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June 24, 2010 / howardmestas

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Eastern Woodlands Indians Basketworks

Best Museum on the Planet

On our final day in the city we visited the New York Historical Society and spent the morning with an object based learning activity like no other since these objects were one of a kind.  We were given a tour of the Luce Center where some of the most significant artifacts of early New York history were on display.  This was one of those places where I wished we could have spent more time just to look and not have to do activities since of the artifacts were priceless; there was even a macabre looking death mask of none other than William Tecumseh Sherman.  This was the only

Sherman Death Mask

 museum we had been to where there were artifacts from the Dutch period in Manhattan and from the prerevolutionary period of English occupation.  This was the stuff I had been hoping to see, but you can’t see everything.  Later we had a lesson on how the city was torn over the issue of which side to support during the Civil War.  I have to admit I was surprised to learn that the city was completely divided with the business factions opposing the war since slavery was necessary for cotton production which in turn fed the highly profitable garment industry.  Until this point I thought that the only ones opposed to freeing the slaves were the Irish since newly freed men would flood the already tight job market and compete with all the immigrant groups.  And of course there was bountiful racism involved based on the atrocities committed against African Americans during the riots of 1863.  One again we were pleasantly surprised with the gift of teaching materials including a disk with power points about the topics we discussed.

Lions? Did Somebody Say Lions?

For the afternoon we visited the greatest natural history museum on the planet, a

Olmec Jade Necklace

place I could spend an entire week visiting by itself.  Someday I may just do that.  There were so many fascinating things to see and learn in this enormous building.  I was captivated by the African exhibit which traced the continent’s history from early humans to the present.  What an amazing story that continent has to tell.  On the third floor was the most complete display of Native American artifacts I have ever seen from the Eastern

Olmec Dog

 Woodlands tribes to those of the Pacific Northwest.  There was an entire hallway with displays of toys and games for children and adults.  This is something I am excited to share with my middle school students since they can be assigned to make these object as part of a project.  This display added a whole new realm of respect that I have for Native Americans; to see how much time they spent in creating fun activities for their children.  These are the same people that were called “Savages” by their European conquerors.

On my return trip to Brooklyn I decided to visit the Chrysler Building and Grand

Awesome Design Of Chrysler Building

Central Station where I could catch the 5-train Lexington Express.  The walk down forty second street was something unexpected as it was a very lively part of town very comparable to Times Square.  The view of the Chrysler edifice could very well be the most beautiful building in New York City with its Art Deco design, very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s.  At one time it was the

Gargoyle Guarding Chrysler Building

 tallest building in the World until the Empire State Building surpassed it in 1931.   It is a structure of focus in many movies including Spiderman and Godzilla in 1998.  Grand Central Station, below the skyscraper, was also spectacular but for different reasons.  I have always had a habit of referring a crowded room by using the old saying, “What is this, Grand Central Station?”  Obviously somebody coined that phrase and now I know why.  This is one of the busiest places on earth and has been since the early 20th Century.  Even today there are around 500,000 visitors daily.  Anyone who boards a train into the city will exit there and have access

Grand Central Station Clock

to another 100 tracks they could board from there.  I can’t recall how many movies I have seen of this building, going back to the silent kinds.  I decided to eat in one of the scores of restaurants on the basement floor and ended up with the best meal I have had in the city.  It was at a place called Juniors and I had a 10 ounce bacon cheeseburger that I will never forget.  But it was the desert that was to be remembered most; it was a slice of chocolate swirl cheesecake.  It wasn’t until I called my wife about the experience that she informed me that Juniors has the most prized cheesecake in America and they deliver around the nation.  You can order online, and even on QVC.  Now it can’t get any better than that.

Inside Grand Central Station

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