Learn by doing.
See how learning continues outside the classroom through the hands-on training at the Denison Museum.
Meet the interns that work side by side with museum staff and gain invaluable experience for life after Denison.
Archive for ‘April, 2015’ Blog
Learn by doing.
It’s fascinating to think about the things that get lost in spans of time both short and long; instances long forgotten, brushed over, overlooked, products of decisions and choices that in their active act of selecting one thing saw to the neglect of countless others. This act can be found with something as little as picking one clearance t-shirt at the Gap among racks of dozens or what picture to slide into a frame, acts that create a lineage of our own personal histories, the composition of our being, eventually forming the canons in which we decide exactly what is significant and noteworthy, and conversely, what is inconsequential. Let’s expand this anecdote to the history we find in textbooks and museums, those that encapsulate a vision of grandeur and triumph and perfection. If I choose to omit details of my life to form a better picture of myself than imagine the amount of things left behind in order to shape our understanding of historical time and its manifestation in material culture. Of course, so much is lost.
Working in a museum, a lot of choices get made: what to exhibit, what to conserve, what to research. Sometimes these choices are intentional and products of business, but when you’re faced with shelf upon shelf and drawer after drawer, endless “stuff,” things get forgotten on the basis that they get pushed to the back or fall behind a cabinet. These are all practical excuses for our forgetfulness and neglect, and besides, it would be impossible to give attention and consideration to everything around us. Therefore, it becomes clear that some things will always have the privilege of sticking out, while others owe their privilege to being discovered.
Last summer, during the museum’s extensive inventory and archival project made possible by The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), staff and students had the privilege to do just that, discover, an effort that resulted in a curious find. Pushed to the back of on our storage racks, a little disheveled, knocked over, and lonely, was the statue pictured, and its in gleaming abstraction and contrasting materials we had some intuition that perhaps it was unfairly pushed aside through staff changes, new acquisitions, and the like. After plugging in some numbers into our database, checking inventory cards, and perusing through donor records we found out that the statue was one of Sir Jacob Epstein, noteworthy British sculptor of the Modernist period, a contemporary of Brancusi, in fact. The subject of the sculpture is Iris Beerbohm Tree, in which the sculpture is aptly titled after; poetess and notorious muse to the cubists and futurists, literarians, and really, any of the intellectual “who’s who’s” of the Modern period. While the subject of the sculpture is enough to pique interest, let alone the network of suave artists behind the piece that make any art historian like myself weak at the knees, the provenance and life of the sculpture brings Denison Museum in connection to one of the most renowned museums in the world, the Tate Britain.
As it turns out, in 1915, Epstein created two identical busts of “Iris,” one of which we own, the other, on display at the Tate. Using the Tate’s online meta-data, our own exhibition archives, and some tertiary biographies on the sculptor, we can trace the path of each of the two original casts of “Iris Beerbohm Tree.” The Tate’s sculpture was bought directly from Epstein from a woman named Dorothy Schmidt, later donated to the gallery. Denison’s cast was purchased by John Quinn, an American lawyer who, between 1902 and his death in 1924, established a reputation as one of the most important collectors of European avant-garde art.
After Quinn’s death in 1924, his entire collection was dispersed. Epstein’s entered public collections in the United States and Canada, but the remainder remained in private collections or remained in the hands of dealers. Finally in 1947 “Iris” was sold to Edmund Burke, trustee of Denison, founder of the university’s art collection, and benefactor to a visual and performing arts center here at Denison – does Burke Hall sound familiar?
I’ve summarized the path of these two sculptures for brevities sake, but in the spirit of discovery, it’s fascinating to consider the homes and hands not only these artworks have passed through, but really most materials and objects that surround us. Some things will always get buried or washed away in our day-to-day, but that’s not to say that they can’t be uncovered or given some fresh air. With that said and “Iris” in mind, we have one mystery solved, 8,000 to go.
-Marisa Zemesarajs ’15
Watch as guest speaker Nicholas Powers, Professor, English, SUNY Old Westbury gives a gallery talk on the work of Kara Walker at the Denison Museum.
Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Denison Museum, Burke Hall
How are we taught to read power? When studying Kara Walker’s work, inevitably the question turns from the art itself to how we, the audience, “see” racism. The goal of this gallery talk is to foreground the production of cultural space and the regimes of reading around racial imagery. Does the space that her work encourage awareness of the historical trauma that is the very source of the art? Or does it recreate the dynamics of racism by offering a spectacle of sexual violence?
Opening reception: Spring Art Exhibitions 2015
Watch the fun of the opening reception of our three spring exhibitions: Recollections: Jazz photographs by Herman Leonard; A Time Most “Un”Civil; Dressing Difference: Exploring Burma’s Ethnicities.
In collaboration with the DU Art Collective, 91.1 FM WDUB: The Doobie, LNO, and the DUwop.
