So, I must apologize for the embarrassingly long hiatus from posting anything nearly all year. The lovely Trudy Gaba, who was an excellent curatorial intern last spring, has since moved to my hometown of Cincinnati where she has been working since April as a curatorial assistant at the Cincinnati Art Museum. If you are in that area, please do check out the beautiful exhibit she helped to put together there: Collecting Calligraphy: Arts of The Islamic World.
2018 has been bonkers ….which is probably why it seems to have flown by so quickly. We’ve been working on some pretty cool things around here, I assure you. I’d love to give you a highlights reel and share what I’ve been up to:
First and foremost, if I have not yet mentioned this in earlier posts, I need to: We received some VERY exciting news in November of 2017….. we are officially an AAM- accredited institution!
What does this mean: it means that all staff, both past and present, have worked their butts off and passed a really big exam. Yay team!
This has been a goal for our museum for several years. In 2012, the museum embarked on a Museum Assessment that basically told us how feasible it would be for us to even apply to go through the accreditation process. But the goal of accreditation has been part of our board’s strategic plan for many, many years leading up to this point.
Like accreditation of a major university, accreditation for a museum is a tremendous accomplishment. It is a high profile, peer-based validation of your museum’s operations and impact- an indicator of how well you are serving the community and how well you operate. It means that you hold yourself and the organization accountable and that you operate to the highest professional standards as set forth by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).
The accreditation process is a series of policy and procedural review, self-study (written essay questions and answers with supporting documentation and record-keeping), and a pretty invasive and nerve-wracking site visit by two accreditation officers who are usually high-ranking, extremely respected professionals from various national museums. They have a lengthy list of criteria against which they determine how well you meet museum standards. Every department is evaluated and the staff as a whole is evaluated for how well we work together and communicate with each other.
In collections, they assess how well we as an institution do the following:
- Collections Stewardship: that we own, exhibit and use collections that are appropriate to our mission; that we legally, ethically and effectively manage the collection, documents; that we care for the collection; that we conduct collections-related research appropriate to appropriate scholarly standards; that we strategically plan for the use and development of our collections; that we are guided by our mission and provide public access to the collections while ensuring their preservation.
- Professional Practices: That we plan strategically and act ethically as stewards; That we know what we have, where they came from, why we have them, their current conditions and locations and provide regular, reasonable access to them; That we have a current, board-approved collections management policy that guides the stewardship of our collection; That we have and maintain a system of documentation and record-keeping; That we monitor environmental conditions and use appropriate methods for display; That we have safety and security procedures in place.
Anyway, all of this to say that we passed the test and we will be going through re-accreditation again in 5 years (2022) to continually renew our status as an accredited museum.
I hope those who follow this blog who may have worked here in years past are pleased with this news! And I hope you know that we couldn’t have done it without your leg work.
In other news, we recently acquired some new collection items this year! This is also a HUGE accomplishment for the museum. We do not usually acquire new artworks because 1. we strategically focus our energy and funds on caring for the collection we have and 2. we are so limited on storage and exhibit space that it is usually not feasible to acquire many more.
In February of 2018 I was able to secure the acquisition of 7 drawings by American portrait artist Douglas Volk (1856-1935). Volk was a close, personal friend of the Sloane family and we have several of his finished oil paintings in our permanent collection. One of which is a very unique depiction of Abraham Lincoln. In fact during his lifetime, Volk was best known as the “painter of Lincoln” and completed three official portraits of the president which are in collections at the National Gallery, the White House, and the Portland Museum of Art.
By the early 1900s, Volk spent most of his time in Maine with his wife and children on a large piece of land in an incredible estate that they lovingly named Hewnoaks. It was a sprawling Arts and Crafts-inspired home situated on Kezar Lake in Center Lovell, Maine that functions today as an artist in residency program.
Imagine this with mountain and lake views. Dreamy, right!????
After Volk’s death, the home passed from one family member to the next until the last living relative passed away in 2005. In her will, the relative bequeathed the estate and all of its contents to the University of Maine. Not quite knowing what to do with all of the materials, the University sold most of the items at auction in 2006. Materials included stacks of Douglas Volk’s art portfolios, his wife and daughters hand-woven and dyed Sabatos rugs and many personal family letters, papers and various effects.
In 2016, an independent art historian and collector acquired some of the items from the sale. Among the items she acquired were rare drawings and studies done by the artist.
By February, 2018, I had the board’s approval to acquire some of these rare drawings and welcome them to the Hermitage Museum. These new drawings, which were purchased in part with funds from the Lela Marshall Hine Trust, will be on view with our additional completed oil paintings by the artist this winter/spring, February-May.
I’ll try and remember to snap some photos of us installing the exhibit as a teaser. And I will probably share a bit more about some of the archival things I’ve been digging through in preparation for the display. But I do hope you come and see what we have this winter/spring.
Now on to 2019! Let’s hope it’s a good one! Happy holidays, everyone.