Friday, July 22, 2011

Picturing Shelburne Museum

With our walking paths, gardens, and historic buildings all set on 45 acres, Shelburne Museum is an ideal backdrop for the amateur--or more experienced--photographer.

Museum guide Roseann Petrie meets visitors everyday who come from far and wide, many of them with a camera in tow. She has a special connection to photography as an art form.
"Ten years ago," she explains, "I quit smoking and started walking."
She began taking hours-long hikes that inspired her to see the world in a different way. Natural light, textures, and colors jumped out at her, and she took up photography to capture these beautiful new discoveries. Eventually she went professional, founding a self-titled studio that specializes in portraiture and fine art photography.

Working at Shelburne Museum has influenced and inspired Roseann's art. She loves photographing historic buildings because of the reflection of light on the glass and the lines of the old architecture. Shelburne Museum buildings, then, often inspire her artistic work, and last year she participated in exhibition of local artists that took place on the grounds. Roseann encourages everyone to give photography a try.

"Anyone can take a picture," she says, "but it takes tell a story without words." What better place to practice than Shelburne Museum?  

Roseann's Top 5 Places to Photograph at Shelburne Museum:

#1: Settler's House and Barn, for the atmosphere and lighting.

#2: Dutton House for the same reasons as above, as well as the distorted panes of glass in the window, which create an impressionistic effect when you look through them.

#3: Kalkin House for its wonderful shadows and refections. There is also an interesting point of view from the second floor looking down.

#4: The Ticonderoga--there is a great point of view from the upper deck, warm light, great textures, mirrored reflections and amazing architectural design.

#5: The Blacksmith Shop. The light from the fire and filtered light from the smoke sets a dramatic atmosphere, the blacksmith at work makes a great human study.

Roseann also recommends the floral and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, the duck pond, and, of course, the covered bridge. 

"The museum," she emphasizes,  "kicks a photographer's senses into overdrive."

All images courtesy of Roseann Petrie

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blacksmiths of Yesterday and Today

60.6-5; Historical Photograph of Blacksmith

I was busy combing through the records the other day when I stumbled upon this interesting historical photograph! It depicts a nineteenth century blacksmith in his shop. This guy caught my eye because to me, he looked quite familiar. It didn't take me long to figure out who he reminded me of either...we've got live blacksmiths here at the museum all the time!

The blacksmith shop is one of our live demonstration exhibits; sometimes on my midday strolls I like to pop in and see what they're making. You can even buy some of their amazing works at the Museum Store (hooks and scrolls, etc.).

Beautiful day in the neighborhood...

When I went to the Blacksmith Shop the other day, I found just whom I was looking for--longtime visitor guide and blacksmith, Lyn Lang!

Lyn explains a bit about blacksmithing to some visitors (including me!)

I told Lyn about the photograph I found in the collection, because I think the resemblance is quite uncanny. I do have to say that Lyn is much friendlier than the guy in the historical photograph!

See what I mean? Shelburne Museum, past and present!

That afternoon, Lyn was busy working on some small scrolls. Here's a glimpse at some of the tools and supplies he was working with:

Throughout the rest of this summer, Lyn will work on a beautiful and intricate scroll design that will go in the Settler's Cabin--that's another one of our demonstration exhibits. He showed me the plans as's going to be fantastic! I'll be making some more posts in the coming weeks about his progress and also some interesting facts and tips about blacksmithing.

The Blacksmith Shop here at the museum is open every day, starting at noon. We have many other very talented blacksmiths who work here also--be sure to stop in and say hello!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

With a little help from my friends

At the recent American Institute for Conservation's annual meeting, I participated in a panel discussion, specifically to talk about how I, as an objects conservator, care for Shelburne's textile collections while two other conservators, a paintings conservator and an objects conservator who works primarily on African art and artifacts made of many different materials, both in private practice, discussed their approaches to the conservation of textiles.

Backing up a bit, my title is "objects conservator" which means that I work on three-dimensional works of art and artifacts. In my graduate school work at the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum program in art conservation, I cycled through courses focused on the science, history, and conservation of the world of object and material types: paper, photographs, textiles, paintings, wood and furniture, metals, leather and other organic materials, ceramics, stone, glass....and at Shelburne the collections demand that I draw on the full range of what I was taught. But really, there's more to all of this than anyone could learn in just three years of graduate school, and so I continually build on that body of knowledge by reading, going to conferences, attending workshops, and talking to colleagues so that I can do my job in the most responsible manner possible.

The panel discussion is summarized on the American Institute for Conservation's blog, and mostly I talked about the various kinds of collaborations I enter into with conservators who specialize in textiles, as well as volunteers, in order to care for the museum's quilts, hooked rugs, clothing, and upholstered furniture collections.

Recently, though, I entered into a new kind of collaboration, one with an artist/designer, the results of which are on view in In Fashion.

The hats in In Fashion were a whole lot of fun to work with. The pieces in the show from Shelburne's collection run the gammut of materials: straw, glass, plastic, ostrich feathers, reed, silk...even pipe cleaners. I mended broken feathers and made replica gems to replace missing ones. And as fabulous as the pieces from our own collection are, the pieces made by Don Marshall on loan from designer Susan van der Linde are fantastic, in that mythical Pan's Labyrinth kind of way. How were designer/preparator Doug Oaks and I going to show off these amazing but incredibly fragile works of art off to their best advantage?

Hat by Don Marshall being test fit to the mount in the conservation lab

Fortunately Susan van der Linde had already come up with a marvelously elegant solution for her own hats. Designed by the architecture firm Bade Stageberg Cox, the mounts that Susan uses in her own showroom were exactly the kind of solution we were looking for. Described as a surrealist twist on the milliner's head mold, the mounts are made of intersecting pieces of painted plywood. Although these "heads" are smaller than a human head, their design offered opportunities.

Susan van der Linde's mounts with polyethylene foam wedges covered in surgical stockinette support this hat by Fran├žois on a jaunty tilt

I saw that, when necessary, I could slot in supporting fabric covered wedges into her mount's design for Shelburne's 19th and early 20th century hats in the exhibition. The green silk and reed calash was especially fun. For this mount I built a variation of a storage mount used for this kind of hat at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that would slot on to Susan van der Linde's mount.

The modified wedge for the calash as it was being developed

So, thanks, Susan, for allowing us to use your mounts for the show. And thanks also to my colleagues for their willingness to help me think through some of the issues posed by the collections at Shelburne Museum.