Theory and Practice: Students in Spring course produce exhibition and education program Part 3

making our worldThe Spring 2013 course “The Curator in the Museum” at Bryn Mawr College mixes theory into practice in the new exhibition “Making our World” located on the second floor of Canaday Library. Through readings and guest lectures related to the broader course theme of analyzing the “institution” of the museum and all its related parts, we integrated these models into our own project exhibition and corresponding education program for local high school students.

The following updates — written and edited by students as part of the team-based approach to the entire project — are reports on our progress along the way. Please let us know your thoughts.

Communicating Personality and Displaying a Life

Student blogger: Claudia Keep

Pinkerton (left) and Levine sections of Making Our World. Photograph by Alison Whitney

Pinkerton (left) and Levine sections of Making Our World. Photograph by Alison Whitney

One of the challenges of creating an exhibit around living individuals is how to portray their personality and the intangible qualities and values that they hold. How do you show something that is not an object? We were working with various objects that hopefully, when displayed together, would tell /create an accurate description of the individual. But how does one pick and choose the object or series of objects that would best represent the various qualities that made up these individuals?

One of the subjects of our “Making Our World” show, recent Bryn Mawr graduate Courtney Pinkerton had many interests and fascinating stories, but they did not all lend themselves to a visual display. Other subjects of our show were easier to portray visually, particularly as interviewees Jackie Levine and Margery Lee are both art collectors, and had donated numerous books and works of art to Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections.

Only having graduated last year, most of Courtney’s life experiences and interests have been defined by her time in high school, and most especially by her time at Bryn Mawr. Courtney’s time at Bryn Mawr was shaped greatly by her independence, and her work ethic. But how do you show independence, hard work, and commitment inside of a glass case?

To design and fill the portion of the display case reserved for Courtney, we had several objects to work with.  We had a portrait of Courtney Pinkerton and her mother taken last year at commencement, by artist Gilbert Plantinga; the pair of pink sequined cow girl boots that Courtney is wearing in the photograph; the flag of Courtney’s native state, Texas; a copy of the 3.5 resolution Courtney drafted and proposed at plenary; a copy of Courtney’s senior thesis on the intersection of popular culture and race relations; and finally, the crime blotter entry that describes the prank Courtney and her friends played where they switched the flags on Thomas Great Hall with Texas state flags.

Gilbert Plantinga Mary & Courtney Pinkerton, 2012 Digital print Seymour Adelman Fund Purchase Bryn Mawr College 2013.6.32

Gilbert Plantinga
Mary & Courtney Pinkerton, 2012
Digital print
Seymour Adelman Fund Purchase
Bryn Mawr College
2013.6.32

For the final display, we decided to include the portrait of Courtney, her pink boots, the Texas flag, the crime blotter, and the plenary resolution.  These objects seemed to both create an image of Courtney’s personality as well reflect on her time at Bryn Mawr, combining her personal experiences, like her flag prank, and experiences that all Bryn Mawr students could relate to, like a plenary resolution and the Bi-Co news crime blotter. The flag of Texas and her pink cowgirl boots were visual nods to her home state as well as too her strong sense of individuality (not many Bryn Mawr students regularly wear such striking boots). We decided not to include her thesis for, as stimulating as it might be to read, it would not look very compelling sitting in a glass case where no one could read it. We also felt that as almost all students will write a thesis during their time at Bryn Mawr, it did not communicate anything specific enough about Courtney or her time at Bryn Mawr.

We hoped to achieve a balance between objects and text to create a display that was both informative and visually arresting.

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Theory and Practice: Students in Spring course produce exhibition and education program part 2

making our worldThe Spring 2013 course “The Curator in the Museum” at Bryn Mawr College mixes theory into practice in the new exhibition “Making our World” located on the second floor of Canaday Library. Through readings and guest lectures related to the broader course theme of analyzing the “institution” of the museum and all its related parts, we integrated these models into our own project exhibition and corresponding education program for local high school students.

