Friday, August 29, 2014

Research: Worcester Art Museum "Then and Now" by Travis Simpkins. Update #2

     I'm usually able to visually connect historic photos with current locations fairly quickly. However, in all honesty, the first image shown here (from 1920) took me a little while to place. It was simply labeled "First Floor, Main Hall" and was taken just after the first addition to the Worcester Art Museum was built. As a starting point, I try to look for visual patterns that ignite some mild spark of recognition, and go from there. The shape of the trio of windows at the far end of the gallery, a large opening flanked by two thinner ones, looked vaguely familiar. It took some imagination, visualizing those three openings extended and reaching from floor to ceiling, and an old image of the current Museum Cafe began to form. Some of the old decorative columns and capitals still frame the doors to the courtyard today. The wall at right in the 1920 photo, a load bearing wall, was removed and replaced with the two large support columns in the center of the Cafe. The door at left in the 1920 photo is still there, leading into the kitchen, but is obscured by the booth constructed in front of it. Also, if you walk around the perimeter of the Cafe today, the original crown moulding can still be seen running alongside the edges of the modern drop ceiling.
     -The second photo, from 1984, shows the new Third Floor Gallery just after the Hiatt Wing was opened. No drastic changes in 30 years, but all of the 1984 photos I've seen show an affinity for plant life (real or otherwise) in the gallery spaces. The gallery floor went from carpet to hardwood in recent years. The seating is interesting as well. At first I thought this was the same type that is now in the Administration offices, but the legs are different. I recall seeing seats like those shown here stacked in the basement a long time ago, though.

     -The sketch is from one of my favorite assemblages of objects, an often overlooked Gem of a collection, in the Pre-Columbian Gallery.

1st Floor, 1920 Wing. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

3rd Floor, Hiatt Wing. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Portrait Vessel, 100-500 A.D. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

     -Several WAM staff members, when shown the 1920 photo of the Cafe area above, commented on the mysterious weaponry displayed in the rack at far left. If I was to venture a guess, I would say that the lances/spears might've been briefly on loan from John Woodman Higgins. The photo was taken 10 years before his glass and steel Museum building was constructed, and Mr. Higgins then housed his growing collection in his residence very close to WAM. If that is the case, then it's even more fitting that some of those objects will return 94 years later in 2014.

Higgins Armory Museum Weaponry

     Many weapons on display at Higgins Armory Museum (not necessarily the ones shown here) look similar to those shown in the 1920 WAM photo:

Higgins Armory Museum Weaponry