The First Real Museum of Philosophy Prepares to Launch: See the Museo della Filosofia in Milan

You've almost certainly been to more art museums than you can remember, and more than likely to a few museums of natural history, science, and technology as well. But think hard: have you ever set foot inside a museum of philosophy? Not just an exhibition dealing with philosophers or philosophical concepts, but a single institution dedicated wholly to putting the practice of philosophy itself on display. Your answer can approach a yes only if you spent time in Milan last November, and more specifically at the University of Milan, in whose halls the Museo della Filosofia set up shop and proved its surprisingly untested — and surprisingly successful — concept.

"What we had in mind was not an historically-minded museum collecting relics about the lives and works of important philosophers, but something more dynamic and interactive," writes University of Milan postdoctoral research fellow Anna Ichino at Daily Nous, "where philosophical problems and theories become intuitively accessible through a variety of games, activities, experiments, aesthetic experiences, and other such things."




In the first hall, "we used images like Mary Midgely’s ‘conceptual plumbing’ or Wittgenstein’s ‘fly bottle’ to convey the idea according to which philosophical problems are in important respects conceptual problems, which amount to analyzing concepts that we commonly use in unreflective ways."

In the second hall, visitors to the Museo della Filosofia "could literally play with paradoxes and thought experiments in order to appreciate their heuristic role in philosophical inquiry." The experiences available there ranged from using an oversized deck of cards to "solve" paradoxes, the perhaps inevitable demonstration of the well-known "trolley problem" using a model railroad set, and — most harrowing of all — the chance to "eat chocolates shaped as cat excrement" straight from the litter box. Then came the "School of Athens" game, "in which visitors had to decide whether to back Plato or Aristotle; then they could also take a souvenir picture portraying themselves in the shoes (and face!) of one or the other."

In the third, "programmatic" hall, the museum's organizers "presented the plan for what still needs to be done," a to-do list that includes finding a permanent home. Before it does so, you can have a look at the project's web site as well as its pages on Facebook and Instagram. At the top of the post appears a short video introducing the Museo della Filosofia which, like the rest of the materials, is for the moment in Italian only, but it nevertheless gets across even to non-Italian-speakers a certain idea of the experience a philosophical museum can deliver. Philosophical thinking, after all, occurs prior to language. Or maybe it's inextricably tied up with language; different philosophers have approached the problem differently. And when the Museo della Filosofia opens for good, you'll be able to visit and approach a few philosophical problems yourself. Read more about the museum at Daily Nous.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

 

14 Paris Museums Put 300,000 Works of Art Online: Download Classics by Monet, Cézanne & More

First trips to Paris all run the same risk: that of the museums consuming all of one's time in the city. What those new to Paris need is a museum-going strategy, not that one size will fit all. Tailoring such a strategy to one's own interests and pursuits requires a sense of each museum's collection, something difficult to attain remotely before Paris Musées opened up its online collections portal.

There, a counter tracks the number of artworks from the museums of Paris digitized and uploaded for all the world to see, which as of this writing comes in at 321,055. 150,222 images, notes a counter below, are in the public domain, and below that, another counter reveals that the archive now contains 621,075 pieces of digital media in total.

Among these, writes Hyperallergic's Valentina Di Liscia, "masterpieces by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, and Anthony van Dyck, among many other familiar and lesser-known names, can now be accessed and enjoyed digitally."




She highlights "Paul Cézanne’s enchanting 1899 portrait of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard," pictures taken by "Eugène Atget, the French photographer known for documenting and immortalizing old Paris," and Gustave Courbet’s Les demoiselles des bords de la Seine, which became "the subject of controversy at the Paris Salon of 1857 for what some deemed an indecorous and even sensual portrayal of working class women."

Paris Musées oversees the fourteen City of Paris Museums, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Petit Palais as well as the Maison de Balzac and Maison de Victor Hugo. That last now has a virtual exhibition up called "Light and Shade," which, through the illustrations of Hugo's literary works, reveals the "frenzy of images that adorned 19th century literature," from "the blossoming of the romantic vignette, to the flood of popular editions, and the swansong of those collectors’ editions celebrating the glories of the Third Republic." The "thematic discovering" section of Paris Musées portal also features sections on caricatures of Victor Hugo, on the 18th century, on portraits, and on Paris in the year 1900, when Art Nouveau made it "the capital of Europe."

"Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image," writes Di Liscia. Shown here are Claude Monet Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver, Célestin Nanteuil's La Cour des Miracles, Léon Bonnat's Portrait de M. Victor Hugo, Cézanne’s Rochers et branches à Bibémus, and a postcard for the Exposition universelle de Paris 1889. These images are released under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license, and "works still in copyright will be available as low definition files, so users can still get a feel for the museums’ collections online." Do bear in mind that Paris Musées does not have under its umbrella that most famous museum of all, the Louvre. If you're looking to get a feel for that world-renowned destination's formidable collection, you may just have to visit it — a cultural task that necessitates a battle plan of its own.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Names of 1.8 Million Emancipated Slaves Are Now Searchable in the World’s Largest Genealogical Database, Helping African Americans Find Lost Ancestors

The successes of the Freedman’s Bureau, initiated by Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and first administered under Oliver Howard’s War Department, are all the more remarkable considering the intense popular and political opposition to the agency. Under Lincoln’s successor, impeached Southern Democrat Andrew Johnson, the Bureau at times became a hostile entity to the very people it was meant to aid and protect—the formerly enslaved, especially, but also poor whites devastated by the war. After years of defunding, understaffing, and violent insurgency the Freedman’s Bureau was officially dissolved in 1872.

In those first few years after emancipation, however, the Bureau built several hospitals and over a thousand rural schools in the South, established the Historically Black College and University system, and “created millions of records,” notes the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), “that contain the names of hundreds of thousands of formerly enslaved individuals and Southern white refugees.” Those records have enabled historians to reconstruct the lives of people who might otherwise have disappeared from the record and helped genealogists trace family connections that might have been irrevocably broken.




As we noted back in 2015, those records have become part of a digitization project named for the Bureau and spearheaded by the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. “Using modern, digital and web-based technology and the power of [over 25,000!] volunteers,” says Hollis Gentry, a genealogical specialist at the NMAAHC, the Freedman’s Bureau Project “is unlocking information from a transformative era in the history of African American families and the American nation.”

That information is now available to the general public, “globally via the web” here, as of June 20th, 2016, allowing “all of us to enlarge our understanding of the past.” More specifically, the Freedman’s Bureau Project and FamilySearch allows African Americans to recover their family history in a database that now includes “the names of nearly 1.8 million men, women and children” recorded by Freedman’s Bureau workers and entered by Freedman’s Bureau Project volunteers 150 years later. This incredible database will give millions of people descended from both former slaves and white Civil War refugees the ability to find their ancestors.

There’s still more work to be done. In collaboration with the NMAAHC, the Smithsonian Transcription Center is currently relying on volunteers to transcribe all of the digital scans provided by FamilySearch. “When completed, the papers will be keyword searchable. This joint effort will help increase access to the Freedmen’s Bureau collection and help the public learn more about the United States in the Reconstruction Era,” a critical time in U.S. history that is woefully underrepresented or deliberately whitewashed in textbooks and curricula.

“The records left by the Freedmen's Bureau through its work between 1865 and 1872 constitute the richest and most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras,” writes the National Archives. Soon, all of those documents will be publicly available for everyone to read. For now, those with roots in the U.S. South can search the Freedman’s Bureau Project database to discover more about their family heritage and history.

And while the Smithsonian’s transcription project is underway, those who want to learn more can visit the Freedman’s Bureau Online, which has transcribed hundreds of documents, including labor records, narratives of “outrages committed on freedmen," and marriage registers.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

You Can Sleep in an Edward Hopper Painting at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: Is This the Next New Museum Trend?

Let's pretend our Fairy Art Mother is granting one wish—to spend the night inside the painting of your choice.

What painting will we each choose, and why?

Will you sleep out in the open, undisturbed by lions, a la Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy?

Or experience the voluptuous dreams of Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June?

Paul Gaugin’s portrait of his son, Clovis presents a tantalizing prospect for those of us who haven’t slept like a baby in decades…

The Nightmare by Herny Fuseli should chime with Gothic sensibilities…

And it’s a fairly safe bet that some of us will select Edward Hopper's Western Motel, at the top of this post, if only because we heard the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was accepting double occupancy bookings for an extremely faithful facsimile, as part of its Edward Hopper and the American Hotel exhibition.




Alas, if unsurprisingly, the Hopper Hotel Experience, with mini golf and a curated tour, sold out quickly, with prices ranging from $150 to $500 for an off-hours stay.

Ticket-holding visitors can still peer in at the room any time the exhibit is open to the public, but it’s after hours when the Instagramming kicks into high gear.

What guest could resist the temptation to strike a pose amid the vintage luggage and (bluetooth-enabled) wood paneled radio, filling in for the 1957 painting’s lone figure, an iconic Hopper woman in a burgundy dress?

The Art Institute of Chicago notes that she is singular among Hopper’s subjects, in that she appears to be gazing directly at the viewer.

