Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

Communicating in Quechua


Months. It took literally months during the summer of 2014 to decide on the orthography (the correct spelling/writing) for the exhibition Inca: Conquests of the Andes/Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes, which opened Friday. For example, should the Museum use “Inca” or “Inka,” among other spelling differences that would emerge in the exhibition texts. Many factors weighed into my decision, from popular recognition to modern linguistics, from consistency in labels to proper pronunciation. For the first few months of the exhibition project, I solicited the opinions of many individuals about the issue—from leading pre-Columbian linguists to Inca archaeologists to fellow curators, and even friends and family. I read the most recent publications, edited volumes, scholarly monographs, and online blogs to ascertain the most current opinions. Indeed, I researched, inquired, and deliberated so long that there was general confusion around the DMA itself about the final decision for months after I had finally settled on a position. Mea culpa; thank you to everyone for their kind patience. And I appreciate the generous input from many colleagues on an issue that elicits deep passion and strong opinions from scholars across disciplines.

Quipu (Khipu) fragment with subsidiary cords/Quipu (khipu) parcial con cuerdas afiliadas, Perú: Andean highlands or coast, Inca (Inka) culture, A.D. 1400–1570, cotton and indigo dye, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of John Wise, 1983.W.2174

Quipu (Khipu) fragment with subsidiary cords/Quipu (khipu) parcial con cuerdas afiliadas, Peru, Andean highlands or coast, Inca (Inka) culture, A.D. 1400–1570, cotton and indigo dye, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of John Wise, 1983.W.2174

The central issue is this: What is the ideal manner—in a US public exhibition context—for writing words from Runasimi, or Quechua, the language used as a lingua franca by the Inca state system and spoken today by many Andean peoples. Prior to the Spanish arrival in the 1530s, the Andean populations did not utilize a recognizable written script, one that the Spanish acknowledged and transcribed into a phonetic alphabet, as certain Spanish chroniclers attempted in New Spain (modern Mexico and Guatemala) with Mayan and Nahua languages. The Andean knotted cords, or quipu (khipu), that recorded information were documented by certain chroniclers in South America, who noted that the quipu were used to register taxes and census data, among other information. The individual Spanish chroniclers further documented Quechua words in the phonetic alphabet and according to Spanish pronunciation, with variant spellings. Certain spellings gained in pronunciation, popular recognition, and adoption into English.

Since the mid-20th century, there have been great efforts to revise the orthography of Andean languages, in particular Runasimi (Quechua), with laws passed in Peru during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The revised orthographies introduced changes such as the reduction from a five-vowel alphabet to a three-vowel system for Quechua. Modern linguists, such as the Peruvian scholar Ramon Cerrón-Palomino, have provided welcome standards for ongoing publication in Inca and Andean studies.

Four-cornered hat/Gorro de cuatro puntas, Peru: south-central highlands or coast, Huari (Wari) culture, A.D. 700–900, camelid fiber, 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, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.2013

Four-cornered hat/Gorro de cuatro puntas, Peru, south-central highlands or coast, Huari (Wari) culture, A.D. 700–900, camelid fiber, 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, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.2013

As an Andean scholar, I had actively used many revised spellings in teaching and coursework, as well as in a recent 2013 exhibition, Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes, at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. Upon joining the DMA, I had further standardized the terms within the Museum’s database, emphasizing the revised spellings of Wari (for Huari), Tiwanaku (for Tiahuanaco) and Inka (for Inca). With specialization in the cultures of the Formative Period and the north coast of Peru, I confess to addressing only superficially the issue of orthography prior to the DMA exhibition. The spellings of the Cupisnique, Moche, and Chimú—the successive north coast cultures—have remained relatively constant. So I had adopted the basic premise that to utilize the new Quechua spellings was to honor indigenous rights, which aligns well with my role as a researcher of Andean cultural heritage.

Through the months I spent researching, however, the issue became less black and white for this context; it came to include various factors regarding public recognition and spelling consistency through the exhibition design. In the end, the decision to maintain historical spellings as the primary terms in the Inca exhibition likewise presented the wonderful opportunity to introduce an audience to corresponding Quechua spellings. The exhibition Inca: Conquests of the Andes/Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes thus features not only English and Spanish text but also dual spellings for most Quechua terms. A wall panel explaining the chosen orthography opens the exhibition, providing viewers with an opportunity to consider the complex ways language records, reflects, and defines a historical culture.

Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, is The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas at the DMA.

