Category Archives: museums

“Henson & Oz” and the Museum of the Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York — a stone throw from the Kaufman Astoria studios where Sesame Street is taped — is presently hosting the exhibit Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, a marvelous show covering the entire span of Jim Henson’s creative career.  As the program for the show says:

Fifteen iconic puppets, including Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, and Bert and Ernie, are on view, along with photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work and excerpts from his early projects and experimental films. The exhibition spans Henson’s entire career, with drawings, cartoons, and posters produced during his college years in the late 1950s and objects related to the inspired imaginary world of his popular 1982 fantasy film, The Dark Crystal. The exhibition features artifacts from Henson’s best-known projects, The Muppet ShowThe Muppet Movie and its sequels,Fraggle Rock, and Sesame Street, in addition to materials from Sam and Friends, an early show he created in the 1950s, and his pioneering television commercial work in the 1960s.

I had the opportunity to see the exhibit when it was at the Smithsonian in 2008, and it’s a lot of fun.  And while there are plenty of familiar faces on display, you’ll also have the chance to take a peek at some hidden treasures, including some projects that never materialized.

Jim Henson’s Fantastic World runs through January 2012.  You can find more information right here.

Meanwhile, the Museum of the Moving Image has put up on its website a terrific short film Henson & Oz, a affectionate look at the on- and off-screen relationship of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and the characters they performed.  And it’s very funny stuff indeed. Have a look.

The Poe Museum

As I hoped — and as I alluded to in Monday’s piece on Poe’s 200th birthday — I managed to make it to the Poe Museum during my visit to Richmond.

It’s a cozy, though curious, place.  Given Richmond’s somewhat unstable history, there are few buildings standing that Poe lived in, worked in, or visited in his lifetime, so the museum makes due by setting up shop in an old stone house that dates from Poe’s era.  Still, it’s a fine place to kick off your tour, which takes you through several old buildings and a garden with a Poe shrine.

The museum boasts “one of the largest collections of Poe memorabilia in the world, much of it now currently on display” — but it’s a somewhat odd, and sparse, collection.  You’ll see, for example, Poe’s walking stick — left  behind in a friend’s home his last night in Richmond — his childhood bed, his boot hooks, and a lock of hair clipped from his head shortly after his death in 1849.  There are also several first editions on display, as well as facsimilies of handwritten manuscript pages.

There’s also a really interesting room-sized diorama of the City of Richmond during Poe’s time, giving you a good grip on where Poe lived and worked.  Sadly, most of the buildings represented on the model have been demolished, including Moldavia, where Poe lived with his foster father John Allan, and Swan Tavern, where Poe boarded during his adult years.

Fortunately, you’ve still got a chance to touch a bit of Poe’s Richmond.  Out on the garden sits a Poe Shrine, built from bricks and granite taken from the offices of the Southern Literary Messenger.  Here it is, squatting on the north end of the “Enchanted Garden,” which was, for the most part, dead with winter when I visited it:

The Poe Shrine.

The Poe Shrine.

Nestled inside the shrine is a bust of Poe, with droopy eyes and an almost wry smile on his face:


I wrapped up my visit gazing at a small room full of various daguerreotypes of Poe, some of which were based on actual photographs, others based on idealized drawings of the man by artists who had never seen him.  The new Poe postage stamp — which had been issued only days before my visit — was also proudly on display, and stuck on First Day of Issue envelopes with Richmond cancellations.

On my way out, on the recommendation of a Poe scholar, I purchased Kenneth Silverman’s Poe biography and browsed through shelves of Poe keychains, mouse pads, and T-shirts.  And it took everything I had to not buy the way-cool Edgar Allan Poe action figure.  Pull his string and he says “Reynolds!” and collapses!*

* Not really.