The following updates — written and edited by students as part of the team-based approach to the entire project — are reports on our progress along the way. Please let us know your thoughts.

Decision-making and “Making Our World”

Student blogger: Christine Villanueva

Curator Jennifer Redmond, Director, The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women's Education, introduces students to the Taking Her Place exhibition on the first day of the semester.

Curator Jennifer Redmond, Director, The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, introduces students to the Taking Her Place exhibition on the first day of the semester.

Making Our World is a satellite exhibit centered on main exhibition Taking Her Place located in Canaday’s Rare Book Room. As a departure from Taking Her Place (an exhibition dedicated in exploring the early history of women’s higher education and Bryn Mawr College’s parallel role in providing women of the 19th/early-20th centuries public access beyond the domestic sphere), Making Our World focuses on four contemporary Bryn Mawr alumnae. Since the post-war period, Bryn Mawr has remained an environment that fosters the same intense intellectual curiosity that it did for women in the 19th/early 20th centuries, giving them public access to contribute more actively to the world around them.

The collected cultural ephemera that included (among other things) a computer, yearbooks, magazines, pamphlets, photographs, and artworks were donated by each of the four Bryn Mawr alumnae profiled. Each was generous with her time and participation with the project, but discretion as a value revealed itself of tantamount importance as research in developing the story and thematic elements of Making Our World. The alumnae profiled in Making Our World –Courtney Pinkerton, Kimberly Blessing, Margery Lee, and Jacqueline Levine –not only served as subjects in order to explore how experiences at Bryn Mawr shaped their lives, but also as women to celebrate. In that light, the exhibitions group sought to find objects that best represented and respected the women and their stories, and also how each have impacted Bryn Mawr’s community.

In the case of Margery Lee, Class of 1951, instead of focusing on her experiences as an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College and her professional career, Lee insisted on focusing on the collection of artworks she donated to Bryn Mawr College and her numerous experiences in the art world. It was clear that her love of art she shared with her husband had been a vital and defining experience in her life. We respected her insistence on this significant aspect of her life by having her collection of artworks take center stage as indicative of Lee’s experiences and accomplishments from Bryn Mawr. She has donated over a dozen artworks to the college, and selecting which works to highlight from the impressive pool of candidates proved a fun task for the exhibitions group as executive “curators” of Making Our World. The objects group pulled several pieces for us to consider. These included a large-scale photograph by local and contemporary artist David Graham, a photograph by prolific and controversial artist Andres Serrano, a screen print by Warren Rohrer, and lithographs by Jim Dine and Jody Pinto.

Working out the installation details

Working out the installation details

Initially unsatisfied by the pool of works pulled by the objects group, we used triarte.brynmawr.edu, the arts and artifacts database of Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges to see what other works could be considered for the exhibit. We rejected the Jim Dine lithograph because we felt its heart motif too sentimental, obvious and ‘on the nose’ for the exhibit’s theme and title. We loved that Bryn Mawr owned an Andrew Serrano photograph of a close-up girl’s pierced ear and earring titled “Child Abuse II”, but felt the content of the photograph incongruous with our exhibit, and felt that Serrano’s piece could be better served in a future exhibit. Its inclusion in Making Our World felt forced to us given Serrano’s critical intent for the work. Rohrer’s screen print “Barks and Marks”, David Graham’s photograph of a William Penn impersonator “Bud Burkhart as William Penn, Three Arches, Levittown, PA”, and Jody Pinto’s landscape lithograph “Fingerspan for Climbers Rock Fairmount Park” were all seriously considered to display for the exhibit.

To be frank, however, we wondered if there were other works in Lee’s collection that held the same “big-name” artist recognition as Andres Serrano. Though our anticipated audience was not geared towards a distinctly informed art audience familiar with an artist like Serrano, we felt that, in part, by focusing on Margery Lee’s donated works as indicative of Bryn Mawr’s first-rate Art and Artifacts Collections, we wanted to display works that could carry broad-based appeal and familiarity, and excite an audience approaching not only Making Our World, but Bryn Mawr College itself. Although Rohrer, Graham, and Pinto’s works are of great quality and content (representative of Lee’s strong local connection to the Pennsylvania art scene), we were confident that Lee’s collection was deep enough to pull other works representative of Bryn Mawr’s world class art collection.

