Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category



Model of Zimmerman House at museum


Front view

The Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman House, 1950

People who know and love the architecture and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, in Illinois or elsewhere, will be delighted to find another of his amazing houses in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Zimmerman House is an example of his modest Usonian homes and the only Frank Lloyd Wright house open to the public in New England. Usonian is a term Wright coined to classify small, one-story homes intended for modest living. Today, Usonian homes are considered a precursor to the American ranch house.


Entrance—even that big rock was part of the design



Back view

We’d previously seen a Usonian house south of St Louis in Missouri; have been to Oak Park, Illinois, which has the largest concentration of Wright buildings in the world; and have toured the gorgeous Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. When we discovered there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Manchester, where we would be for half a day, we knew we had to try and see it. And we did.

Fortuitous, as this is a special year for Frank Lloyd Wright fans.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born 150 years ago and there will be many parties, exhibits and events at some of his buildings, and a major show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art called “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.” It will run until October 1, 2017. Many consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be America’s best-known architect and both his innovative designs and his larger-than-life personality (and controversial personal life) continue to fascinate the public.



backcloseralongbackOne of the reasons that this architect was so popular with the general public was that he did what he wanted in his own style, which was often more in line with popular taste than academic taste. For example, he loved to use color, pattern and ornamentation, similar to 19th century architects, and unlike the minimalism associated with modernism in architecture.

He did create fantastic buildings, with technical details way ahead of his time, even if he also offended some people by his insistence on the fact that he was always right—-down to the last detail about furniture, decorations in the houses, what could and could not be hung on his walls, how the gardens should be planted etc. When in one of his houses you get an intangible feeling of being in something special, of being in a space that feels exactly right, partly because all the dimensions and all the fittings were carefully calculated to fit into that space.



Looking through one of the huge windows

His buildings remain must-see sights for his fans. About 380 Wright structures still stand and those that are open to the public often sell out tours well in advance. So, we were very lucky in May to easily get on a tour to the Zimmerman House in Manchester, NH. You have to take a tour from the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. A driver takes visitors in a small bus to the house and a knowledgeable guide takes you on the bus and through the house.

The Zimmerman House is an example of his Usonian style, so it’s smaller but the layout is still carefully planned and the attention to details is amazing as always.



Steps from car port towards front entrance

The 1,600-square-foot brick home was created for Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman, a doctor and a nurse who requested a “small, spacious and simple house” from Wright, as they were dissatisfied with the “ultra-conservative” residential architecture of New England. Wright’s solution was “a classic Usonian” for which he designed the house, the gardens, the furniture, and all the interior details, such as cabinets and shelves, down to the dinnerware and even the mailbox. Wright once said, “a Usonian house is always hungry for ground, lives by it, becoming an integral feature of it.” Appropriately, the Zimmerman House appears to blend with the landscape, as it is specially angled on the plot, and uses floor-to-ceiling windows and natural materials to bring the outdoors in. The green of the garden and the brown of all the wood give a feeling of peace, harmony, and serenity. We are so happy that we were able to see another example of this very special kind of architecture.

Though not large, the built-in furniture, continuous concrete floor mat, large windows,


Even the postbox was specially designed

and dramatic changes in ceiling height impart a sense of great spaciousness. The Zimmermans lived in the house for the next 36 years.

In 1979 the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. and Mrs. Zimmerman left the property to the Currier Museum of Art in 1988. In 1990, the house and grounds were opened so that visitors could enjoy glimpses of a private world from the 1950s and 1960s, including the Zimmermans’ personal collection of modern art, pottery and sculpture.

Tours are Thursday through Monday at 11:15am, 1:15pm and 3:15pm. Tours are 90 minutes long.

No photos inside

Visitors must wear slip-ons over shoes inside the house.

No restrooms on the tour.

$25 for adults
$24 for seniors (65+)
$16 for students
$10 for children ages 7-17 (Children under age 7 are not permitted to tour the Zimmerman House).

$10 for Museum members

All Zimmerman House tours include general Museum admission.

Book online http://currier.org/education-programs/zimmerman-house-tours/




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How’s that for a view!

