Oregon Historical Society - Oregon My Oregon

During our visit to the Oregon Historical Society, we spent most of our time in the permanent exhibit, Oregon My Oregon. It covered history from the earliest tribal groups to the post-war decades. Topics covered include geography, native languages and culture, exploration, missionaries, the Oregon Trail, 20th century immigration, and the growth of Oregon industries. Having been revamped in the last 15 years, the museum addresses what many would deem to be controversial topics: workers rights, systemic racism, genocide, environmentalism. This treatment of real issues, and the role they play in the state’s history and identity, helped the museum to win some accolades. From the exhibition website:

“The American Association of Museums has awarded the Modern Oregon Issues segment of Oregon My Oregon a Silver 2005 MUSE Award in the History and Culture category. The visitor-controlled display plays video narratives of current events in Oregon. The unique interface is themed on Portland's famous Newberry's lunch counter and its countertop jukeboxes. Selecting a topic from a jukebox initiates a presentation featuring real Oregonians discussing the issue.”

The museum was also recognized by AASLH for its permanent exhibit. It felt refreshing that the institution addressed very real parts of the region’s past, rather than simply retelling or glorifying the same story we’re often told of western expansion and settlement. Hopefully more museums will take a cue and more honestly portray the stories they’ve set out to tell.

IMG_20170829_133559.jpg
IMG_20170829_134924.jpg
IMG_20170829_140456.jpg
IMG_20170829_140836.jpg
IMG_20170829_141616.jpg
IMG_20170829_141726.jpg
IMG_20170829_141904 copy.jpg
IMG_20170829_142410.jpg
IMG_20170829_142833.jpg
IMG_20170829_142917.jpg

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago - Takashi Murakami

Since I’ve moved to Chicago and have been working in and learning about museums, I usually don’t visit museums and see special exhibits in a casual way. I really enjoy critically assessing what institutions are doing, and I appreciate having the background knowledge I do when approaching these experiences. Sometimes it’s nice to give myself permission to just enjoy a trip to a museum, though. The Murakami exhibit up at MCA Chicago was a great opportunity to do this. I still read the labels, considered the layout and design choices, and spent a good bit of time talking over the exhibit with my partner. At the end of the day, I approached this visit differently, and it was a nice break and an excellent visit.

IMG_4890.jpg
IMG_4894.jpg
IMG_4897.jpg
IMG_4914.jpg
IMG_4908.jpg

Chicago Cultural Center - Theo Jansen's Strandbeests

The Chicago Cultural Center hosted an excellent exhibit of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests this winter. I’ve long admired his mobile creatures, so it was wonderful to have the chance to see them up close. On display were black and white photographs of the beasts in action, a wide variety of the handcrafted pieces used in the sculptures, some hands-on demonstrations of engineering principles, and several retired Strandbeests. There were wranglers on standby for daily demonstrations, showing how the beasts harness and store wind power for self-mobilization.


I love the combination of engineering and aesthetics that go into Jansen’s work, and the exhibit showed off this pairing beautifully.

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

Open Archives at the Art Institute

October is a busy month in Chicago, packed with amazing cultural events around the city. This year, I took advantage of the Chicago Open Archives weekend and visited the Ryerson & Burnham Archives at the Art Institute. The archivist walked our group through highlights of the archives and gave some fascinating background information on the objects on display. Architecture is one of the primary reasons I moved here, so this architecture-centric collection is right up my alley.

 

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

Museum of Contemporary Art & John Cage

 

I left my position at Northwestern University Library in August, and one of my last jobs was the digitization of several John Cage scores. I attended an after-hours event at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and once again found myself face-to-face with Cage’s unconventional work. It was a fantastic surprise to stumble upon a project I had a small part in and watching others interact with and enjoy the exhibit.

 

image.jpg
image.jpg

Collection, Building, Action

Preparing for the exhibition Collection, Building, Action at the National Public Housing Museum was a whirlwind experience. From the beginning plans and outline to installation, our small team had around two months to pull everything together. And given the fact that the space used to house the exhibit (and two others, as well) is a gutted former public housing site, there were some interesting limitations around which we had to work. I’m so happy I got to be a part of this project, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the museum in the future.