But as per the Yale University Art Gallery, from which Western Motel is on loan:

The woman staring across the room does not seem to see us; the pensiveness of her stare and her tense posture accentuate the sense of some impending event. She appears to be waiting: the luggage is packed, the room is devoid of personal objects, the bed is made, and a car is parked outside the window.

Hopefully, those lucky enough to have secured a booking will have perfected the pose in the mirror at home prior to arrival. This “motel” is a bit of a stage set, in that guests must leave the painting to access the public bathroom that constitutes the facilities.

(No word on whether the theme extends to a paper “sanitized for your protection” band across the toilet, but there’s no shower and a security officer is stationed outside the room for the duration of each stay.)

The popularity of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit tie-in may spark other museums to follow suit.

The Art Institute of Chicago started the trend in 2016 with a painstaking recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s room at Arles, which it listed on Air BnB for $10/night.

Think of all the fun we could have if the bedrooms of art history opened to us...

Dog lovers could get cozy in Andrew Wyeth’s Master Bedroom.

Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) would require something more than double occupancy for proper Instagramming.

Piero della Francesca’s The Dream of Constantine might elicit impressive messages from the sub-conscience...

Tuberculosis nothwithstanding, Aubrey Beardsley’s Self Portrait in Bed is rife with possibilities.

Or skip the cultural foreplay and head straight for the NSFW pleasures of The French Bed, a la Rembrandt’s etching.

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel will be traveling to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in June 2020.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Stunning 3D Scans of the Bust of Nefertiti, Now Released by Berlin’s Neues Museum

Two years ago, a scandalous “art heist” at the Neues Museum in Berlin—involving illegally made 3D scans of the bust of Nefertiti—turned out to be a different kind of crime. The two Egyptian artists who released the scans claimed they had made the images with a hidden “hacked Kinect Sensor,” reports Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. But digital artist and designer Cosmo Wenman discovered these were scans made by the Neues Museum itself, which had been stolen by the artists or perhaps a museum employee.

The initial controversy stemmed from the fact that the museum strictly controls images of the artwork, and had refused to release any of their Nefertiti scans to the public. The practice, Wenman pointed out, is consistent across dozens of institutions around the world. “There are many influential museums, universities, and private collections that have extremely high-quality 3D data of important works, but they are not sharing that data with the public.” He lists many prominent examples in a recent Reason article; the long list includes the Venus de Milo, Rodin’s Thinker, and works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.




Whatever their reasons, the aggressively proprietary attitude adopted by the Neues seems strange considering the controversial provenance of the Nefertiti bust. Germany has long claimed that it acquired the bust legally in 1912. But at the time, the British controlled Egypt, and Egyptians themselves had little say over the fate of their national treasures. Furthermore, the chain of custody seems to include at least a few documented instances of fraud. Egypt has been demanding that the artifact be repatriated “ever since it first went on display.”

This critical historical context notwithstanding, the bust is already "one of the most copied works of ancient Egyptian art," and one of the most famous. “Museums should not be repositories of secret knowledge,” Wenman argued in his blog post. Prestigious cultural institutions “are in the best position to produce and publish 3D data of their works and provide authoritative context and commentary.”

Wenman waged a “3-year-long freedom of information effort” to liberate the scans. His request was initially met with “the gift shop defense”—the museum claimed releasing the images would threaten sales of Nefertiti merchandise. When the appeal to commerce failed to dissuade Wenman, the museum let him examine the scans "in a controlled setting"; they were essentially treating the images, he writes, "like a state secret." Finally, they relented, allowing Wenman to publish the scans, without any institutional support.

He has done so, and urged others to share his Reason article on social media to get word out about the files, now available to download and use under a CC BY-NC-SA license. He has also taken his own liberties with the scans, colorizing and adding the blue 3D mapping lines himself to the image at the top, for example, drawn from his own interactive 3D model, which you can view and download here. These are examples of his vision for high-quality 3D scans of artworks, which can and should "be adapted, multiplied, and remixed."

"The best place to celebrate great art," says Wenman, "is in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture. The world's back catalog of art should be set free to run wild in our visual and tactile landscape." Organizations like Scan the World have been releasing unofficial 3D scans to the public for the past couple years, but these cannot guarantee the accuracy of models rendered by the institutions themselves.

Whether the actual bust of Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt is a somewhat more complicated question, since the 3,000-year old artifact may be too fragile to move and too culturally important to risk damaging in transit. But whether or not its virtual representations should be given to everyone who wants them seems more straightforward.