Wednesday,February 11th, 2015
Burke Hall, Denison Museum
When I first began to take part in the inventory process, I worked with these beautiful 20th century hats from the silk road. They were unique and showed different patterns and colors. I knew what their function was: to be worn on top of a head. Once I had completed inventorying the hats, I began to work with these little objects called netsuke. I had never heard of them before, let alone how they were supposed to be used. With research and learning more about them, I became attached to these tiny toggles. Perhaps it is because I spent much of my time with them, but I developed a fondness for each part of the netsuke collection. Each one is distinctive and one of a kind. Although inanimate, each has their own personalities. Their faces, actions, and even the way they are sculpted create their individual characters. I wonder about the owner of each piece, how this toggle might have reflected their personality,style, work, and status. I can’t pick just one that is my favorite. They are all so different. The netsuke collection set the standard for the rest of my time here working at the museum. They made the process of inventorying interesting, and even more rewarding.
This summer, I interned at the Denison Museum as the Monomoy Curatorial Intern. This entailed helping with the process of suggesting and preparing objects from the Museum’s permanent collection to go on view in the Denison President’s home – Monomoy Place. President Weinberg and his family live in Monomoy. I also had the privilege of helping to prepare some objects to go on display in the Museum’s Fall 2014 exhibition Curiosity. Throughout the process, I learned some important lessons about working in a museum. One of these lessons had to do with the nature of the “inch” and the importance of always checking your measurements.
Some of the objects chosen for Monomoy were two-dimensional works on paper, like two geometric Nassos Daphnis prints and two colorful Japanese woodblock prints. These prints needed to be framed and matted before they were hung in Monomoy. In order to frame the works of art, we needed to know their exact dimensions as well as their frame measurements and their window measurements.
Before my internship, I had no experience with framing. No framing experience at all, to be exact. My supervisor, Megan, taught me from the ground up. I started with measuring the dimensions of the art using a standard tape measure we had in the office. I recorded all these measurements in a spreadsheet order form to be sent to a frame supply shop. We ordered the framing supplies to the dimensions we needed, and then assembled the works of art in the Museum.
One of the works to be framed was a Nassos Daphnis print of red semicircles. This piece had already been measured by another intern, but I measured it again to make sure the previous measurements were correct. To my surprise, the new measurements did not match the old ones at all. Confused, I thought maybe there were two different Nassos Daphnis red semicircle prints and the one I was measuring just happened to be larger. Barely fazed, I continued with my measuring.
When time was approaching to order the framing supplies, I brought out a measuring tape and started to check over the measurements I had taken. This time, I used a different measuring tape. Since all inches are the same, I thought, it would not matter that I was using a different measuring tape. But as I measured the dimensions again, I noticed something strange: none of my new measurements were matching with the old measurements.
Perplexed, I found the measuring tape I had used in the beginning of the framing process and held it next to the new tape measure I was using. To my horror, the inches did not align! The inches on the old tape were significantly larger, meaning all of my preliminary measurements were incorrect. In the beginning of the summer, the Museum had ordered a shipment of red, blue, and yellow measuring tapes from China. It turns out all of these tapes had incorrect inches, even the fun blue measuring tape I had been using. We ended up getting rid of these tapes to avoid any further measuring conundrums.
Upon further investigation, I learned that, despite using the metric system, the Chinese use a unit of measurement called the “Chinese inch.” The Chinese inch is about 1.312 US inches. So, the Chinese measuring tapes were not wrong, per se, they just had inches that were not the same size as standard US inches.
After this discovery, I used a different measuring device to go back and measure the dimensions of each work of art again, this time using standard US inches. This was great practice for me as I was learning the methods of framing, but could have been disastrous had we placed the framing order, received framing supplies that did not fit the works of art, and then had to re-order supplies and potentially be late installing the art in Monomoy. Fortunately, we caught the problem just in time.
This experience taught me that it is of utmost importance to double check, if not triple check, your work. This is especially critical when framing works of art. This experience also taught me that, alas, not all inches are the same.
-Gretchen Giltner ’16
Watch how museums objects can inspire one amazing biology project!
On Thursday, February 27th, the Denison Museum opened its doors to a crowd of 300+ that included Denison students, faculty, and Granville residents. If you are one of the sad few who did not attend, then you missed out on delicious tacos and sweets. That’s right; there were tacos, FREE tacos, from the talented people at Taco Sherpa. I bet you feel bad now, don’t you? The good news is that you can still visit the museum to view an exhibit that we are particularly proud of: Green Revolution.
Green Revolution is an exhibit that focuses on the idea of sustainability and being environmentally friendly. It showcases impressive works of art by Denison students that explore what it means to be ”green.” The gallery has been split up into five, distinct sections: Latin American Squatter Settlements; Ocean Acidification; Fracking; Hybrid Housing/The Denison Homestead; and a cushy reception area with couches and books in case you want to do some learning on your own.
We are open Monday-Saturday from 12:00-5:00pm on the first floor of Burke. Come by on your own, or bring friends down the hill to see our exciting new exhibit!
See you at the museum!