Rustenberg—Gardens, a Labyrinth, and Wines

A Stunning Combo

Tranquil, beautiful, lush, green, pastoral are words that sprung to mind as we drove up, past pastures with cattle, small estate houses, and vineyards.

Rustenberg is a lovely wine estate in a really gorgeous setting up on a hill, overlooking vineyards, in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountains. It’s literally at the end of the road on one of the wine-route roads north out of Stellenbosch, but is well worth the drive.


Gorgeous Cape-Dutch architecture


Schoongezicht, the old Cape-Dutch homestead


Part of the gardens

What do we find?—lots of pretty, white gabled Cape-Dutch buildings; an impressive, modern tasting room; and lovely gardens ringed with huge oak trees. The gardens have small ponds, a gazebo, flower beds, and the jewel—a labyrinth.

Founded in 1682, the estate has a long history and heritage. The Barlow family has owned it since 1941, and various generations have been very involved in all aspects of wine making there. (The Barlow family had made a fortune with an engineering supplies company established in the early 1900s, also buying and selling woolen goods and Caterpillar machinery, among other things. The company expanded into neighboring southern African countries too. The family had also owned Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West from 1941-1987, so were very involved with wine estates).


pergola2The public Schoongezicht Garden, open every day, is next to the Cape Dutch homestead, Schoongezicht, which dates back to 1814. In 2001, Rozanne Barlow, wife of the current owner of Rustenberg Estate, decided to regenerate and restore the garden. She had walls constructed, and converted the 25-meter-long swimming pool into a lily pond, now home to many fish. The charming pergola, originally built by John X Merriman, is covered in climbing roses, clematis and other fragrant climbers. John X Merriman was a former owner of Rustenberg. He bought it in 1892 and helped to revitalize the estate and to promote tourism in this valley. One range of Rustenberg wines is called John X Merriman, in his honor.

The garden is essentially laid out in a formal style with four different areas linked by pathways, and because it’s so harmoniously done one doesn’t really realize that the garden is quite sizable—about a hectare. The garden is a plant-lover’s dream, best described as “English”, with roses, foxgloves, salvias, agapanthus, sedum, anemones, day lilies and many more. There is always something to catch the eye, no matter the season.


A labyrinth is now part of the gardens

The surrounding landscape of vineyards, green pastures and the majestic Simonsberg labyrinthclosermountain backdrop all help to make this garden a magical place.

The garden is open to the public during the week from 09h30 – 16h30 and on Saturdays and Sundays until 15h00.

There’s also a private garden, the Rustenberg Garden, which is open once a year to the public on Rustenberg Day.

Making these gardens even more magical is the labyrinth.




Outside the Tasting Room

As part of the garden make-over, Rozanne Barlow transformed the site where the old tennis court stood into an eleven-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth, laid out in half brick and river stone. Information boards explain the origin and symbolism of the French Chartres labyrinth. We walked a part of it and it is a contemplative experience. If we had more time (and no demanding kids!) it would be nice to try walking the whole thing.

After that it was fun to wander up to the tasting center to do wine tasting, which was great. The Tasting Room is in the old horse stables, which have been beautifully converted architecturally. We all thought it was a great wine-tasting experience. Our hostess lady was friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed chatting to her. The wines are world-class, from an excellent terroir—red clay-rich granite soils on a variety of slopes and elevations. No food is available here though.


Tasting great Rustenberg wines



An excellent rose wine

Wine tasting is R40 per person (waived if you buy some bottles). We did buy a bottle of Petit Verdot Rose (R75) to take back for dinner that night, and it was excellent. We also ordered some wines to be shipped back to USA, and you can also order them to be shipped to UK, I believe.

Wine Tasting and Sales open Mon-Fri 9-4:30, Sat 10-4 and Sunday 10-3. Every day, except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.

Where is it?

Lelie Road, Idas Valley, just north-east of Stellenbosch


An unusual Rousanne wine



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Lourensford Wine Estate, nicknamed “Jewel of the Cape Winelands

One of our favorite Wine Estates, and very accessible

Founded in 1700, this lovely estate lies just below the Helderberg Mountains on the


Slave bell

outskirts of the town of Somerset West (but is listed under the Stellenbosch wine route). It was once part of Adriaan van der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate nearby, so it’s steeped in history and heritage but nowadays it also uses ultra-modern wine technology. One of the historical pieces is the old Slave Bell, used in the past to summon the slaves when needed.



