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For Your Consideration 11.4

“Ahoy,” Bay Area Visitors and Residents

Surrounded by water on three sides, San Francisco has been a major seaport since its inception. While steamships gave way to container ships and yachts, the city retains an important waterfront, and the San Francisco Maritime Museum honors this history.

Crafted in the shape of an ocean liner, the 250-toot-long museum near Fisherman’s Wharf is a perfect base for the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. This “floating park” includes restored schooners, ferries, and tugboats, and the museum is testament to the role these vessels played in the city’s development. Visitors can see historical photographs and paintings, as well as artifacts such as ship’s masts and figureheads.

Permanent exhibits cover aspects of maritime life. “Sparks, Waves, and Wizards: Communications at Sea” is a look at modes of maritime communications since the early 1900’s, ranging from semaphore flags to satellite-operated systems. Visitors can put themselves “on the bridge” as they view vessels in the bay, chart their movements by telescope, and gauge vessel statistics using a computerized Coast Guard map.

Lesser-Known Bay Area Attractions

The San Francisco Bay Area is loaded with small, specialized museums like the Maritime Museum, focusing on everything from history to kitsch.

The Performing Arts Library and Museum highlights music, dance, theater, and opera from the Gold Rush days on.

The Cartoon Art Museum houses a 6,000-piece collection of works by underground cartoonists like R. Crumb, as well as temporary exhibitions featuring the drawings of such modern masters as Bill {Calvin and Hobbes) Watterson.

The intimate Museum of Craft and Folk Art mounts five annual exhibitions focusing on the traditional and the contemporary.

What is a Museum?

Whale ribs, the hand of a mermaid, the Passion of Christ carved on a plum pit, the robe of the king of Virginia: These were among the oddities that Londoners of the 1630’s could see for a sixpence at the house/museum of John Tradescant and his son. The Ark, as it was called, was arguably history’s first explicitly public museum.

Today, the number of museums has exploded — Las Vegas alone has more than 30, ranging in subject from celebrity wigs to modern masters. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is a gorgeous attic of empire. The Milwaukee Art Museum is housed in a contemporary building so astonishing that visitors may have only the haziest memory of what they saw inside. The only constant among museums may be every institution’s impulse to present the wonderful, the important, the strange, or the rare.

“Crazy English”

We greatly appreciate all the writers — both staff members and volunteers —who contribute articles to share in each and every issue of The Docent Educator. In recognition of the many challenges that beset those who put their thoughts and techniques into words, we offer this little poem.

The verbs in English are afright. How can we learn to read and write? Today we speak, but first we spoke; Some faucets leak, but never loke. Today we write, but first we wrote; We bit our tongues, but never bote. Each day I teach,for years 1 taught. Andpreachers preach, but neverpraught. This tale I tell: this tale I told; I smell the flowers, but never smold. If knights still slay, as once they slew; Then do we play, as once we plew? IfI still do as once I did, Then do cows moo, as they once mid? — by Richard Lederer

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator11.4 (Summer 2002): 8.

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