Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Sarah Margerum (page 2 of 3)

Here and There: More Than One Way to Decorate a Tree

Here: First, show some support for our own Sarah Duff and visit the exhibit she planned at the Andover Historical Society, Common Indecency. Tinsel and ornaments will seem so commonplace when you realize you could be decorating with corsets and vintage toilet paper.

There: Next, head over to the Concord Museum and see Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature. Thirty-six trees are decorated with ornaments inspired by beloved children’s books, some of which you will remember from childhood and others you will be delighted to discover.

Take inspiration from these fun exhibitions and get creative with ways to display a topic you love. Common Indecency can be visited through December 31. Family Trees runs through January 1.

Art or Toy?

Last week, I visited the MFA with my friend and her five month old son, Lucas. We’re doing our part to create a museum advocate of the future. Lucas was especially engaged in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. He remained content for a surprising amount of time, simply looking at all of the interesting objects around him. Spotting Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Beginning), a green and silver beaded curtain which is deliberately hung as a partition between two galleries, my friend immediately walked Lucas through it. When she turned to pass through a second time, the employee stationed nearby informed her, rather unkindly, “it’s art, not a toy.” Now I understand the need to protect a work of art, but this particular object is meant to be experienced by touching, looking closely and even listening to the lovely sound it makes when the beads are moved. I don’t imagine they would have hung it in a busy entryway if it wasn’t durable enough to endure constant handling. So, if a visitor is handling an object with appropriate care, why shouldn’t they be allowed to experience it more than once? If a visitor, even a five month old one, is interested enough to linger instead of simply passing through en route to something else, isn’t that a good thing? Visitors are often uncomfortable in museums; they may feel unsure of the etiquette and what they may and may not touch. It concerns me that by encouraging visitors to touch a work of art, but then reprimanding them for wanting to touch it again, employees of the museum may cause visitors to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. That surely was not the intention when it was installed. So what do you think? Can it be art and a toy? Is it less of a work of art if visitors are allowed to touch it as much as they like? I encourage you to visit and see it for yourself. Be sure to pay close attention the first time around though, because you might not be allowed to pass through twice.

Here and There: Holiday Fun, Museum-Style

Thanksgiving break is almost here and it’s time to start planning special holiday activities. I’ve done the research for you and narrowed it down to the six most promising events of the season. Please see museum websites for further details.

1. Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18 4-9pm

$14 for adults on Friday and Sunday and $15 on Saturday

Immerse yourself in good old fashioned Christmas cheer with holiday traditions talks, music, readings, crafts, a gingerbread house contest and sleigh  rides if the weather cooperates.

2. A Rich History: A Celebration of Chocolate at the Old South Meeting House Annual Holiday Open House

Friday and Saturday, December 2&3 11am-3pm

Free and open to the public

American Heritage Chocolate team members demonstrate Colonial chocolate making. Learn how chocolate, coffee and tea were served in the colonies.

3. Traditions of the Season at Paul Revere House

Saturday and Sunday, December 3&4 9:30am-4:15pm

$5 for adults, $4.50 for college students

Visit the Paul Revere House and Pierce Hichborn House to learn about celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day the 18th century way. Enjoy music, treats and mulled cider.

4. Annual Holiday Wreath Making Workshop at Plimoth Plantation

Sunday, December 4 1-3pm $55 for adults

Learn about the history of wreath making while making one of your own. Materials and refreshments will be provided.

5. A Holiday Soiree at Hancock-Clarke House (Lexington Historical Society)

Friday, December 9 7:30-9pm

$10 for adult nonmembers

Reserve by calling (781) 862-1703

Explore the roots of holiday traditions while enjoying refreshments and a performance by the Colonial Singers.

6. Winter Solstice in Legend and Song at the Loring-Greenough House

Friday, December 23 8-10pm

This evening event will feature live music and storytelling that illuminates the legends behind holiday traditions.

Here and There: The Real Housewife of Beacon Hill

Find out about exciting local exhibitions and programs that make a connection with “Here and There.”

Here: First, attend Historic New England’s “Women of Beacon Hill” walking tour, dedicated to four centuries of fascinating women. The tour features a diverse group of women activists, educators, and philanthropists, including Hepzibah Swan. The group visits the exterior of Mrs. Swan’s home, as well as the exteriors of three matching homes built for her daughters.

There: Next, see some of the sumptuous French furnishings that decorated the interior of Mrs. Swan’s homes, on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Historic New England offers the “Women of Beacon Hill” tour in the spring and fall. It is scheduled to occur next on March 25, 2012, but tickets are already available for purchase. Objects from the Swan Collection can be found at the MFA in the Art of Europe wing on the second floor.

House of Mirth – House of Codman from Historic New England

I finally fulfilled my goal of visiting Historic New England’s Codman Estate by attending the intriguing “House of Mirth – House of Codman” program on October 16. The program featured two illustrated lectures and an abridged house tour. Originally built around 1740, five generations of the Codman family inhabited this home and referred to it as “The Grange.” This particular program focussed on Ogden Codman, Jr., an architect and interior designer, and his siblings. Ogden Jr. befriended Edith Wharton in Newport, RI and contributed to the design of both her Newport and New York homes. Together, they wrote The Decoration of Houses, in 1897.

The first lecture familiarized the group with the plot of Wharton’s House of Mirth before going on to describe three major themes linking the novel with the Codman family and The Grange. Following was a brief lecture to acquaint the group with the history and members of the Codman family. Through the lens of high society in the Gilded Age, we were then able to explore the house and learn more about the pursuits of Ogden Jr’s generation. This property was left to Historic New England upon the death of Ogden Jr’s youngest sister, Dorothy, in 1968. Dorothy kept the rooms and their contents as her family members had left them, only adding to them when she sold her Boston townhouse. As a result, the collection is amazingly intact and illustrative of life as a Codman. For me, the highlights were the extensive collection of family portraits and the watercolors by Alice Codman, Ogden Jr’s other sister. Unfortunately, the Codman Estate is already closed for the season, but I urge you to visit next spring for a full tour or one of their wonderful programs.

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