Category: museums

The Role of Museums in the 21st Century

A lot has been written about the role of museums in the 21st century when collections can be seen and learned about in virtual galleries rather than taking the trip.

Traditionally, museums have played the role of research and educational institutions, not just as mere collectors and guardians of cultural artifacts. They have also been economic engines, strengthening local business climates through cultural tourism. The museum giftshops are amongst the most meaningful and artful shopping experiences that can capture wider and wider audiences. In recent years museums have begun playing a social and community function as well by offering services otherwise outside the scope of their mission, such as hosting training programs and other events. By visiting MoMA nowadays you can enjoy not just modern art, but also culinary art at its finest: the museum’s restaurant The Modern, which overlooks The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, has gotten a great review in The New York Times, Art on the Walls and on the Plates, as well as in the New York Magazine, Modern Love. At the Corning Museum of Glass you will not only explore thousands of years of glass history, but you will also learn to make glass yourself. At the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, upstate New York, you will be taught to print holiday cards, make lavender and rose water, and other 19th century activities, not just be told about them. Actors enacting different periods of time may also be on site, making it a “living” history experience to remember. In recent years holograms have emerged as a new way of experiencing a visit to a museum, understanding its artifacts, and be part of something you will never forget, as exemplified in an article for Gizmodo magazine.

Music_and_Literature_William_Michael_Harnett 1878
Music and Literature (1878), oil on canvas, 24 x 32 1/8 in,  William Michael Harnett (Source: Wikipedia)

Museums are community assets, and an integral part of the social fabric of our communities. According to Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums from 2007 to 2015, as quoted in a 2013 interview with CNN, “Museums hold more than 1 billion objects, and together these constitute our shared heritages cultural, historic, scientific, natural. As the keepers, protectors, interpreters and exhibitors of these heritages, museums play an essential role. In recent years, museums are playing perhaps an even more essential role, but one that is less tangible. In an increasingly virtual world, museums are among the last bastions of authenticity.”

How do museums remain relevant in the 21st century? In 2013 Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale, two scholars and museum professionals, published a book titled Creativity in Museum Practice, replete with creativity exercises and stories from the field as a guide to developing an internal culture of creative learning in museums, and delivering an increased value to museum visitors. Creative leaders are looking for interactive programs, love to improvise, engage the community in conversations, and take risks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ancient artifacts at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. © Simona David

There is a project underway called #FutureMuseum Project which explores this very question: how will museums of the future look like? According to Oliver Vicars-Harris, director at Connecting Culture, a museum consultancy based in London, “Museum curatorship will have evolved beyond preoccupation with preserving and presenting collections, to propensity for encouraging connections. A genuine two-way relationship will exist, with the audience given agency to drive the agenda. The distance between past and present will be reduced, with history providing meaning. The division between high and low art will be dissolved, with heritage providing contrast to popular culture.” The museums of the future will provide context to contemporary events. This is just one point of view. You can add your voice to the conversation by submitting your opinion to info@museum-id.com.

Some of the best museum experiences are the ones we go to not just to learn, but also to socialize and converse. A visit to a museum will not only satisfy our curiosity, but it will also benefit our social life. It is by far more stimulating to gaze at a work of art with a friend, and muse over its meaning or aesthetic value, rather than doing it alone (although that has its own merit, especially for researchers and critics). Younger generations are increasingly driven by experiences rather than purchasing tangible goods: they prefer “collecting” memorable moments to physical objects. Museums, large and small, can benefit from this trend by offering “instagrammable” experiences to engage millennials, and making it part of their brand.

Among innovators, one can certainly name Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which has recently introduced a program called The Art Hive that brings together art and well-being. The aim of the project is to form “a creative studio supervised by an art therapist, with art materials provided free of charge.” This will be a space “where participants can meet to discuss, participate or exhibit.” As a step further, as outlined in an article for Quartz magazine, doctors in Montreal will prescribe visits to the art museum.

You may be accustomed to visiting art, history and science museums, but in recent years museology has expanded to include for instance a National Language Museum, which opened in Washington DC in 2008, and currently operates only as a virtual museum, although some of its exhibits are available for loans; or the National Museum of Mathematics, which opened in New York City in 2012, and whose exhibits include seeing math as everyday experiences, news from the world of mathematics, but also more fun and playful activities such as using math symbols to create quirky logos, and other math inspired games.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown houses fine and folk art collections, and hosts lectures and other events. © Simona David   

It will be fascinating to see what the future brings in museum practice, and how the makers, collectors, curators, preservationists, and educators will transform visitor experience in the years to come.

