Categories
Art Library/Archives

A Museum’s History in Moving Image

Film still: View in to the Layton Art Gallery’s sculpture court, circa 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Film still: View in to the Layton Art Gallery’s sculpture court, circa 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

One of my favorite film gems in the Museum’s audio-visual archive is rare film footage of the institution’s changing location and architecture. This film–soundless, in black and white, circa 1957–features the Layton Art Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Institute, and the Eero Saarinen-designed War Memorial and Milwaukee Art Center building, into which the museum moved officially in 1957.

While the 15-minute film is rather grainy and hazy, the images are nevertheless a stunning peek into the last days of the Layton Art Gallery and the Milwaukee Art Institute in the early 1950s before their demolition, and the subsequent rise of the War Memorial building and the (then) Milwaukee Art Center. Excerpts from this film will be featured in our upcoming 125th Anniversary Exhibition, but if you’d like a sneak peek, read on.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Frank Lloyd Wright in Color

Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum,
Institutional Archives.
The museum’s archives contain a small but delightful collection of film and videotapes, detailing all sorts of subjects–from small films produced by the museum for various projects and exhibitions over the course of its history, to an odd yet enchanting assortment of documentary and artist-related footage.

But of all the film gems in the archive, my top favorites are two films of very rare footage of the internationally celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright which spans the 1930s into the early 1940s.  Both films were donated to the museum from the personal collection of Joan Salzstein.  She was the granddaughter of Dankmar Adler, one of the renowned architectural duo Adler & Sullivan, who changed Chicago’s skyline at the turn of the 20th century.  Wright worked for and studied under Adler, and his granddaughter Joan became a regular visitor to Wright’s home and farm at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, for many years.

Categories
Library/Archives

Kid Tested, Mother Approved

Sugar Specs box, 1958 Brooks Stevens Archive, Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Brooks Stevens Family and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Sugar Specs box, 1958
Brooks Stevens Archive, Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Brooks Stevens Family and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
For the last three years, a portion of my time has been devoted to digitizing a treasure trove of imagery found in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Brooks Stevens Archive.

Stevens, one of the best known industrial designers of the twentieth century, lived and worked right here in Milwaukee, his hometown. While you may not automatically recognize his name, you most certainly will recognize his work: the Oscar-Meyer Weinermobile, Harley Davidson Hydra-glide motorcycle, the Valkyrie coupe sedan, and the round mouth Holsum peanut butter jar–just to name a few! Companies of all sizes, audiences and design needs flocked to Stevens and his firm for over five decades.

Categories
Art Curatorial Library/Archives

From the Beautiful Box: Tarbell and Hand-Painted Glass Slides

Edmund Charles Tarbell, Three Sisters - A Study in June Sunlight, 1890. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Montgomery Sears. Photo credit Efraim Lev-er.
Edmund Charles Tarbell, Three Sisters - A Study in June Sunlight, 1890. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Montgomery Sears. Photo credit Efraim Lev-er.

In my last blog post, I shared with you the secrets of a lovely wooden box which contained a collection of glass lantern slides from about 1920.  While most of the slides are black and white, a few colorful slides rest as jewels among them.

In the early 20th century, photography was principally a black and white experience.  Color photography, an experimental practice at best, was not a terribly viable practice for mass consumers/audiences until the 1940s.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Beautiful boxes often hold beautiful things…

Wood lantern slide box with brass pull and glass lantern slides, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Wood lantern slide box with brass pull and glass lantern slides, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

I’ve always felt that beautiful boxes should hold beautiful things, and that is the case for one small, graceful box stored in the Audio Visual Library at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Made of a dark, lustrous wood and elegant enough to be exhibited on its own, the box immediately caught my eye when I first came upon it.  With a squeal of excitement, I gently pulled off the lid and inside was a small collection of lovely glass lantern slides.  The box and lantern slides spoke instantly of a century past when traveling slides shows were essential to a museum’s exhibition program.