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Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

MAM Behind the Scenes: Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist

Heather Winter, Milwaukee Art Museum Librarian/Archivist
Heather Winter, Milwaukee Art Museum Librarian/Archivist

Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education. We begin with Heather Winter, Librarian and Archivist.

Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?
A little bit of anything and everything. My responsibility is to take questions about the Museum’s collection and history, and then answer them with any number of materials from the library or the institutional archives. It’s my job to know where those materials are, and to use them to answer the questions quickly and accurately.

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
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

125 Years and Counting

"When Democracy Builds". Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.
“When Democracy Builds”. Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.
We owe it to the awakening interest in art matters
and the democratic spirit of the society,
which is attempting to make the gallery
a valuable asset to every citizen and
to inculcate an appreciation of its offerings.

–Samuel O. Buckner, President, Milwaukee Art Institute. “Art Gallery Rapidly Growing in Popularity.” Free Press, Dec 23, 1913

In 2013, the Milwaukee Art Museum will celebrate its 125th anniversary. Since 1888, the Museum has featured over 3,600 exhibitions, acquired 30,000+ objects, and published hundreds of exhibition and Collection catalogues. The Museum has been instrumental in setting national standards for excellence in art education, and has also erected visionary architecture. An exciting 125 years indeed!

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.