Don Wildman's Top 5 Museums

This is an entirely subjective list based on my needs on any particular free afternoon. Given that I have about 2 of those a year, I’m looking for efficiency and pay-off. So, please, understand that the list below is entirely personal and is not intended to consciously disregard the myriad great museums elsewhere who offer equally excellent if not superior collections to those I’ve chosen. OK, whew, that said, I recommend:

The Frick Museum

I like walking around a guy’s house to look at his art, which is basically what’s happening here. Henry Clay Frick’s home is one of the last remaining mansions from Fifth Avenue’s Gilded Age, and I like that you can not only view some really amazing European art from the Renaissance to the late 19th-century but, at the same time, you can imagine yourself living as a mega-industrialist—and how nice must that be? The museum’s at 1 E. 70th St, right off Central Park, so the Met’s got nothing on this place.

The Franklin Institute

If you grew up around Philadelphia like I did, this venerable monument to the Ben dude is inevitably part of your youth. Every kid remembers his/her first trip through the heart, a giant-sized model of the human heart. They recently renovated the thing I heard, so I would encourage you to go. Think I remember graffiti inside the left ventricle when I was a kid—well, no more, apparently. It’s a great building that stands the test of time and kids love it. I did.

The Blaschka Glass Flowers at Harvard Museum of Natural History

This exhibit blew me away. Not only do I not care that much about flowers, I really don’t care about glass replicas. Well, check your prejudices at the door, these things are mind-boggling! You have to see them! Botanical subjects perfectly rendered in the most delicate, thin, fragile glass. I was more amazed by the idea that they’d been able to move them, let alone produce them, let alone … well, the things are so astonishing on so many fronts. Just gotta go if you ever have the opportunity.

General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen

I’m sitting in this place as I write this—because I’m a member here. For fifty dollars a year you can be, too. Great spot that should be utilized by the whole city as a place to read a newspaper, let alone research 19th-century sewer technology—which is what I find myself looking up all too often. Index cards! Card catalogs! It’s a trip down memory lane for anyone who is curious what the world was like before iTunes. When being late with your return meant digging deep for a dime. Still does here. And check out the lock exhibit upstairs. It’s crazy!

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

This was a remarkable museum experience for me on our recent shoot in Buffalo. I was just not expecting this snappy, posh place; but then, I was impressed by Buffalo generally in this regard. I’m like millions of other Americans who wrongly think that Buffalo is under too much snow to think about stuff like art. Forgive me, Buffalo. You got plenty of it—and you can see a lot of it in this beautifully curated museum.

Others not mentioned but should be: Norton Simon in Pasadena, Adamson House in Malibu, Fine Arts in Boston, Academy of Sciences Philadelphia, California African-American Museum LA, Getty LA, Anything Smithsonian, Brandywine Museum PA, Farnsworth Museum ME. What can I say I like museums!!

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