As such, we were excited to discover Lee had also donated George Segal and James Rosenquist serigraphs and an Ansel Adams photograph to the college. We wanted to include the Ansel Adams photograph “Dead Tree, Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona” but were informed that it had already been exhibited in a prior show, Double Take, a year ago. Because of the photographic medium and the work’s age, conservation rules dictate that photographs only be displayed (under strict lighting guidelines) every few years. In order to preserve Adams’s work for future Mawrtyrs, we were unable to display it for this exhibit. However, the James Rosenquist serigraph “For the Young Artist”, an imitation of a color perception test called an Ishihara Color Test that spells out “ICU2RA*” (roughly “I see you too are a star), proved to be the fulcrum around which we based Margery Lee’s display. It was colorful and dynamic, it was by renowned Pop artist James Rosenquist (whose works are in the collection of MoMA and the Met, among others), and most importantly, its thematic content of mentorship between young and old generations proved a home run. As the only abstract, non-figurative artwork displayed, we chose the Rosenquist piece over Rohrer’s “Barks and Marks”.

For the Young Artist, James Rosenquist Serigraph on wove paper 2007.12.3

For the Young Artist, James Rosenquist
Serigraph on wove paper
2007.12.3

However, its size proved to be slightly detrimental and highly difficult within our display case. But, the exhibitions group pushed for its inclusion as it also worked well loosely juxtaposed next to alumna Kimberly Blessing’s technology oriented objects. We were happy with the other artworks the objects grouped pulled –Marlene Dumas’s “Supermodel”, John Kindness’s “China Cabinet Fly”, and David Graham’s William Penn photo –but their respective sizes proved too large for the space, and we found ourselves needing to cut one piece. Dumas’s “Supermodel” was a shoe-in; it is the only work by a female artist, and, we felt, played well against other featured alumna and art collector Jacqueline Levine’s displayed artworks of figuratively focused, and politically/racially charged (in different degrees) works. Ultimately, we chose etching “China Cabinet Fly” against Graham’s photograph because it paired better between the Rosenquist and Dumas prints.


Upon reflection, perhaps it would have proved better to mix up the displayed artworks, exhibiting the large-scale William Penn photograph instead in order to challenge audience expectations. But, as exhibition designers, we stand strongly behind our decisions to display other works against others, as all decisions were reached thoughtfully and collaboratively. We feel that the final three artworks exhibited for Margery Lee cohesively celebrate both her and the college’s art collection, and more broadly, the community oriented engaged learning of Making Our World.

Theory and practice: Students in Spring course produce exhibition and education program Part 1

making our worldThe Spring 2013 course “The Curator in the Museum” at Bryn Mawr College mixes theory into practice in the new exhibition “Making our World” located on the second floor of Canaday Library. Through readings and guest lectures related to the broader course theme of analyzing the “institution” of the museum and all its related parts, we integrated these models into our own project exhibition and corresponding education program for local high school students.

The following updates — written and edited by students as part of the team-based approach to the entire project — are reports on our progress along the way. Please let us know your thoughts.

Guest Lecturer Dr. Bruce Altshuler

Student blogger: Adriana Grossman

Bruce Altshuler, New York University

Bruce Altshuler, New York University

On February 18th, the Curator in the Museum class was lucky to have Dr. Bruce Altshuler as a guest lecturer. Dr. Altshuler is currently the Director of the Program in Museum Studies at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University, and part of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA/USA), the American Association of Museums, and the College Art Association. It was particularly exciting to be able to speak to someone currently active in the field of museum studies, given the potential beginnings of a museum studies department at Bryn Mawr College. He is also the author of Salon to Biennial—Exhibitions That Made Art History, Volume I: 1863–1959, and is currently at work on the second volume.