Sound Waves

We have plenty in store to stimulate your senses during this Friday’s Late Night, and one program in particular is sure to hit the right note. As part of a special DMA Friends reward, DMA Friend Kyle West has created a soundtrack for our European collection on Level 2 that you’ll be able to enjoy that night. To whet your appetite, listen to this lively jig he paired with Seasickness on an English Corvette. We hope to see you Friday to hear the rest!

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette (Le mal de mer, au bal, abord d'une corvette Anglaise), 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.E.R. Chilton 2011.27

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette, 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J. E. R. Chilton, 2011.27

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator at the DMA.

You Know You’re a Museum Mom If….

Over the years I’ve had the chance to see children grow up right before my eyes as they’ve attended classes at the DMA. They may solemnly gaze at me from their strollers in Art Babies, toddle around with their binkies in Toddler Art, and then proudly graduate to the “big kid” art classes before confidently marching off to kindergarten. I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know many amazing moms in the community. They push strollers, wrangle kids, balance wet paintings on their arms, and cheerfully champion their children’s creativity. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are just a few of the things we love about Museum Moms!

Mothers Day 1

Fun is often messy. Museum moms aren’t afraid of messes—even big ones! We’ve challenged children to paint with their feet, create dripping, gluey sculptures, and blow colorful paint bubbles onto paper. To say that we sometimes get messy in the Art Studio is a bit of an understatement. But our DMA moms are always enthusiastic, encouraging their children to try something new and to not let sticky fingers hold them back. As we’ve conducted fun painting experiments in the studio over the past few months, I’ve watched children gaze at their moms in wonder as they strip off their shoes and socks, push up their sleeves, and dive into some serious action painting.

Mothers Day 2

Sometimes you just need to shout! We hope that every child finds his or her own unique voice, and through our family classes, we do our best to give children opportunities to share those voices. Museum Moms value what their children think and wonder about art, and often let them lead the way in talking about what they see. In a recent Art Babies class, caregivers pulled their little ones across the floor on colorful fabric to mimic the sensation of paint gliding across a canvas. Amidst the giggles and smiles, one baby accidentally discovered the wonderful echo she could make in the galleries. A comical shrieking match quickly broke out as other babies realized they could make their own echoes too, and the gallery was soon filled with high-pitched, delighted squeals. Rather than frantically shushing their children, these wise moms simply reveled in the display of spontaneous joy that came from children making discoveries in an inspiring place (and took advantage of the fact that there were no other visitors in the gallery).

Mothers Day 3

Being present is the best present. We’re all about family togetherness here at the DMA, so when we’re sketching in the galleries or posing like a statue, more often than not, the grown-ups are right alongside their child, busily engaged in a class activity. Museum Moms know that their children watch everything they do, and that the best way to raise a creative child is for children to see you nurturing your own creativity. In a preschool class several years ago, I asked a group of three and four year olds who some of their heroes were. Lili piped up immediately and said, “My mom is my art hero because she watches while I paint.” When we’re busy creating in the Art Studio, I always have at least one or two children who inform me that their masterpieces are “for my mom.” Museum Moms are some of the very best at creating lasting memories for their families and giving the gift of their presence.

To all the moms out there, thank you for all you do! Happy Mother’s Day!

Leah Hanson is the Manager of Early Learning Programs at the DMA.

May the Art Be with You

It is a little known fact that the DMA is a favorite art spot for those from a galaxy far, far away. This May 4th we spotted Princess Leia and Darth Vader roaming the DMA—without light sabers, as they aren’t permitted in the galleries—checking out some of their favorites in the collection. May the fourth be with you!

DSC_0016 DSC_0017_2  DSC_0006_2 DSC_0009

I am your father:
This #MayThe4thBeWithYou photo shoot took place on “Take Your Child To Work” day, so Darth Vader’s daughter joined in on the fun.

DSC_0011_2 FullSizeRender

Kimberly Daniell is the Manager of Communications and Public Affairs and Jessica Fuentes is the Center for Creative Connections Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Rare Books

The DMA’s Mayer Library staff spent the last two months cataloging books from the Reves Library. At the start of the project, only one hundred or so books from the Reves Collection were searchable in the library’s catalog.  We knew there were important books that had not yet been entered that could significantly improve research on the collection, if only they were more accessible. Taking advantage of the temporary closure of the Reves Grand Salon and Library for refurbishment this past February, we embarked on a project to do just that.

