Nerd Em hits up Laramie: Museums and more – July 18-20
Thursday July 18, 2013
On Thursday and Friday, I let Nerd Em go free-range.
On Thursday, we visit the UW campus. School is out for the summer, but there are still enough students around to give the campus some vibrancy. It’s a fairly small university of 13,000 students but it has a typical college campus feel with a mix of building ages and styles. There are a couple ‘quads’ and some nice sculptures. Several of the students smile and wave at me and the fully-loaded bike.
First, we visit the Geological Museum on the UW campus. I’m actually a bit disappointed in the amount and quality of the exhibits, though I think the natural history museum at U. of Nebraska – Lincoln really spoiled me. I think it is still worth the stop though, because they are in the middle of renovations. The plans on display look impressive, so maybe it will be excellent once it is finished.
We also visit the Anthropology Museum on campus. The building is new, and so are the exhibits. It is not a large gallery, but it does feature the Colby Mammoth Site and the Vore Buffalo Jump – sites we’ve already ridden by on the trip. The staff are overly-friendly, as well. They insist I sign the guest book.
A stop by the American Heritage Center and UW art museum lets us go in the strangest-looking building on campus (no photo because they are working on the roof and the building is covered in scaffolding). It looks like a cross between a tipi and a black-sided spaceship. I think it is supposed to represent a mountain.
The Center houses all of the UW archives and is one of the largest non-governmental repositories in the US. The list of their collections is huge, covering an enormous variety of topics. There is an exhibit room which showcases a few pieces from some of the more famous collections. Well worth a look. It is also worth going in the George Rentscher Room to check out the western paintings. The room has wood-panelled walls, antique furniture and shelves of books. It’s got the coziness and quietness of any nerd’s dream home library. The paintings include a Frederic Remington, but I like the other paintings better.
Housed in the same building is the UW Art Museum. The exhibits change all the time, but I’m interested in one titled, “The Botanical Series”. The artists have carefully laid out and then scanned in plants, mostly herbs and fruits, and printed them on a digital printer. The detail, and the clarity of the detail, is outstanding. You can pick out individual hairs on roots. Leaf veins stand out as rigid lines against the softer flesh.
I get my nerd on with the plant exhibit, but the other exhibits, including one of interior and exterior urban spaces, one showing still-lifes, and one showing African folk art, are way beyond my redneck/bogan sensibilities. I always feel a bit like a fraud in an art museum!
On Friday, we head out to the ranger station on the west side of town to find out about water sources and open campgrounds for our crossing of the Snowy Range. The college-aged customer service woman is very friendly and goes beyond the call of duty to help me. She doesn’t have topo maps for sale, but the motor vehicle use maps show all the roads and campgrounds. These maps are free, so she gives me one, then takes her master map out, three colours of highlighters and a pen, and marks up my map with all the open campgrounds, where I can get water, which campgrounds are better for tenters and some points of interest. While doing so, we have a fun conversation about the pros and cons of Wyoming versus Colorado (she worked on a forest in Colorado last summer). I wish her luck for the summer and in her career – she’s a definite asset to the USFS.
After this, the crew and I head down to the Territorial Prison Historic Site. The prison was open from 1872 to 1903, housing over 1000 men and 12 women in its time of operation. I luck out and arrive just in time for a guided tour which is included in the cost of admission. The tour is long, about an hour and a half, but worth sticking with it. About half of our group of 20 abscond over the course of the tour, but the volunteer guides tell stories of individual prisoners, as well as facts about building construction and operation. Along the way we ‘meet’ several living history presenters dressed in their period costumes. After the tour, I head back to look at some of the exhibits in more depth. It is all very well done and worth the $5 admission.
On Saturday, I just hang out in the morning. The brain is maxed out. My old CSU friend comes to hang out for the afternoon. We talk PhDs, academia and our hopes and dreams. In the last eight years, he has really embraced life and it’s great to see an old friend doing so well.