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Charlotte's Wonderful but Seemingly Inaccessible Museums

April 19, 2010

museum_am.jpgLast week, I spent four days working at a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn't realize until I arrived what a hub the otherwise fairly nondescript town is for museums. The downtown area is tiny, but it plays home to many institutions including The Light Factory, The Levine Museum of the New South, The Charlotte Nature Museum, the Harvey B Gantt Museum for African-American Arts + Culture and the Mint Museum of Art, to name the main establishments.

I spent a wonderful hour pottering around the Levine Museum, which is free on Sundays and boasts some terrific, interactive installations about life in the southern states over the last 150 years or so. I particularly appreciated listening to old-time local music recordings and checking out what a 19th century sharecropper's homestead and local hat emporium might have looked like back in the day.

The frustrating thing about the way in which Charlotte has its museum life organized is its lack of accessibility. The museums generally seem to be open during work hours while locals are in the office and the many convention attendees are stuck in the convention center. Weekend hours are limited. And I noticed that the Mint Museum, which I would have liked to take a look around had I had more time, seemed to be constantly rented out to private receptions.

I'd be curious to know how many locals visit the Charlotte museums. The Levine seemed pretty empty when I was there.

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