Archive for December, 2011

A Registrar’s Mobile Euphoria

I like my office workspace. It has what I need to get through each day . . . desktop computer, telephone, robot USB flash drive, exhibition catalogues, personal photographs. It’s my home away from home. But as a museum registrar, my job requires me to leave my workspace pretty regularly. And lately, I’ve been enjoying that mobility more than usual.

What has led to my mobile euphoria? Two words . . . i. Pad.

My job requires me to work in a variety of locations including art storage spaces and exhibition galleries. Not to mention at museums across the country and throughout Europe when I travel as a courier. And normally, I would carry a bagful of supplies. But no more.

With an iPad handy, registrars can enter framed artwork dimensions directly into the database from art storage.

Now with an iPad in my hand, I can leave the clipboard, paperwork, digital camera, and pencil behind when I trek to the galleries or to art storage. Thin and lightweight, the iPad is the near-perfect substitute for the traditional methods of doing several registrarial tasks.

In the Registrar’s Department, we’ve developed iPad workflows for tasks including condition reports, incident reports, and art movement location changes. We can also access our database remotely in order to enter data directly without the need for taking notes and returning to our desktop computer. To the layman, these are neither the sexiest nor the most fun things to do with an iPad. But to a museum registrar, they seem heaven-sent.

It’s a great feeling to walk out of an art storage space or exhibition gallery knowing that when I return to my desk, I don’t have a step 2 of the process to complete. For several tasks, the iPad allows me to complete all phases of the process remotely.

By converting condition report forms to PDF documents, we can now markup these essential documents using the PDF Expert app on the iPad. This app not only has a variety of useful tools, but the marks are editable which makes for cleaner documents.

Need to mark up a condition report to show an area of concern on a painting surface? Done.

Need to sign, e-mail, and print a shipping receipt from the art dock? Done.

Need to edit an exhibition floor plan illustrating art placement changes and e-mail it to the exhibition designer? Done.

Need to take a photo of installed casework and record the measurements between objects for future reference? Done.

Thank you, iPad.

A registrar compares submitted text for an upcoming publication to the text on the object labels in the galleries. Her edits on the iPad can then be saved and emailed to the Publications Department before she ever leaves the galleries.

While working on recent exhibitions, both at the DMA and outside the museum, I used an iPad to access crate lists, object checklists, and gallery floor plans, and to send e-mails and photos directly from the galleries. It is so refreshing not to have to sort through piles of paperwork, stapled lists, and hand-jotted notes trying to find what I need. Just a few simple taps of the screen, and I’m jumping between apps and documents with little effort or confusion.

We’ve been using the iPads since the summer, and we’ve only begun to unlock the potential. It’s a bit time-consuming to research the apps to find the best ones suited to our needs and then to develop the necessary workflows, but, in all honesty, it’s actually a lot of fun.

The iPad will be a game-changer for museum registrars, and at the DMA we’re embracing that change one app at a time.

Brent Mitchell is Registrar for Loans and Exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Twelve DMA Days of Christmas

As Christmas approaches we wanted to share with you some works from our collection inspired by the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….Yucca and the Prickly Pear

William Lester, "Yucca and the Prickly Pear", 1941, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. H. Belo Corporation and The Dallas Morning News

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Love Birds

Ruth L. Guinzburg, "Love Birds", n.d., Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me a….Hen

Elwyn Lamar Watson, "Hen", c. 1930, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Emma Downs Green

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a…Bird-form finial

Zenu culture, "Bird-form finial", c. A.D. 500-1500, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”The Golden Fleece” ring

Giovanni Corvaja, "'The Golden Fleece' ring", 2008, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Deedie Rose

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Geese

Reveau Bassett, "Geese", 1915-1933, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Olin H. Travis

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me a…Bridge at Pont-Aven, 1891

Emile Bernard, "Bridge at Pont-Aven, 1891", 1891, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Estate of Ina MacNaughton

