Last night I drove over to Milwaukee for the opening/preview of the new exhibit Saint Peter and the Vatican: the Legacy of the Popes at the Milwaukee Public Museum (a natural history museum, kind of like the Field, only smaller). The exhibit doesn't formally open until Feb. 4th, but I'm a big shot and well connected so obviously I would be able to get in to the closed door preview with ease. They even gave me a name tag with my name already printed on it. No marker needed! Seriously, my cousin's firm in Milwaukee is connected to the museum, and after a few more connections past that you end up with my cousin on the list of invitees. Aside from the open bar and snacks you were able to tour the exhibit at your leisure with a bunch of big shots in suits. Its the only way to tour a museum for me from now on. The mayor of Beer City was there -- I sure didn't know who he is but my cousin keyed me in a few minutes after he and I had been standing next to each other reading a description of a painting.
The exhibit was really overwhelming to say the least. One highlight was being able to look at the first known map of Australia. That is just an amazing thing to be able to see. The other impressive portion was a walk through pseudo-tunnel designed to emulate the scaffolding and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as it was being painted -- essentially the working conditions of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Sistine Chapel bit, and everything else in the exhibit, gave me an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction, curiosity, interest, and a little instance of that nagging idea living in the corner of my brain that I'm not doing enough with my life. The whole 2000 years of history, art, and knowledge was simply awe inspiring.
Some people, as they were moving through the exhibit, mumbled something to the extent of ,"the Vatican certainly isn't poor." Its a valid point -- the Church is committed to helping the poor and collection priceless artifacts and objects isn't a terribly direct path to satisfying that end. Selling some of that stuff could feed a lot of people. True. But also, how much more enriched are all of our lives for being able to observe these works of art and history in an exhibit such as this? Mine certainly was. If they were scattered across the globe in private collections would we ever see them? How many would be lost or destroyed? The Vatican is undeniably an exceptional curator.
My goal to travel to Europe and Italy in particular is stronger than ever. Perhaps next year -- Alaska is the dream to refulfill this year.