Saturday, May 12, 2007

Museums: Amsterdam and Provence

The next few entries, I hope, will be a chance for me to reflect on museums I saw while in Provence and the Netherlands for ten days. From the Rijksmuseum to a tiny little local history museum in a tiny village in Provence, lots to think about. Perhaps most interesting were the many ways in which the past and present connected so directly. One small example--we were in Arles on May 1, which was the 495th celebration of the Fete des Gardians--Gardians are the sort of cowboys of the nearby Camarague. The day starts with a parade of local residents in traditional clothing--men, women, young, old--but I noticed lots of people had a really distinctive nose....and when, a couple days later, I visited the Museum Arlatan, many of the 18th and 19th century portraits of Arlesiennes had the same look--and then even found a Van Gogh painting (now at the Met in New York) with the same outfit and face. Even though we, and lots of other tourists were observing this event, in some ways it felt very community focused--a chance for local residents to see neighbors and celebrate a shared heritage. And, in the way that past meets present, as this group left the square, the Socialists and Communists assembled for their May Day parade.

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