Connected \\ September 21, 2018
What if you had the chance to ask behind-the-scenes questions from the curators at your favorite museum? What would you want to know?
Every year in September, museums around the world assemble their curators as well as their social media squads for an unique day dedicated to questions and answers. Harnessing the power of Instagram and Twitter, #AskACurator facilitates real engagement between a curious public and passionate curators across the globe—and museums to other museums as well! The collective dialog is not only insightful and enthusiastic, but also incredibly diverse and enlightening. The best part is that all questions are fair game. As the originators of the hashtag note, “There are no silly questions, just those not asked!
What preservation skills are essential to your work? - @bakedbybekah
There are so many. Curators work very closely with very talented and dedicated teams of conservators, collection managers, registrars and art handlers to ensure that artwork receives the utmost care in our charge. Depending on if a work is to be installed in a gallery, proper mounting, lighting, security are considered. If an object is being readied for storage or shipment, storage, security, safety and tracking become key components of the the object’s preservation. But ultimately, we try to protect objects from fluctuations in temperature, over exposure to lighting and natural light, as well as minimize the amount of handling.
What has been your favorite show to curate? Your favorite piece? - @chloebarcelou
I enjoyed working on different shows for different reasons, but a few I’ve enjoyed have been, American Legacy, Norell, Blass, Halston and Sprouse with @newfieldtoday’s fashion and textile arts curator Niloo Paydar because we celebrated the work of fashion designers from Indiana (hometown heroes!) and I got to showcase the work of Stephen Sprouse who in my opinion was hugely talented designer, who has not gotten the credit he is due. I would also say Making Mainbocher | The First American Couturier with the @chicagomuseum, because Main Bocher’s story is so special. Getting to mount an exhibition dedicated to his work was an honor and through the process, it was like he became my favorite great uncle that I never had!
French artist, Sample Book, 19th Century. Peabody Essex Museum, Library purchase, 2009. © 2009 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
In what way does the museum bring society closer to art? - @natalia_franco19
There is no one right answer to this very thoughtful question, but I think one way in which we can bring people closer it art is to help break down barriers and stigmas associated with viewing and understanding art. As well as actively seeking out opportunities to genuinely engage visitors by offering them information and encouraging visitors to come to their own conclusions. For instance, I don’t consider myself an “expert” and I am not interested in “handing down” information to simply be accepted because I said so - I see my role as facilitator, I help bring information to people about works of art or moments in time and provide opportunities for them to engage with those works and information and hope that they walk away with a new understanding or appreciation for a work. I want to engage people in a conversation.
Mariage de Mademoiselle, Lucie Wheatland, 1923. Watercolor on paper. Paris, France. © 2007 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
What dream item would you love to acquire for PEM’s collection? - @dmlamp
Oh, my! Again, do I have to name just one? A cocoon coat by Paul Poiret.
What is your favorite type of piece to work on? Least favorite? - @talkarty_janecarney
Honestly, I like it all! But I like to work with adult women and men’s clothing best. I know it well and there is nothing like learning a garment by looking at it closely. (See the book The Dress Detective to learn more!) Studying the lines, the seams, the way a garment is constructed to learn its unique history, or a designer’s thinking is really inspiring. I think my least favorite (if I have to pick one) would be hosiery and gloves. While fun to examine and quite beautiful, but I am a very visual person so I like to see things on a form. Gloves are usually so small and hosiery so fragile that it can only really be studied flat on a table.
(Check out what Petra has to say about “The Art of Dressing Mannequins in Rare and Historic Garments” in this Atlas Obscura feature!)
Roger Vivier, designer (French, 1907–1998); Christian Dior, manufacturer (French), Pair of shoes, 1955-1963. Gift of Mrs. U. Haskell Crocker. © 2013 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
Hello! I have read several accounts of Lafayette's visit to #SalemMA in 1824 in which special fans, ribbons and sashes made for the occasion are mentioned; does @peabodyessex have any of these? - @daseger
Donna, that’s a great question. I will have to do a little more research to answer your question more comprehensively, but PEM does house a number of items related to Lafayette’s visit including a waistcoat of black silk damask, with an overall design in his profile, a watercolor of the arch erected in 1824 in honor of his visit, a pair of shoes worn by Miss Eliza Jane Kelly on the occasion of his visit to Newport, a painted fan used in Salem to commemorate his visit and a duck cloth sign displayed on an arch with the inscription: "While winds shall blow & seas shall roll / While aught remains that's good and great / Our NATIVE DUCK from pole to pole / Shall waft the fame of LAFAYETTE” lines composed by George C. Chase, 1824.