Saying hallo to a Cape buffalo


A metal horse


Vine art

Lourensford has extensive, beautifully-tended gardens and a number of whimsical outdoor sculptures (some made of metal, some of huge old vines), all with the backdrop of mountains. It’s gorgeously “Cape”—in fact, I’ve almost never seen other wine areas anywhere else in the world that look quite as lovely as this. Some are more dramatic (Switzerland), others vaster (France), others on rivers (France, Germany). Maybe it’s the combination of setting and the Cape-Dutch architecture—green nature and white buildings. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and a great place to relax, soak in the outdoors, enjoy a tasty meal and taste world-class wines.

Lourensford is a very large estate that offers a lot for the visitor. There’s the Tasting Room with a mini cellar tour; the Millhouse Restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a kids’ playground; a shop, a pottery shop, an art gallery and a coffee roasting company, which is a whole other tasting experience. Plus, there are trails and walks through the vines and up into the foothills (there are a couple of known leopards there)—in addition to rambling the Estate’s own gardens and emerald green lawns. They also cater for events—our nephew got married here and said the Estate people were pleasant to deal with.



Coffee Roasting Company

coffeesignIt’s well worth a visit and we suggest you allocate many hours, as each part of the visit is very leisurely—don’t try to be in a rush.

Besides wine tasting, and eating in the restaurant (see next post), you should definitely visit the Coffee Roasting Company (open daily 9-5). They roast on site, giving the room that warm, smokey aroma of ground coffee. It sells coffee beans to go, as well as being a small café, with some pastries, and a few gift items, like teas, coffees, chocolates, preserves, a few souvenirs, and sometimes a lovely series of kids’ books called “In the Land of Kachoo”, about African animals.


One family group


Another family group


Inside the Coffee Roasting Company

Many local people come to the Coffee Roasting Company just for the coffee, to buy bags of coffee specially roasted to go, or to sip and savor coffee in the sun under a vine trellis or other fruit trees. That’s what we did late one March, and it was a lovely outing for our multi-generational group. We did the same again this June.

There’s the Harvest Market on Sundays too.

The winelands have many markets and


Lourensford hosts theirs on a Sunday from 9am to 3pm. It has a rustic setting at the edge of the lawns, where they’ve set up a set of wooden stands with a permanent roof structure, making it an all-weather market. You can find many different items—-from delicious foods like Lebanese hummus, to real Ginger Beer and fresh eggs, to colored glassware and aromatic coffees. Of course you can enjoy the Lourensford Wine, as well as the new Beer—ABRU—made on the premises by the Aleit Hospitality group. Come and relax and enjoy the live music and while away a Sunday in Somerset West.


Coffee etc for sale

The estate is open daily and entrance into the grounds is free.




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The enormous Vrijthof Square


One side of the square is lined with very nice cafes

Maastricht is the charming capital of the province of Limburg, right in the south of Netherlands. It has many narrow picturesque streets and small squares, and lovely old houses, many from the 16th and 17th centuries. You also see remains of the old fortifications and old city walls, testament to the town’s strategic importance at a European crossroads and that it withstood 21 sieges over the centuries.


St Jans Kerk, St Servaas Basilica, and the Hoofwacht on the far side of the square


The churches lit up at night

Most of its squares are small and enclosed, which is why the Vrijthof comes as a bit of a surprise. In the heart of the city, it is very large, a huge open space lined on three sides with trees, and on one side by lovely café terraces. Many pedestrianized shopping streets radiate out from it. It’s dominated by the vast and ancient Romanesque St Servaas Cathedral, and behind that the St Jans Kerk from the 12-15th centuries.


Spanish Government House


Emblem on Hoofwacht

On the south side is the old Spanish Government House (was the residence of the Dukes of Brabant and the Spanish kings), now the Museum of the Vrijthof and painted bright red/pink. On the west is the Hoofdwacht (1700s), once a guard house and now a military headquarters.

