Over the past week the local paper has had several articles about the Liberty Science Center, which reopens a week from tomorrow, 7/19/07, after being closed nearly two years for an almost total renovation. Amidst the interesting tidbits about exciting and stimulating new exhibits, and the surprising and heartening - for us Jersey taxpayers at least - news that the renovation was completed on time and within budget, it was inevitable that soberer undertones would weave their way into the narrative.
One writeup discusses a new exhibit entitled "Skyline of Greats", which features photographs of the world's tallest buildings. The original plan for this display was modified after the 9/11/01 attacks, to incorporate a rather more tangible reminder of tragic reality:
The other buildings are shown in photographs, and to scale... The steel column from, and representing, the World Trade Center is slightly bigger than scale but, more importantly, it is three-dimensional and dark and sits at the center, surrounded by the others.What makes this particular exhibit so fitting and ironic, is that the real twin towers stood just across the river from Liberty State Park, the site of the LSC itself. The closeup view of lower New York, with the WTC buildings looming huge and solid and seemingly indestructible in the background, always used to be an added attraction of the museum visits for us. Their absence these past nearly six years has been quite palpable.
It is real. Forbidding.
To the minds of the children visiting the center it will be, as it should be, somewhat bigger, more impressive, although they will understand it was not physically taller than some of the others pictured around it.
The column, draped in an American flag, had been brought to the hall site a year ago, and the exhibition building literally built around it.
A sidebar (not available on-line), whose irony relative to the previous article seemed lost on the authors, noted that the very first "traveling exhibition" in the new LSC will be... drumroll please:
Islamic Science Rediscovered... an exhibit whose aim is to demonstrate that Muslim scholars excelled not only in theoretical studies but also in the practical.An overcompensation, perhaps, a la the President's very publicized meeting with prominent Muslim advocacy groups while the very rubble of the destroyed WTC still smoked? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But it certainly put me in mind of the classic essay on the Arab-Israeli conflict by humorist Larry Miller - often misattributed to comedian Dennis Miller - whose most side-splitting of many great quips was:
Unless I'm missing something, the Arabs haven't given anything to the world since Algebra, and, by the way, thanks a hell of a lot for that one.Finally, it occurred to me that the LSC grand reopening, even after such a long wait, may be inauspiciously timed - especially if they are counting on a big opening weekend. I think a large portion of the expected youthful audience will be otherwise occupied come 12:01 am on Saturday, July 21. In a historic reversal, this time around it may be Magic that steals the thunder from Science - at least as long as it takes to devour 784 pages of the former.