Monday, January 25, 2010

Mining the Archives

I recently watched the movie Angels and Demons. As one of my duties here is being the Addison's "archivist," I was fascinated by the way the movie (and the book) depicted the Vatican's archives. A sleek, modern, and highly-secured space deep below ground, the Vatican's archival treasures were neatly arranged in hermetically-sealed chambers designed to keep humidity levels unnaturally low to preserve their ancient texts. Whether anything like this actually exists at the Vatican (or anywhere in the world) is questionable, but it made me think about the Addison's archives, and where they will be going in our new building addition.

Gallery 1 during the 1993 HVAC installation, note the removal of the glass from the laylightsThe Addison's archives include files associated with the art and artists of our collection, the museum's administration, and every one of our exhibitions (nearly 1400 of them since we opened in 1931). We have thousands of slides and photographs documenting our exhibition installations, and various archives from the museum's special projects including our ship model collection, our 1993 HVAC installation (see left), the creation of our David Ireland Artist Apartment, and all the work and research that went into the making of our 1996 65 Years catalogue. I've always found it fun browsing through our archives: reading letters from our past directors, finding old photographs of our museum, and figuring out how objects came into our collection.

Workers install storage units in the new archives roomUp to now, the archives have been stored in various areas throughout the museum and off site. It's been very difficult to track down certain things and keep it all organized and catalogued. Thankfully, in the Addison's new addition, the archives will all be housed on site, and in a space conveniently located adjacent to our offices (see right). A large compact storage shelving system will keep everything together, in order, accessible, and with plenty of space for expansion. With each new acquisition and exhibition, the archives continue to grow!

Granted, our archive won't be hermetically sealed like it is in Angels and Demons, but it will be kept at our standard museum climate of 70' F and 50% relative humidity, and it will be secure, orderly, and ready for any of the Robert Langdon-like symbologists of the world to make an appointment to peruse.

Posted by
James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Friday, January 8, 2010

Return of the Venus

As fellow blogger Jaime DeSimone announced in her recent post, the Venus Anadyomene fountain by Paul Manship that has graced our rotunda for as long as we've been open was to be reinstalled on December 16th. And, as scheduled, Adam Nesbit, objects conservator from Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC), and a crew of experienced art handlers from USArt, led by George Hagerty, arrived that frigid day with the multiple crates containing the fully cleaned and conserved parts for the reinstallation.

The crates came into the museum through our new loading dock, which was a treat for me to use. For the first time ever, the crates rolled from the back of the truck over our dock leveler and straight into the building without the need for an awkward truck liftgate to bring them to ground level. The crates were then brought up to the rotunda in our newly expanded freight elevator where USArt started opening them and began the installation of a large gantry that would help to lift the heavy marble parts into place.

After carefully consulting the notes and images taken during the deinstallation a year and a half ago, the first of six legs was carefully placed over the new pex plumbing pipe that would serve as the fountain's new water supply (see above left, click images to make them larger). A wooden support structure was used to keep the legs safely in place during the installation. Soon, all six legs were installed and properly aligned, and the next layer, the multiple-leveled "wedding cake" (as we were calling it) was installed above using the gantry, locking the legs into the place (see right).

The next part, containing the spigots for the water supply, was placed with the help of a plumber to make the connection with the pex piping (see left). This pex connection weaves back through the floor to a new water filtration and pressure system in the basement designed by Phil Peterson of Peterson Engineering, PC, which was described in detail in Jaime's post. The small metallic spigots, shaped like animal heads, had been cleaned of mineral build-up and tarnish, and showed their original patina for the first time in many years.

Then, finally, with a collective deep breath by all involved, Venus herself was carefully hoisted on top of the structure (see right). It was a momentous occasion to see the fountain complete and back in place. The surface cleaning had brightened her, bringing out the grain of the marble that had been hidden under layers of grime (see below, left). Since construction is still continuing in the building, the fountain was quickly protected with a large wood crate before we were able to test any of the plumbing, but we look forward to seeing Manship's original vision complete when construction concludes.

Thanks is required not only for the careful and skillful eyes and hands of both Adam Nesbit from WACC, George Hagerty and his crew from USArt, and Phil Peterson of Peterson Engineering, PC, but also for Keith and Mary Kauppila, longtime friends of the Addison Gallery, whose generous gift made the restoration of the fountain possible. One of the first artworks ever installed in the museum has become, again, the first artwork installed during our renovation. We can't wait to open our doors to the public so everyone can enjoy seeing Venus again!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives