adventures in museum-going

Tag Archive: architecture

  1. Day 3: When something just doesn’t fit

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    nbm

    We spent some time at the National Building Museum today. It’s a gorgeous old structure with an interesting history, and we were privileged to some great views from the fourth floor, which is normally closed to visitors.

    We went through the House & Home exhibit, which made me feel quite nostalgic. It was interesting to hear Cathy Frankel, Vice President for Exhibitions and Collections, talk about the process of pulling together the exhibit, how it deviated from the original plan, and what it’s like to buy exhibit objects from eBay. I also especially enjoyed seeing all the models that are part of the exhibit.

    That said, I think the museum caused a little bit of stress for my group. We have a primary object and a big idea for our exhibit, and we’re all in the process now of finding our secondary objects. We all have some idea of which museum, of the many we’ll visit, we’ll find our individual objects in — and none of us are expecting it to be the National Building Museum.

    Even so, we had some discussion around whether or not we should try to find a secondary object in the NBM, and I felt like we were really struggling with the inclusion of a museum that wasn’t speaking to any of us insofar as our big idea is concerned. I found this a little surprising, honestly — I’m not sure why we felt the pressure to consider a museum collection that just doesn’t seem to fit.

    In the end, we came to the conclusion that we all have ideas about our secondary objects in other museums, and that the National Building Museum, as beautiful as it is, is just not a good fit for our big idea.

  2. Day 1: Information overload begins

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    It’s 9:20 pm and I could pass out cold right now. Day 1 took it out of me!

    The bulk of the day was spent at the Hirshhorn. It was a giant lesson on teaching and learning with objects, where the museum and its building were the object teaching us. I have to say that I might have gotten slightly more out of it if we hadn’t been standing out in the freezing cold, but even so, it was interesting to hear my classmates’ perspectives on the building’s architecture, and later on, on a piece of art we studied as an object. I doubt that we would have had the same reactions had we been examining the building from the interior, and it was fun to engage and bounce ideas off one another.

    The empty fountain at the Hirshhorn.

    The empty fountain at the Hirshhorn.

    I was fascinated by the fountain in the center of the building, which was off due to the freezing weather. I learned that the giant turbine-fan-looking-thing that makes up the fountain’s basin is made of bronze, not copper, which is what I’d assumed from the green patina of the metal. Also, it wasn’t until I saw this picture below that I realized that the radial supports on the fountain’s basin probably aren’t as nearly as visible when the water is on — I feel kind of privileged that we got to see it empty.

    The highlight was the private tour of Damage Control that we had with the exhibit’s curator, Kerry
 Brougher. We had some time before meeting with him so a bunch of us took a walk through the exhibit on our own, and it was a completely different experience viewing it through his lens.

    For one thing, my reaction to the content viewing it with Mr. Brougher was much different from viewing it on my own — after my first walk-through, I felt utterly depressed. After all, the exhibit is about destruction in art, so it contains all kinds of images of explosions, crashes, destroyed things and people. On my own, I failed to notice the rhythm of ups and downs in the content, the careful placement of pieces so that they weren’t just bomb after bomb after bomb, and the almost whimsical nature of some of the art.

    It was also incredibly interesting to hear him talk about the curation and exhibition installation process — particularly the bits about getting art stuck in customs, which is apparently a thing to be expected. It really did give me a new appreciation of the works as part of a cohesive whole, and reinforced the idea that transforming a work of art — say, by erasing it — can add value to the original piece.

    Mr. Brougher took about an hour and a half with us, and talked about way more than I can begin to cover and stay within my word count! Suffice to say that his passion for his work and the show he curated came through loud and clear, and served to really illuminate the exhibit for me.