Monday, September 22, 2014

Research: Worcester Art Museum "Then and Now" by Travis Simpkins. Update #8

     In creating these "Then and Now" photo arrangements, I hope to show more than just contrasts in aesthetic appearance. I'm also interested in learning and illustrating how certain aspects and elements of the Worcester Art Museum were re-purposed, placed in different contexts and enjoyed in new ways, as needs and tastes shifted over time. These photos all show places and objects that have seen three or more different uses and incarnations (that I know of, offhand) during the past 116 years.

     -The first photo, from 1920, shows the 2nd floor East Gallery during it's short-lived second existence, as the Textile and Ceramics Gallery. Now, of course, we know the space as the Museum Library. Originally, in 1898, it was used as the Classical Sculpture Gallery, housing mostly plaster casts (as WAM's collection of "original works" did not see rapid growth until after the first decade). The plaster frieze (which appears to be a copy of the Elgin marbles / Parthenon Frieze), shown stretching across the top of the wall in the 1920 photo, is a throwback relic of the old Classical gallery. This area will be re-purposed once again in coming years, according to the long-term plan, when the Library is relocated to make way for a permanent Medieval-theme home for the Higgins Collection of Arms and Armor.
     -The second photo, shows the former Studio 201 contrasted with it's present re-design as the Conference Room. When I first started working at WAM, the space had yet another different purpose, and was then being utilized as the Mac Computer Lab.

     -The sketch depicts the Ancient Roman marble statue of "Venus", one of the first "original" works purchased by the Worcester Art Museum, which entered the collection in 1901. Originally, I suppose, she would have stood in the 2nd floor Classical Gallery. At present, she is displayed in stately fashion, residing in the Roman Gallery. However, "Venus" will soon find new and thoughtful context, when placed upstairs in the "Knights!" exhibition.

Library. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Conference Room. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Venus, 1st Century. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

     An enlarged view of the above 1920 photo of the Textile and Ceramics gallery shows a familiar form to WAM visitors, a form that was just as recognizable in gallery spaces 100 years ago as it is today. The display case shown, one of several of this type WAM used, can be seen in various locations in photographs going back over a century. Today, only two of these mainstay cases are still in use, both of them in the Chinese Gallery. As the below photo shows, they have since been retrofitted with light fixtures on top.

Display Cases. Worcester Art Museum, 1920.

Display Cases. Worcester Art Museum, 2014