Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dioramas at the RMSC

The best thing about the RMSC, in my opinion, is the amount of dioramas. I happen to be a sucker for miniatures, but these really are quite impressive. The diorama of Rochester circa, um, The Olden Days (sometimes I forget to read the plaques) perfectly captures the interminable gray hopelessness of midwinter in western New York. I mean that in a good way. It's very artistic!

This is the Erie Canal, which used to go over the aquaduct in the middle of the city. The aquaduct is now the Broad Street Bridge, which crosses the Genesee. When I walked through the abandoned subway, I walked across the top of the aquaduct in the diorama -- Broad Street is on a layer above it. I have absolutely no idea what those buildings are. There was a diagram, but a small child was leaning on it and I thought it would be rude to shove him over to take a picture.

And this is a view down Fitzhugh Street, which crosses Main two streets over from Exchange. I'm pretty sure none of these buildings are there anymore, except possibly for the church on the left. I wouldn't know Fitzhugh Street from any other random street downtown, but GoogleMaps and RocWiki suggest that that church is St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church, standing since 1824.

But the purpose of including this picture was really to point out the birds circling the steeple of the church on the right. Nice touch.

I suspect this is an early mill at High Falls. I forgot to read the plaque again. I get so excited by the tiny little frozen people! Undoubtedly this mill burned down at some point; such is the fate of all mills.

Interestingly (or not, according to your tastes), there was an exhibit in Rare Books at work where you could go and see a sketch of High Falls from before the area was settled. Oh look, they were kind enough to put it on their website where I can steal it. Voila:

This is cute for two reasons: (1) The artist put himself in his own sketch. (2) The artist is wearing a tricorner hat. What's less cute is that this guy, as I recall, was led to this place by a helpful Native American guide, whose people were soon thereafter cheated out of all their land, bit by bit.

But back in the days before Europeans came and quite literally ruined everything, the RMSC tells us that there was a lot of this going on:

There are several dioramas like these, all of which are really cool, but this is my favorite. I wish I knew who was involved in making it, because I would like to give them credit. These figures are incredibly charming.

These, I think, are Iroquois. Again, I did not read anything. But they're making longhouses so it seems like a safe bet. There are also, among others, Pueblo Indians, Plains Indians, and what I think are Pacific Northwest Indians. I'm confused as to why we have totem poles here when they are apparently a tradition in the Pacific Northwest, but I guess it's possible Wikipedia might be leaving stuff out. You'd think someone with access to nine gazillion reference resources would be able to figure this out, but it's 9:30 and I'm tired.

Lest these lovely dioramas suggest otherwise, I want to reiterate that the RMSC should still be considered creepy by including this . . . lovely creature.

The fact that he is fake and comes with his surroundings attached to his feet means he counts as a tiny little diorama of his own. A creepy one. If you are sensitive to the idea of primitive mammals crawling all over the earth, I recommend skipping the geological history and heading straight for the local history dioramas. They are very soothing.


Christi said...

Aww there was no picture of the naked ladies diorama!!

Simon said...

For some reason that particular photo wasn't high on my list to include...

Christi said...

pffft whatever. Keep it for your personal collection then :D

All joking aside, your pictures of the Rochester diorama (circa 1838 btw) are amazing. I think that was my favorite part of the entire trip, if only because it was a new diorama that I had never seen before (same with the mannequins frozen in time in life-size dioramas...). I actually went to google-maps, just to see if I was right about where Fitzhugh St. was, and I was right: It is the street where we normally would turn left to go into the parking garage beneath city hall. (This is looking straight across Broad St.)

HOWEVER! When I turned around (in google-maps) I found THIS! You were correct, saying that church was still there! This revelation nearly made me pee my pants with delight that SOMEONE HAD MADE THE TINY CHURCH AND IT WAS THERE IN 1838!!! haha. It doesn't take much to delight me, apparently.

But, I was curious about that other church, since it was directly across the street and I moved North a little more, and turned back. This is what I saw, and I'm now wondering if it was perhaps the same structure? Is that even possible to do with churches? Just...add on to it and make it a business building? But at any rate, I had some fun digitally walking among the streets of Rochester. It was much less threatening this way :)

Simon said...

WHOOOAAA. It doesn't take much to delight me either, because I just got all excited about that, even though I had already convinced myself it was still standing. Not the same as seeing a picture of it. I didn't even think of doing Street View on Google Maps. You are a genius!

I couldn't tell about the other one. It is totally possible to buy a church structure and turn it into something else. But I can't quite turn the present building into the diorama building in my head. We should go visit the Landmark Society and see what they know. I bet they could tell us.

P.S. 1838! Thank you. I couldn't remember.

Simon said...

Also, I have more pictures of it that I can give you so you have them. And I will include the one of the boobies. Just for you, my dear.

Christi said...

Yeah, when I looked back at your reference picture of the diorama again, I think I was just seeing the spike and got ahead of myself. At second glance, it really doesn't look much at all like the church in the diorama. But oh well! I still loved seeing the other church still standing with a cop car in front of it!! :DDD