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11 Great Geeky Umbrellas

ToyMatrix’s eBay
ToyMatrix’s eBay

If April showers bring May flowers, then let’s all hope it rains plenty this month. Grab one of these great geek umbrellas to shelter yourself from the storms.

1. Umbrella Corp.

Aside from the awesome Resident Evil reference, this umbrella is doubly geeky because it also is an Umbrella umbrella. Oh ThinkGeek, you’re so punny.

2. Middle Earth

Unfortunately, toymatrix’s eBay listing for an umbrella featuring a map of Middle Earth is now over and I can’t seem to find any other place you can buy it, but the design is too beautiful and geeky to leave off of this list.

3. TARDIS

It seems that any normal household object has been turned into a TARDIS version by someone somewhere, and as a Doctor Who fan, I think that’s fantastic. Craftster user MissSadieMae converted her umbrella into a TARDIS and the result is something most Whovians would be proud to carry around—even in sunny weather.

4. Blade Runner

You might not ever get a functional replica of Deckard's LAPD pistol, but you can walk through the rain in style, like so many of the inhabitants of his city, with this great LED umbrella available at ThinkGeek.

5. Broadsword

Wish you could have the style of those in Westeros, but don’t want to have to carry around a real sword everywhere you go? Well then, try this great broadsword umbrella from ThinkGeek. It might not cut down your enemies, but it also won’t land you in prison.

6. Vader’s Lightsaber

Alternatively, if you enjoy your weapons to be a little more futuristic, you can always join the dark side with the Neatoshop’s umbrella that features Darth Vader’s lightsaber for a handle and the logo of the Galactic Empire on the canopy. For those who prefer the light, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber is also available in umbrella form.

7. Marvel

Any comic book fan, or at least any Marvel fan, would be happy to bring home this great umbrella from Geek Lounge that features an array of classic Marvel titles.

8. Ms. Pac-Man

Just imagine how great an overhead shot of umbrellas on a rainy day would look with this one by etsy seller CreativeCommunity hanging out in the middle. In fact, since it’s a little larger than average, it just might look like your umbrella is running around eating all of the other umbrellas on the streets as if they were pellets.

9. Kaylee’s Parasol

Don’t use this one in the rain as it’s for sun protection only, but any Firefly fan will instantly recognize that Etsy seller Karen McBrowncoat’s design is based on Kaylee’s hypnotic parasol used to help mesmerize potential travelers in the first episode of the show.

10. X-Ray

Anastacia Spada’s x-ray umbrella is as unique as it is striking. It’s also perfect for any doctors or biologists who wish to stay dry while showing off their interests. If you want to make your own, Spada has instructions for doing so at the link.

11. Mood-Changing

While you might be in the mood for your umbrella to look a certain way on a particular day, you might not want to carry that same design when you’re in a different mood. That’s why the My Day Umbrella by Hsiao Yong-li is so brilliant. It offers six different design options that each come with their own ambient tune that is played from speakers in the umbrella. Don’t like the design you chose yesterday anymore? Simply turn the handle and pick a new one, and if you get tired of the six pre-programmed designs, you can always download more online.

Do any of you have any particularly geeky parasols or umbrellas? If not, do you have any designs you wish were available as rain protection? I personally would love to see an umbrella with Totoro holding his umbrella painted on it.

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.
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History
Mütter Museum Showcases the Victorian Custom of Making Crafts From Human Hair
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

During the Victorian era, hair wasn’t simply for heads. People wove clipped locks into elaborate accessories, encased them in frames and lockets, and used them to make wreaths, paintings, and other items. "Woven Strands," a new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, explores this historical practice by featuring dozens of intricate works culled from five private collections.

According to Emily Snedden Yates, special projects manager at the Mütter Museum, hair work—as it’s called today—was common in England and America between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The popularity of the practice peaked in the 19th century, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s prolonged public mourning after her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861. People in both the UK and U.S. responded to her grief, with the latter country also facing staggering death tolls from the Civil War.

With loss of life at the forefront of public consciousness, elaborate mourning customs developed in both nations, and hair work became part of the culture of bereavement. "[The 19th century was] such a sentimental age, and hair is about sentiment," exhibition co-curator Evan Michelson tells Mental Floss. That sentimental quality made hair work fit for both mourning practices as well as for romantic or familiar displays of fondness.

Palette work culled from the collection of Evan Michelson and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Palette work from the collection of Evan Michelson
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Most hair artworks were made by women, and created solely for the domestic sphere or as wearable trinkets. Women relied on multiple techniques to create these objects, fashioning wreaths with hair-wrapped bendable wires—a process called gimp work—and dissolving ground hair into pigments used to paint images of weeping willows, urns, and grave sites. Watch fobs, necklaces, and bracelets were woven using an approach called table work, which involved anchoring hair filaments with lead weights onto a table and using tools to twist them into intricate patterns through a hole in the furniture’s surface. Yet another technique, palette work, involved stenciled sheets of hair that were cut into various shapes and patterns.

Hair work remained popular until World War I, according to Michelson, who co-owns New York City's quirky Obscura Antiques and Oddities shop and organized "Woven Strands" along with 19th century decorative arts expert John Whitenight.

“Women hit the workforce, and death occurred on such a huge scale that it really swept away the old way of mourning and the old way of doing things,” Michelson says. By the early 20th century, tastes and aesthetics had also changed, with hair work beginning to be viewed “as something grandma had,” she explains.

The Mütter’s exhibition aside, people typically won’t see hair work in major museums. Being a craft primarily performed by women at home, hair works were usually passed down in families and often viewed as worthless from a financial and artistic perspective.

“A lot of hair work was discarded,” Michelson says. Many owners repurposed the shadowbox frames often used to display hair work by removing and tossing the artworks within. Works stored in basements and attics also frequently succumbed to water damage and insects. Antique dealers today typically only see hair jewelry, which often featured semi-precious materials or was encased in a protective layer.

Sepia dissolved hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Sepia dissolved hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Yet examples of hair wreaths, palette work, and other delicate heirlooms do occasionally surface. They’re prized by a small group of avid collectors, even though other connoisseurs can be grossed out by them.

“People have this visceral reaction to it,” Michelson says. “They either gasp and adore it—like ‘I can’t get over how amazing it is’—or they just back away. There are very few other things where people are repulsed like this … In the 19th century no one batted an eyelash.”

“It’s a personal textile,” Snedden Yates explains. “It’s kind of like bone in that it doesn’t really decompose at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. It’s not made of tissue, so if you keep it in the right environment it can be maintained indefinitely.”

Table work culled from the collection of Eden Daniels and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Table work from the collection of Eden Daniels
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

“Woven Strands” features examples of gimp work, palette work, table work, and dissolved hair work. It’s often hard to trace these types of artworks back to their original creators—they typically don’t bear signatures—but the curators “really wanted to find hair that you could connect to an actual human being,” Michelson says. “We chose pieces that have provenance. We know where they came from or when it was made, or who actually donated the hair in some cases, or what the family name was. We also picked out things that are unusual, that you don’t see often—oddities, if you will.”

Woven hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Woven hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Displayed in the Mütter Museum’s Thomson Gallery, “Woven Strands” opens on January 19, 2018, and runs through July 12, 2018. On April 7, 2018, master jeweler and art historian Karen Bachmann will lead a 19th century hair art workshop, followed by a day-long historical symposium on the art on Sunday, April 8.

Michelson hopes that “Woven Strands” will teach future generations about hair art, and open their minds to a craft they might have otherwise dismissed as parochial or, well, weird. “We hope that people see it and fall in love with it,” she says.

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