Sunday Goin’ to Church At Vienna Museums

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I spent a Sunday rushing through some of the museums in Vienna.  I say rushing because that is truly what it felt like.  Not being able to spend as much time with the exhibits as I wanted to.  It’s like you could spend a month in Vienna just going to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, the mumok, and the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum.  But is was a Sunday experience, complete with cathedral like views.  Perhaps one of these days, in my old age, I’ll rent an apartment in capital cities of the world for a month at a time, and spend my days traipsing through museums.  But for now, I had 24hrs to pack as much in as possible before rushing off to catch a train for a meeting.  I’ll have to return to Vienna as there are so many more museums like Mozart’s apartment and other locations that I’ll have to see.

In all the rush through the museums however, there are still moments that stop you in mid stride.  The image of Tower of Babel by Bruegel the Elder is one such example, that after having seen and admired it in history books for years, to finally see *the* painting is always a thrill.  That thrill for van Gogh’s works, and da Vinci is always there for me, as how history reaches forward and touches you, teaching you about time and place.

 

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Seeing a self portrait of Rembrandt was a similar experience for me as the Bruegel above… Rembrandt’s use of light was uncanny, as if he inherently understood ray tracing and the mathematics of optics.

 

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The Vienna Museum of Natural History was absolutely a church on Sunday experience for me.  Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful and unique with a curation of natural history artifacts that document the flow of history through the natural world.

 

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The old-school, wood and glass display cases in vast halls always fills me with a quiet reverence for the objects inside and the reflective nature that the expanse of history and evolution fill you with.

 

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Even the sound of your feet walking on the wood parquet floors is a meditation.

 

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The coelacanth… a living fossil.  This specimen was caught in October of 1974, off the Comoros Islands and makes me *really want* to examine the retina. Is there a properly fixed coelacanth that had been freshly perfused with glutaraldehyde somewhere on planet Earth?  I’ll fly anywhere on the planet to get those retinas.

 

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These images were part of an amazing exhibit on 47 skeletons that were found in a common grave. They were likely foot soldiers that were slaughtered by a cavalry unit in 1632.  This was part of a larger, phenomenal exhibit on the origin and human costs of war.

 

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This is *the* Venus von Willendorf… An object of a woman’s form, created in the paleolithic period, some 30,000 years ago.  Truly stunning…

 

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This section of meteorite, the Fukang meteorite is part of a wonderful exhibit of meteorites of all kinds from stony to iron.  I’ve never seen a pallasite meteorite in person before, and this one is a stunning example that helps me to understand how people can become obsessed with finding meteorites.

 

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The mumok, or modern art museum is a stunning building that induces in me, fantasies about building a building for science like it.  Like the early, amorphous rock, the largely dark and featureless outside and inside are powerful and evocative.  I imagine wanting to fill this space with electron microscopes, staff and the computational infrastructure to study the evolution of neural systems.

 

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The military history museum in Vienna is perhaps the most elegant military museum I’ve ever seen with beautifully curated exhibits including this stunner… *the* automobile that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, the duchess of Hohenberg, were killed in Sarajevo while riding in.  This was the event that sparked WWI and threw the world into a convulsion of war and misery.  There is a great article in the NYTimes on this automobile from a couple of years ago.

Angry Staff Officer (@pptsapper) would love this place.

 

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This is one of the greatest cross sectional models I have ever seen in my life.  I could have spent days just looking at the ship models in this museum.

 

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