On Vrijthof, you can almost forget you’re in the Netherlands. When you stand in the middle and look around, it doesn’t look or feel like other Dutch squares, as it’s enormous and is the cultural heart of the city. It’s usually wide and open, but also hosts jam-packed events: from Carnival; to becoming the beautiful backdrop for the concerts by local favorite Andre Rieu; to the Preuvenemint, the Netherlands largest food festival.


The cafes in early evening  light

What’s in a name? According to one tradition, the name means “free place” or “sanctuary”, but it more likely derives from the German for cemetery, two of which were known to have occupied this site.

The square was built on the marshes of the River Jeker. The area was


Note statues far left, and the fountain front

originally unsuitable for building but by medieval times was used as a military parade ground, an execution site and a pilgrims’ meeting place. Every 7 years, the Fair of the Holy Relics attracted pilgrims, craftsmen and traders to the lively square. Something of this spirit is recaptured in Vrijthof at Carnival time these days.


St Servaas as backdrop to 2 of the Carnival statues

The square’s connection to Carnival is strong. Besides being one of the main venues for carnival activities in the city, it boasts several permanent carnival reminders. On the SW corner is a group of 5 colorful and oddly-shaped sculpted figures of different sizes. They depict players from a carnival marching band (see details in an upcoming post).

Close by is a small fountain, whose 5 bronze figures depict masked carnival figures dancing hand-in-hand. Called “Hawt Uuch Vas!” by Frans Gast, 1976.


One side of the square is lined with lovely old buildings, now cafes, bars and brasseries. One, roughly in the middle, is a bit more ornate than the others. It’s the Grand Café Momus and it used to be the carnival hall. Their logo is still a carnival mask, which features on the chairs and menu.

We ate there one evening—see an upcoming post.


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Big new entrance door to the Dominikanen Bookstore

Big new entrance door to the Dominikanen Bookstore

A brasserie in part of the old Dominikanen Monastery

A brasserie in part of the old Dominikanen Monastery–note the large brown entranceway to the bookstore on the right

Maastricht has been a ‘tourist’ destination since the Middle Ages, ever since the many pilgrims who came to the city to visit the grave of St Servatius. More than 50 churches, chapels, monasteries and convents take part in the annual religious processions through the city, showing that religion is still a vibrant part of Maastricht’s culture.

Maastricht has many impressive churches well worth a visit, perhaps the best known being the Romanesque St Servatius Basilica (St Servaaskerk) and Basilica of our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe), and 15th-century Protestant St John’s Church (St Janskerk).

However, many monasteries and churches were slated for demolition, for various reasons (such as poor maintenance and exorbitant cost of upkeep, poor attendance). So, in recent years, some private enterprises have re-purposed some of these buildings to save them from destruction.

So, this idea of re-purposing a religious building got us thinking, as obviously there will be pros and cons to doing this.

The two examples that we saw in Maastricht are well done, we thought, for what they have become and we felt it was far better to change the purpose of a grand building rather than tear it down. We’ve seen quite a few old churches, castles and chateaux in France that are now either just ruins, or are due to be torn down as they are dangerously run-down because of lack of funds.

The bookstore in such a beautiful setting

The bookstore in such a beautiful setting

inside4This is the reality, as frequently old castles and churches don’t have the money to keep going. If one allows a structure to fall into complete ruins, or tears a structure down and replaces it with something else, then it will be lost forever, and the memory of that structure will fade over time. Over time, even photos and pictures can disappear and people won’t remember or know what it was, what was there etc. At least with re-purposing, the structure is preserved and people will know that a church, or monastery, or castle used to be here (and is still here, even if it’s functioning as something else). The structure was originally designed with certain beauty and form, and it’s interesting that the form stays the same but the function changes. Those structures are unmistakably churches or abbeys from the outside still, so it’s a way of preserving the past.

In Maastricht, we saw a church-monastery that has become a bookstore, and one that has become a hotel, and actually when you think about it, that’s not entirely inappropriate.

