Wanderlust Wednesday: Christkindlmarkte

At the risk of overloading my regular readers with posts on Germany, I’ll simply post a couple of photos from Christmas Markets in Munich and Bonn. Many of the central city Christmas markets mostly cater to tourists now, but alternative “local” markets have sprung up. The Tollwood Winter Festival takes place on Theresienwiese, in Munich (unfortunately, it doesn’t open until 2pm on weekdays, so I had to miss this). On of my colleagues at Bonn mentioned that there is a more craft-oriented market in Cologne that residents visit. While many of my friends who have enjoyed these markets in the past rhapsodized about the Gluhwine stands, I was offput by the aroma of last night’s Gluhwine. I thought I’d smell the spicy wonderfulness that is mulled wine, but those stands smelled more like a not very nice bar in the morning.

Still, it’s fun to see the smiling faces, and the baked goods and sausages still smell good!

Gingerbread for the tourists. "Ich Liebe Dich!"

Gingerbread for the tourists. “Ich Liebe Dich!” Bonn. RL Fifield 2012.



Bonn. RL Fifield 2012.

Munich.Munich. RL Fifield 2012.

Transportation Tuesday: ICE from Munich to Bonn


Munich Hauptbahnhof. RL Fifield 2012.

I had a crazy scheme for last week’s trip to Germany. My last visit was to Dusseldorf and Cologne. I had work in next door Bonn this time around. I wanted to see something else of Germany besides its western edge. I flew into Munich and spent the day there. How do you get to Bonn if you are train geek? You take the ICE. I got a bit more of a train ride than I bargained for: it was a 5 1/2 hour ride.

What’s on the Menu? New York Public Library. 1900.


The ICE is express service in Germany. Its cars are downright luxurious compared to even Amtrak’s Acela service. I love the snack trolleys that roll through European trains, selling really wonderful pastries (this is Germany – they are everywhere), coffee, and even dinner. I read yesterday that you can have Dogfish Head 60 Min. IPA on Amtrak now – is it a step back toward what American rail service used to feature – real regional foods? A glimpse at the First Class Menu on Amtrak is on par with a menu at Denny’s. I think I’d rather have the Grand Slam. Check out what American onboard dining used to be like on this Baltimore and Ohio menu from the Royal Blue Line at NYPL’s What’s on the Menu? project (see my post on the project here).


Bonn Hauptbahnhof. RL Fifield 2012.

Bonn Hauptbahnhof. RL Fifield 2012.

Taking the train in Germany is visually beautiful. You wind through mountains, past fairy tale towns and castles. The train is packed to the rim – the service is popular and necessary. Between Frankfurt and Cologne, the train picks up speed, reaching 253km (157 mph). A quick switch to the more utilitarian Regional service took me to Bonn, and their 19th century station.

It’s easier for me to travel internationally than it is in my own country.

Museum Monday: Beethoven’s Birthplace

Has anyone else been outraged by the clips on WNYC when they ask people on the street “Who is Beethoven?” followed by soundbites of multiple people saying “a dog!” (see here for WQXR’s Beethoven Awareness Month program)

Last week’s work took me to Bonn, Germany. The city still has an old feel, receiving less bomb damage than many of its counterparts. The rule here is to be a slightly lesser city right next door to two cities of greater importance.

Beethoven's Birthplace, Bonn, Germany. RL Fifield 2012.

Beethoven’s Birthplace, Bonn, Germany. RL Fifield 2012.

One of Bonn’s survivors is Beethoven’s birthplace, a worthwhile visit for those enamored with the composer and music. It’s a rather reasonable admission at 5€, so I didn’t try for my professional discount (it’s a perk of being a museum professional – my badge gets me free admission almost everywhere). I received a brochure in English, and then was left to my own devices. The desk attendant told me to stow my bag, but forgot to mention that I was free to explore the property. I attached myself to a German language tour, until I found a docent who indicated that I could walk around by myself. Alas, no photos allowed.

On first inspection, the house appears to be in good condition. The ground and second (first floor in Europe) floors are open for viewing. I would have enjoyed more historic house settings. Instead, the building is used as gallery space. Notable objects include Beethoven’s viola, ear trumpets, and pianos. One is Broadwood grand of the same era, but the other is Beethoven’s and they are placed snugly facing each other, as Beethoven had them arranged in his last residence. I learned that Beethoven started to go deaf as early as age 30, and considered all the music he created after that time. I also considered what a disaster I was in my college Music Theory class.

The English language materials glossed over a lot of history. Alas, my German is nearly non-existant. I thought that hanging with the German language tour might be fun – it wasn’t. I just became frustrated. On the ground floor, concerts on period instruments take place – that I would have enjoyed. I found myself wishing that the recorded music playing in that space was from those instruments, rather than from a modern piano.

A Winter Space in Which to Think

We are thinking today of the families and communities scarred by yesterday’s events in Newtown, Connecticut. I’ve changed my post this morning to a photo of a cold, clear afternoon I spent driving the Jeep along the Susquehanna, and thinking. My  more jubilant, seasonal post for today no longer seemed appropriate. I’ve always valued winter as clean, peaceful, and objective, a more open and invigorating space in which to think.

