As the the Rogers High and East Bay Met MUSE classes neared the end of our fall term, we both traveled to Providence to visit the Rhode Island State House, the RISD Nature Lab, and the RISD Museum. I was part of the Met School trip. This is my account of the day.
First stop was the State House, where we saw the original Rhode Island Charter of 1663 and the massive library of laws. The Charter called the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations a “lively experiment.” Unique to Rhode Island was a part of the Charter that granted its inhabitants the right of free conscience and exercise of religion. The architecture of this building is very grand, including its massive gilded dome (which I learned is one of the four largest unsupported domes in the world!) and large marble staircase. The inside of this grand building is made mostly of marble, broken up by bits of carpeted floor in the individual rooms. From the outside courtyard, we saw much of the city of Providence as we stood in the massive looming shadow of the Statehouse.
From there the class went up the street to the RISD Nature Lab. Inside this building is a large gallery of dead plants, animals and bones. Aside from our group and the people running it, the room was nearly devoid of life, save for some reptiles in tanks. Comprised of two rooms, the first room held a plethora of dead insects in glass cases, as well as a complete section of taxidermy birds, squirrels, wild felines, turtles, frogs, and even a full-size bear.
The adjoining room is quite different from the first. Where the first room focused on preserving the animals like their living state, this room is full of many glass cases and drawers filled with different animal bones, and even some fake human skeletons. I shook hands with one. Hanging from the ceiling were reconstructed bone models of different animals and in the corner of the room perched a very angry looking stuffed deer head, looking down on us. In both rooms were free to touch, sketch and photograph, and some students were allowed to handle a live snake.
Our next destination was the RISD Museum. We had a short guided tour by museum docents, and then we further explored the museum at our leisure to discover more on our own. I really found myself enjoying the video Iyeza by Kudzanai Chiurai, an artist from Zimbabwe. The video highlights struggles experienced by the various peoples of Africa by recreating the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. The video is shot in extreme slow motion, so at first glance it doesn’t even appear to be moving.
This visit was an eye-opening experience that left us with lots to think about afterwards.
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