Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ships Are Back

The first objects we removed from the museum to make way for our renovations in 2008 were the model ships that graced our lower hallway. Finally, after over three years of being safely packed away in storage, the ships are back on view.

The ships actually returned to the museum from off-site storage over the summer with the bulk of our collections. They've been tucked away in our on-site vaults. Their large glass display cases, however, returned just recently. We held off bringing the cases back until now so that we had unobstructed access in our lower hallway, not only to move the larger crates that contained our returning collections, but also for the equipment contractors had to bring through during the roof replacement project.

Once the cases were unwrapped, we had to thoroughly clean them inside and out before the ships could be installed. I had the "pleasure" of climbing inside a couple of the cases to wipe down the glass and remove dust and debris from the bases (see right). It was claustrophobic, but worth the trouble. The ships themselves travelled fairly well despite the fragility of their tiny parts and the brittleness of their aging rigging. We dusted the ships off with small, soft brushes, repositioned some of the loose hatches and lifeboats that had shifted during travel. And then, very carefully, we smoothly slid each ship back into its case. This required multiple sets of eyes to make sure no appendages caught on the cases' narrow openings. It was not quite as difficult as, say, putting ships into bottles, but challenging nonetheless.

So the ships are finally home. I truly understand how popular these are with our visitors now. The lower hallway could not be closed off so the public was free to roam while we were installing the ships in their cases. People stopped and watched, fascinated by our work and the intricate details of the models. One visitor said, "Thank goodness the ships are back!" Our thoughts exactly!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Monday, October 17, 2011

80th Birthday and Reopening Public Reception a Success

A big THANK YOU to all who were able to attend our 80th birthday and reopening celebration this past Friday, October 14th. A special thanks to Phillips Academy vocal ensemble the Yorkies, who serenaded us with their rendition of "Happy Birthday."

There were well over 600 excited people at the reception, during which we celebrated the reopening, the opening of six exhibitions, and toasted the Addison's 80th with champagne and cupcakes. Among the guests were some of the artists whose work is currently on view, including Christopher C. Cook, who can be seen here (at far left) introducing his work to a new generation.

Also among the guests was Lorna Bieber, whose Fractured Narratives exhibition can be seen in the background as she (center) chats with Julie Bernson, Director of Education for the Addison (at left) and guest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Opening Reception and Eightieth Birthday Celebrations October 14

On October 8, we once again welcomed the public after an extended summer closure for the restoration of our historic glass roof. In celebration of the reopening and of the museum’s 80th birthday, the Addison is inviting the public to attend a festive evening, free of charge, on Friday, October 14, 6:30–8:30 pm. For additional information, please call 978-749-4015. 

Addison supporters are invited to join museum Director Brian Allen in a champagne toast to the Addison’s eightieth birthday at 5:30pm on Friday, October 14, just before the opening. For reservations or to join Friends of the Addison, please call Caroline Pisani at 978.749.4128.

October 14 also sees the opening of three new exhibitions - for images, please visit the Exhibitions page of our website.

80 @ 80  - In honor of the Addison's 80th birthday, this exhibition presents objects by about eighty artists and celebrates the range and depth of the museum's permanent collection. These artists range from well-loved favorites by artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, and John Singer Sargent whose work first graces the Addison’s walls upon its 1931 opening, to twentieth-century treasures by Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Stella, and Robert Mangold, to exciting recent acquisitions of works by colonial silversmith Jacob Hurd and contemporary artists Jennifer Bartlett and Mark Bradford, to name a few. 

The Civil War: Unfolding Dialogues – Featuring historical and contemporary paintings, prints, photographs and video drawn from the Addison’s collection, this exhibition explores the ways that artists across time have understood and contributed to the ongoing and evolving narrative of the Civil War. From Alexander Gardner’s and Winslow Homer’s eyewitness accounts to works by living artists such as Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker, Unfolding Dialogues reexamines the realities and fictions of this war, its haunting memories, and its lasting effect on American culture.