© Simona David

ART CONVERSATION AND WRITING WORKSHOP AT THE ZADOCK PRATT MUSEUM

IMG_3686 Simona David

ART CONVERSATION AND WRITING WORKSHOP WITH AUTHOR SIMONA DAVID

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2018, 1 – 2:30 PM

THE ZADOCK PRATT MUSEUM, 14540 MAIN STREET / RTE 23, PRATTSVILLE, NY 

As guest of the Zadock Pratt Museum, Simona David, author of “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” (2017), will talk about her experience interviewing artists, and discuss what moves and inspires the creative mind, how a new artistic project is born, how materials are used and different stylistic choices are made, how setbacks are dealt with, and how success is celebrated.

Ms. David will then teach a workshop on art writing, and discuss various research and writing techniques.

To register, call Pratt Museum at (518) 937-6120.

This event is funded in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The University at Albany’s Art Museum Turns 50

© Simona David

The University at Albany’s Art Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Museum opened in October 1967 with an exhibition titled Painting and Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, which featured over fifty works by some of the most prominent artists of the 20th century: Picasso, Miro, Braque, Klee, de Kooning, and Calder, among others.

In 2015 the Museum hosted a retrospective show titled Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle, dedicated to alumnus Brian Tolle, an internationally acclaimed sculptor known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December last year. He is one of the artists featured in our book How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.

© Simona David

To learn more about the University at Albany’s Art Museum, visit www.albany.edu.

Featured Destination: Vanderbilt Mansion

Vanderbilt Mansion. © Simona David

Situated on the east bank of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, Dutchess County, Vanderbilt Mansion is a classic example of the Gilded Age country estate in America. The Gilded Age spanned from 1870 to 1900, and was an era characterized by rapid economic growth and wealth accumulation.

Frederick William and Louise Vanderbilt bought the estate in 1895, and expanded and re-modeled the property in the Beaux-Arts architectural style. The interiors are lavishly decorated with European antiques and period reproductions. The estate also includes gardens, designed in the Italian style, and overlooks the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. Guided tours are offered every day, year round.

119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538

(845) 229-7770

For more information and current hours of operation, visit

http://www.historichydepark.org

Featured Destination: The Corning Museum of Glass

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, Steuben County, has on display some of the world’s most exquisite glass collections, spanning over thousands of years of history. Glass objects and glassmaking techniques from various parts of the world are showcased in several different galleries. A gallery dedicated to Glass in America includes early and rare artistic and decorative pieces. Glassmaking is considered to be the country’s first industry: it started with a glass workshop in Virginia in 1608.

A new wing, dedicated to Contemporary Art and Design, opened at the Corning Museum in 2015 in a newly designed 26,000 square foot modern building shaped like a large white box. A GlassApp, including videos, photographs, and artists’ bios, also launched in 2015 to enhance visitor experience. Demonstrations and workshops as well as lectures and other events are offered from time to time.

Two new exhibitions are on view at the museum this summer: Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, which will remain on view through January 8, 2017, and Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope, on view through March 19, 2017.

Earlier this summer I spoke with Dr. Marvin Bolt, Curator of Science and Technology at the Corning Museum of Glass. Dr. Bolt’s job is to enhance the museum’s science and technology-based collections and exhibits, and to interpret the information for diverse audiences, from schoolchildren to working scientists. Dr. Bolt holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science, and is a specialist in telescopes.

Click to hear my interview with Dr. Bolt.
https://app.box.com/embed/preview/8wh054mdaabooom8ll36gdrlekb8ziik?theme=dark
To learn more about the Corning Museum of Glass, visit

http://www.cmog.org/

© 2016 Simona David

Weekend in the Catskills – 8/26/2016

This weekend:

  • David Bromberg Quintet performs at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock;
  • Visual artists Lisbeth Firmin and Richard Kathmann lead a workshop called Double Vision: Plein Air Painting at the West Kortright Centre in East Meredith;
  • And author Lowell Thing discusses his book The Street That Built a City: McEntee’s Chestnut Street, Kingston and the Rise of New York at the Delaware & Hudson Canal Museum in High Falls.

Learn more at Upstater.com.

Weekend in the Catskills – 8/12/2016

This weekend:

  • The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performs at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center;
  • Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is hosting a Woodstock Anniversary Brunch, marking the festival’s 47th anniversary;
  • Thomas Cole National Historic Site is hosting Open House: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole featuring the works of multi-media artist Jason Middlebrooks;
  • And, photographer Helane Levine-Keating is showing Liminal Spaces at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville.

Learn more at Upstater.com.