Monday, September 24, 2012

The Conclusion of the Saga of Seal and Polar Bear

Greetings, fellow adventurers! At last, we’ve come to the end of our journey.

Last time we met, I had told you that there are at least three versions of this painting. As much as I wanted to pursue this story further, however, I needed to focus on getting our own Seal and Polar Bear ready for exhibition.

I first talked with our conservator, Nancie Ravenel. She ascertained that the painting was structurally stable, but dirty. We then consulted a paintings conservator, Suki Fredericks, who gave the painting a gentle but thorough cleaning. Thanks to her expertise, the sky appeared more colorful, and details such as the texture of the bear’s fur became more visible.

While the painting was being cleaned, I worked on the exhibition’s layout. 

I went through many copies of the Webb Gallery floorplan as I figured out the layout.

I admittedly haven't said much about the show itself since the first chapter of this adventure, so let's take a moment to revisit it.

How Extraordinary! Travel, Novelty, and Time in the Permanent Collection explores the pursuit of novelty in 18th and 19th-century Europe and America, and is split into three sections.

The first part considers geographic travel. Some of the artists I feature here never visited the places they depicted, while others traveled extensively, but they all shared an interest in showing new places to their audiences. 

Martin Johnson Heade, Brazilian Hummingbirds: Two Sungems and a Crimson Topaz, 1866

The second section introduces some of the ways in which nineteenth-century Americans and Europeans incorporated novel elements into daily life, from exotic fashions to trompe l’oeil paintings.

Le Moniteur de la Mode Series: Coiffures etc., ca. 1860

The final area considers novelty through the idea of time travel, and features four paintings depicting the story of Rip van Winkle. 

Albertus del Orient Browere, Rip Van Winkle Asleep, 1879-1880

Okay, now let's get back to our story.

Seal and Polar Bear best fit into the first section of the show. Raleigh never traveled to the Arctic himself, but he was clearly interested in showing his viewers this region.

Now I needed to determine the painting’s exact placement. I wanted to showcase Seal and Polar Bear, since it had never been exhibited at Shelburne Museum before, so I gave the painting its own wall, making it the first work you see when you walk down to the exhibition. That’ll get your attention!

Once the layout had been figured out, it was time to write and revise the labels. I also had the gallery walls repainted a dark red, a dramatic color that works well with older paintings. 

After the labels were finished, our fabulous preparators hung the show and adjusted the lighting.

After months of research, writing, and contemplating, my show was finished, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

At last, a delightfully weird Shelburne Museum gem is getting its moment in the limelight. Huzzah!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Faces in Education

If you've been following Shelburne Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, or Youtube, you know that this is an exciting time here as the Museum builds a Center for Art and Education that will transform the Museum from seasonal to year round operation. With each steel beam that goes up, fresh possibilities arise.

We're very excited to bring on board two new faces who contribute to the positive energy and forward momentum that the promise of a year-round Shelburne Museum brings. Meet Daphne and Kim! Both began jobs in the Education Department this month.
Daphne Zencey, Academic Programs Coordinator

Daphne Zencey is the Museum's new Academic Programs Coordinator. She comes to us by way of the University of Vermont and Syracuse University, where she earned her master's degree in art history. She is also a veteran of the United States Coast Guard. This spring Daphne worked as an educator for Passport to Learning, our series of interactive workshops for grades K through 8. Her favorite session was "Shop 'til You Drop" at the General Store. She loved giving students a shopping list, items to barter, and a limited amount of play money and watching the "spontaneity and hubbub" that ensued. Daphne is looking forward to seeing school-aged kids on the grounds this fall, especially the littlest ones on their very first visit to the Museum who can't help but "gawk at everything around them."

A self-described "19th-century nut" who remembers the excitement of visiting the Metropolitan Museum as a child, Daphne adores European painting and completed her master's thesis on the Pre-Raphaelites. She also has a soft spot for decorative arts such as those at the Variety Unit, especially the unique collection of sailor-carved scrimshaw. An artist herself, Daphne likes to work with pastels and charcoal. "I dabble," she explains. We know her passion for art and hands-on experience will make an impact as she takes on the Academic Programs Coordinator position!

Kim McCray, Adult Programs Coordinator
Kim McCray is Adult Programs Coordinator. She has significant experience in the museum world with positions at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum and the Nantucket Historical Association under her belt. She is currently working on a doctorate in museum education at Lesley University, having completed her undergraduate degree at St. Michael's College and her master's at Georgetown University. Her interest in museums goes back much farther. A lifelong Vermonter, she recalls a visit to the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury at age five to see dinosaur fossils as well as childhood trips to Shelburne Museum. 

As a young girl, Kim's favorite piece in the Museum's collection was Tinkle, a folk art painting of a proud-looking white cat completed in 1883 by an unknown American artist that visitors can view today in Stagecoach Inn. It still stands out to her, she explains, because Tinkle was important enough to his owner for him or her to commission a portrait. Kim's interest in American Folk Art spans many mediums, from paintings to whirligigs, but she is always inspired by stories of the unique individuals who crafted the pieces. A novice quilter, Kim also enjoys creating herself. She is excited to become part of the Shelburne Museum community and have the opportunity to put lifelong passion and academic theory into practice as our Adult Programs Coordinator.

Welcome, Daphne and Kim!