RFK Funeral Train Rediscovered: Photographs by Paul Fusco – Following his assassination, the body of Robert F. Kennedy was carried by train from his memorial service in New York City to Washington, D.C. for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the railway tracks to pay their final respects. Photographer Paul Fusco, on assignment for Look Magazine, took some 2,000 photographs from inside the train. Heralded as one of the most powerful and affecting bodies of work in photographic reportage, Fusco’s RFK series is an incomparable document of this tragic moment in United States history.

Add these to current exhibitions Clearstory Squares and Unitych Variations: Paintings by Christopher C. CookClearstory Squares and Fractured Narratives: Works by Lorna Bieber, and you'll find there is a lot to celebrate at the Addison! Please join us this Friday - we look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shipping Hicks, Again

Our travelling exhibition, Sheila Hicks: 50 Years, has opened at its third and final venue at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC. I wrote a post a while back about the challenges of traveling a show of this type. I was still trying to figure out how we were going to get this show to the places it was going. Now, as we near the end of the show’s run, I think I have managed to answer many of the questions I was asking at the end of that post.

Trucking the crates between venues required two tractor trailers: easily the largest show volume-wise the Addison has ever traveled. We were required to have a courier on one of the trucks, and I rode with the show from Philadelphia to Charlotte. Loading the trucks at the end of the show’s second venue at the ICA, Philadelphia was interesting, as their loading dock could not accommodate tractor trailers. We had no choice but to load in the sidewalk outside their front doors. Needless to say, getting some of the show’s massive crates down the sidewalk and up into the truck’s lift gate was indeed a challenge (see upper left). We left Philadelphia late afternoon and pulled into the Mint’s loading dock early the following morning. Sadly, I didn’t get much shut-eye despite the truck’s surprisingly ample sleeping quarters.

I’ve also travelled to each venue to oversee installation at the beginning and packing at the end. Installations were adventures, as each crew at each museum had to figure out the best way to display the objects in their unique settings. Just trying to figure out how to hang things from their ceilings required considerable planning, thought, and effort each time, while Sheila herself added her advice as to how things should look.

The Mint’s installation is certainly different from the other two. I’m always amazed how each museum interprets the same show for a unique experience. But it is beautiful, thanks to the Mint’s gorgeous new galleries, and, of course, the art itself. Sheila Hicks: 50 Years is up until January 29th when I return again to pack it up one last time and return the objects to their lenders. I encourage you to see it while you can!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Collection Is Home, Safe and Sound

It has been a long six months watching the cranes outside lift huge structural beams and crates of glass atop our museum for our roof replacement project. But it did provide us with an opportunity to finish another project we had as a result of our renovations: the movement of the permanent collection. In earlier blog posts (click here and here), I wrote about the challenges of packing and moving our art collection off site in 2008 in preparation for handing our building over to contractors. Now, some three years later, the collection has finally returned.

Though a small fraction of the collection was brought back for our fall 2010 opening, the bulk of it remained off site. With our renovated storage areas ready to receive artwork (see right), we started transporting the collection back in early April. Each week, I’d drive down to FAE, Boston, where our artwork was being stored, oversee the truck being loaded, and follow the truck back to the museum. We would then offload at our new loading dock. Bringing the objects into the museum was far simpler than moving out, as everything had to be loaded on the trucks in 2008 from ground level using the truck’s lift gate. And, of course, we had left most everything packed from when we moved out, so repacking things for this trip was kept to a minimum.

It took twenty-six truck loads to bring our nearly 17,000 objects back to the museum (see left, one of our emptied storage areas at FAE). My colleagues and I then had to carefully unpack and inventory each and every object, properly store it, and update its location on the database. Depending on the size and type of the objects, some truckloads could bring back hundreds of objects, some only a couple of dozen. Thankfully, with the exception of two large outdoor sculptures that simply won’t fit through our doors, our new storage areas absorbed everything with ample room for growth.

Now, the new glass roof crowning our original Platt building is complete, artwork is being hung on the gallery walls again, and we’re set to reopen to the public Saturday, October 8th. For me, however, I can rest easy knowing that the Addison’s collection is finally home again, safe, sound, and dry, within the museum’s walls.

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives