Archive for ‘January, 2014’ Blog

Working with the unfamiliar

January 23rd, 2014 by Denison Museum

Kristine Mallinson '15

Kristine Mallinson ’15

by Kristine Mallinson ’15

Coming into Denison, I knew that archaeology was in my future. But, I never would have thought I would have found a job on the hill in which I was able to work with artifacts hands on. I first discovered Denison Museum when I took Semiotic Theory with Professor Lele the second semester of my first-year. I was immediately fascinated with the ancient brick collection. When I heard that there were openings at the Museum for the following academic year, I jumped on the opportunity to work with artifacts. To my surprise, I was hired.

All summer I thought about what I was going to be able to do with my job. To my, what was, disappointment, I was not assigned to work with the brick collection, but instead the African and Native American pocket collections with Wataru Akamatsu ‘14. These were both areas of history that I was not familiar with and I was completely scared. How was I going to be able to work with artifacts from cultures I was not familiar with? But, I am so thankful that I was assigned to these two collections because of what I was able to gain from working with the unfamiliar.

While I loved working with the African collection, I am fascinated by the Native American collection at the Museum. Ruth Merhab is the main donor of the collection. She traveled throughout the West and collected tons of objects that she later donated to the Museum. One reason why I love the collection so much is due to the hoops I have had to jump through with the inventory. Last Spring I worked on a total inventory of the collection. I picked up this work with three weeks left of work for the semester, not that much time to finish the total rehousing of a collection. Thus, Wataru and I were hoping that we could just take pictures and then rehouse the objects, but of course that was not the case.

We opened the first box of objects, Box W as it is known as, and right away we found objects that were never given a catalog number. Within a box of around forty pieces of jewelry, we had about fifteen objects without a catalog number. This means that these objects were never formally put into the collection or our database system. After talking with Anna Cannizzo, the Curator of Collections, we decided to develop a new catalog protocol.

The objects would be given FIM (Found In Museum) numbers. I have been able to assign fifty-three objects a FIM number and they will be put into our database system during Denison Museum’s upcoming Institute of Museum and Library Services: Museums for America grant project. Being able to assign a catalog system and giving these objects a place to have information gathered about them has been so rewarding. I am able to give life back to these objects and am forming a pathway for further research to be done on them. Thus, I like to think of it as a different form of archaeology. ‘Digging up’ these objects from our storage and connecting them with information so that we can learn more about our Native American collection.

Surprising Connections

January 21st, 2014 by Denison Museum

Khari Saffo '15 with Tod Polson's "The Noble Approach" and Rockwell Kent's "Twilight of Man"

Khari Saffo ’15 with Tod Polson’s “The Noble Approach” and Rockwell Kent’s “Twilight of Man”

by Khari Saffo ‘15

Denison Museum is full of surprises and connections, you never know what you are going to find. I began to work at the Museum this past Fall semester and have been learning about collecting and cataloguing art pieces. Knowing my particular interest in animation art, Curator of Collections Anna Cannizzo suggested that I take a look at the book The Noble Approach by Tod Polson. I would soon find that the book, about legendary animation layout artist Maurice Noble, had a direct connection to Denison Museum’s works on paper collection.

Maurice Noble is most acknowledged for his background designs in director Chuck Jones cartoons at Warner Brothers Studios in the 1950s. His work can be found in the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, as well as some of the most famous Bugs Bunny cartoons such as What’s Opera Doc (1957), known to be regarded as the best cartoon of all time by one thousand professionals in the field of animation.1 Noble has a very recognizable art style that consists of the use of simple shapes and distorting perspectives. In The Noble Approach, Tod Polson goes into detail about Noble’s approach to style and designing. Polson discusses Noble’s use of “value” in regards to dark/light contrast and focus. The work of artist Rockwell Kent was of great influence to Noble’s use of value and Polson uses one of Kent’s woodblock prints as a visual aide in his explanation of “Stacking Value”.2 It was here that I noticed the Rockwell Kent woodblock print featured was Twilight of Man from Denison Museum’s collection. It was a wonderful discovery to find that Denison some how was involved with The Noble Approach.

Through my connection to Denison Museum I got the opportunity to interview the author of The Noble Approach, Tod Polson. Tod gave me helpful advice to achieve a career in animation. He encouraged me to constantly draw, make films, and to use the internet as a tool to share my work. Tod explained to me that at a young age he had also been interested in cartoons and animation. While in high school he drew a comic strip for the school paper and experimented with many of his own films using cutout paper animation. In college, Polson studied experimental animation and eventually obtained a job working under Maurice Noble. Tod told me that Maurice was more of a teacher than boss and discussed with Tod his approach to design.

Prior to his death in 2001, Maurice Noble had begun work on a manuscript about himself and his drawing process. He was never able to finish but before he died, he asked Tod to continue his work. During the making of the book, Tod collected pieces of art to include. It took years to acquire all of the artwork used in the book. Many of Maurice’s rough pencil sketches used in the book were from Maurice’s own personal collection. As the word spread about the book, people who loved Maurice’s work and knew him personally donated the use of art pieces. Many of the museums Tod came in contact with were extremely generous; Tod noted that the crew at Denison Museum made a lot of materials available to him that he was not able to fit it all in his book. I was thrilled and engaged to learn that I am now apart of something that helped out in the crafting of a book about the master animation designer Maurice Noble.

  1. Jerry Beck, The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals, (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1994.
  2. Tod Polson, The Noble Approach, (San Franscisco: Chronicle Books, 2013, 91.

“Being an intern at the Denison Museum was an absolutely pivotal experience in my education, and I am just so thankful for everything that I took away from it.”

— Julie Rotramel '11