Thursday, February 10, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar

Many people ask me if this time of year is slow at the Fenimore Art Museum. It would seem as though it would be given that we are closed to the public from December 31st through April 1st and Cooperstown itself is seemingly quiet with its snowy streets and sleepy downtown. Ironically, this is actually the busiest time of year for us. As soon as January 1st hits, we are off the ground running, taking down exhibitions from last year and preparing for the exhibitions to come.

Our loaned shows from last season such as Watermark: Michele Harvey and Glimmerglass and John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women, as well as those containing our own collections such as Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace: A Century of New York Fashion, are deinstalled simultaneously during the month of January and February. Everything has to be returned to lenders or put back in our storage vaults quickly so that we have time to repaint galleries and begin layout of the Spring exhibits; it can get pretty hectic around here!

I began return shipping plans for loans from the John Singer Sargent exhibit back in November and December; trucks book quickly since most other museums are changing out exhibitions at this time of year, too, so an early start is imperative. The Sargent show also had loans that required couriers; I have to make their travel plans as well as coordinate the deinstallation and shipping of their loan for a time convenient to them as well as our exhibitions team. This year was especially challenging, as two large snowstorms threatened courier and shipping schedules; my colleagues will agree that I am often heard proclaiming with distress “why do we always get a blizzard when I have a shipment”!? In the end it all worked out and everyone and everything made it home safe and sound.

While I was overseeing the departure of Sargent loans, I was simultaneously getting ready for our upcoming spring shows; exhibition and loan agreements are now officially signed for A Window Into Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray, and Prendergast to Pollack: American Modernism from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. Edward Hopper has loans from many individual lenders, each requiring the exchange of agreements and discussions about crating and shipping – the details of which always take us right up to opening day! Frida Kahlo and Prendergast to Pollack are travelling shows sponsored by other institutions; I really like these kinds of shows as they are one stop shopping, with one lender and one shipment – so much easier for me!

Finally, in the midst of all of this, we received a full size tractor-trailer full of crates from our American Indian travelling exhibition returning from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. On a day of record snowfall, of course! It had a very successful run there, and will stay here at the museum in storage until April when it is leaving for the Dallas Museum of Art. What a whirlwind!

We hope to see you on April 1st when the weather warms and our doors open once again to the public with new and exciting exhibitions. Until then, stay tuned for more behind the scenes reports from the registrar’s office!

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