The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Exhibitions
While processing a recent acquisition of exhibition records from the Renwick Gallery, I came across a number of entries from artists, studios, schools and manufacturers for a national competition sponsored by the museum. Besides the actual entry itself for the competition, what I found most fascinating were the variety of letterhead designs present among the paper entries. While seemingly simple in the execution, their aesthetic and layout were carefully selected to provide a glimpse to their recipient of the design style and language of the sender.
The entries were for the exhibition, Craft Multiples, which was at the Renwick from July 4, 1975 to February 16, 1976. It was an exhibition of 133 production objects selected by jury that consisted of Lois Moran, Director of the Research and Education Department of the American Crafts Council; Hedy Backlin-Landman, Director of the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Massachusetts; and Lloyd E. Herman, Director, Renwick Gallery. There were a total of 2379 entries that were divided into the following categories: metal, wood, glass, clay, fiber and a miscellaneous other. After its time at the Renwick Craft Multiples went on a three-year tour around the country.
- Accession 10-128: Renwick Gallery, Departmental Records, 1957, 1961-1989, 1997-2003, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Lloyd E. Herman Papers, 1961-2002, Archives of American Art
- Hedy Backlin-Landman Papers, 1961-1977, Archives of American Art
- Beer Mug by William Bernstein, 1975.144.1, Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Music Rack by Richard R. John, 1975.171, Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Wastebasket by Marian John, 1975.140, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Tomorrow, on December 18, a little movie you may have heard about called, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, comes out. In the spirit of the occasion, we thought we'd take a look at what Star Wars related materials we have here at the Archives.
First we have a page from the exhibition concept for "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth" which was on view at the National Air and Space Museum from 1997-1998.
Next a floor plan for "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth."
We also have some images of models used in the exhibition.
- Accession 11-072: National Air and Space Museum, Exhibits Design Division, Exhibition Records, 1991-1999, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 03-059: Smithsonian Productions, Productions, 1987-2001, Smithsonian Institution Archives
With Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing a recent memory, and with the recent opening of the Renwick Gallery, here is a look back at an exhibition that was at the Renwick from February 9-April 29, 1973, titled: Objects for Preparing Food.
From the Introduction:
Almost as basic as food itself are the objects used for the preparation of food. Man's [sic] ingenuity and culture are reflected and expressed in the great variety of forms of food utensils.
The objects in the exhibition were grouped by processes (heating, cutting, etc.) to show basic functions common to all food preparation and to make visual comparisons between the varied utensils, regardless of their geographic or chronological occurrence.
- Record Unit 333 - National Museum of American Art and Portrait Gallery Library, Exhibition Records, circa 1910-1986, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
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.
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