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Though we were all initially a little intimidated by Dr. Altshuler’s background, a congenial tone was set from the very beginning of the class period when he asked us all to introduce ourselves and explain why we were interested in the field of museum studies. Every answer varied, proving just how many other concentrations could lend themselves to the field and how broad the field itself is. Dr. Altshuler himself studied philosophy before entering the art world. He spoke to us about his beginnings in the commercial art world, working as a dealer with Zabriski Gallery. Zabriski Gallery specializes in Dada, Surrealism, American Modernism, photography, and contemporary art, the last of which is Dr. Altshuler’s primary area of interest, along with the history of exhibitions. He then told us a little about his experiences as director of the Noguchi Museum from 1992 to 1998.

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The last topic that we discussed was museum studies. As Dr. Altshuler made clear to us in telling us about his varied career, museum studies is a field that can be applied in a broad range of ways, the direction of which ultimately depends upon personal preference and the research that one chooses to undertake. The Museum Studies program has been offered at New York University for over three decades, and is still relatively young as a field of study. Dr. Altshuler suggested that this was perhaps because the field is hard to define given how much it has to encompass. Indeed, museum studies requires academic work to engage museum theory and practice, including the history of the institutions as well as the artworks within them, as well as preparation to be involved with more hands-on roles in the workings of a museum. (We recently got to do a little hands-on work ourselves, and will continue to be doing so as our class exhibition “Making Our World” progresses.) In other words, it is everything to do with running a museum.

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As was made clear in our discussions with Dr. Altshuler, museum studies is a field that will only continue to grow. Since its inception, it is a field that has come to many different institutions and is still burgeoning, as is evidenced by the suggestion of such a field of study at Bryn Mawr College.

 

 

 

ANTH B204-001 North American Archaeology

 

 

 

 

 

Today students in North American Archaeology, taught by Professor Richard Davis, used objects from special collections to learn how to examine them. Information about the manufacture and use of the artifacts was gleaned from this visual examination. Students will continue to work with our special collections throughout this course.

In this photo students are examining a stone blade, one of over 1600 stone tools in the college’s holdings.

 

 

Among the other objects used for today’s class were pottery, pipes and one stone game piece called a “chunky stone”.  For more information about the game Chunkey see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chunkey.

 

 

 

 Interested in knowing more about the anthropology collection?…..

The anthropology collection includes more than 8,000 objects from around the world. Frederica de Laguna (Class of 1927), the founder of Bryn Mawr’s Anthropology Department, was instrumental in the creation and growth of this important collection in the 1950s and 1960s.

The largest portion of the anthropology holdings is the William S. Vaux Collection, a gift from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, which includes archaeological artifacts from North, Central, and South America and pre-historic Europe.

Other important collections include the Twyeffort-Hollenback Collection of Southwest Pottery and Native American Ethnography, the George and Anna Hawks Vaux ’35, M.A. ’41 Collection of Native American Basketry; the Ward and Miriam Coffin Canaday ’06 collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics and Peruvian textiles; and pieces collected in Oceania by retired anthropology professor Dr. Jane Goodale.

African Collection

One of the highlights of the anthropology collection is the African collection, which has grown rapidly since 1990, when Bryn Mawr alumna Margaret Feurer Plass ’17 bequeathed to the college select pieces from her private collection. A world-renowned Africanist, Plass traveled and collected for forty years. A major addition to the collection during the 1990s was the donation of more than 270 African art objects by Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld ’53. Bryn Mawr Professor of Anthropology Philip Kilbride has supplemented these collections with ethnographic objects he collected in East Africa in the 1960s.

Asian Art Collection

The Asian holdings include Helen B. Chapin’s (Class of 1925) collection of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scrolls, porcelains, lacquerware, terracottas, bronzes, and wood and stone artifacts. Also included in the Asian collection are imperial Japanese art and artifacts from the Elizabeth Gray Vining (Class of 1923) Collection, which she assembled while she was tutor to the Crown Prince (present Emperor) of Japan.