If you’re in Chicago, take time to visit the Addams Homes to see all three exhibits (up through mid-November), and the rest of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

 

Exploring the museum's collections.    

Exploring the museum's collections. 

 

image.jpg
image.jpg
Entrance to all three exhibitions in the future museum site: Collection, Building, Action; House Housing; We Next Door. 

Entrance to all three exhibitions in the future museum site: Collection, Building, Action; House Housing; We Next Door. 

Collection, Building, Action - 3D collections items, a slideshow of images, and selected oral histories. 

Collection, Building, Action - 3D collections items, a slideshow of images, and selected oral histories. 

House Housing, curated by Columbia University.

House Housing, curated by Columbia University.

The museum's Youth Advisory Council curated We Next Door, a response to House Housing. 

The museum's Youth Advisory Council curated We Next Door, a response to House Housing. 

Things vs People

This spring, I pursued and completed a certificate program in Museum Studies at the School of Professional Studies at Northwestern. I learned so much during the quarter and walked away with some wonderful resources and connections. What struck me the most in our discussions in class is this shift in museums as a whole - away from strictly serving the role of a repository and towards a space of facilitation and connection. Simply put, museums are trying to be less about stuff and more about people. Part of my interest in and motivation to work in cultural heritage institutions has been the stuff. I feel that there is so much we can learn from unique objects and materials. That being said, I understand and agree with the movement to make these institutions less static, more welcoming, and more relevant to the audiences they are supposed to serve. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the field, and I hope museums, libraries, archives, and galleries can adapt and embrace change.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the House of Terror in Budapest. This institution is dedicated to telling the story of Hungary under fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century. Wandering through the exhibition spaces, visitors are immersed in environments - not reproductions of historical spaces per se, but rather rooms meant to illicit emotion. There are objects and artifacts on display, but these are not the focus; interpretive text accompanying objects is minimal, instead there are paper handouts in nearly every room which provide background information to the topics covered. Multimedia elements, interviews and music in particular, are used frequently. The hardships faced under the regime were personalized by individual accounts, and it was clear that the intent with this was to generate a connection between history and visitors. While the subject of the museum may not be a welcoming one, the contemporary exhibition approach facilitates a relationship between those who lived under the regimes and those visiting the museum today. There are aspects to the exhibition I might approach differently, but I did find it to be an interesting example of this user-centered experience we discussed in our classes. 

 

The imposing exterior gives a good indication of the challenging subjects addressed inside.

The imposing exterior gives a good indication of the challenging subjects addressed inside.

Courtyard with victim portraits. 

Courtyard with victim portraits. 

Room dealing with justice under the regimes.

Room dealing with justice under the regimes.

Room dealing with "normalcy" in popular media under the regimes. 

Room dealing with "normalcy" in popular media under the regimes. 

Re-created office of a communist party official. 

Re-created office of a communist party official. 

Art and Science Symposium

Last week, I attended a symposium for Northwestern University Library's new exhibition Art and Science:  Traversing the Creative Spectrum.  Speakers included S. Hollis Clayson, Professor of Art History at Northwestern; Harriet Stratis, Senior Research Conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago; Susan Russick, Northwestern University Library Conservator; and Oliver Cossairt, Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern.  The discussions all related to the intersection between science and art, and I was drawn to the discussions of imaging science in particular.  Using rapidly advancing technology has enabled researchers to learn more about historic works of art - Gauguin's working process via Infrared imaging, for example.  I always appreciate it when the cultural heritage imaging field is recognized for its contributions, and it was an interesting group of presentations.

 

image.jpg

Lillstreet Gallery - Midwest Contemporary 2015

After a year-long hiatus from exhibiting personal work, I recently had an image chosen for the juried Lillstreet Gallery Midwest Contemporary show.  The juror chose a wonderfully diverse group of images, and I enjoyed his statement.

 

The exhibit is up through April 19, check it out if you're in the area.