Oh, The Place You’ll Go in 2016: The Seuss Museum, in Springfield, MA

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

In an effort to ensure no other city will claim Dr. Seuss for its own, Springfield Museums has announced it will create “the first museum dedicated to the life and legacy of (Springfield) city native Theodore Seuss Geisel.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 at the Quadrangle, precisely two blocks away from the real-life Mulberry Street, the site of Dr. Seuss’s very first picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The museum will also be only a few blocks from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Geisel’s stepdaughter, created bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, and Yertle the Turtle.

The new museum will feature all those characters and many more, and include a mural of an illustration from that first book, “which launched Geisel’s career as the most recognizable in children’s literature.” The first floor of the museum will open in 2016, and a second floor, which will include a “recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio,” is scheduled for completion the following year. The Springfield Museums has raised more than three million dollars toward the project, which includes “funds from donors, foundations and $1 million grant from the state.”

As WAMC-Radio reported, “The Dr. Seuss Museum will include interactive exhibits featuring the classic characters from the children’s books,” which “include references to many local landmarks.”

Like the hugely successful Eric Carle Museum not far away in Amherst, Massachusetts, the new Dr. Seuss Museum will promote both its namesake and children’s literacy overall. Dr. Seuss’s books are sold in 17 languages in 95 countries, making this development important for tourism and as a place to promote and cultivate a love of children’s literature. Museums officials, citing the worldwide popularity of Dr. Seuss, expect the new museum will result in a 25 percent increase in visits to the Quadrangle. They also believe it will help advance the cause of literacy in their community and beyond. In Springfield, currently “only 40 percent of the city’s public school students are proficient readers.” City officials hope to double that percentage over the next year by the time the new museum opens.

Springfield Museums President Holly Smith-Bové said at a meeting of the editorial board of the Republican, “With input from the Davis Foundation, educators from the Springfield public schools and Square One early childhood agency, the museum will also be a place where children can practice the basic reading skills including letter recognition, vocabulary and rhyming.”

This is important for all visitors, because, to quote another Dr. Seuss book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Libyan Antiquities Feared as Next ISIS Target

Leptis Magna, Libya

With the horrifying images still fresh from ISIS’s attacks last month on rare, precious artifacts and statuary in the Mosul museum, Newsweek is reporting that officials and experts around the world fear the antiquities of Libya are in imminent danger.

Stating that “ISIS holds an intolerance towards items that are deemed jahili (pre-Islamic) and antiquities that depict humans,” Dr. Hafed Walda, the pending deputy ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO, has said “Their eyes are on big museums which have fine collections of Greek and Roman sculptures…. This, coupled with the fact that ISIS’s power has grown substantially in Libya, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline, has brought the group closer to sites of historical significance.”

Among the sites cultural and government leaders believe are most vulnerable in Libya are the ancient Roman theatre, Leptis Magna, just outside of Tripoli; the coastal town of Sabratha, a former Phoenician trading post with the remains of an amphitheater, temples and a basilica; and the archaeological site of Cyrene, considered one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world. ISIS militants have also proclaimed the city of Misrata, which houses a museum, a Roman forum, and a great basilica, as one of their primary targets.

Issandr El Amrani, director for International Crisis Group’s North Africa Programme, doesn’t hold much hope for securing the “completely unprotected” sites. He says, “ISIS is driven to a large extent by doing things that have a propaganda value more than a practical military value so, yes, they could be tempted to [attack the sites], to create the narrative that they are fighting anything that is jahili.”

Responding to the wreckage in Mosul, Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology Lamia al-Gailani Werr said in an interview with Reuters that “the militants had wreaked untold damage” and that at stake was “not only Iraq’s heritage; it’s the whole world’s.” She and others have compared the devastation to the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban.

Other militant groups have done the same over the centuries, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis in Germany, and many more. As has happened many times before, the motives are shock value, undermining the cultural identity and heritage of others and, more practically, for the monetary gain of the terrorizing group, selling what has been pillaged on the international black market.

According to National Geographic, “Experts outside of Iraq are now engaged in remote triage, watching the footage frame by frame and trying to create a list of the real artifacts that were destroyed.”

Those on the ground in Libya and who watch from around the world say it will take a massive joint effort to head off future violence. Newsweek Reporter Jack Moore concluded:

“As the North African country continues its slide into chaos, becoming a magnet for foreign fighters, and an embryonic extension of ISIS’s caliphate, there seems to be little hope for Libya’s cultural legacy. […] In the aftermath of the Mosul attack, UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova told a press conference that the UN’s cultural body ‘does not have an army’ and ‘there is not much we can do’ to prevent the looting and damage of antiquities in war-torn areas. But, for Libya, Dr. Walda disagrees with Bokova, proposing tough security measures as a solution to protect his country’s rich history. ‘We have to fortify the museums,’ he says.”

Experts, including Al-Gailani Werr, concur, saying, “This as a cultural tragedy with a global impact. These things are part of the history of humanity. If you destroy them, you’re destroying the history of everyone.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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End of an Era: NYC’s Last Store to Sell Classical Sheet Music Closes

Frank Music

Frank Music Company is the latest brick-and-mortar music store to bow to the pressure of online competition. Store owner Heidi Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that Frank Music had been struggling for years and that she’d gone from “seeing 15 to 20 people per day to seeing two or three” as music “became readily available online.”

The store, which opened in 1937, has been a place where musicians, composers, singers, educators, students and music lovers young and old would shop and also have a chance to meet, socialize, and get answers and ideas from staff and from each other. Ms. Rogers, who bought the store in 1978, said while there are other places that carry classical sheet music, including the Julliard School’s bookstore at Lincoln Center, Frank Music is the “last store in the city dedicated to selling classical sheet music.” According to theJournal, the store’s celebrity clients included pianists Emanuel Ax and Jeremy Denk, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pamela Frank, and cellist David Finckel. Readers commenting on the WSJ Frank Music story reflected on its closing as a loss of a city landmark, a social gathering place and a trusted venue.

Last June, the Washington Post similarly announced that Dale Music, the D.C.-area’s last sheet music store, would be shuttered after 64 years. And a few months before that report, Naomi Lewin, host of New York City’s classical music station WQXR, reported the closing of the iconic J&R Records, after 43 years, saying it had “gone the way of Tower Records, HMV, Virgin Megastore, Sam Goody and other brick-and-mortar shops that used to make New York City a music superstore haven.”

There’s been great concern about decline in audience for classical music recording and performance. Last month, Slipped Disc, a site that reports on classical music and related culture, somberly quoted Neilsen Soundscan data saying “only one classical record—The Ultimate Bocelli—sold more than 350 copies” in that previous week. However, it’s worth noting that Slipped Disc itself reports having site traffic of more than a million visitors, so arguably there’s substantial audience to be had.

But sustaining a brick-and-mortar store is particularly difficult these days, as evinced by the struggles faced by the book, music, and other industries to compete on many fronts with digital giants like Amazon, specialty websites, and the myriad free sources of music and literature that seem to spring up at every turn.

Ms. Rogers told CBS 1010 WINS Radio’s Al Jones that consumers are “voting with their dollars or their lack of dollars, and the only thing I wish is that Amazon would go bust.” Unfortunately for other Manhattan retailers who may wish the same, they may soon have added competition on the ground if Amazon proceeds with plans for their own brick-and-mortar store in midtown.

But for Frank Music, which is closing tomorrow, the finale will consist of sending the store’s remaining stock of “hundreds of thousands of scores” via a gift from an anonymous donor to the Colburn School, a music conservatory in Los Angeles.

So, like the community center it once was, the remains of Frank Music will be redeployed for the public good.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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