Renaissance Relief Reinstalled

Yesterday a reproduction plaster relief of the Tabernacle or Ciborium in the Medici
Chapel Church of Santa Croce in Florence was re-installed on the 2nd floor of Taylor Hall. It is a late 19th century reproduction after the original mid-15th century work by Mino da Fiesole (1429 – 1484).

To safely install the four-part plaster relief, a metal armature was constructed to support each section separately.  This insures that the weight of each piece is supported by the structure and not by the sections of the relief beneath.  The armature was installed first.

Then each section of the relief was installed one at a time, starting at the bottom, by professional art installers.




Special Collections staff at American Association of Museums annual conference

This week, Marianne Weldon, Collections Manager for Art & Artifacts, attended the American Association of Museums (AAM) Creative Community in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Marianne represented Bryn Mawr in two events: by participating in a panel discussion called “Out from Behind the Scenes: Bringing our Work Forward” and in the Marketplace of Ideas, a poster-type session called Collaboration and Education, where she shared our work on digital workflows and collection documentation using digital photography.

Well done, Marianne!

National Library of Korea Rare Book Specialists Visit Bryn Mawr

Two Rare Book Specialists from the National Library of Korea spent the day in the Bryn Mawr Special Collections on Wednesday, November 2nd examining and photographing 50 rare Korean books.  Hye-Eun Lee and Ji-Hee Han were spending the week in the United States to work on the Korean collections at Princeton and Bryn Mawr, and were accompanied to Bryn Mawr by Hyoungbae Lee, the Korean Studies Librarian at Princeton.   Bryn Mawr acquired its Korean book collection through a bequest in 1950 from Helen Burwell Chapin, Class of 1915.  Chapin was an expert in Asian art, and spent many years in China, Japan and Korea studying and collecting books, scrolls, and other art works.

Ji-Hee Han and Hye-Eun Lee of the National Library of Korea discuss Bryn Mawr's Korean books with Hyoungbae Lee, Korean Studies Librarian at Princeton

Even though Bryn Mawr’s Korean book collection is a small one, many of the books were printed with metal-cast type, a format reserved for important publications, often ones connected with the royal family.   A number of the books are quite early, including a 16th century collection of Buddhist sutras, and many of them contain illustrations, including a record of the ceremonies performed for the 80th birthday of Korea’s Dowager Queen in 1885.

Illustration from 16th century Korean book of Buddhist Sutras

Hye-Eun Lee and Ji-Hee Han are cataloging and doing further research on the books at Bryn Mawr, and will add information about Bryn Mawr’s holdings to the National Library of Korea’s catalogue of rare books.

The National Library of Korea’s interest in the books came about as the result of a larger project focusing on cataloging the Helen Chapin collections of Chinese,  Japanese and Korean books and scrolls.   The project is being supported by a gift from Bryn Mawr alumna Maxine de Schauensee Lewis ’57.

Illustration of a dance performed for the birthday celebration of the Korean Queen Mother, 1885

The Beginning of the End (of the Renovation)

Things are abuzz in Special Collections in Canaday Library this week, as the renovations to the Eva Jane Coombe ’52 Special Collections Suite and Special Collections staff areas are wrapping up. Here’s a “sneak peek” taken as the contractors finish up and we start to move in. Stay tuned for more news on inaugural events celebrating our new space!

The soon-to-be-completed exhibition case (right) with the new reading room (left).

The soon-to-be-completed exhibition case (right) with the entrance to the reading room (left).

The reading room

The reading room.

The entrance to the new Seminar Room.

The entrance to the new Seminar Room.

The hallway/sitting area with room for student art exhibitions.

The hallway/sitting area with room for student art exhibitions.

Special Collections will be open for business with hours from 1 pm – 4:30 pm Monday, August 30th. Regular hours will resume beginning Tuesday, September 7th.

See the Special Collections webpage for more information.