovery that was big part of the visitor experience there, and apply it in a well-lit, less dusty museum.

A rotted-out piece of a ship's rudder in the Scilly museum, abutting the side of an exhibit case and some other artifacts.

12. On a less "analyzing my fun" note, I attended a "Christmas ghost stories" party in December -- reading ghost stories at Christmas was a Victorian tradition, one I fully support reviving.

13. This year I've joined two online writing groups. Both are focused more on process, making time in our lives, and accountability than on critique or working on structure and craft. It has taken some time for me to get into the swing of internet-based friendship and community, but it has proven really valuable. As compared with finding in-person writing groups (I also belong to one of those) it's easier to make time to participate, and easier to find groups of people with similar interests and needs.

14. From the department of "why hadn't I been there sooner?" I visited the small but worthwhile National Center of Afro-American Artists in Jamaica Plain. I wrote about it briefly