February 23, 2012
Research Paper on the Bowers Museum
The history of the Bowers Museum is much like that of the artifacts hidden within its walls. The tales it tells were left behind with its original secret keepers, just like many of its treasures, waiting to be rediscovered and told to a new generation. These new tales inspire and twist the minds of the patrons to think and see in new ways and as a cultural center; that is exactly what the Bowers Museum does.
The Bowers Museum opened in 1936 by the city of Santa Ana, by bequest of Charles and Ada Bower. The building itself was originally a ranchero style home, belonging to the Bower’s. Since then, the building has been remodeled and added on to, to look and feel like a California Mission on the outside but a safe haven for the history and art on the inside. After being opened for 50 years, the Bowers closed in 1986 after the city of Santa Ana found it too costly to remain open. Eight years later, in 1992, the Bowers Museum reopened as a cultural center. In 1994, their children’s center, more commonly known as “kidseum,” opened and has been serving children all over Orange County and Southern California since.
While looking at the growth, change, and direction of the Bowers Museum, it is a constant reminder of the growth, change, and repeating trends within architecture, fashion, and history. All buildings and thoughts can be traced to a single beginning. While most beginnings have an end, all thoughts can be recycled and seen in a new light. With this notion, it means, everything will at some point repeat itself, and in essence, start the trend all over again the Bowers Museum, is no different.
“You got me stuck on repeat, and I just can’t seem to break free. You got me stuck, on repeat, I can only move to the beat, and I don’t remember how it started and I don’t know how to stop, but every time I reach the bottom, something pulls me right back to the top, cause every time I try, every time I try to break free, then something comes along, something comes along, something comes along to intervene. My hearts skippin, skippin, and I don’t know why, I know every part, but every time I try, every time I try, something comes and pulls me back to the start…”
Stuck on Repeat, by Little Boots
This song by Little Boots is essentially, the life and story of the Bowers Museum. Not only is does it go in cycles but when its almost done, somehow it begins again. While working closely within and around the museum, the history of the Bowers remains a mystery to itself and those it serves. Like many things used within our daily lives and communities, the Bowers has become essential to the neighborhoods daily functions of the neighborhood, but as to its originally whereabouts, they remain unknown. It is a modern day secret garden.
Within the walls of this secret garden, are warriors from a prior world; a world that no longer exists. These Chinese warriors that are standing tall in the main exhibition hall of the museum, originally visited its stoned in walls in 2008, creating a buzz and hum for the quite museum. After their leave, the museum, stepped back into secrecy until this year, with its revisiting friends of times passed. While information is abundant about these terracotta men, the information and lives of those whom made this museum possible, is hidden within its walls. Almost like the lives of those whom built the Great Wall of China, the terracotta so clearly represent this. While many lives were lost, this false army lived on within the soul of the earth to be found centuries later by a secret keeper’s eye.
Secrets, are simply that: a fact that is hidden from knowledge of all not privileged to it. The Bowers, like many museums, is a fantastic secret keeper. With museums originally being a privilege to the elite, aristocracy, and the religious, the building of which is the Bowers is all too fitting. The California Missions were used to spread Spanish thought and Catholicism to the Native Americans throughout Alta California. The fact that the Bowers is built in this style, brings the same sense of this style buildings original purpose. Providing information and shelter, to those who seek to come inside its walls, the Bowers provides light into far gotten mysteries and educates them in a way that they see fit, just as the missions did in the late 18th and early 19th century.
While being a cultural and learning center to those the visit its secretive location, the information on its humble beginnings is far from the patrons’ eyes. By only allowing to the viewer to see and learn what is being started on its clean walls, and peaking through its sun stained courtyard, the experience that is gained from this museum, is the same type of experience one was to receive at a mission itself, a happy one. All come and go with smiles upon their faces, while the gears and cogs inside, turn and turn, to create a positive, uplifting, and educational experience within. This keeps the trend alive, keeps the Bowers alive, and helps the secret garden to grow. Each season, a new trend starts; a new exhibit comes to life, and something new draws one into its gardens and grounds, keeping the Bowers, 75 years after its official opening, alive.