In 2010, Phoenix, Arizona opened up a museum dedicated solely to musical instruments called the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). The MIM strives to display instruments from every country and territory in the world, so, with about 7,000 instruments on display, there over 200 countries/territories currently represented.
The museum is categorized by geographic regions, meaning that the instruments from South Asia are all in one section, whereas the instruments from Europe are in another. However, the displays are categorized even further by individual countries. For instance, the room devoted to African instruments does not lump them all together, but provides a separate display for each individual country.
When you arrive at the museum, you receive an individual headset, which you wear while walking through the museum. Once you arrive at a specific country’s display, a sensor picks up your headset and starts playing the music of that country. Additionally, most of the countries also have a screen next to them, showing people playing the music that is coming through your headset. This is what makes the MIM so amazing. You not only have the ability to see a variety of instruments from all over the world, but you are also able to hear and watch them being played.
Since the MIM is located in the United States, the U.S. has the largest representation of any country within the museum. However, this means that the sections about the United States are divided by genre, so jazz, rock and roll, and country music all have their own sections. The U.S. section even has the first Steinway piano, which is impressive, since this U.S. company is considered one of the best piano companies in the world. Although classical music is often performed on Steinway pianos, the classical music genre is actually covered in the European instruments section.
The Musical Instrument Museum is definitely worth the visit, especially if you have an interest in music.
Many people know about Samaritans from the New Testament parable of the “Good Samaritan,” which Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37. According to that parable, Samaritans and Jews in the 1st Century A.D. hated each other. In case you’re wondering if Samaritans still exist, I can assure you that they do, because I had the privilege of meeting one in 2010 at the Samaritan Museum on Mount Gerizim, which is just north of Jerusalem. He happened to be the brother of the Samaritan high priest, and is usually the person who speaks to visitors at the Museum.
There are currently only about 800 Samaritans left in the world, with half of them living on Mount Gerizim, and the other half living in Holon, near Tel Aviv. Over the centuries, a large portion of their population became Christian, and later, Muslim. In fact, it is believed that the people living right below Mount Gerizim in the town of Nablus (Shechem), who now identify as both Palestinian Arab and Muslim, were once Samaritans. Today, the Samaritans living in Holon are required to join the Israeli Army, however, since Mount Gerizim’s Samaritans are duo-Israeli/Palestinian citizens, they are not required to join. Mount Gerizim is located in the West Bank, which is a contested area of Israel, because it used to belong to Jordan until Israel took it during the Six Day War in 1967. West Bank means that the area is on the “west bank” of the Jordan River.
While at the Samaritan Museum, the brother of the Samaritan high priest provided a lot of information about the Samaritans and what makes them unique. First of all, the Samaritans originated as a people starting in about the 8th century B.C., when the Assyrian Empire was at its height. Several Assyrian kings, especially Sargon II, would swap the captured inhabitants of one area with the captured inhabitants of another area, in order to make it more difficult for their newly-conquered subjects to rebel against them. For example, when the Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was also known as Samaria (the name of its capital), they deported a large number of its inhabitants to the northern regions of their Empire, never to be seen again. This is where the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel” originates. The Assyrians, then, took other conquered peoples and brought them into Northern Israel/Samaria. The Israelites living there eventually mixed with these other peoples, and this fusion became the Samaritan people.
While on Mount Gerizim, I learned that Samaritans believe that they are descended from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Levi. The first two listed are among the ten tribes deported by the Assyrians. Jews believe that they are descended from the tribes of Judah (where the word “Jew” comes from), Benjamin, and Levi. These tribes lived in the Southern Kingdom of Israel, so were never deported by the Assyrians. Most of the tribes of Ancient Israel had their own allotment of land, however, the tribe of Levi became the priests, so they were scattered throughout all of Israel and never allotted their own land. That means that both the Jewish and Samaritan claim of having Levite lineage is possible. Researchers have actually administered DNA testing on Jews claiming priestly lineage (people with the last name of Cohen qualify, since that is the Hebrew word for “priest”), and concluded that a Jew claiming priestly descent from Europe and another from Northern Africa actually have a unique chromosome (Y-Chromosomal Aaron) not found in any other population group in the world. When the test extended to Samaritans claiming priestly descent, the chromosome was not exactly the same, but extremely close.
