There are many discoveries to be found at the Carter beyond what is displayed in the galleries. Often the art works are only the tip of a much larger collection of material, much of it textual and documentary. It is this assortment of letters, diaries, books, clippings, and sketches that make research and analysis of art beyond its immediate visual appeal possible. These items illuminate the artist's intent, the work's context in time and place, variations, and changes, without which much of an artwork's tale is lost.
The recent Carter publication, Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth's Late Paintings of Lancaster, is a fine example of the art research that is possible with supporting documents. Betsy Fahlman and Claire Barry approach Demuth's work from differing angles but both are able to elaborate upon their discussions of context and content because of their use and study of his archives.
Take a moment during your next visit to the Carter to use our Library and Archives and see what you can discover.
There is a shelf in the Amon Carter Museum library. Upon this shelf rests the history of the museum in book form. Over 180 books representing almost fifty years of museum publishing history are now conveniently located for perusal. From the first exhibition catalog published in 1961 featuring Remington and Russell to the newest book from 2008 entitled The 100 Best Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell, the complete history of the museum lies before my very eyes.
But who am I, and why am I blogging for the library? Well, I’m a volunteer. It’s been my job for the past few months to bring this project together, and who knew it would be such a massive undertaking?
Under the guidance of library director Sam Duncan, I began to comb through the large bibliography of Amon Carter publications in order to determine which books the reading room lacked. The quest of locating staff willing to give up their copies in order for the library to have a comprehensive book set then began in earnest. (It was exciting to see the collection grow, slowly filling the space of four large shelves.)
Sam also wanted to make this special book collection more visible. So, he and archivist John Frembling moved the books to a more accessible shelf. Now the books are prominently displayed and shelved in order by publication year. It’s interesting to compare the subject matter as well as the number of books published per decade. I also enjoy comparing the graphic design of the early books to the more recent volumes.
I continue to work in Access on a bibliographic database that will eventually be available on the museum website. The data entry has been one of the more time consuming aspects of the project, as I systematically record the details of each book. I look forward to the day when my work will be accessible by museum staff and the public alike.
I hope you’ll come in and visit the library and explore the Amon Carter publication collection. Feel free to look through the books and make your own conclusions about museum exhibitions through the past five decades or make discoveries of your own. Maybe you’ll see someone, typing away on a laptop with big stacks of books piled around them. That will be me, Dana Harper, volunteer.
Four Jolly Clowns, Mother Hubbard's Party, Elastic Locomotives, Sliced Birds, Grace Hoops, and a Roaming Turtle
An out-of-state patron recently discovered that the library owns a rare 1888 wholesale toy catalog produced by Selchow & Righter in New York. Upon examining the item, we discovered what a fascinating cultural record it is. The catalog certainly speaks about a different time in the United States, but the mix of toys and amusements in the catalog--some benign and some offensive from our current perspective--seems to say that the impulse to entertain ourselves is timeless.
We decided to share this magical publication more widely by digitizing its full contents as a PDF file. It's a large file, over 20 megabytes, so be patient if you have a slow internet connection. The file is searchable by keyword. Enjoy and please share any discoveries you make.
The library has many other similar catalogs in the collection, and our holdings range from original to reprinted items to material that discusses commercial catalogs.
In case you missed it, the Alfred Jacob Miller exhibition was featured in both the Dallas Morning News and on Artdaily.org, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram selected this past Saturday’s symposium, Alfred Jacob Miller: East to West, as its pick of the week.
I was out of town this past weekend and missed both this program and Sunday’s Target Family Fun Day. While I enjoyed my trip, I regretted not seeing the results of almost a year’s worth of planning. If you attended either program please let me know what you thought.
I thought I might share some interesting information that I learned while reading Dr. Lisa Strong’s essays for the exhibition catalogue for Sentimental Journey: The Art of Alfred Jacob Miller
Did you know that in Great Britain there is a long history of comparing American Indians and Highland Scots? Both groups were idealized as valiant warriors and free spirits, whose way of life was supposedly coming to an end. Sir William Drummond Stewart’s (1795–1871) ancestral estates were in the Highlands, and he appears to have embraced such comparisons. In addition to the paintings and sketches created by Alfred Jacob Miller during their travels in the Rocky Mountains, Stewart adorned his home with Indian artifacts, planted seeds of native plants in his kitchen garden, and attempted to raise bison on his grounds. My particular favorite is this pair of mahogany bison chairs that Stewart commissioned upon his return to Scotland.
It is also significant that of the field sketches that Miller created Stewart preferred images that showed Stewart and the American Indians engaged in activities that were traditional aristocratic pursuits: big game hunting deer stalking, horse racing, and archery competitions. In both content and style these works establish connections between American Indians and Scottish aristocratic culture, suggesting that Stewart saw American Indians as a kind of indigenous aristocracy. Taking this idea one step further, Strong suggests that since highlanders were lauded for similar traits of honor, martial skill, hospitality these images made Stewart appear more authentic Scotsman as well as aristocrat.
Take a moment to check out Kris Boyd’s interview with Lisa Strong, guest curator of the Sentimental Journey: The Art of Alfred Jacob Miller on view at the Carter until January 11, 2009. Lisa appears on the same show as Bob Shieffer. Her interview begins at the 18 minute mark.