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…The Maids

Paula Rego, "The Maids", 1987, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. I. C. Deal

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Ballet Dancers on the Stage

Edgar Degas, "Ballet Dancers on the Stage", 1883, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a…Portrait of Lord Lovat

William Hogarth, "Portrait of Lord Lovat", 1746, Dallas Museum of Art, Junior League Print Fund

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me a…Young Man with a Flute

George Romney, "Young Man with a Flute", late 1760s, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. Sheridan Thompson

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Drum Solos

Brad Tucker, Drum Solos, 2001, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Artists Fund

Stacey Lizotte is the Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Off the Wall: I Don’t Like the Color Grey

In our Center for Creative Connections we ask visitors to reflect on their responses to the spaces they encounter in art, as well as those they encounter in their everyday life.

For one work of art specifically, Lee Bontecou’s Untitled, we ask visitors to respond to one of three prompts:

  • To me, sharing space with this work of art feels like…
  • The words or pictures that come to mind when I look at this work of art are…
  • If this work of art was part of something larger, describe what it would be.

Untitled (35), Lee Bontecou, 1961, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of an anonymous foundation

We have gotten a lot of great responses from visitors and want to share a few with you. Once a month we will have an “Off the Wall” post featuring three responses left by visitors.

Next time you are in the Center for Creative Connections add your contribution to the wall and maybe you will see it on Uncrated!

The McDermott Intern Class of 2011–2012

Left to right: Jessica Kennedy, Vivian Barclay, Hannah Burney, Wendy Earle, Lexie Ettinger, Melissa Barry, Andrew Sears and Mary Jordan

Each year, the Dallas Museum of Art welcomes a new class of McDermott interns into the family.  Throughout the history of the program our interns have been outstanding, intelligent students with interests spanning the full range of art-related interests. This year’s group is no exception. Of the eight interns, five hold master’s degrees while the other three have earned their BA and plan to pursue advanced degrees. Their interests range from Medieval and Contemporary Art to Art Education and Museum Programming. As you will learn, their talents and interests extend beyond Art and Art History!

Vivian Barclay is the Graduate Curatorial Intern for Decorative Arts and Design. She holds a B.A. in Art and Performance for University of Texas at Dallas and a M.A in Art History from Texas Christian University. Vivian was born and raised in Valencia,Venezuela.

Melissa Barry is the Graduate Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art. She received her B.A. in Art History and Business Administration from Baylor University and her M.A in Art History from Texas Christian University. She can also sign to R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly.

Wendy Earle is the Graduate Curatorial Intern for the Arts of the Americas and the Pacific. She earned her B.A in Art History from the University of Michigan and her M.A. in Art History from the University of Texas. She has piloted a plane.

Andrew Sears is the Curatorial Intern for European and American Art. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A in Art History. He has never been to a zoo–a fact his fellow interns plan to help him remedy this year.

Hannah Burney is a Teaching Programs intern. She will work primarily with Go van Gogh and other outreach programs. She spent part of her childhood in South  Korea.

Lexie Ettinger is the Education Intern for Adult Programming. She majored in Art History, and minored in Political Science at the University  of Arizona. Currently she is pursuing her M.A at the University of North Texas. Her family dogs’ names are Cinnamon and Sugar, and Sugar has her own Face book page.

Mary Jordan is the Education Intern for Family Experiences. She holds a B.A from Indiana University and a M.A from Johns Hopkins in Medical and Biological Illustration and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Art Museum Education at the University of North Texas. In her “first” career as a medial illustrator, she often sketched in the operating room, directly from surgery. One of the most interesting was a cardiac bypass surgery.

Jessica Kennedy interns in the DMA’s Teaching Programs assisting with docents and gallery programs. She holds a M.A in History with a concentration in Museum Studies and a B.A. in Art History form the University of Missouri in St. Louis. The first name of each member of her immediate family starts with the letter J. Therefore she will answer to any “J” name.