What makes the Samaritan religion different from Judaism is that, wherever a Jewish Bible reads “Jerusalem,” a Samaritan Bible says “Mount Gerizim.” Mount Gerizim is referenced in the Jewish Bible, but does not have the importance that the Samaritans give to it. At the end of Deuteronomy, it says that after the people of Israel left Egypt, they eventually went with Moses to the top of Mount Ebal, where they read the curses that God would place upon them if they disobeyed him. Then, they went to nearby Mount Gerizim, and read the blessings that God would place on them if they obeyed. Perhaps this, and the fact that Mount Gerizim was located in Samaria while Jerusalem was not, attributed to why it is now revered by the Samaritans. The New Testament potentially references the importance of Mount Gerizim to the Samaritans as well. In John 4, a Samaritan woman told Jesus that her ancestors had been worshipping on “this mountain” (the mountain was not specified, but was probably Mt. Gerizim). Not far from the Museum is the remains of a Samaritan Temple, but a Jewish king destroyed it in the 1st Century B.C. A Byzantine church was later built over it, so most of the visible remains come from that latter period.
There are a few other interesting comparisons between the Samaritans and the Jews. For example, on Mount Gerizim, I saw an outdoor, circular area, where the Samaritans still sacrifice a lamb on Passover each year. Visitors are actually welcome to watch. Jews no longer literally sacrifice a lamb on Passover, but they do put a lamb bone on their Passover table to remember the ancient practice. Similarly, like the Jews, the Samaritans follow Deuteronomy 6:9’s injunction of placing God’s commandments on their doorposts. However, whereas Jews follow it by placing a tiny scroll (mezuzah) containing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 inside a little box adhered to their doorposts, Samaritans carve out a Bible verse of their choosing above their doorways.
Thankfully, Samaritans and Jews do not hate each other as they once did. They are now accepted as Israeli citizens, even if they live in the West Bank. Additionally, another interesting development in the Samaritan community has to do with marriage. Samaritans are only permitted to marry within their community, however, since their numbers are dwindling, there is now a new rule. If a Jewish woman is willing to convert to the Samaritan version of Judaism, then a Samaritan man can marry her. It does not apply to Jewish men though.
Shen, Peidong, Tal Lavi, Toomas Kivisild, Vivian Chou, Deniz Sengun, Dov Gefel, Issac Shpirer, et al. “Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations from Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation.” Human Mutation 24, no. 3 (September 2004): 248–60. https://doi.org/10.1002/humu.20077.
Because it was recently Thanksgiving, I want to write about Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States. Although not directly part of the Thanksgiving story, the establishment of Jamestown in 1607 paved the way for the English settlers, known as the Pilgrims, to established Plymouth Colony in 1620. (Thanksgiving originated from the latter group’s story.)
English males arrived in what is now known as Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, because the English were competing with the Spanish, who had already settled in different parts of the “New World.” They named their settlement “Jamestown” in honor of their King, James I. This was the same James after whom the famous King James Bible translation of 1611 was named. The settlement was on a peninsula near the Atlantic coast.
Jamestown’s history includes a rocky relationship with the Native American tribe, the Powhatans, who were already living there. The most famous Powhatan is probably Pocahontas, because of the writings of one of Jamestown’s future governors, Captain John Smith. According to him, Pocahontas did not allow her father, the Powhatan chief, to kill him after he was captured. John Smith was a prolific writer, but he was also an exaggerator, so nobody knows how much of his writings are fact or fiction. Pocahontas eventually married another Jamestown settler, John Rolfe, but she became ill and died around the age of 21, while visiting England with him.
The English were ill-equipped, so many died of starvation and disease at Jamestown. Additionally, cultural clashes with the Powhatans led to fighting between the two groups. However, once life became more stable for them, English women started joining the men. In 1619, the English brought African captives to Jamestown. They became the first recorded Africans to live in North America.
If you visit Jamestown, you have the option of seeing two sites. The first is Historic Jamestowne, which is owned by the National Park Service and contains the original site of the English settlement. Today, it is primarily an archaeological site, because not much of the site is still visible above the ground. However, there is a museum there that houses objects that archaeologists have found at the site.
The second site is about a five-minute drive away from Historic Jamestowne, and is called Jamestown Settlement. Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum. That means that the site replicates what Jamestown would have looked like in the 1600s, and has historic reenactors walking around the site, providing tours and answering questions. The reenactors are dressed as both English settlers and Native Americans. The Native American reenactor that I met was actually of Native American decent. The site also includes replicas of the three ships that brought the first English settlers to Jamestown. Visitors can go inside of them.
Jamestown Settlement is pricier than Historic Jamestowne, but does include duo-ticket deal options for the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which is owned by the same organization as Jamestown Settlement. This museum is thirty minutes away from Jamestown and is in Yorktown, where the Revolutionary War (the U.S.’s war for independence) ended. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit that museum. However, I believe that they do Revolutionary War reenactments there.
Jamestown’s importance in history is evident by the fact that it paved the way for the eventual English domination of most of North America. The English legacy still lives on, not only by how it influenced the governments of both Canada and the United States, but also in the fact that English is the primary language spoken in North America today. However, Spanish settlers clearly won dominance in Mexico, Central, and South America, as Spanish is the primary language spoken in those areas today (Brazil, which speaks Portuguese, is a notable exception.).
