My tour guide, Sunny, was an older woman with an infectious enthusiasm about Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, specifically. Sunny by name, sunny by nature I thought. Too bad her name was definitely not reflected in the grey and hazy morning weather. If it weren’t for the humidity I would have felt like I was back in London.
We meandered around the garden as I listened to Sunny’s anecdotes about the sculptures. I was pleasantly struck by how family-friendly the sculpture garden is. You hear that people in Minnesota are friendly and welcoming but I was not expecting that openness to extend to their museum.
Salute to Painting by Roy Lichtenstein
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has gotten more than 7 million visitors since it opened in 1988. Part of the renowned Walker Art Center, the garden combines two things Minneapolis is known for – arts and outdoor space.
The most famous sculpture in the garden is without a doubt Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Oldenburg got the idea for a spoon based on the motif he saw inside the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis. The building featured their beloved Betty Crocker and her spoon. The spoon itself is 52 feet long.
The cherry, weighing in at 1200 pounds, is a fountain. The stem sprays a fine mist in the summer onto a pond shaped like a leaf from the Linden trees found in the park. In the winter, the snow piles up so high around the sculpture that only the cherry on top is visible. It looks like an ice cream sundae!
Beautifully landscaped with rows of Linden trees, clipped hedges and well-maintained grass, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden spreads out over 11 acres. If it weren’t for the occasional piece by such notable sculptors as Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, the children playing in the grass and the couples out for a stroll along pebbled paths would make it look no different from any other public park.
The garden is sprinkled with benches for you to sit and appreciate the art. It also makes a great space for people watching! No one was precious about the many babies and children playing in the garden. These pieces of art are made to withstand the harsh Minnesota winters as well as interaction by the occasional child.
There will be a mini-golf course called Walker on the Green with pieces of modern art opening soon. Located next door to the sculpture garden, the mini golf will make the space even more family-friendly. I know my kids will think it is a hoot to hit a golf ball through a urinal. Just their sense of toilet humour.
My Three Favourite Pieces of Sculpture
With so many choices, I struggled with choosing just 3 favourite pieces from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to share with you.
Arikidea by Mark di Suvero seemed to be one of the most popular pieces in the garden. Weighing more than 3 tons, the platform on the bottom was a natural gathering place for people and photos. Both the platform and the piece swung gently with any movement even a light wind.
My other favourite piece was Standing Glass Fish by Canadian artist Frank Gehry. The 22 foot high glass fish set into a lily pond is a nod to an abiding memory of his childhood in Toronto. Gehry’s grandmother would buy a giant carp on Thursday which she would leave swimming in the bathtub until Friday. On Friday, she would prepare gefilte fish for the Jewish sabbath.
My third choice has nothing to do with animals. It is Two Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth by Dan Graham. You get mazes and labyrinths in gardens in the grand old houses of Europe such as Hever Castle. This variation on the theme uses modern materials to look at the concept of transparency and reflection.
The photo below shows Sunny standing on the other side of the glass wall which also reflects back on me taking the photo.
It’s Sunny through the glass.
The material lets you see through but also reflects back your own image. It really messes with your sense of perception in a cool way. I loved the way that children interacted with the hedges and different facets of mirror and metal.
Good to Know:
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the home of 40+ pieces of modern art owned by the Walker Art Center. I took one of the free guided tours available from May through September on the weekends at 11:30. The Garden is expected to close this September until next year for a complete revamp. This sculpture garden is so great I can’t wait to see what the new and ‘improved’ version will be.
The Walker on the Green mini golf course is open daily and has 2 courses. Fees range between $12 for adults and $9 for children. Children under the age of 5 are free. In addition, your mini golf course ticket entitles you to a free ticket to the main Walker Art Center (a $14 value).
And, the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Although Thomas Hobbes was writing about the conditions of war in 1651 not much had changed since medieval times. Life was even nastier and shorter if you caught the attention of the Inquisition. The ecclesiastical body set up by the Catholic Church to weed out those people who did not conform to its teachings, the Inquisition, was ruthless. They effectively had declared war on heretics, homosexuals and supposed witches. The Inquisition had the authority to question thoroughly (i.e., torture) its suspects.
The Inquisition in the Languedoc
On our recent trip to Carcassone in the Languedoc region of the South of France, we visited the Inquisition Museum. Unfortunately, the Inquisition held a heavy grip on the area the mid-13th century to the early 18th century. The region was a stronghold of the Cathars, a Christian sect which dared to defy some of the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Inquisition showed no mercy to the Cathars as it swept through the area.