Exterior of the Kruisheren Hotel in the former monastery and church

Exterior of the Kruisheren Hotel in the former monastery and church

Inside the bookstore, everything is very tastefully done, including the cafe

Inside the bookstore, everything is very tastefully done, including the cafe

The first is the former 13th century Dominican Church and Monastery. For a while it had been denigrated to a warehouse and a bicycle parking lot. But, it started a new life when it re-opened after extensive restoration as a large and lovely bookshop with a café, called Selexyz Bookstore or Boekhandel Dominicanen. The renovators have managed to preserve the atmosphere of a cathedral both inside and out, and some say it’s a “divine” space full of books. It’s a way of honoring books and the written word, and in fact books and religion are inseparable. All religions have some sort of special books or scrolls, often beautifully decorated. During the Dark Ages, it was the churches and the monks of the churches that kept the written word alive. Think of all those beautiful illuminated manuscripts, and pages of writing painstakingly inked out by hand.

It’s interesting too that in a recent edition of an in-flight magazine there was an article called “My Beautiful Shelf: Book Temples” about amazing bookstores. They list 6 and one is this one in Maastricht. The others are in Buenos Aires, called El Ateneo Grand Splendid (a former theater); Brussels, called Cook & Book (a restaurant/bookstore); Santorini, called Atlantis Books (the bookstore is the owners’ home too); Beijing, called Kid’s republic (a Kids’ bookstore); Venice, called Libreria Acqua Alta (with many kinds of storage units to protect from water).

Find it just beyond the Vrijthof, at Dominikanerkerkstr. 1, open Monday 10-6, Tues-Sat 9-6 but Thursday 9-9, Sunday 12-5.

In part of the old monastery attached to the church is now a lovely café, called Amadeus (www.brasserieamadeus.nl ).

Inside the old-new hotel

Inside the old-new hotel

The fancy new copper entranceway

The fancy new copper entranceway

The other re-purposed church-monastery is the 15th century former Kruisherenklooster (Cloister) and Church. Starting in 2000, the entire complex was transformed into a luxury designer hotel called Kruisheren Hotel, with a restaurant and wine bar, while preserving its exterior and its history. In the past, churches and monasteries were always places for pilgrims and religious travelers to stay so it seems this is just a modern version of that. It’s still a place to stay, just in a different interior form. It’s magical feeling when you walk through the ultra-modern copper entranceway into the hotel space, bright with sunlight shining through the tall stained-glass windows.

Find it at Kruisherengang 19, west of Vrijthof up the hill a little.

It seems to me that this re-purposing of lovely old buildings is a fascinating and thought-provoking concept.


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Hebe Fountain

Hebe Fountain

Lovely old buildings line the square

Lovely old buildings line the square

Hebe Fountains in Court Square Park

At 62 N. Main Street, Memphis, Tennessee

This neoclassical ornamental fountain, the main feature of the square, was donated to the city by city leaders. It dates from 1876 and is a copy after the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). It’s cast iron, 20 feet high and 35 feet in diameter. In Greek mythology, Hebe was the Cupbearer to the gods.

The fountain has stories to tell: in 1884 one person slipped in and drowned; originally the pond was stocked with catfish, then goldfish, then back to catfish, but so many were stolen, that the practice was stopped; in the 1930s a movement was started to remove the fountain from the square, as Hebe is naked from the waist up, but that didn’t succeed. It has been renovated a number of times.

Cherubs on the fountain

Cherubs on the fountain

Court Square has been one of the symbols of Memphis for a long time and in 1982 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a lovely quiet oasis of green, with a gazebo, statues, and places to sit and watch the restored trolleys trundling along on Main Street. Laid out in 1819, it’s on land originally set aside to build a courthouse (hence the name). Some architecturally significant buildings surround the square, and a small flea market operates most days on the edge. People who work around here come and eat a picnic lunch on the grass, and parents bring kids to run around.

Definitely worth a stop, to rest your feet, watch the kids at play and look at the fountain.

The little market has a number of interesting items for sale

The little market has a number of interesting items for sale

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Coming to the end of this 3-part series commemorating 650 years at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University.