The next time you are in the museum don’t be surprised if you find one of them leading a gallery talk, helping with Late Nights or instructing your child in the Center for Creative Connections. Also, in the coming months, check Uncrated to read their contributions to this blog.

The Dallas Museum of Art offers nine-month paid internship positions in the Education and Curatorial Divisions. These internships are intended for those individuals who wish to explore a career in museum work. For more information, or to apply for the 2012-2013 McDermott Internship program, visit our website. Applications will be available in January 2012.

Martha MacLeod is Curatorial Administrative Assistant for European and American Art and manages the McDermott Interns

A White Wonderland at the DMA

Francis Guy, "Winter Scene in Brooklyn," c. 1817-20, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2008.23.McD

We are getting into the spirit of the holiday season here at the DMA and in the Dallas Arts District , and we would like to invite you to the Museum for some great holiday shopping and fun holiday entertainment.

And while you are here, be sure to visit the galleries and try to spot all of our white and wintry works of art. Here are a few to get you started:

Level 4

"Veryround" chair, Louise Campbell, designer, Zanotta, Italy, maker, designed 2006, steel with enamel, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.49

Anne Whitney, "Lady Godiva," c. 1861-64, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in memory of Dr. Eleanor Tufts, who discovered the Massachusetts-backyard whereabouts of this long-forgotten statue and brought it to Dallas, 2011.8


Level 3

Door with human figure, Indonesia, South Sulawesi, Sa'dan Toraja people, 18th or 19th century, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of the Eugene McDermott Foundation

Auguste Rodin, "The Poet and the Contemplative Life," 1896, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.64

Level 2

Ben Nicholson, "White Relief," 1936, oil on carved board, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, 1963.77.FA

Gustave Courbet, "Fox in the Snow," 1860, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund, 1979.7.FA

Barbara Hepworth, "Contrapuntal Forms (Mycenae)," 1965, marble and teakwood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, 1971.94


Level 1

Installation view of "Encountering Space" at the Dallas Museum of Art

And visit the exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk on Level 1 to see white used in fashion:

Lady Gaga wearing Jean Paul Gaultier, "Flare Magazine," 2009, © Max Abadian

Craig McDean, "Untitled (Maggie Rizer)," "Vogue" (U.S.), October 2002, "The Hussars" collection, "La Mariée" wedding gown, fall-winter 2002–2003, © Craig McDean/Art + Commerce

Visit the Museum Store in person or online at for unusual gifts to give this holiday season. And be sure to join us for two exciting holiday performances when The Barefoot Brigade presents their annual The NOTcracker dance performance on December 17 and on December 18 Undermain Theater presents a reading of the classic Dylan Thomas poem A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Have a fun and safe holiday season and we hope to see you and your family at the Museum!

Wendi Kavanaugh is the Member Outreach Manager at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Stacey Lizotte is the Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Seldom Scene: Hodges, Albers, and Lawrence. Oh My!

You may have noticed something shiny and new in the entrance to the Center for Creative Connections (C3). In November, the C3′s Encountering Space exhibition experienced a few art rotations, including the installation of Jim Hodges’ Great Event, three works by Josef Albers, and Annette Lawrence’s Accumulation Project. See the new works, and the new film in the C3 Theater by Frank & Kristin Lee Dufour, for free tomorrow during First Tuesday, when general admission is free from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Fashion Sale for Our Followers

To celebrate you, our more than 50,000 combined Facebook and Twitter followers, we are offering our fans two days to experience one of “the hottest tickets in town,”  The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, at the general admission price of $10! Head down to the DMA on either Tuesday, December 6, or Wednesday, December 7, and show the Visitor Services Desk that you follow us on Facebook or Twitter* on your phone to receive the $6 discount.

*One discount per person; discount may not be applied for both Twitter and Facebook.

Sail On: A New Interpretation of an Ancient Peruvian Object

This wooden object, which has been at the DMA since 1975, was misinterpreted as a “ceremonial digging board.” Walking through the galleries of Peruvian art, I was struck by the large size and stark, seemingly utilitarian design of this object and was encouraged to research it.