The Inquisition Museum was truly disturbing. I had no idea there were so many different ways to harm people. I usually deal with discomfort with humour and so I got to wondering how the torture would stack up in the modern world.
When I think of torture in the present context, I can’t help but think of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney and Guantanamo Bay. He, of course, would not understand why. After all, Cheney has insisted water boarding is not torture.
The Instruments of the Inquisition
From a scale of 1-5 with with 1 not being torture to 5 being a grudging acceptance that it is, I bring you the Cheney torture scale for 7 medieval torture instruments.
The Judas Chair
The Judas Chair was used on witches. They were sat down on a chair of nails and the boards were slowly tightened until it really hurt. Death was slow because the nails would stem the flow of blood loss from the punctures.
Cheney Torture Scale: 2/5 It’s only a slightly uncomfortable seat. High back wooden chairs are never as comfortable as say a La-Z Boy recliner. Get over it.
The Hell Cage
These cages were usually found on crossroads to serve as a warning to others. Suspects were left naked in the cages. People would die from hunger or thirst if they were left in there long enough.
Cheney Torture Scale: 1/5 Naturists hang out in the fresh air all the time. How is this torture?
These were relatively easy deaths saved for important people. You know how it works.
Cheney Torture Scale: 1/5 How is this even torture? The person just dies with the briefest time of pain.
The Stretching Ladder
This ladder was used to stretch limbs to extract a confession. Usually the suspect would dislocate a shoulder.
Cheney Torture Scale: 1/5 It gives you a good stretch. Much better than yoga.
The saw was a cheap and easy way to torture on the go because usually the Inquisitors travelled without their instruments. Every village would have a saw. Either people were sawed in half completely or only half-way so that they died of blood-loss and pain.
Cheney Torture Scale: 5/5 This method is pretty sick. But somewhat pointless as two halves of a person will not divulge any information.
The Breaking Wheel
The person was tied to a wheel and beaten until the bones were broken. Then the victim was left to be eaten by crows.
Cheney Torture Scale: 2/5 At least the person was lying down. Moreover, the nurturing of wildlife is an important government duty.
The Neck Violin
The neck violin was attached to a person’s neck and arms. They had to march through the streets with a sign proclaiming their misdeed.
Cheney Torture Scale: 1/5 Exercise does a body good.
Believe it or not, these methods are only a small sampling of the devices used by the Inquisition. Their creativity and cruelty seemed to know no bounds.
Visiting the Inquisition Museum
The Inquisition Museum is located in the medieval walled Cite of Carcassone. It is comprised of two parts located in two different houses- the museum and the jail. The Museum has displays and detailed photos of torture instruments and their use. The jail has waxed figures depicting how the accused would be accused and brought to questioning. Draped in cloth, you walk through the dark house and listen to the whispers of accusers and the howl of the accused. I thought it was completely creepy. I would advise caution in visiting this museum with younger children. Teenagers who have seen any number of horror movies will not be bothered by the implied violence and mutilation.
Sort of like the moon landings for a previous generation, I’m sure our generation will remember where they were when the 9/11 attacks occurred. My husband and I had just returned from an amazing honeymoon. September 11, 2001 was the first day back at work for us. Morning in New York City meant we were just returning to our desks after lunch.
When our computer screens flashed up news of a plane crashing in Manhattan, it seemed surreal. I worked in the London office of a New York law firm. Many of us were native New Yorkers. We all gathered in the conference room to watch the unfolding horror on the big screen television. Everyone was equally shocked. Our office closed early that day. No one would have been able to return to work after watching the tragic events happening in our home town.
One World Trade Center
We have talked to our children a bit about the events of 9/11 which occurred before they were born. We have visited friends who lived in downtown Manhattan. They had a birds eye view of the building of One World Trade Center.
The building designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind is stunning visually. Rising triumphantly over the skyline, the blue sky and sun reflect of the glass, a sparkling testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Now that my kids are 9 years old, I felt they were old enough to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum itself.
The 9/11 Memorial Plaza
The 9/11 Memorial is a plaza with twin reflecting pools. Each pool is set in the footprint of one of the Twin Towers. Needless to say, the waterfall pits are massive – about an acre each.
Names of the victims are inscribed onto the sides of the pools.
The plaza and other buildings are still a work in progress.
The 9/11 Museum
The 9/11 Museum is pretty much underground. The original Twin Towers had foundations with retaining walls that kept the Hudson River from flooding into the building. Despite the destruction aboveground, the retaining walls remained strong. (A mercy or otherwise the flooding in Lower Manhattan would have caused even more destruction). The Museum is housed within these remaining foundations.
