When I look back at the museums I have enjoyed the most, I have been immersed in an experience that cannot be replicated in a book, on a website, in a movie, or on TV. I have been surrounded by the things that real people have used, and the power that emanates from those artifacts is impossible to harness.
I have been to a play at Fordís Theater, and I swear when I looked across the way to the infamous box, I could see Abraham Lincoln sitting there enjoying the show.
I have seen original paintings for Saturday Evening Post covers at the Norman Rockwell Museum, the limo where JFK was killed at the Henry Ford, and Dorothyís ruby slippers at the Smithsonian.
I have seen FDRís modified vehicle at Hyde Park, artifacts recovered from the Titanic, and the original Constitution. I have visited the vast mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, and humble whaling ships at Mystic Seaport.
I have stood on the fields of Gettysburg, viewed Princess Dianaís exquisite dresses, and seen a space capsule that landed on the moon.
I have been inside a slave cabin on a South Carolina plantation, Paul Revereís house, and a World War II aircraft carrier.
I have seen food cooked over the open hearth of an 19th century Dutch farmhouse, sheep sheared the old-fashioned way, and wool spun into yarn.
I have seen Civil War bayonets, Nazi swords, and Revolutionary War musket balls.
I have stood in a one room schoolhouse, sat at a desk, rung the school bell.
I have seen iconic dresses worn by Jackie Kennedy, complete with matching pillbox hats and prim, ladylike gloves.
I have marveled at exquisite works of art -- Hudson River School landscapes, Frederick Remington sculptures.
I have seen the workshop where the Wright Brothers worked on bicycles, the house where Heinz ketchup was invented, and Thomas Edison's laboratory.
So you see, there is no substitute for the ďreal thing.Ē In an era of text-messaging, computer games, and virtual reality, we must ground ourselves with something that is REAL. Museums are in the unique position to provide these experiences.
And thatís why we visit them!