Have you ever been downstairs at the Milwaukee Art Museum? If you haven’t, next time you visit the Museum, walk by the contemporary art, as if going towards the Warrington Colescott exhibition. On the way, you will find a staircase punctuated by a hypnotic video drawing you downstairs. There you will find the interactive Chair Park made up of various reproductions of historical chairs, which you can sit on, relax, and experience fully as you converse with others sitting around you. You will also find the Word Cloud, a social tagging experiment that asks you to describe three seemingly disparate pieces with one word. Continuing east, you will come upon a small installation titled The Body Politic.
Everyone knows what a library is. But did you know that most art museums have their own libraries? And they’re not just for Museum staff–they’re for anyone and everyone who is interested in looking at anything from an exhibition catalogue for the artist George Catlin from 1848, to a letter from Georgia O’Keeffe from 1972. The Milwaukee Art Museum’s library, tucked within the Saarinen building, is a treasure trove of anything and everything to do with our Collection.
In any museum gallery, you will encounter rare and valuable pieces of art. We value well-designed objects for many reasons, including for their materials and craft, their aesthetic design, and sometimes the people associated with them. This luxurious Tiffany & Co. Tea Service from 1905 is a rare object with incredible value in all three categories.
Between each exhibition in the Museum’s Baker/Rowland Galleries, the walls are entirely rearranged. This past weekend, I watched (bringing donuts, getting in the way, occasionally being helpful) as the installation crew moved walls and started spackling and painting in preparation for European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century.
As the team moved large 12 foot x 10 foot x 2 foot wall sections from their American Quilts exhibition layout into the new European Design arrangement, I was surprised at what was revealed behind—layers and layers of paint that colorfully represents our exhibition history.
Does the Museum show work by Wisconsin artists? What’s the deal with frames? What’s the piece that has a hole in the floor? How do curators deal with new technology? Any ancient Chinese paintings? And the all-important question: are we hiring? These are just a sampling of the many juicy questions asked by visitors on Ask a Curator Day, last week.
Did you ever wonder what goes into producing Museum audio guides? I imagined that it involved a script, some research and a microphone, but I had no idea what the technical side looked like. I didn’t know if we recorded this at the Museum, or how everyone manages to sound so clear and polished. Now I know the answer to both.
Preparations for the design of an exhibition begin many months, sometimes years, in advance of installation. For us at the Milwaukee Art Museum, planning for the placement of art in our main exhibition begins the minute the previous exhibition opens. For instance, when Street Seen opened in January, the next week the exhibition designer removed little to-scale black and white photographs from the gallery model, and our team went to work carefully placing pictures of miniature quilts for the summer’s American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection exhibition.