David Bjoerling Jensen

Tag: museums

The Gullah Bible–De Nyew Testament

De Nyew Testament:  The New Testament in Gullah Sea Island Creole with Marginal Text of the King James Version.  New York:  American Bible Society, 2005.

John 3:16-17

16 Cause God lob all de people een da wol sommuch dat e gii we e onliest Son.  God sen we um so dat ebrybody wa bleebe pon um ain gwine dead.  17 God ain sen e Son eenta de wol fa condemn um.  God sen e Son fa come sabe de people shru e Son.

Go ahead, take a moment to read through that once or twice more to see if you can make a plain English connection.  Now this…

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

After 26 years of translating, editing, checking, typesetting, and printing, the Gullah Bible was released in 2005.  What is Gullah?…As taken from the edition’s preface:

Gullah, also known as Geechee or Sea Island Creole, is a language traditionally spoken along the coastal area of South Carolina and Georgia.  While in the past Gullah was mistakenly characterized as poor English, today it is recognized as a distinct language.  It is an English creole, born several hundred years ago out of a contact language situation where Africans were taken from various nations and language groups to grow rice in the marshy lowcountry area along the Southeastern coast of the American colony.

A copy of this bible on display in the slavery exhibition at Fort Moultrie, Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina brought this to my attention.  I had been introduced to such language through the colorful narrations of Mark Twain (most notably in Pudd’nhead Wilson and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), but little did I realize that it was more than just an obscure regional dialect, but a codified lexicon with a formal name and all.  Just another fascinating tidbit of American history!

More information can be found at http://www.gullahbible.com/.

Infinite Jest

Cruikshank The Head Ache

George Cruikshank (British, 1792–1878). The Head Ache, February 12, 1819.

Above pictured is an example of what one will find at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current exhibition entitled “Infinite Jest:  Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine”, on view for only a few more days until March 4.  The images presented show remarkable works of social commentary and political satire from the past several centuries, showcasing amazing examples of printmaking in the form of woodcuts, engravings, and lithographs.

While the pieces hold their own as amusing artworks–simultaneously lifelike and completely un-lifelike!–they are imbued with true meaning through their descriptions, which flesh out the historical period in which they were created so as to breathe contextual life into their existence.  Many of the prints have never been exhibited, and aren’t widely known, except to specialists in the field.  This is, simply, amazing curation!

If you happen to be in the NYC area, do yourself a favor and stop by to check it out before it’s long gone!

“Withus oragainstus”

Renowned renegade artist, Banksy, known for his bold street art and radical stance on the “War on Terror,” sure pulled a fast one when he surreptitiously hung this mockery of a specimen of the harlequin beetle, Acrocinus longimanus, in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Biodiversity.

“Withus oragainstus”

With glued on plastic sidewinder missiles under jet fighter wings and a satellite dish protruding near the antennae, the artist’s commentary on this piece suggests it is “an outsider’s view of the modern American bug, bristling with listening devices and military hardware.”  Allegedly, the prank was executed as the artist and his accomplices staged an ostentatious gay lover’s quarrel to distract security guards while the piece was mounted to a column in the Hall of Biodiversity with Velcro.  It inconspicuously hung there for 5 days before anyone noticed or took action to remove it.  As an indisputable unique artwork, the glass-encased specimen, “Withus oragainstus,” is now housed in the AMNH Research Library’s Rare Book Collection.

Click here for the cataloged AMNH OPAC record of this work…and here for a related article.  Also, visit  Banksy’s website.

The Morgan Library and Museum

The East Room, the original library.

The West Room, Pierpont Morgan's study

In two words, quintessential elegance!  The Morgan Library and Museum, which houses one of the world’s greatest collections of rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and art artifacts from antiquity in virtually every medium, has undergone a fairly recent restoration to bring back it’s original grandeur.  In addition to retrofitting the lighting system, which now employs LED lighting for purposes of optimum preservation, the renovation has also included cleaning marble surfaces and ornamentation, refurbishing original fixtures, reupholstering period furniture, and installing new, beautifully crafted display cases.  All rooms of the original 1906 library are now available for public viewing.

Among  a few seasonally appropriate items currently on display is a first-edition copy of A Christmas Carol, in the “Charles Dickens at 200” exhibition.

  Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol-Title page-First edition 1843.jpg

This classic novel, completed by Dickens in just six weeks, was originally printed in London by Chapman and Hall.  The first print run of 6,000 copies was released on December 17, 1843.  By Christmas Eve that year, all copies had sold out!  Click here to view a page-by-page digital facsimile of a signed, hand-written manuscript held at the Morgan.

Also on display in the Rotunda is an original sheet music printing of “The One Horse Open Sleigh.”  Commonly known as “Jingle Bells,” the song was originally composed by Pierpont Morgan’s uncle, James Lord Pierpont, in the 1850s.  This has become one of the most recognized holiday songs ever written!

Page 1 of 4, The one horse open sleigh /

 ‘Tis the season!…

**Crystal Bridges**

The museum's unassuming drive-up entrance.

Reflecting pool between gallery wings.

Nestled in an idyllic valley in the Ozark Mountains of Bentonville, Arkansas sits a brand new cultural treasure, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Founded by Alice Walton (Wal-Mart heiress), this museum, which opened on 11-11-11, has an endowment in the ballpark of $800 million–nearly four times that of the Whitney Museum.  Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the building is an architectural showpiece in and of itself.  And as for the art, the “heartland of America” setting is perfectly appropriate for its purely American focus.  The collections span a range from the Colonial period, though the 19th and 20th centuries, and up to contemporary American art.  The works displayed in many of the gallery spaces are easily comparable to what one might find in the MoMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Eakins, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and many, many others.  Paintings are the focus, but sculptures and installation art abound.  In addition to artwork, the museum houses a library with open stacks for art reference resources, and several computer terminals with internet access, subscription databases, and art-specific research guides.  The library also contains a rare books section, all of which were printed in America.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but this cultural institution is well worth a visit!  Best of all, thanks to a $20 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation, the museum is FREE for everyone…forever!

For more information on the background and development of this fine museum, visit the following links to publications in:

The New Yorker

The Huffington Post