We went to Cathedral of Learning. Andrew Carnegie envisioned institution devoted to higher learning. The building is a pseudo Gothic cathedral, unfortunately lacking the charm of its sisters devoted to inspire religious rather than educational zeal. That said it’s hard not to feel at least a bit supportive. I’ll take humanity building universities over the humanity building churches any day.
Among cathedral attractions is set of so called nationality classrooms designed to expose students to various countries by decoration and assorted artifacts. An attempt to capture a culture by collecting a set of objects meant to represent and symbolize it is both very 19th century and very American. A belief that people can be classified into distinct, understandable boxes is a concept from simpler, more naive times. They still have Chechoslovak room and even Yugoslavian room which unfortunately we could not see: I wonder if Serbian chairs get in a fight with Croatian tables under a watchfull eye of the Bosnian blackboard.
The net effect is a college version of the Disneyland. The cultural references are presented like animals in the zoo: out of place, behind the glass and not even yearning for freedom of the wild open world any more.The classrooms are still added today which shows that institution of University of Pittsburgh standing can get away with a fair amount of silliness before anyone objects. In any case they would be well advised to check out Entropa sculpure, which both uses and ridicules the one box per nation idea. Poland in Entropa has a piece with priests erecting the rainbow flag of the Gay rights movement on a potatoe field in the style of the U.S. Marines raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima. Which tells you more about Poland than a stately room with wooden chairs.
We continue into rural Pennsylvania where restaurants aspire to Olive Garden, motel beds sport vinyl sheets and guest has to be reminded not to steal towels in a charming plea that such an atrocity will increase room rates.