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

Our guide discusses some old instruments

Our guide discusses some old instruments

The Collegium Maius Museum: We watched the 11am clock show and at that time bought a ticket for the next English museum tour at 1pm. You have to go on a guided tour in a small group, which is offered a few times a day. Our tickets were 12 Polish Zloty (PLN) each (senior discount), about $3.75; normal adult price is 16 PLN (about $5) and children 6 PLN. See Part B next post for the tour.

It was a great tour, which took about an hour and a half, although the allotted time was one hour. Our guide was excellent, fluent in English and a really remarkable fount of knowledge and information about her topic, which is very broad—anything and everything to do with this university, all the contents of all the rooms, the people and artists involved etc. Our group asked many questions and she was able to answer pretty much all of them in detail. Security was tight getting in, and then a guard followed the group and closed doors behind the group as the people exited each room.

Universities in those days were closely linked to religion and this is still very Catholic in tradition. Religion dictated what they could do. Originally the professors were celibate and lived and ate together like monks, showing the importance of religion. Later, they could marry and live outside the university.

The communal dining room

The communal dining room

They started with three core areas: theology, philosophy and law. Then they added medicine and physical sciences.

It’s a really beautiful building with gorgeous rooms, mostly upstairs, such as the Library and the Green Room. This is an incredible collection of old university artefacts (furniture etc), plus many instruments. The Library houses a great collection of old books in neo-Baroque bookcases. The nobility of that time played a large role in donating money that allowed the university to be built and for it to buy all these things. On the tour, our guide named many of the benefactors over the years.

Many famous names are linked to the university but (for us) Copernicus is the greatest—with his link to astronomy and cartography 100 years before Galileo. He knew about the earth being round, and about planets travelling in ellipses even. He had 4 brothers who all studied here too. His Polish parents moved to Scandinavia, but the boys came back here to study because the university had the reputation in astronomy and the right equipment—the earliest is from the Moors in 1064. In the small Copernicus Room the guide pointed out discs, globes and other instruments that Copernicus would have used. Much of his original paperwork is now in Sweden at the Uppsala University Library.

The Green Room

The Green Room


Chopin's piano

Chopin’s piano

Many famous Poles studied here and achieved great things in the world of science, arts, and literature. For example, Marie Curie and Chopin. Chopin’s piano is there in the Green Room, the one on which he actually gave a concert.

We went on the tour to see the museum but actually much of the space is still used, which is amazing. The Senate meets monthly in the Library; they eat in the Stuba Communis (dining room), which is still used for ceremonial meetings (such as signing agreements with other institutions). Built in 1430, it still has 3 tables in a horseshoe shape; and they use the ornate Aula, or Jagellonian Hall, for university award ceremonies—it’s the oldest and one of the most beautiful lecture rooms of the university.



The ornate Aula Hall

The ornate Aula Hall

There are many things of note. The museum has the first globe, which shows North America, but in the wrong place, right at the South Pole! Globes were always done in pairs—celestial and terrestrial. One set had universities and intellectual centers marked. And one globe even had Madagascar marked.

A celestial globe from 1480

A celestial globe from 1480

A collection of clocks, of measuring instruments—like weights and measures—and of old telescopes reminded us of the collections in Arts and Metiers in Paris. There are some priceless treasures and we can understand why security is tight.

They also have a wonderful collection of tapestries, art works, painted ceilings, portraits of people related to the university, some stained-glass windows that would have been lost if not saved here, and some wooden madonnas.

We also saw the original charters of the university. First, the Latin model where students elected the rector and then the French model where the professors elected the rector.

In fact, there is so much in there that’s it’s difficult to assimilate in one visit.

This tour got us thinking about the role of universities and teaching/knowledge in our modern world. It’s a great tradition for universities to follow intellectual pursuits and to try and preserve both knowledge and artefacts. Passing on knowledge and learning is so important and that’s one role of universities. We wonder about the future; with all the digital age stuff, will we lose track of what’s real and not, and of the actual truth. With all these online courses, universities are losing control of passing on the knowledge. Is it potentially the start of the end of the importance of universities? We sure hope not!

An old globe

An old globe

Old astrolabe

Old astrolabe



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