Ceremonial digging board, Peru, Ica Valley, Ica, 1476–1532, wood and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1975.24.McD

The figures are beautifully painted and remarkably well preserved. At the very top stand nine small, enigmatic figures. Underneath those are four rows of geometric designs, while six small water birds line the side. But other than the carvings at the top, it is a plain board. Because most “art objects” of the Americas are often practical as well, I wondered what functions this could have had. Investigations into similar objects of this type yielded an interesting new interpretation. We now know that it is a steering centerboard, and represents a fascinating and extremely useful sailing tradition.

From Lothrop, Aboriginal Navigation off the West Coast of South America. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute Volume LXII, 1932.

Boards with the exact same shape and similar carving have been found in graves of the very rich on the south coast of Peru. The associated grave goods and the fine quality of these carvings (some were even found covered with gold foil!), indicate that these were high status objects.

The Ica
These boards were associated with the Ica culture of Peru, who preceded the Inca Empire and were located in the very dry desert on the south coast. The Ica culture flourished from about 1100-1300, before being taken over by the Inca Empire.

From Benzoni, History of the New World, 1546.

How Was It Used?
When archaeologists started finding these wooden boards in the early 1900s, they classified them as ceremonial agricultural implements or ceremonial digging sticks. Through the research of anthropologists, we now know that this type of object had a very different function.

This object is a centerboard used for navigating large balsa wood rafts on the Pacific Ocean. Though not exactly a rudder, it functions in a similar way, steering the craft. Through the interplay of sails and the movements of several of these centerboards, balsa wood rafts carrying up to twenty tons of cargo and as many as fifty people could travel all along the coast of Peru and Ecuador. We have some evidence that they traveled as far as the Pacific Islands, a distance of over four thousand miles!

From Juan and Ulloa, A Voyage to South America, 1748.

How Do We Know?
Anthropologists in the 1940s were interested in the maritime techniques and capabilities of the ancient Peruvians. Most objects associated with sailing did not survive, since they were made of perishable materials like wood and cotton. The wooden paddles and centerboards (like ours) do survive, because they were purposefully buried in the graves of high-status people. The dry desert conditions on the south coast of Peru allowed them to remain intact, and archaeologists started finding them in the early 20th century.

One important scholar, Thor Heyerdahl, spent years researching Peruvian navigation and sailing. He actually built a balsa log raft modeled on ancient vessels, and named it Kon-Tiki. Heyerdahl and five companions tested the sea-worthiness of their vessel and several of their other theories on trans-Pacific contact between native peoples. They sailed for 101 days over 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean, ending August 7, 1947. A documentary called Kon-Tiki detailing their voyage—with all its challenges and successes—was made in 1950. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1951 and is being remade in Norway to be released in 2012.

You can watch the movie online here:

Many Uses
Some of the rafts seen by the earliest Europeans off the Andean coast carried merchants and tons of cargo on board. Others were used for army transportation and the conquest and control of warlike islanders off the empire coast. Still others were used by fishermen who went on extensive expeditions. The Spaniards even recorded Inca memories of individual merchant rafts and large, organized raft flotillas that set out on exploring expeditions to remote islands.

Diagram of a large Balsa-Log Raft. From Lothrop, Aboriginal Navigation off the West Coast of South America. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute Volume LXII, 1932.

Raftsmen in north Peru were great mariners who played fatal tricks on Spaniards who voyaged as passengers on their balsa rafts. The natives simply detached the ropes holding the log raft together, and the Spaniards fell through and drowned while the sailors survived because they were outstanding swimmers. Other early chroniclers state that even before the arrival of the Spaniards the coastal Peruvians, who “swam as well as fishes,” lured the highland Incas into the open ocean on balsa rafts, only to undo the lashings of the logs and drown their less sea-minded passengers.

Wendy Earle is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern for Arts of the Americas and the Pacific.

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