P. S. Although this is completely unrelated, I wanted to mention an update. In a previous post, I wrote about how I discovered a letter from 1933 in a book that I was cataloging. Well, I was able to track down the grandson of the letter’s recipient, and return it to him! https://arkeh.travel.blog/2019/11/17/library-detective-work/
Unfortunately, many genocides occurred during the twentieth century. One of them was the Cambodian Genocide, which took place between 1975 and 1979. Approximately, 2 million people died. In the United States, Chicago is the only place that currently has a memorial to this Genocide (although Long Beach, California is currently working on one). This is interesting, since most Cambodians in the United States actually live in California and Massachusetts, not Chicago.
National Cambodian Heritage Museum & Killing Fields Memorial opened in
2004, but falls under the authority of the Cambodian Association of Illinois,
which was founded in 1976. This organization
was founded during the Genocide, with the purpose of assisting Cambodian refugees
who came to resettle in Chicago. Today,
the organization provides healthcare assistance and community programming for the
approximately 5,000 Cambodians living in the Chicago area.
The Cambodian Heritage Museum is open to the public whenever the Cambodian Association of Illinois has its regular office hours. However, it does not hurt to call ahead of time. Unlike many museums, your participation is essential during your visit. All visits include a tour, in which your guide describes the Cambodian community and Genocide based on what you already know and want to know. Artifacts do not play a major role in the Museum. Instead, they are used as ways to discuss different aspects of the Genocide.
When I visited
the Cambodian Heritage Museum, the associate director of the Cambodian
Association of Illinois, who is also the main overseer of the Museum, provided
me with a personal tour. First, she had
me watch a brief video about the Cambodian Genocide, and then we went through
the exhibit together. Although she is
one of the few staff members at the Cambodian Association of Illinois who is
not Cambodian, her passion and love for the community is quite evident. She was a wonderful tour guide, and provided
me with a very personal and informative experience. Prior to my visit, I hardly knew anything
about the Genocide, so she provided a very helpful overview.
The Cambodian Genocide is linked with the Vietnam War. During that time, Communist forces from Vietnam spread their ideology into neighboring Cambodia. Then, a Communist regime, also known as the Khmer Rouge, took over Cambodia, and the Genocide soon followed. Many people were murdered outright, especially Cambodia’s intellectuals and artists. By removing the intellectuals of a society, a government removes its strongest resistance. However, that action indirectly caused the deaths of many more people. If a country has murdered all of its doctors, who is going to treat illnesses appropriately? In order to make the country equal, the Khmer Rouge tried to make everyone become farmers, and brought many people from the cities into the rural areas. Many more deaths occurred due to lack of food, the poor conditions of the newly-created labor camps, and the outright murder of dissenters.
At the very
back of the Cambodian Heritage Museum is the actual memorial to the Genocide. On it are etched the names of the dead family
and friends of Cambodian refugees now living in the United States. During my tour, I was told how, in Cambodia,
most memorials to the Genocide are rooms with thousands of human skulls. However, for this Chicago Memorial, the
community did not want to recreate the horror of what occurred, but wanted to provide
a calming environment to commemorate the tragedy.
“At Home in Chicago” is a consortium of over 20 mansions in the Chicago area that are open to the public. One of these mansions was built for a wealthy Chicago family in 1917, and faces Lake Shore Drive. Since 1954, this mansion has housed the International Museum of Surgical Science, which is owned by the International College of Surgeons. This latter group’s purpose statement is: ” Promoting excellence of surgeons and surgical specialists worldwide.” It was founded by a surgeon named Dr. Max Thorek.
When I visited the museum, I had low expectations, because I thought that it would either be boring or disturbing. However, I ended up loving my visit. In the past, the museum solely focused on the history of surgery, but now, the scope has widened to medical history in general.
Each room in this gigantic mansion focuses on a different topic. For instance, one room solely focuses on the medical history of eyes, so the displays include a variety of eyeglasses and eyepieces used throughout history. Another room focuses on pain and painkillers used throughout history. From that exhibit, I learned that the drug “Heroin” received its name, because in the late nineteenth century, it was considered a “heroic” drug that cured many ailments. Of course, there was also a room about the history of surgery, and included scary saws and tools that were used to perform surgeries in the past.
One of the rooms that I found the most interesting was devoted to the history of how radiation has been used for medical purposes. Unfortunately, the pioneers in that field had premature deaths, because they received radiation poisoning by x-raying themselves so much. X-rays were often used to treat all kinds of medical problems. The museum even had an x-ray machine that was used at shoe stores to measure people’s foot sizes. While I was looking at that display (this was in 2018), I overheard an elderly woman telling someone how she remembered having her foot measured that way when she would go shoe shopping with her mother. Because the negative side effects of radiation do not appear immediately, people used it unwisely for a long time. It makes me wonder if we are currently using a new technology unwisely, but will not realize how dangerous it is until several decades later.