It is not possible to pull sense from this heartbreak, but we will move forward with distilled determination to protect others from these forces within our culture.

We cannot afford not to.

IMG_6962 - Copy

RL Fifield 2009.

Things That Make Me Happy: Historypin

Combine Google “Places I’ve Visited” with history geeks and what do you get? Historypin.

A user attaches historic photos to the globe according to where the content took place. On a brief search this morning, I viewed photos from a 1904 train wreck in Perryville, Maryland, sewing factory employees in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, and a turn of the century view of Western Maryland College (not McDaniel College, dammit) in Westminster, Maryland.

A Historypin candidate? Packing Apples at Mt. Pleasant Orchard in Havre de Grace, Maryland. The orchard existed from the 1750s until 2002, when it was bulldozed for a housing development. Photo: RL Fifield collection. WPA?

Museums are joining up to reach new audiences  exposing users to their collections in new ways. The list includes some of my favorite institutions, including the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Historic New England, The George Washington University Library’s Special Collections, and the Library of Virginia. On the FAQ they do outline that users are responsible for owning/securing copyright of the photos it posts on Historypin. Fair enough. Posting on Historypin does allow them to use the images as part of a non-exclusive license in specific ways related to the website, such as publication and select online exhibitions. See Historypin Terms and Conditions here. 

They do state that they will remove any offensive content. I do think that necessarily, the history of some locations is offensive. Can you really tell the history of Times Square cleanly? Who is doing the censoring?

If you are looking for another way to spend time online, here you go!

Gender Bender: Flying Business Class

Business class on Cathay Pacific.

A few times a year, my work takes me to places for which I get to fly business class. It’s definitely a perk, but it certainly has more to do with flexibility of booking/unbooking for my employer than it has to do with my comfort. No problem here – I’ll take business class hands down any day. I have even become rather picky, complaining about old style recliner seats on Lufthansa versus the fully-flat-bed-angled-so-you-don’t-see-your-neighbor on Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. You don’t have to crawl over your neighbor, and have something like privacy when surrounded by thirty-some other people snoring, twisted up in yesterday’s clothes and eye masks.

But as I approached the Lufthansa Business Class check-in desk in Frankfurt last week, I was stopped by a staff member: “Are you travelling business class?”

You don’t have to fly business class to see that most of the people who line up for that section are older white males. As a young woman, I don’t fit the demographic. It wasn’t the first time I had to wave my ticket at staff or fellow passengers when they were about to tell me to get in the line for Economy Class.

Business Class has largely been the domain of men. Many times when I’ve seen women in business class, they are accompanying husbands/partners. It’s not that women business travelers are absent from Business Class, but they are far fewer in number. Read this article by Nina Liss-Scultz about sexism in the Olympics, including the the horrid practice of Japan and Australia sending their men’s teams to the Olympics on business class, while relegating their women’s teams to travel in coach, even though the women’s teams have been more successful. As fellow writer Krystal Bonner noted in this article, the Japanese Football Association defends it’s policy that women travel in coach class, noting that their body size is smaller. As a former member of  Japanese dance troupe, I was the tallest person there – men and women included (they were always making me dance male roles).

The absence of women in business class is a visual indicator for the glass ceiling like no other.  It’s not the airline’s fault for not booking a larger amount of women in business class (but it is their fault for assuming young women not sporting designer clothes belong in economy class). It is indicative that women are still struggling up that ladder.

What I Ate: Munich and Bonn

I had a terrible time finding restaurants on this trip. But unless I’m feeling frisky for meat-centered meals (unlikely), I usually target vegetarian restaurants in many European countries.

Spinach sorrel crepes. Prinz Myshkin, Munich. RL Fifield 2012.

Viewing shopfronts on a walk down the street, one would think Germans eat nothing but pastry, coffee, and beer. The Christmas Market in Bonn was swinging with vendors of sausage and baked goods. My little hotel was in a residential neighborhood (always interesting to get out of tourist districts) but there were few restaurants nearby.

Breakfast in Bonn at Hotel Jacobs. Fruit, granola, yogurt, about 15 kinds of jam and 50 kinds of lunchmeat, smoked salmon, cheese, etc. RL Fifield, 2012.


The hotel desk directed me to an intersection in neighborhood roads about .25 mile away, where among houses stood  German, Spanish, and Italian restaurants. A lot of German places close between lunch and dinner, not opening before 6pm, which was wearying to this jet-lagged traveler who had to get up at 3am the next morning. I chose the Spanish restaurant and got gritty croquetas, 5 rings of calamari, and a salt lick masquerading as a tortilla with spinach. Whoops. I don’t like to spend my money on things when I travel, but on experiences. I flunked this one.

Sad Spanish supper in Bonn, at a place that will remain nameless, but oddly, almost all the tables were reserved on a Thursday night. RL Fifield, 2012.

