Love In The Civil War At The New York State Museum

Civil WarThe Civil War is the subject of numerous exhibitions and special events these days as the country commemorates the war’s sesquicentennial. Most study the battles and politics, but one at the New York State Museum in Albany is focusing on how the war affected the relationship between two lovers.

“I Shall Think of You Often: The Civil War Story of Doctor and Mary Tarbell” opens today as part of “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War,” a 7,000-square-foot exhibition that examines New York’s role in the war.

Doctor and Mary Tarbell were childhood sweethearts who got separated when Doctor Tarbell went off to war with the Union army. They kept up a regular correspondence until the doctor was captured and sent to a Confederate prison.

Mary heard nothing from him and didn’t even know he was alive until he was released in February 1865. The doctor wasted no time getting leave to go home and marry his true love.

The exhibition tells of their enduring relationship with letters, diaries, photographs and Mary’s wedding dress, giving a personal and emotional side to a period of history so often concerned with death and violence.

Both exhibitions run through September 22.

[Photo courtesy Tompkins County History Center]

Video Of The Day: Times Square In The 1980s


Here’s a bit of nostalgia for all you old-time New Yorkers out there.

This mini-documentary on Times Square really captures my memories of it from the 1980s. Walking around there with my friends at night was a gritty, sleazy, surreal experience. Touts tried to sell you stolen watches or draw you into shell games or strip shows. Street preachers screamed at the crowd and were totally ignored. Lights flashed. Cars honked. People swore at one another or offered you drugs labeled under a bewildering variety of street names (anybody know what “rust” was?).

Despite this footage being a quarter of a century old, I recognize some of these places. The theater marquees are unforgettable, of course. There was one place where you could see a Kung Fu double feature for a dollar. That video arcade in the film was a favorite hangout of ours. We knew about the pickpockets and always watched out for one another. Still, it’s amazing we survived all those trips without ever having any serious trouble.

I haven’t been back to New York for 15 years. From what I’ve heard, it’s changed too much. Times Square has been turned into a touristy shopping mall, and throughout Manhattan many of the small shops, like those wonderful indie bookstores, have disappeared. I have lots of friends and fellow bloggers in New York who are always inviting me to come over. I’m not sure I ever will. I think I’ll just keep my memories of the trashy yet vibrant New York of my teens.

Sotheby’s: the museum where you can buy the art

Sotheby'sHave you ever looked at a work of art hanging on a museum wall and thought, “That would look great in my living room”? Well, at one of the best “museums” in London you really can take it home with you.

Sotheby’s is London’s oldest auction house, and has been a London institution since 1744. They sell everything from fine art to vintage wine to antique furniture. While most items are beyond the means of the average visitor, the galleries and auctions are open to the public. There are branches in London, Paris, New York, and Hong Kong.

When I lived in London I visited the Sotheby’s galleries regularly. They host constantly changing exhibits of art and antiques. Since the items mostly end up in private hands, this is your only chance to see them. I was a bit worried the first time I went in that I’d be given some cold English upper-class attitude. It was painfully obvious I wasn’t there to buy anything. Surprisingly, I was treated with respect, which is more than I can say about a certain antique shop I visited in Islington.

On one visit a few years ago there was going to be a major auction of Russian art–some medieval icons and a lot of Neorealism. As usual the items that would be going under the gavel were put on display. As I wandered around admiring the art, I found the crowd to be equally interesting. Hordes of Russians in Armani suits were on their cell phones calling buyers in Moscow, describing art and getting instructions on maximum bids. Watching all these rich Russians and their multimillionaire bosses I realized just how much the world had changed in the past twenty years.

So check out Sotheby’s. It’s not only a lesson in art, it’s a lesson in sociology.

[Photo courtesy Claus Hoppe]