I visited family in Ann Arbor this past weekend to explore the University of Michigan Museum of Art with my cousins. Some of my first memories at museums are with them, when all I knew was that I liked the echoed quiet and the staged scenes of animals and ancient civilizations. Museums seemed to tell stories to me with a quality non-existent anywhere else. I could look into paintings and learn about ballerinas, or mythology, or places unexplored. I could learn about famous lives and the future. I could ask questions and wonder.
As I got older, museums became a place I could wander alone, ahead of my parents and sister, pretending I was a world traveller. I collected magnets of my favorite statues and landscapes and dinosaur skeletons and hung them up in my locker. I liked the feeling of making some of the most beautiful things in the entire world my own, and establishing my belonging to them as well. This exchange with the vast world was a part of my growing up.
This became my favorite scene of my favorite movie. The three friends take a break from their day of adventure to be quiet, to contemplate the masterpieces in the Art Institute of Chicago. What I love about this sequence, however, is the way they interact with the art. Cameron’s anxiety is brought out in Georges Seurat’s pointillism. Sloane and Ferris share an intimate moment in front of Chagall’s America windows. The art makes the characters feel, and in turn, they become a part of the art.
Now, museums offer me a sense of peace and reflection unique to anything else. I am reminded that I am a participant of a diverse, limitless human experience. I frequently am stuck on the idea that there is a “right” way to live, to end up happy. That if I do not follow the formula for success most common, my life will never be meaningful or important. Museums, however, emphasize the degree of unique paths that can lead to fulfillment, emphasize the value in adversity and audacity. As I am beginning to consider myself a historian, a traveller, an artist, I am both excited and reassured by the inspiration museums offer. In museums, I ask myself what I want to create, where I want to go, who I want to be. They help me to open my mind, remove the tunnel vision I have on my daily life.
In my imagination, I build my own museums; collections of thoughts and colors and ideas and plans. They house the happiness, the exploration of which I am capable.