I don’t usually eat pastry, but seeing it everywhere in Germany, I was worn down by all the delicious smells. In New England, there is a Dunkin Donuts every 3 miles. In Germany, there seems to be a bakery every 30 feet (or whatever in meters). Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. And now for some fun in the Rewe grocery store:

I love going to the grocery store and seeing the Ja! brand. It might as well be called the LOL brand. I did not eat this. RL Fifield, 2012.

Transit Tuesday: Munich Train Station

Hauptbahnhof. It has to be my favorite German word.

Feeling adventurous, I decided to fly directly to Munich and check out the city before going to Bonn for an appointment. This meant a five hour train ride via the ICE, the express service which gets up to a thrilling 157 mph between Frankfurt and Cologne (the speed staved off the increasing jet lag and my need to nod off).

There are two places I check out in every town: the market, and the train station. Like so many German post-war stations, it was built in cheaply, quickly, in the International style. Supposedly it incorporates portions of the old 19th century station, but the only glimpse I saw of this was some glazed tile in a stairway leading to the basement a la Penn Station (see my posts on NYC Penn Station here and here). What I did notice was the good old rich railroad station atmosphere that we miss in so many American stations. A glassed in food hall offered counter service a la Fred Harvey and Harvey Houses (see my post here). A full restaurant sat in a vaulted space at the end of the corridor (perhaps an old portion of the station?). And there were old school lockers to stow your luggage while you saw the town.

Here’s a few visuals from my time at Munchen Hbf.

Munich train shed, waiting for the ICE to come in on Track 23. RL Fifield, 2012.

No, I don’t think so. RL Fifield, 2012

The bland front of the Munich Hbf today, like so many post-war stations. They say they are going to renovate… RL Fifield 2012.

Museum Monday – Straight Talk About Museum Studies Programs

I’m one of the lucky ones.

To gain the most entry-level job at most museums, a graduate degree is required. The discipline depends on the work you would like to do. If you want to be a curator in a large urban collection, you probably need a PhD in your specific discipline. You had better be good, in order to get a job. If you want to be a conservator, you have to have significant undergraduate chemistry, studio art, and art history coursework and a pre-program internship before applying for a Masters program in Conservation, which very few US schools offer. Archivists and librarians get MLS degrees, often with concentrations in archives management. Sometimes you can snag an entry level job in administration with an Art History or Communications degree. But for those people who see themselves a museum generalists out there, a Masters in Museum Studies provides (or should provide) comprehensive training in administration, legal and ethical issues, collection care, registration, exhibition development, education and visitor assessment, and rigorous coursework in your area of academic interest. These people are training to be registrars, collection managers, curators in smaller museums, educators, and many ultimately wish to move into the director’s chair.

I attended a respected Museum Studies program of long standing (1976) at The George Washington University. I’ve had more than a few graduates of other schools remark “I wanted to go there.” I was fortunate to do so in the late 1990s, when money was abundant and I received an NEH Fellowship to study Collections Care Administration. Yep, that was the 1990s for you.

Every day I hear of a new Museum Studies program at yet another institution.  I caution potential students to strongly evaluate the quality of the program they are considering. Who are the faculty? What is the coursework? What sorts of outreach programs and grants is the program working on, and with what museums are they affiliated? Are those the types of museums with which you would like to be affiliated, or not? How many of their faculty are currently working in the field? Where are their alums today, and is that where you want to be? A lot of graduate students are busy in their careers already out of necessity, but need credentials to get a leg up. A local program can be appealing, but the new student may not be aware that different museum studies programs are more valuable on your resume than others.

Read this book! Get it at spnhc.org.

What to do? Call staff at the type of museum you want to work at and ask them what they think about training and various museum studies programs. It might take them a little time to get back to your phone call, but I think you would find a lot of people willing to speak to you about their experience. A lot of people will feel some loyalty toward their alma mater.

Keep in mind that for everyone in a permanent museum position, there are probably 1-2 other museum professionals working contract work. This can be because of the flexibility contract work offers, but many people work on soft money or temporary positions because there are few permanent positions to be had. Be aware – you may find some sour attitudes. Money and benefits are tight in the non-profit world, and you may find some museum staff directing you to change your career idea. Any input is useful, and it’s worth hearing out what makes the field difficult.

Or ask me – leave me a comment if you have questions about your potential museum career. I don’t have all the answers, but I might be able to suggest something.

A Lesson in Water Conservation – from Martians

The Leaky Faucet features two of the weirder Muppets, The Martians. Their octopus-like lower halves are topped with wide flexible mouths that express their astonishment with the trappings of Earth, and are big enough to hide behind when required.

Enjoy while The Martians try to get to know a leaky faucet. The Martians Discover a Telephone  and The Martians Discover a Radio are fun too. It shows that learned Martians use reference texts to identify objects – even if they do so with mixed success.

Yip yip yip yip.

Martians Discovering a Telephone. Photo: Muppet Wiki.