Thursday, October 28, 2010

While the Registrar is Away, the Curators Play

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar

My three month maternity leave from the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum was a lovely escape from reality. I was due August 1st with my first child and so I decided to use my vacation time during the month of July to “nest.” Fortunately, my generous employer and coworkers thought this was a good idea and sent me off, to be seen again only after I had a babe in arms. I spent the whole month lounging around the house, and out on our boat on Otsego Lake soaking up the sun… and trying to get up and down the ladder into the water (there are some entertaining pictures of that by the way that I will keep to myself). I ate lots of ice pops, wore a flowing summer dress every day, and had no schedule. It was wonderful. Miraculously, I also didn’t think about work ….much. Being a registrar is a career for me, not just a job. I love what I do and proudly consider myself “on call” here at the museum 24/7.

Perhaps lending to this carefree attitude was the knowledge that our Assistant Curator of Collections, John Hart, would be diligently working on a list of pending projects in my absence: changing out of exhibits, arranging crating and shipping, accessioning new objects, negotiating loans and insurance. Summer is a somewhat slower time of year for me but even juggling a few projects can be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t normally do it. Additionally, it wasn’t easy for me to leave things entirely to someone else, and I may have been slightly guilty of burying poor John in the details of how to do it “Christine’s way”. Registration work isn’t for everyone and I give John a lot of credit for even attempting to take on my responsibilities (while still doing his own job might I add!).

I had our son, Shepard Franklin Olsen, on August 7th at 3:27pm after 23 hours of labor and an unplanned cesarean section delivery. I then took the next 8 weeks to recover, staying at home with the baby and learning to be a mom. Although it is cliché I dare say that being a mom is the hardest job I have ever had; but it wasn’t long before I came to the realization that I could never be a stay at home mom. I missed the challenges and demands that work provides me and I missed socializing with my coworkers (i.e. adults who spoke of things other than diaper changes and timing of naps!).

Undoubtedly knowing that I needed some socialization, John and our Curator of The Farmers’ Museum, Erin Richardson, came to visit at my home on a regular basis following the delivery. They kept me abreast of the latest curatorial department developments and occasionally solicited my advice on things registration related. During these two months exhibitions came (Picturing Women: American Art from the Permanent Collections) and went (In our Time: The World As Seen By Magnum Photographers), and our travelling exhibition, Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, was shipped to its next venue at Minneapolis Institute of Art (I found this especially hard to miss). It all went without a hitch, of course, thanks to the wonderful curatorial department at the museums, but it felt good to be in the loop none the less…and to know that I was missed by my colleagues, if even just a little.

I returned to work part time as of October 4th. I had a slow recovery from the cesarean section delivery and wasn’t quite emotionally ready to leave the baby., but, in the end it was for the best. Both the baby and I have adjusted now and everyone is doing well. John did a great job while I was gone and the transition back has been easy. I am getting ready for the end of this year’s exhibitions and preparing for the next - I am back at the job I love…only now, I get to go home at the end of the day to an awesome new baby boy that I love even more!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Native American art is alive and beautiful

The Ferns, ca. 1904
Scees Bryant Possock (ca. 1858-1918) Wa she shu (Washoe)
Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor

On Sunday October 24, Fenimore Art Museum's traveling exhibition, Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We'd thought our blog readers would like to see a wonderful review of the exhibition, given by Minnesota Public Radio. If you are in the region, it's well worth a stop by the MIA to see the show.

Native American art is alive and beautiful | State of the Arts | Minnesota Public Radio

Friday, October 15, 2010

Birth of the United States Navy

By John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

In honor of the 235th birthday of the United States Navy, celebrated on October 13th, I decided to blog about a print in the Fenimore Art Museum collection to celebrate. First established as the Continental Navy by the Continental Congress in 1775, the first Navy dissolved shortly after the end of the American Revolution. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that Congress authorized the creation of the Navy we know today.