You descend down staircases and ramps into the basement. The light from the beautiful atrium overlooking Freedom Tower is soon lost as you head down into the heart of darkness/depths of despair etc. The symbolism is not subtle.
Although the museum is sombre, my children did not find it creepy. Everything is carefully curated so nothing feels overwhelming. The museum is about 110,000 s.f. so there is definitely plenty of room to spread out.
The Virgil quote from The Aeneid is part of an art installation in Memorial Hall. The letters are cut from steel taken from the fallen Twin Towers. Someone (not a classicist) thought the quote was appropriate but many people have criticised the quote for being taken out of context. In the Aeneid, the quote refers to murderous gay lovers who have hacked their enemies to death in their sleep.
Artist Spencer Finch created 2983 pages of water-colour for the installation. The shades of blue represent the artist trying to remember what colour the sky was on that fateful day. Surrounding the Virgil quote, I’m sure some bright spark thought the art could take attention away from the offending quote itself. It doesn’t.
The 9/11 Museum Exhibits
You walk past the remains of the ‘Survivor Stairs’ where many people were able to escape the building onto Vesey Street.
The mangled remains of fire trucks, ambulances etc. are on display. You can clearly see the force of the blast and the power of the heat. All of it is testament to the courage of the people who did not flinch but ran towards the disaster to help.
We looked at some of the portraits of the 3000 people who had died on the day. They were from all walks of life, young and old. My son was struck by the story of one heroic worker who rescued 18 people but died himself when the building collapsed as he went to rescue another person.
My children were a little perturbed by the missing posters exhibition. Someone can go into work one day just like any other day but then never come home. It’s a lot to take on board.
The Last Column was the last piece of structural steel to be removed from the Twin Towers in the spring of 2002.
On this piece of steel, rescue workers and others had attached messages and missing posters. The Last Column was brought back to the museum as a permanent exhibit.
Personal exhibits are also on display of people who perished on the day. This motorcycle was a wreck bought by one of the fireman who died. He had intended to restore it. His colleagues from the fire company restored it for him and placed it in memory of him at the museum.
One exhibition section goes into specific details on the events of the day itself. It is not recommended for children under the age of 10. My children insisted on going inside but I did whisk them through some of the materials.
There are eyewitness accounts, television broadcasts and lots of other multimedia materials. I’m sure the newsreels showed some of the clips of people jumping from the Twin Towers which I did not want my children to see. I am haunted by those images still to this day. And, I am not ready to get into a discussion on when murder becomes suicide.
I’m sure a lot went over my children’s heads but it was a good introduction to the events of the day. I think what happened on 9/11 is so tragic and overwhelming, it is best consumed in small doses. I am sure we will return when they are older and we can discuss in more detail what happened.
Helpful Tips For Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
The 9/11 Memorial does not require tickets. Both the memorial and museum are open daily. The Museum is free on Tuesday nights after 5pm. Otherwise, the museum costs $24 for adults and children from 7 to 17 are $15. Other discounts apply as well.
You should get tickets for a timed entry to the 9/11 Museum online. There are lines for either the top of the hour or the bottom of the hour where you can wait. Don’t bother! You can waltz in a few minutes after your allocated time slot when the lines have cleared. There’s plenty of room inside and being the last to go inside on your time slot has no impact on your visit to the museum.
Our visit took us a little over 2 hours. You could easily have spent another 2 hours if you spent more time in the enclosed ‘for older visitors’ only area.
I thought my children at 9 years of age were ready for this museum. They would not have understood as much if they were younger. They did not see all of the exhibits because I managed to evade some parts of the museum. Adult discretion is definitely advised.
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Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. More recently, Hever Castle is renowned for its gorgeous gardens and its family-friendly attractions. Now run as a private enterprise, we discovered there is lots of family fun to be had at Hever Castle and gardens.
Hever Castle History
Hever Castle was built in the 13th Century and enlarged as the Boleyn family grew in power. Anne Boleyn spent her childhood at this castle. Upon the death of the Boleyns, the castle went to Henry VIII who gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. It passed through various families before eventually being bought and restored by Wiliam Astor in the 20th century.
William Waldorf Astor was part of the wealthy New York Astor family. He had left New York City in a huff when he lost an argument with his family on who was “the” Mrs Astor. The official Mrs Astor was the controlling force of New York high society. In England he acquired a series of grand houses and an English peerage. No word on if being a peer of the English realm was better than having a wife who was just another Mrs. Astor.
Since the 1980’s, the Hever Castle & Gardens have been run by a company as a tourist attraction.
The Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent England are a day out for the whole family.
The Gardens of Hever Castle
Hever Castle has one of the most important Edwardian gardens in the country according to the Royal Horticultural Society.
The Hever Castle gardens were established by William Astor over the course of 4 years. Created from marshland, the various gardens are indeed stunning.
They include a neo-Tudor garden with traditional pathways and clipped topiary. When the roses at the walled Rose Garden is in season, it has 4000+ roses in full bloom. The Italian garden contains the statues Astor collected as souvenirs during his European travels.
The 38-acre lake was hand-dug by 800 men in 2 years. Even though labor was much cheaper in those days, it did help that William Astor was very, very rich.
Children’s Activities at Hever Castle
There are plenty of activities for the children to do, such as rowboats for hire or the adventure playground. The yew maze, planted in 1904, is fun to navigate as are the wisteria clad pergolas.
It was also the first time that I had seen a water maze. The goal is to reach the centre island but if you step on the wrong stone, water squirts up to soak you. My kids loved the water maze!
Depending on when you go, Hever Castle puts on shows such as jousting tournaments or other activities such as Easter Egg Hunts. We went on a May Bank holiday weekend and so there were lots of extra activities on offer. My children loved the archery and the painting activities. Characters in historical outfits were milling around adding to the atmosphere.
Details on Visiting Hever Castle
Located only about 30 miles from London, Hever Castle is an easy day trip from the city. The opening days and hours vary throughout the year so you should check their website before visiting. You can get tickets to both the Castle and gardens or to the gardens only. There is admission charged for adults and reduced admission for children between the ages of five and 15. Children under the age of 5 are free.
Turning off the highway, we drove up and down an isolated road trying to find the Heart Mountain Interpretative Center. The land was flat and unremarkable. The sun beat down on the parched earth. It really felt like the middle of nowhere. I can imagine that was exactly how the Japanese-Americans who arrived at the Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp in 1942 would have felt.
Image: Nicholas Brown
We eventually located the black barrack style building which looked like nothing special. We had repeatedly overlooked it as we were driving. Although intentionally bleak and uninviting from the outside, the Heart Mountain interpretive centre is informative and captivating.
The History of Japanese Immigration to the United States
Japanese immigration to the United States began in 1868 when workers were imported for the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii. The Japanese immigrants joined previous Chinese and Portuguese workers. As the last of the immigrants, the Japanese were at the bottom of the totem pole. Working as field hands, the Japanese worked 10-12 hours a day in gruelling conditions. The Japanese became a tight-knit community because the plantation owners segregated their workers by ethnicity.
Initially, many Japanese immigrants came with the hopes of making their fortune and returning home. In 1868, as part of Emperor Meiji’s modernisation plans for feudal Japan, he disbanded the prestigious samurai class and cut off their pensions. At the time, Japan had 1.9 million samurai. Suddenly lots of able-bodied men were left without any source of livelihood. At the same time, Emperor Meiji also relaxed the rules on his subjects leaving the country. By 1890, over 1200 Japanese had made the journey to Hawaii.
Like other immigrants to the USA, Japanese-Americans came with their hopes and dreams for a better future.
The first generation (issei) who were Japan-born had never been allowed to become citizens. Under American law at the time, only people of European and African descent could become naturalised citizens. (Japan-born people could not become naturalised citizens until 1952.) By 1940, the nisei (second generation) of Japanese-Americans were integrated into American society and even had children of their own, the sansei (third generation).
Why were Japanese-Americans Forced into Relocation Camps?
President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February of 1942 as a result of the racism and hysteria prompted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The attack on Pearl Harbour marked the American entry into World War II. This law lead to the forcible internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the USA onto 10 relocation camps. Like the Heart Mountain internment camp, these camps were located effectively in the middle of nowhere USA.
The Japanese-Americans were seen as a threat to national security because of the fear they could be conspiring with the enemy. The sign below was put on a store owned by a Japanese American born in California and educated at the University of California Berkeley. He still felt the need to publicly state his loyalties.
This sign reaffirming the Japanese-American owner’s loyalties did not do him any good.
Japanese Americans were given one week to report to the collection centres which would send them onwards to the interment centres. Their lives were uprooted and they didn’t have time to sell off their businesses or dispose of assets. Many people left their personal possessions behind which were quickly stolen by remaining locals.
The Visitor’s Center has a movie by Academy-Award winner Steven Okazaki entitled “All We Could Carry” which is a really good introduction to the rest of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. The film title is a reference to what each person could bring with them when they left their homes – one suitcase.
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center
The Japanese interment camp in Cody Wyoming was named for Heart Mountain Butte which you could see a few miles in the distance. The Heart Mountain Japanese Interment Camp has been reopened as a museum and gallery to remember this unfortunate period in American history. The Heart Mountain relocation center was functional from 1942 until 1945.
At its height, the Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp held over 10,000 Japanese Americans making it the third largest town in Wyoming. Approximately one-third of the occupants were Issei but the remainder were American citizens. All of the Heart Mountain inmates were of Japanese descent except one woman. She was a Caucasian who refused to part from her Japanese-American husband.
Although the Japanese internment camp in Wyoming was supposed to be open-gated, the state governor warned the racism of the locals would make it dangerous for the Japanese. The 46,000 acre camp was then surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers and searchlights.
Guard Tower remaining at the camp
Conditions at the Heart Mountain Japanese Interment Camp were basic. People were housed in barracks and even families were housed in single rooms.
Although there was a stove in the room for heat, the Japanese-Americans living inside were used to a more temperate climate in California. The Heart Mountain relocation camp was located at an elevation of 4600 feet and the winter temperatures dipped to -30 degrees! Most of the Japanese Americans came from Los Angeles and Santa Clara (about 9000 people). They must have felt frozen in the Wyoming winters. The wind would have whipped through the buildings. The barracks had been hastily constructed, framed in timber and wrapped in black-tar paper.
The barracks at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center were made of timber and paper.
Re-creation of a family’s room at the Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp
Daily Life at the Heart Mountain Japanese Interment Camp
Family life was disrupted in a major way. For example, Japanese families have a tradition of respecting their elders. In the camps, however, the Issei had less rights than their American-born children because they were not American citizens. In another example, cafeteria-style eating meant that families no longer shared meals together.
Meals at the Heart Mountain Interment Camp were served in a cafeteria setting. Children were sent to schools that were created in the camp. Even a hospital was set up in the camp to take care of the internees needs.
One of the most distressing elements for the women was that the camps had communal bathrooms. With no doors for privacy, many women felt humiliated using the toilets.
Image: Bob Perry
The Drafting of Japanese-Americans at Internment Camps
The American government extended the drafting of soldiers to the Japanese living in the camps even though their constitutional rights as Americans were being trampled. Needless to say, a group of men resisted the draft, were put on trial and imprisoned for disobedience. They were eventually pardoned by President Truman after the war ended. The 800 men who did join the war were part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd became the most decorated military unit in US history. Of the soldiers recruited from Heart Mountain, 11 men were killed and 52 men were wounded. Two men received the Medal of Honor, the highest military award an American soldier can receive.
An explanation by one of the Japanese-Americans on why he resisted being drafted into the war.
The Closing of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp
After the war ended, the Japanese Americans were told to disperse and given $25 and a one-way train ticket. They had lost all of their pre-war businesses and other assets so technically they had nowhere to go.
After their Heart Mountain internment at the end of World War II, the Japanese-Americans were told to scram.
The state of Wyoming passed laws that prevented the Japanese-Americans who had been subject to the Heart Mountain internment from staying in Wyoming. As part of the legacy of Heart Mountain, you can read the stories of people reintegrating back into mainstream American society. Those stories are equally heartbreaking with tales of suicide and despair. Who would believe that for some of the older Japanese-Americans the internment days were better than what these people faced reintegrating back into American society?
The Japanese American National Museum
If you are not in Wyoming, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles has great exhibits on the Japanese American internment during World War II. We saw one exhibit which was dedicated to the Japanese-American farm labourers. Many Japanese Americans had become seasonal farm labourers in the American heartland. The pay was better than at the internment camps. In addition, many of the Japanese Americans had experience working in agriculture.
One of the barracks from the Heart Mountain Japanese interment camp was dismantled and brought to the Museum in the 1990’s.
A Heart Mountain barrack is maintained at the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles to remember the legacy of Heart Mountain.
Tips for Visiting Heart Mountain Interpretive Center:
The Heart Mountain Interpretative Center is located between the towns of Powell and Cody in Wyoming at the intersection of Highway 19a and Road 19. Look for a barn-like low building which blends into the landscape fairly close to the intersection. Adults pay an admission fee but children under the age of 12 are free. The centre is open daily during the summer but has limited open days during the winter.
I think perhaps my 8 year old children were a bit young to understand the injustice of what happened at Heart Mountain. Even though they knew about World War II because we had visited the D-Day beaches at Normandy, they didn’t quite grasp the horror of having someone’s life uprooted in a week.
My children thought it would be cool to live in a camp with all their friends but they did think it was unfair that they would have to lose all their possessions. Actor and activist, George Takei, 5 years old when he was sent to an internment camp in Arkansas, has spoken of how little he understood of the experience as a child.
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