The images already belong to the public, in a sense, Wenman suggests. Withholding them for the sake of protecting sales seems like a violation of the spirit in which most cultural institutions were founded. Download the Nefertiti scans at Thingiverse, see Wenman's own 3D models at Sketchfab, and read all of his correspondence with the museum throughout the freedom of information process here. Next, he writes, he's lobbying for the release of official 3D Rodin scans. Watch this space. 

via Reason

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Art Class Instead Of Jail: New Program Lets Young Offenders Take Free Art Classes Rather Than Spend Time in the Criminal System

Art saves lives, and art can also save an individual from the stigma of an arrest record, provided that the arrest is for one of 15 non-violent misdemeanors.

Project Reset, a museum-based early diversion program in three of New York City’s five boroughs, aims to reframe the way youthful (and not so youthful) offenders see themselves, by considering an artwork via a collective interpretive process, before using it as the inspiration for a collage or oil pastel-based project of their own.




The stakes are higher and far more personal than they are on the average public school field trip. Upon completion of a class ranging from 2.5 to 4 hours, the participant’s record is wiped clean and their assigned court date is rendered moot.

Rather than being herded through a number of galleries, participants zero in on a single work.

At the Brooklyn Museum, participants in the under-25 age range get a crash course in Shifting the GazeTitus Kaphar’s intentional palimpsest, in which all the figures in a replica of Frans Hals’ Family Group in a Landscape are whited out so viewers may focus in on the only character of color, a young boy who appears to be a family servant.

Older participants undertake a similarly deep dive on The Judgement by Bob Thompson, an African American artist who was inspired by the constant interplay between good and evil.

While this may strike some as a cushy punishment, it’s a legitimate attempt to acquaint participants with the very real impact their actions could have on future plans—including college admissions and job applications.

Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., one of Project Reset’s architects, shared a non-partisan fiscal take with City Lab’s Rebecca Bellan that may persuade naysayers who feel the program rewards budding criminals by giving them an easy out:

If you jump subway turnstiles in Manhattan, you never go to jail. You can do it 100 times and no court is ever going to send you to jail. So we spend about $2,200 to process a theft of services arrest for a $2.75 fare. Our justice system falls most heavily on communities of color, and we really need to rethink how we approach these cases, both to get better outcomes, but also to reduce the impact which is very often viewed as targeted and unfair on particular communities.

Above is a list of the non-violent misdemeanors that can channel first timers toward the aptly named Project Reset.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC for her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Explore 1400 Paintings & Drawings by Vincent van Gogh–and Much More–at the Van Gogh Museum’s Online Collection

Readers will receive no prizes for guessing what they'll find, broadly speaking, at the Van Gogh Museum. But they may well be surprised by the full scope of the Van Gogh and Van Gogh-related work and information on offer for their free perusal at the Van Gogh Museum's online collection. Naturally, you can view and learn about all of the paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh in the collection, including some of his best-known pieces like The Potato Eaters, a scene of "the harsh reality of country life" the artist deliberately chose for its difficulty; The Bedroom (or Bedroom in Arles), with its bright colors "meant to express absolute ‘repose’ or ‘sleep’"; and, painted between 1886 and 1889, no fewer than 21 self-portraits, including Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, the face we think of when we think of van Gogh himself.

For van Gogh's most famous series of floral still-life paintings the Van Gogh Museum's online collection goes much deeper, offering an entire section of its site dedicated to "everything about Sunflowers."




Among its subsections you'll find the story of how van Gogh "painted sunflowers as no one before him had ever done," a look into the conservation of one of the most fragile of the artist's masterpieces, and even a for-the-young-and-young-at-heart Sunflowers coloring-book page. If you get through all that and still feel your appetite for post-impressionist renderings of Helianthus not fully satiated, the collection's curators also offer a link to van Gogh's other depictions of sunflowers, from Shed with Sunflowers to Sunflowers Gone to Seed.

Online or off, collections dedicated to the work of a single artist sometimes suffer tunnel vision, providing a wealth of detail about the life and the masterpieces, but little in the way of context. The Van Gogh Museum doesn't, having put on view not just van Gogh's work, but also that of the Japanese woodblock makers from whom he drew inspiration (previously featured here on Open Culture) as well as that of more recent artists who have drawn their own inspiration from van Gogh: Britain's Jason Brooks, China's Zeng Fanzhi, and the Netherlands' own Pieter Laurens Mol, to say nothing of the likes of Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon. Elsewhere you can even explore "the Parisian print world of the 19th century," a "period of artistic innovation and decadence" that did more than its part to shape van Gogh's sensibility. As the Van Gogh Museum clearly understands, to know an artist requires immersing yourself not just in their work, but in their world as well. Enter the van Gogh online collection here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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