According to the USS Constitution Museum, six frigates were built between 1797 and 1800 – the USS Constitution is the only ship that remains. Dubbed “Old Ironsides” because of her very strong hull, she either repelled cannon balls completely, or absorbed enough of the impact to prevent the ship from sinking. Now resting in Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts, Old Ironsides remains a popular tourist attraction and one of the oldest surviving relics of the American Revolution. And arguably, the most recognized, too.

The Kearsarge and the Constitution, 1892, by Fred S. Cozzens
Lithographic print, H: 10 ¾” x W: 14 ½”
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, N.Y., N0612.1942(22)

The print in our collection, shown above, depicts the USS Constitution in the foreground, and to the viewer’s left is the steam sloop of war, USS Kearsarge, commissioned in 1862 during the US Civil War. Like the Constitution during the War of 1812, Kearsarge proved her worth during several important battles during the Civil War, including her defeat of the CSS Alabama. To this day, there is a ship named USS Kearsarge in honor of the original, which ran aground in the late 19th century. The ship to the right was not identified in the print’s key.

If you’re ever in Boston, stop by the USS Constitution Museum – the tour of the ship is free, and offered by active duty sailors. The museum itself is a treasure trove of history and definitely a destination you shouldn’t miss.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Installation of Another Show (with apologies to Cole Porter...)

By Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Another Installation of Another Show
(with apologies to Cole Porter, on the occasion of installing Fenimore Art Museum's exhibition, Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, at its second venue, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts)

Another install'in, another show
In Cooperstown, Cleveland, or Minneapolo’
A chance for museum folks to say hello!
Another install'in of another show.

Another installation you hope will be a blast
Will make your museum’s future and salute its past
Another venue where visitation will grow
Another install'in of another show.

For weeks, you plan and rehearse
Three weeks, and it couldn't be worse
One week, will it ever be right?
Then out of the hat it's that big first night

The press preview is about to start
You cross your fingers and hold your heart
It's curtain time and away we go -
Another install'in
Another installation of another show!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hanging Smith & Telfer photos at the Otesaga Resort Hotel

By Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions

One of the many pleasures of working in a tight-knit community is having the opportunity to work with our friends at local businesses and organizations. Recently, Preparator Steve Loughman and I were asked to hang photographs at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, just down the road from the Fenimore Art Museum here in Cooperstown, New York. The photographs are of the Hotel, taken in the first three decades of the 20th century, and were reprinted from Fenimore's Smith & Telfer photography collection. Here are some pictures from our day.

The Hotel's designer had specific instructions for installation.

It was a fun and challenging installation, hanging horizontal frames on vertical wallpaper. Precision was definitely the word of the day!

They turned out great and it was nice to be able to provide our services to our friends at the Hotel.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Celebrating the Thaw Collection at the MIA with teepees

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

The installation of Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection is progressing well at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It is very exciting to see the space take shape. Yesterday’s highlight for me was to see Joe Horse Capture, the MIA’s Associate Curator, Department of African, Oceanic, and Native American Art, and a few of his staff raise two teepee's on the front lawn of the museum in preparation for the opening of our exhibition.

Today the third teepee is going up. They have already created quite a buzz. The teepees will be lit up at night so I will try to get some evening shots of them later on this week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Installing the Thaw Collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

On October 24th, the Fenimore Art Museum's traveling exhibition Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection will open at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Yesterday, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Chris Rossi, and I spent our first day at the museum and we got a good start on unpacking and installing the objects. It is so exciting to walk into another museum's prepared galleries and see their vision for the Collection in regards to layout and design.

The first picture, above, is from the Northwest Coast section of the exhibition, with our Potlatch Figure in the foreground.

The other gallery shot was taken while the crew was installing a large photomural depicting the Grand Canyon in the Southwest section of the exhibition.

When we went out for lunch I took the opportunity to take a picture of the entrance to the Target Galleries, where the exhibition is being installed.

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