Friday, May 15, 2009


Today was startlingly wet (according to Weather Underground, 6.15" fell just about where I was, so there was not a great deal to be seen out of doors - though I have a very poignant image of the American Gothic House at Eldon, IA seen through a heavily rain dropped window).   But I'm delighted I took the opportunity to do something that I so often think that I'll do, and then drive on past - visit a real local county museum.   Corydon hosts a superb example of the genre - Wayne Co's Pioneer Trails Museum - which was perfect, from Indian arrow heads onwards (with a Mormon hymn playing in the background: I was following the Mormon Trail, along Route 2, for much of the day, and I am quite sure they would have got impossibly bogged down in the mud with their handcarts).   It was particularly strong in two areas: the many, many personal artefacts and photographs and hand-written labels of reminiscence donated by many local families, and the mock-ups of establishments on Main Street - a bank and a post office, a dentists and a telephone exchange, a jail and a photographer's studio (above) and, below, a doctor's surgery.   The models make me think about Hiroshi Sugimoto's series of dioramas: "However fake the subject, once photographed, it's as good as real," he writes, and these, too, although yes, they are obviously constructed with dummies, and are snowed with labels, have a very eerie presence that is in part dependent on the used, worn materiality of the objects that they contain.

The very odd thing about Corydon is that it's named (as is Corydon in Indiana) after a very gay shepherd in Virgil's Eclogues (and after whom Andre Gide entitled his 1918 dialogue in defense of homosexuality).   Sure, it's a pastoral location (and the museum has a huge barn with some fiberglass sheep in it, as well as other notable objects, like a huge steam threshing machine that is pure Tess of the D'Urbervilles).   But it could have been called Arcady.

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