Tag Archives: Huntington Library

Video: Virtual researchers at work at Huntington Library

This 1:30 video features a video projected on a table showing scholars at work behind-the-scenes as part of a small exhibition on research and conservation at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. It was installed a few years ago in the former board room of the historic library building and is another example of the expanded ways that video is being used in exhibitions (it’s not just a tv monitor anymore).

You may notice that there’s no one in the exhibition. I do deliberately take photos of exhibitions without people so that the entire design can be seen, however, I also take them with people to show how they interact with the content. In this instance, it was a busy day but very few people wandered in and when they did, it was a quick glance and then back out–despite the cleverness of the video projection.  I can perhaps guess at the reasons—located off to the side, uninteresting topic, and passive experience—but it could also be a lost opportunity to do something more intriguing and distinctive.

Look again at the video. What’s distinctive about the exhibition? Continue reading

Video: Behind the Scenes: Alan, Curator

This 2:53 video features Alan Jutzi discussing his work as the chief curator of rare books at the Huntington Library.  It’s one of five videos comprising “Behind the Scenes: Staff and Researchers at the Huntington Library,” which gives visitors a peek into the inner workings of a library that is normally off public view. The videos focus on day-to-day processes—and personalities—of a conservator, curator, archivist, page, and “reader” (the Huntington’s term for a scholar/researcher). Visitors to the Huntington can view them on iPads in “The Library Today,” an education display in a room adjacent to main exhibit, “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times.”  Yes, it’s missing an educator but it does help explain the work of some of the people at a research library.  Is this something that would help the public, donors, and supporters better understand the work you do?  You’ll find more details about the videos in Jennifer Watts’ post on the Huntington blog.

Ten Answers to Eleven Questions of Museum Bloggers

On March 19, the Berlin Museum of Natural History launched a series of eleven questions for museum bloggers on Museum Blogger Day, which is slowly making its way around the blogosphere.   I received the list of questions from Gretchen Jennings of Museum Commons, who received it from Linda Norris at the Uncatalogued Museum, who received it from Jamie Glavic at Museum Minute, who received it from Jenni at Museum Diary, who received it from the Museum Things blog at Natureskundemuseum.   I suppose this might be a new version of the old “chain letter,” but more fun and with no dire consequences if you fail to participate (and of course, the questions were modified along the way, just like a telephone tree).   It’s also introduced me to another neighborhood of bloggers!

1. Who are you and what do you like about blogging?

I’m the president of Engaging Places, LLC, a design and strategy firm that connects people to historic places.  I love visiting and working with museums and historic sites, so the blog allows me to Continue reading

What We Can Learn from America’s Biggest Non-profits?

Philanthropy 400 is the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s annual list of the 400 groups that raised the most funds from private sources.  For 2011, these groups achieved a median 7.5-percent increase from last year, the third straight year of median gains for non-profits in the Chronicle‘s rankings.  That’s amazing considering the depths of the recession that affected most charities.  “Giving USA” said that charitable giving overall grew less than one percent last year.  About $1 out of every $4 donated by individuals, corporations, and foundations goes to these top 400, so what can we learn from them?

The lessons are a bit hard to uncover given the wide diversity of organizations represented on the list, primarily universities, social services, and health/medical,, followed closely by religious, youth, and education.  Topping the list are: Continue reading

Los Angeles to Host International Conference on Care and Interpretation of Collections in Historic Houses

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

Interpretive Planning for Dozens of Sites

Arroyo Seco Parkway National Scenic Byway Interpretive Plan produced by Engaging Places for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in May 2012.

If you’re interpreting a group of sites or a heritage area, you might be interested in reviewing an interpretive plan I completed earlier this year for the Arroyo Seco Parkway National Scenic Byway.  When the Parkway was completed in 1940, it connected Los Angeles and Pasadena and began southern California’s Freeway Age.  It’s also a region that has a dense concentration of museums, historic sites, parks, historic Main Streets, architectural landmarks, and unique businesses, including the Gamble House, Huntington Library, Lummis Home, Heritage Square, and Olvera Street.  To bring attention to these cultural riches, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority commissioned me to develop this plan and work with a local stakeholders, build on an inventory of assets developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and integrate audience research conducted by the Community Land Use and Economic Group and Decision Support Partners.

The planning process followed a traditional approach by collecting content to develop topics and themes; conducting visitor research to identify target audiences; and finally Continue reading

Why We Have Curators and Collections Managers

Times are tough and many museums and historic sites wonder about the value of keeping curators and collections managers on the payroll.  What do they do besides sit in their offices all day?  Well, boardmembers and CEOs, they keep an eye on your most valuable assets.  The University of California Berkeley, that fine institution of learning, provides a useful lesson on what happens when you don’t have curators or collections managers involved in managing your artifacts.  According to the New York Times:

Everybody misplaces something sometime. But it is not easy for the University of California, Berkeley, to explain how it lost a 22-foot-long carved panel by a celebrated African-American sculptor, or how, three years ago, it mistakenly sold this work, valued at more than a million dollars, for $150 plus tax. The university’s embarrassing loss eventually enabled the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, a large museum and research center in San Marino, Calif., to acquire its first major work by an African-American artist.

Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this tale for the object, the artist, and the museum–but the university has egg on its face. First, for not recognizing and properly caring for a significant work of art and secondly for disposing of it for so little money. I’m not surprised. Most colleges and universities are notorious for treating their historic sites and museum collections poorly (have we forgotten about the University of Southern California’s long mistreatment of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Freeman House or Cal Poly Pomona’s neglect of Richard Neutra’s VDL House?).

For the complete story, see “Berkeley’s Artwork Loss Is a Museum’s Gain” by Carol Pogash in the New York Times (February 20, 2012) and Huntington Library Acquires Sargent Johnson Monumental Depression-Era Sculpture in Black Artist News (June 22, 2011).