Other noteworthy features at the museum include an impressive library of old medical books (not accessible to the general public) and ancient Peruvian heads with holes in them, showing that surgery has been done for centuries. The only downside to this museum is that if you do not enjoy reading signs, you may not enjoy this museum as much, since it is not very interactive. However, the museum does offer tours on Thursdays. Also, it should be noted that on Tuesdays, the museum is free for Illinois residents.
After the American Civil War, freed slaves began migrating to the northern United States. This trend continued into the beginning of the twentieth century, as the Ku Klux Klan revived in 1915, and as African Americans in the South sought better job opportunities in the North. The migration of African Americans to the North between 1910 to 1960 is known as the “Great Migration.” Because of the Great Migration, the two cities with the largest African American populations are located in the North: New York City and Chicago, respectively.
Because Chicago has a rich African American history, the
DuSable Museum of African American History opened up in Chicago in 1961. The museum originally began in the home of its
founder, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, but in 1971, moved to its current home, which
is a beautiful building that used to be an administration and police lockup
facility. Located on the South Side of
Chicago, where most African Americans live, the museum is named after Jean
Baptiste Point DuSable, a Hatian trader who is considered the first permanent non-Native
American resident of Chicago.
The main exhibit of the museum provides a timeline of African American history, beginning with the slave trade, but then eventually narrows down to Chicago’s African American history. One aspect of Chicago’s African American history that the museum highlights is the Pullman Car Company, which used to hire African Americans as porters on its trains, and paid them better than many other jobs that hired African Americans at the time. The museum also mentions the story of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago who was lynched when he went to visit relatives in Mississippi, because he allegedly whistled at a white woman. This tragedy, which occurred in 1955, was one of the many injustices of the South that helped fuel the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Martin Luther King, Jr. actually visited Chicago during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, he was invited to Chicago to address the segregation there, and started what became the Chicago Freedom Movement. If you would like to learn more about Chicago’s unfair housing situation during that time, read or watch Lorraine Hansberry’s famous 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun. Unfortunately, the violence and poverty of Chicago’s South Side would probably not be in such a sad state if African Americans had been integrated equally in Chicago when they first arrived. Chicago’s historic practice of housing segregation is why such a large number of African Americans live south of the Chicago River in the first place.
Chicago is considered by some to be the birthplace of modern gospel music. The first gospel choir was begun in 1931 in an African American church called Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, which is still an active church today.
This church attests to how the South Side has historically been the home of Chicago’s immigrants. Before being an African American neighborhood, Bronzeville was a Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Note that the Church’s cornerstone is using the Jewish year (which is based on rabbinic calculations of the Bible’s genealogies) rather than the Gregorian calendar. It used to be a synagogue called Temple Isaiah. In case you’re wondering, 5659 is 1898.
Some famous African American jazz musicians lived in Chicago for a while. Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood has the homes of Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. They are still lived in, and not open to the public.
One final exhibit at the DuSable Museum that I thought was kind of fun was an animatronic of Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington, who served from 1983 to 1987. The exhibit has Harold Washington talking to you.
If you want to learn more about Chicago’s African American history, then the DuSable Museum is a great place to start.
In 2011, a group of house museums in the Chicago area formed a consortium called “At Home in Chicago.” Some of these houses are free to visit, while others cost admission. A list of the homes can be found here: http://www.chicagohousemuseums.org/directory/
Some of the homes that usually cost admission, occasionally have free days. The Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Illinois has free days on the second Saturday of each month (except in the winter months, when it is closed).
The Cuneo Mansion was completed in 1916 and belonged to an electrical pioneer named Samuel Insull, who was also the founder of the Chicago Civic Opera House in 1929. Unfortunately, he lost the house during the Great Depression.
Eventually, the home passed hands to the wealthy Cuneo family, who later donated it to Loyola University in Chicago in 2009. The University has hosted classes at the mansion, rented it out for events, and opened it up to the public for self-guided tours.
Although most house museums provide guided tours so that visitors can learn further information about the house, the self-guided tour option at the Cuneo Mansion was a nice change. I did not have to rush through the house, as I would on a formal tour, but could admire its beauty at my own pace. Because of the beauty of the home and grounds, Cuneo Mansion was apparently featured in a film with Julia Roberts called My Best Friend’s Wedding.
This mansion was probably built when Vernon Hills was less populated, however, it is now only five minutes away from Hawthorne Mall. When you arrive at the house’s gated entrance, be prepared to get out of your car and dial security with the phone there, so that they can lift up the front gate and let you in.