Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Muse Grew Up In A Museum (Sort Of)

Yes, I was born in Sacramento. 
No, I didn't grow up knowing about Aimée Crocker.

I knew about the Crocker Art Museum, which was attached to her childhood home. I went there on a field trip. I'm sure I briefly heard about her father, E.B. Crocker, but I really don't remember. I loved visiting The Crocker Museum, but that wasn't where I first heard of Aimée. Or even Amy Isabella Crocker, as she was originally called. I first heard of Aimée on a history tour of the
Old City Cemetery. Then I tracked down her memoir, And I'd Do It Again, and read it several times before surrendering it to the UC Davis library.
I told friends about the book, but since it was out of print and nearly impossible to find, I had a hard time getting anyone interested in her amazing story. "Hey, you should read this great book . . . only you can't." My little old lady friends at the cemetery told me the stories they knew about Aimée. Other than my golden homegirls, I had no one to share Aimée with. One of my best friends, Katie, expressed interest in reading the book and tried to get a copy. No luck. I got the idea to type it out, chapter by chapter, so she could read it. That's right, I made a myspace profile for Aimee so I could share the chapters with Katie.
I don't have the password to my own myspace account anymore, let alone the one I made in tribute to Aimée. I recently found this video about the beginning of the Crocker Museum. One fourth of the video is about Aimée Crocker, and most of the footage is of that myspace page. I can't help but giggle.
The Crocker family lived in the mansion on the corner of 3rd and O Street, in what is now called the Mansion Wing. E.B. Crocker purchased the property and existing buildings in 1868, when wee Amy was about 4 years old. It was the Victorian era and they had a fancy home & museum to fill. Naturally, the family went on a grand tour of Europe and collected a vast amount of art. E.B. seemed to favor Italian art, but they also picked up some solid central European pieces.

Originally, the home and the museum were separate. The museum was a charming add-on in the early 1870s. Margaret Crocker donated everything to the city in 1885, eventually the home became part of the museum as well. Much later, the "New Crockers" (the modern day museum) expanded further with a 125,000-square-foot addition called the Teel Family Pavillion.
Photo: Brian Suhr
The Crocker Art Museum is the longest continuously-operating art museum in the West. The juxtaposition of Victorian and modern architecture is a bit much for some patrons, but I think the Crockers would be proud their legacy still houses world-renowned art. They'd also love "Pay What You Wish" days every third Sunday. And air conditioning. Art lovers can also enjoy free admission on Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.

One can easily spend an entire day soaking up culture at the Crocker Museum. But you've been forewarned, there's a lot of spirit to glean! Getting close to Aimée's lingering presence may lead to wanderlust, romance + mystical encounters. You're next Facebook status might say something like "Leaving the Crocker, gotta pack! SMF -> JFK -> CGK -> BOM -> CDG -> ?"

And that's a good thing. I mean, when's the last time you were in Java anyway? If Aimée senses you are a kindred spirit, you might also smell her lang lang perfume, have the sudden urge sit atop a grand piano and play it with your feet, shimmy an exotic snake dance in the moonlight, marry a couple of princes, get matching snake tattoos with your boyfriend (especially if you're presently married) or dye your hair purple. Again, when's the last time you ________ . . . ?
Young Amy Isabella, the face of Victorian moxie
Taylor and Crocker, 2009
Unlock the door to Aimée's bohemian world by reading this book!

Soundtrack: Only Son "My Museum"

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