For today’s Friday break, a video by Petros Vrellis that demonstrates an interactive iPad application of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Is this a glimpse of a future where visitors can explore collections in new ways?
Long known as the authoritative resource for salvaging artifacts after a disaster, the Emergency Response and Salvage (ERS) Wheel has been used by historic sites, museums, libraries, and archives around the world. In partnership with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Heritage Preservation has turned the Wheel into a mobile application, providing invaluable guidance accessible to anyone who is in need of practical advice for saving collections in the first 48 hours after disaster strikes.
ERS app provides the same reliable content found in the original Wheel. The app outlines critical stages of disaster response and provides practical salvage tips for nine types of collections, from photographs to natural history specimens. ERS can help users protect precious collections and significant records, access reliable information instantly, and save damaged objects.
The “ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage” app is available free for Continue reading
This short feature by BET includes an interview with director Lonnie Bunch, highlights of artifacts, and a computer-generated fly-through of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. In honor of African American history month, I’ll be sharing other related videos on Fridays.
The rich red clay at Montpelier, the Virginia home of the Father of the Constitution has given up more secrets: the remnants of James Madison’s barn and threshing machine, and evidence that Dolley’s son destroyed both in an attempt to remove the machine from Montpelier before the new owner took possession.
As archaeologists excavated the field slave quarters this summer, they found perplexing evidence they had to research and decipher. First, they found bits of iron that appeared to be pieces of machinery, which indicated that the building was used to house farming equipment. Then, in the soil layers below the iron pieces, they found a trench, which proved to be the outline of a 16-foot x 16-foot building. The trench also contained a set of postholes that held more iron pieces. “The iron and postholes in the trench tell us that the building was modified to allow a piece of machinery to be mounted inside the building,” said Dr. Matthew Reeves, Montpelier director of archaeology and landscape restoration.
More digging revealed bits of bone and ceramics, which indicate that Continue reading
Los Angeles is hosting a four-day international conference on the care and interpretation of collections in historic house museums on November 6-9, 2012 called, The Artifact, its Context, and their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums. A half dozen organizations are sponsoring and hosting the conference, including ICOM-DEMHIST (the international committee for historic house museums), three ICOM conservation working groups, the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute, the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture/Heritage Conservation Program, and the Gamble House. Historic sites encounter some of the most challenging preservation issues in the museum field because it is often impossible to maintain environmental conditions that are ideal for the collections, building, and visitors. Indeed, some leaders in the field have wondered whether historic sites should be even considered museums because it establishes such an impossible standard.
The four-day conference consists of two days of site visits (such as the Gamble House, Huntington Library, Eames House, and Will Rogers Ranch) and two days of presentations and lectures. Sarah Staniforth (National Trust UK) and Linda Young (Deakin University) will be providing broad overview presentations on the challenges and opportunities facing collections in historic sites, but most of the presentations are Continue reading
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, one of the great public museums established just after the Civil War, has recently opened “Art of the Americas,” a new wing filled with its outstanding collections of American fine and decorative arts. As some of you know, the Boston MFA underwent a controversial restructuring more than a decade ago, shifting from departments organized by media (e.g., paintings, ceramics, furniture) to geography (e.g., Europe, Asia, and America) and firing some longtime curators (including Jonathan Fairbanks, who created the American Decorative Arts and Sculpture department at the MFA). I’m assuming one of the results of this restructuring is “Art of the Americas.” This four-story exhibit consists of 53 galleries tracing the history of art from pre-Columbian to Modern periods for the continents of North and South America, so along with the expected Chippendale chairs and Copley portraits, there are Peruvian funerary urns and Acoma pots. It’s so large that it took me nearly three hours just to cruise through it at a walking pace and I didn’t make it to the fourth floor, which explored the 20th century.
Unlike most art museums, the exhibit mixes Continue reading
In May, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)–the national agency devoted to museums and libraries–released a new set of proposed guidelines that would significantly revise their grant programs for museums (and that includes historic sites, historical societies, house museums, and preservation organizations). Initially, these changes were proposed to go into effect without comment from the field, but fortunately enough museums spoke up that director Susan Hildreth changed her mind and announced she would welcome comments–but the comment period ends on Friday, July 6, 2012.
According to IMLS, the guidelines affect the Museums for America and National Leadership Grants for Museums programs, however, the impact is much larger because these programs are proposed to consume two other grant programs: Conservation Project Support and 21st Century Museum Professionals. Claudia French, deputy director for museums, proposed the changes so that the grant programs would align better with the IMLS strategic plan and make it easier for grantees and IMLS staff.
Here are the major changes that caught my eye:
1. One deadline to rule them all: January 15. Currently, the deadlines for Continue reading
On Sunday morning, the area near Bologna in northern Italy was struck by a major earthquake with aftershocks occurring today. Damage to historic buildings is significant and about seven people have died. Information is still coming in but the latest on CNN (with many photos) is:
Northern Italy was shaken by an aftershock Monday morning, a day after a magnitude-6.0 quake killed at least seven people and left thousands of survivors huddling in tents or cars overnight. Continue reading
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, holds “The Farm,” one of Joan Miro’s masterpieces and its provenance makes for a great story as told by Jim Conaway in “Getting the Picture” in the May 2012 issue of Washingtonian. Here’s a glimpse into its complex history when the painting was owned by Ernest Hemingway and slated for an exhibition loan:
Alcohol–and his own vituperation–was catching up to Hemingway by 1959, when, then on his fourth and final wife, Mary, he agreed to loan “The Farm” to the Museum of Modern Art. Hemingway was nervous about exposing the painting to the hostilities stirred by Fidel Castro’s revolution while trying to get it out of the country [Cuba]. He insisted that the museum insure “The Farm” and send an emissary to squire it back to New York, but no company would issue such a policy.
Hemingway finally agreed to let the museum’s emissary, David Vance, take the painting, but he ran into roadblocks: Continue reading
Terri Anderson is swapping history collections for art when she joins the Corcoran Gallery of Art next week as a Contract Registrar to help them migrate their collections database from Filemaker to TMS (The Museum System). For the past five years, she has focused her work on collections management at the 29 National Trust Historic Sites as the John and Neville Bryan Director of Collections at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she also taught collections management for George Washington University and became one of the national leaders on the challenges of deaccessioning collections at historic sites. With this transition, I thought it would be a good time to capture some of her thoughts about managing collections at historic sites.
Max: You’ve been managing the collections of the National Trust for the last five years–what have been the major successes?
Terri: Our most visible successes were opening several Sites to the public for the first time, including the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut; President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC; and Villa Finale in San Antonio, Texas. Each of these Site openings required many important decisions about collections stewardship and access, and each Site demanded a different approach: one size did not fit all.
At the same time, we had successes that, while less visible, were important to me and the parties involved. We did a lot of great work with thoughtful, appropriate deaccessions at several of our Sites. I wrote about our experiences in Continue reading