The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Architecture
- A new exhibit and publication from the National Air and Space Museum looks at the architectural beauty of airport towers with photos by Carolyn Russo. [via Weather.com]
- “The government must take the lead in reinvesting in the arts and humanities,” according to Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. [via Washington Post]
- The Smithsonian made a 3D scan of Apollo 11 from the National Air and Space Museum. [via Washington Post]
- The Vatican projected a video of endangered animals on St. Peter’s Basilica to coincide with climate talks in Paris. [via The Guardian]
- The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum announced that all of Franklin D. Roosevelt's speeches are now available online. [via Info Docket]
- A tour of the Kodak Technology Vault at the George Eastman Museum. [via PetaPixel]
The Renwick Gallery was designed by architect James Renwick who also designed the Smithsonian Institution Building, known as the Castle. The gallery was commissioned by the wealthy banker William Wilson Corcoran (1798-1888) to house his personal art collection. Construction began in 1859 and was nearing completion as the Civil War began in 1861.
A confederate sympathizer, Corcoran bankrolled much of the confederacy’s activities and fled to France. The building was then commandeered by the Union Army for office space. Corcoran returned to the US after the war was over, but was not allowed to open his gallery until 1874, and only as a public art gallery. It was the first public museum built in the nation’s capital. Corcoran’s collection soon outgrew the small building across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, and he built a much larger museum nearby on 17th Street.
Renwick’s building was sold to the US government in 1901 and served for many years as the home for the US Court of Claims. During the 1960s, Pennsylvania Avenue underwent a redevelopment that looked at the state and use of historic buildings. Jacqueline Kennedy was concerned about the Renwick-designed building (which had been altered significantly when its grand spaces were chopped up into offices) as she sought to also restore the Lafayette Square area across from the White House. Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley toured the building and envisioned it as a unique outpost of the on-Mall Smithsonian. The gallery sits next to Blair House, the guest house for distinguished White House visitors. Ripley’s initial plan for the building was to display temporary exhibits related to the current international visitor to Blair House, highlighting the art, history and culture of his or her nation.
This Court of Claims building was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1966 and underwent significant restoration before it opened as a museum in 1972. However, the State Department proved uninterested in the link to Blair House and Ripley’s plan never came to fruition. The first director, Lloyd Herman, developed it into a museum of American craft. As he noted, the beautiful Renwick-designed building was a major part of the gallery’s exhibit. The gallery thrived as a home to American crafts and decorative arts, and was made part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Renwick gallery reopened this past week after an extensive renovation, which included the restoration of its original vaulted ceilings on the second floor, re-creation of the building’s original window configuration, salvage and repair of its original moldings and wainscoting, and preservation of historic finishes. The heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and fire-suppression systems were replaced. The security, phone and data communication systems were upgraded. The building’s basement was renovated for curatorial and staff offices, as well as art storage facilities. In the interior, an all-LED lighting system was installed. Wireless systems were also installed throughout the building to be used for both artist installations and visitor interpretation. On the exterior, bricks were repointed, stucco was repaired, and the roof was replaced.
The museum’s debut exhibition is Wonder, an immersive artwork by nine leading contemporary artists. Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin, and Leo Villareal are each taking over a gallery, creating site-specific installations inspired by the Renwick.
- The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will have a prominent home on Chicago's gorgeous lakefront. The museum will house Lucas's private art and memorabilia collections, which includes Star Wars and Indiana Jones ephemera, Norman Rockwell paintings, and movie posters. [via Wired]
- Who knew? Actors who got their start in government films! [via National Archives' Unwritten Record blog]
- Now this is tasty digital material - Food historian and cookbook writer, Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, has meticulously maintained ''The Cook's Oracle,'' where she logs every recipe, ingredient, and technique in the majority of cookbooks published in America and Europe. [via The New York Times]
- This just in from the Vatican; a virtual Sistine Chapel with Google-glass style viewers to cut down on visitor over-crowding. [via The Guardian]
- Lou Reed fans! 25 boxes of Velvet Underground posters and fliers, unreleased recordings, handwritten lyrics, news clippings, and more donated to Cornell University Library. [via Info Docket]
- And a new videogame inspired by Haruki Murakami stories. [via Open Culture]
- Ask Skorton Anything - Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton took questions from Smithsonian.com readers last week. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- Congratulations to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage as their Moses and Frances Asch Collection has been inscribed to UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register. [via SI Newsdesk]
- This past Wednesday was National Fossil Day and this is what some Smithsonian scientists had to say about the importance of fossils. [via Smithsonian Science News]
- Close call at The New York Times photo morgue where a broken water pipe sent water rushing into their collection space. [via The New York Times]
- Stay tuned - DRM (digital rights management) may be coming to the JPEG image format. [via PetaPixel]
- Please welcome SOVA! - the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive - which provides access to some 137,000 cubic feet of archival materials held across fourteen repositories at the Smithsonian. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Now open to visitors in Los Angeles is The Broad Museum. Designed by the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, it houses the 2,000-piece collection of Eli and Edythe Broad of postwar and contemporary art, featuring works by Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtentstein and Cindy Sherman amongst others. [via Cool Hunting]