USA Diaries – Day 28– Is it safe to say that Cahokia was overrated?

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

PS: I haven’t kept my promise.. I didn’t post each and every day and now I am trying my best to update all the remaining days from the sanctuary of my Home Sweet Home. 

I am sorry.. you need to forgive me… I am not an archaeologist and you can not expect me to feel the same way about a pile of earth the way the rest of the group might have felt. But I am skipping ahead.. and therefore let me start the details of the day from the very beginning. By this time, it is a granted fact that day just has to start early and there is just no getting around to it. But since I am not a breakfast person, I headed off to the Arc, which I was unable to see the night before. Now, I was a bit scared since the affairs of last night were more or less very much alive in my memory. But the park and the overall area was so breath taking that all my concerns went out of the window. The Arc is a splendid structure, but since I didn’t know the concept behind it … which is very important for me to have any feelings for anything ….. I lacked that connection with it, which I was able to establish with, lets say, the Vietnam Memorial.

By the time I got back to the hotel, people were more or less there and just waiting for a signal from Mark to start loading the van. And within 15 minutes or so we are all ready and heading towards Cahokia. Now I didn’t google Cahokia or anything, because I like to keep this element of surprise and be completely taken away by the very first sight… And in this case too, it was very much true, but just not in the way I had hoped.

So while my Archaeologist friends were all taken away by the sight of the site, for me it was nothing more than a pile of sand. I am sorry… I am really sorry for hurting anyone’s feeling this way.. but that’s what it was .. for me! When they said to us, that lets move along to the next site, I really thought that maybe the next one will be much grander town like say Mohen-jo-Daro – which after this, feels like a real beauty! But the next one was just more of a mound!

Although you do get a pretty good view of the city from the top!

However, the Museum was quite another story! I think I was simply in love with the Museum display and the way everything was organized. My friends comment was also justified.. She said that there were not so many archaeological artifacts retrieved from the site as she had expected to be here.. but the Museum Director in his defense did say that it was because most of those artifacts were displayed in the State Museum.

The Museum was so amazing. The tour of the Museum starts with an Orientation Film, which tells the story of the site and how people lived and how the mounds got developed. At the end of the movie, the backdrop is suppose to rise up to the Cahokia Village display, which I should say would have been quite dramatic, but unfortunately the backdrop wasn’t working and thus we were deprived of this privelage.


But the entire museum is a must see, yes there are not many artifacts from the site and therefore, thank god I am not an archaeologist, because I didn’t once think about this. I just thought that the info being given was nicely divided up under different headings. And the display and dioramas were simply to die for. I loved it!

And then how can I forget the village scene display! Amazing!

On the way back, we stopped at an Antiques Mall, and I could have gotten lost in that place, it was so huge and amazing. I mean it had everything in it that I could have every thought possible! But there was so much to see that you need an entire day to go through it. I mean for heaven’s sake, one of us actually found archaeological artifacts and stone tools from this place. I however found these really amazing sign boards and all!

The rest of the way was just another drive lasting around another 6 hours. Dinner was a Chinese affair, and I liked what I had, although I cant recall the names of the dishes which I had.


USA Diaries – Day 24 – A Field Day to Milwaukee!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Since I am late with this update,I am going to cut straight to the chase and give you the main headlines, and considering the fact that it has been more or less raining since the day we have come here, there has been little or no action. The day was dedicated to a field trip to Milwaukee, which is like an hour or so drive away from Madison. This also meant that the day had to start pretty early.. .again early for us, normal for these Advanced Americans… that is at 7:45 am. We were to travel in style that day, that is in our Presidential Limousine.

In Milwaukee, we had to meet and see this wonderful College or Letters and Science, which is one of the oldest institute offering a Certificate in Museum Studies. The place appears to be amazing, and so is the course. the program is 2 years long and offers hand on experience to the student, which is one of the reason why the classes are kept to a minimal. We were given a tour of the facilities and we were able to see first hand, how Institutes and Students who have little or no budget work. It was a nice experience for us, since we were able to get an understanding about how we can do certain things, considering that in our countries Budget is always an issue.

The Museum Studies program is being done in coordination with Milwaukee Museum, and believe me when I say this, that the Museum is one of the most impressive Museums I have seen. The details and the way the exhibition had been conducted was really good.So without ado, here are some wonderful images of the Museum!

PS – Since it was raining the rest of the day was all about being indoors. The only highlight of the evening was that I went out and got pizza for myself… And it was raining and chilly like anything!


USA Diaries – Day 8 of 30 – Something was in our Drinks!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 8, 25-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 0801, Pakistan Time:25 July 2012, 1717

The day started off as any typical day with me getting out of bed after as much delay possible. When we finally did reach our destination, we were early enough for me to walk around the National Mall. There has been an AIDS Event going on all over DC nowadays, and Smithsonian has been involved in with with its “Quilt Project”. I have already talked about this before and it is according to me one of the most amazing campaigns. These quilts can be seen at a number of locations, from community halls to Museums.

Yesterday was our second day at the Freer and Seckler Art Museum (FS). And as soon as we reached the lobby, we were escorted to our respective signed up workshops. I had signed up for the Workshop on “Social Media and Marketing” which was all bout Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and a special event that FS does every year called “Asia After Darks”. The Class was led by Amanda Minie Williamson and Amanda Peck, and two of their interns. Now as much excited I was about the workshop, there wasn’t much that I thought came out of it. It was good how they are always engaging with their audience but it wasn’t something new I felt. I would have preferred more to come out of that workshop.


After the workshop we again headed off to the Energy Department for Lunch, which was fabolous as usual, and incidentally I took more than I should have. But well, its food.

Since we had some time on our hand yesterday after lunch, we decided to explore the Museum a bit. I headed straight for the Freer Gallery, much due to my impulsive behavior which requires I start from the beginning.


Oh and who can forget the Peacock Room! It was one of the most amazing places ever. Apparently Freer had the room bought and installed in the Museum after he saw it in the house of someone.



The second workshop of the day was about ImagineAsia and how hands-on activities can be designed in relation to a certain exhibition. I have to say this was one of the most interesting approaches that I have ever seen to an exhibition. They are suppose to have this really wonderful activity this Sunday at 10 am and then again at 2pm and I am really trying hard to get in it. Lets see if I can make it or not. We ourselves for this class did these superb activities. We are given this Moraqa in which we were suppose to paste our pictures and color the detailed illustrations around it. It was brilliant fun.






USA Diaries – Day 4 of 30

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 5, 22-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2150, Pakistan Time:23 July 2012, 0648 (late updating)

The exhaustion of the entire week and the constant travelling and sightseeing finally took its toll on me yesterday night and thus the lack of updating on my stay in Washington yesterday.

Yesterday in itself was pretty exciting with the responsibility of our tour falling on the wonderful man and genius himself, Mark Kenoyer. The day started off with us first heading towards Union Station. I am finally getting the hang of all the Metro lines and the stations and how to go about around the system.

The first stop on the agenda that day was Union Station, which we were taken to just to fimilarize ourselves not only with the Metro System but also to show us the place which can connect us to the world outside, meaning it is the place from where you can get trains and buses for anywhere in the US (there are plans in the air for taking a trip to NY one of these days).

Right as you step out of the Station, you can see the famous bell – and the only reason I know about it is because of the movie I saw, called National Treasure. The original bell, with the crack, is in Philadelphia and this was a replication of that bell.

The Postal Museum, also the part of the Smithsonian was the next stop on the agenda. The Museum is cited in the most beautiful building ever, and as per the lady on the reception, the beauty of that particular Museum is that it is quite. The beauty of the museum for me was how it traces the entire background of how Mail has been transported through different means and methods and every single one of them was then replicated and bought into the main lobby space of the museum. The other exhibits included the Security that is involved in transporting mail, before ending the entire story of the Museum on the emergence of the American Postal System and how it is working and has evolved over the years.


After the Museum, the next stop was the Building Museum. The history of the Museum was told to us by a Mr. Jeffrey, a friend of Mark who had worked at the Smithsonian for a number of years. The Building Museum was actually the pension office for the victims and the families of the casualties of the Civil War in America of 1812. The number of casualties of that war is still the largest number that America has lost in any war. Therefore the need for a large structure was felt. The lobby of the building is one of the biggest that America has ever seen and the columns in it are the most magnificent columns that I have ever seen. The building now holds various exhibitions and programs related to Building Material and the general Urban concerns.


Mr. Jeffrey  had taken an appointment for us at the Tudor Place, which was the residence of George Washington’s step granddaughter. George and Martha never had kids of their own, but Martha had her own kids from her first marriage. Upon the death of Washington, his granddaughter inherited a lot of money as well as furniture, which included decoration pieces as well, from the Washington himself. The house covers an entire block in Georgetown, which is the original historical district of Washington. DC itself is built on a swamp and since Georgetown is located on a hill, it therefore became the perfect place to have the residences of the rich and the elite of that time, and has been one of the main places that I wanted to visit. One of my main questions remains even after my visit is that why would the residents of the house decide to call it the Tudor Place, considering that Tudor is a word which is quite specifically used for the British Monarch. Unfortunately, there is no evidence which leads us to the answer of this discovery.


You are not allowed to take picture inside the house itself, which is a shame. But the museum in itself led to a great discussion between us. The discussion included the differences between this sort of Museum or a House Museum as compared to a  Smithsonian Museum. There was also a debate about how they conserve materials. Another interesting debate that was launched was the need to touch things. Mark pointed out to us that in USA, it is taught that you can not touch displays. However, this is the sort of discipline that has yet to be introduced in our society and museums.

We took a walk around Georgetown as we tried to find something to eat for ourselves. And I have to say, that it is as posh a area as I have ever seen before. The place on which we settled upon for food was Paolo’s, and again Mark ordered for us a wide variety of stuff so that we can have a taste of the various flavors which are there. We started off with our Appetizers which included Bread with this delightful Chuntey which had all the flavors of Asia in it, a Watermelon Salad – which of course I didn’t try, then there was a Eggplant Fried – which I thought was absoloutly brilliant, A Green Salad – which was too acidic and lemony for my taste buds and the final wonderful thing was the Calamari – which I was told is  a squid and was the most wonderful thing of all.











At night, we randomly decided to step out and thus was fascinated when our random trip turned into a completely discovery of a “Paowo” – the celebration of Native Indian Culture and Customs. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever heard with the most fascinating music. The music I felt were more or less like animal calls, and it is suppose to uplift your spirit and make it one with that of the universe. It is truly breathtaking.







Museum Display Inspiration

Lately most of my focus has been on finding inspiration for my latest venture, and thus I have been looking towards more and more display panels and how museums tend to work!

And some of the images that I have found have simply made me go “WOW”… So here I am sharing some of my images with you! And do let me know if you have some more that you would like to share with me as well!

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Perfect for some of the things that we were trying to do, now only if we can find some small stands for this… or have made!

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So, now that I have my inspiration what remains to be seen is how I translate it into my own version! Hopefully things will turn out to be as good as they look in my head!

Advice: Don't Work with Government

Consider this a continuation to my last advice in the form of my post Before becoming an Architect, and they would be becoming quiet frequent as my internship in an architecture office continues.

So today (well it was today when I starting writing this but now its yesterday) my boss took me for a site visit to a re adaptation project. Basically what they are doing is that they are converting this old building into a museum. I know by reputation how hard it is to work with bureaucrat’s and government officials but to actually be working for them in some capacity is simply a nightmare.

For one thing they would never follow protocol of any sort, they simply believe in throwing the rule book out of the window, and they make sure that they flung it so far out that no one can ever find it.

So I have been told by the other people in the office that this project has been going on for the last many years, and there is hope that it would be going on long after me.

My experience in this first site visit/weekly meeting was thoroughly an affirmation about all the rumors that exist about the Government. As expected the meeting didn’t start on time. Secondly since most of the people in the bureaucrats and the contractor and the masons working over there were Sindhi, the meeting soon became a Sindhi convention, in which me and my boss simply tried to grasp on to every word we can so we can still have the illusion that it was us that were making all the design decisions.

No one hardly bothered with anything even remotely like taking minutes, and most of them simply displayed one object of irrelevance after the other in front of their boss to flatter him, so basically when we left the meeting absolutely nothing that needed to be discussed had been addressed.

What was thoroughly the most interesting feature of this meeting was the fight that has prevailed in architecture for many centuries – The debate of the Modern and the Classics. Since this is a land of contradictions, finding one more contradiction wasn’t surprising. But how things will go about as far as designing is concerned will be worth seeing. See there was a mason from the corners of Hyderabad who was proud of all that he can contribute to the world, and then there was a Structural Engineer, both believing that it was their craft/knowledge/technology that can resolve the issue of what to do with the historic yet trembling staircase of the building.

But for that… keep waiting for the next post!