It required removing all nine hundred and fifty art and antiquarian books from the shelves in the Reves Library, transferring them on book carts through the Museum galleries to the Mayer Library, and then, one by one, cataloging each book in the library’s database. To give you a sense of how large an endeavor this was, our two catalogers usually catalog three hundred books in the same time frame.

Reves Library after books to be cataloged were moved out.

Reves Library after books to be cataloged were moved out

Reves books in the library workroom, their home during the cataloging project.

Reves books in the library workroom, their home during the cataloging project

Most of the books in the Reves Library are art related, with an emphasis on areas in which the couple collected, including many rare gallery and exhibition catalogues. The library also contains collections of writings by Winston Churchill, translations of Emery Reves’ Anatomy of Peace, and a significant collection of antiquarian books—one of the earliest dating back to 1547, Il Petrarcha con l’espositione d’Alessandro Vellutello, a commentary on Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta.

As the project progressed, interesting findings began to emerge that brought Wendy and Emery Reves and the history of the DMA collection to life. For example, auction catalogs annotated by Emery Reves gave us a glimpse into their collecting habits and interests. Lot 18 of this Sotheby’s catalogue from 1974 was Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Isabelle Lemonnier with a Muff, now in the DMA’s collection; however, it wasn’t Wendy and Emery Reves who purchased it. A close-up of the annotation reads “100,000 Schmit (Paris).” That is a reference to Galerie Schmit. According to the provenance for this painting, it was then acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Algur Meadows, who gifted it to the DMA in 1978.

Page of the Sotheby's catalog showing the Manet

Page of the Sotheby’s catalog showing the Manet

The keen eye of our cataloger discovered this bookplate of Paul Iribe, a French fashion illustrator and interior designer, on the last page of Spinoza’s Ethique. Iribe died in 1935 while visiting Coco Chanel at La Pausa, the French Riviera villa later owned by Wendy and Emery Reves.

Paul Iribe bookplate

Paul Iribe bookplate

With a mix of satisfaction, relief, and a tinge of sadness, the books have all been returned to the shelves of the new and improved Reves Library.

You can browse through a list of the rest of the books from the Reves Collection in the library’s online catalog.

Jenny Stone is the Librarian at the Dallas Museum of Art.


Pulling At Our Heart Strings

When a Museum acquires a new work of art, it can be a very quick process or it can take months—or sometimes years! The latter was the case with The Harp Lesson, a monumental triple portrait by the French neoclassical painter Jean Antoine Théodore Giroust (1753–1817).

We first became aware of the painting’s availability in 2010, but the circumstances to purchase it were not quite right. When it came up for auction at Christie’s Old Masters sale in New York on January 28 of this year, we were ready to spring into action. So Olivier Meslay, the DMA’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art, headed to New York, hoping that the weatherman’s forecast for twelve to eighteen inches of snow there would not thwart our chance to bid on the painting. The morning of the auction, several of us excitedly watched the sale live online from our offices in Dallas. The bidding went quite fast; it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye! Then, after the auctioneer said “sold!” with a thwack of his hammer, we had to endure several anxious minutes before we learned that the DMA was the high bidder.

This month, the monumental painting went on view in the European Galleries. Including the frame, it measures just shy of ten feet tall. While installing it was no minor undertaking, these pictures are proof that no challenge is too insurmountable for the DMA’s expert art preparators!

Completed in 1791, this large triple portrait depicts the fourteen-year-old Louise Marie Adelaïde Eugénie d’Orléans (1777–1847) and her governess, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, Comtesse de Genlis (1746–1830), each playing a large, beautiful harp. Leaning on the music stand before them is Mademoiselle Paméla (c. 1773–1831), who had been adopted by Madame de Genlis and raised as a companion to the d’Orléans children.

This remarkable life-size triple portrait is sure to create a sensation in our galleries just as it did when it debuted at the 1791 Salon in Paris.


Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant in the European and American Art Department at the DMA.

We’re Turning Five

This Saturday, April 25, we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of the DMA Autism Awareness Family Celebration. The first program took place in April 2010, tied to Autism Awareness Month, with research beginning in the summer of 2009. A frequent DMA visitor with a son on the autism spectrum sparked my interest in creating an event in which families with children on the spectrum felt welcomed and comfortable at the DMA. I found there weren’t many museums that offered programming for this audience. After discussions with special education parent groups, I discovered that very few families had ever visited the DMA with their children on the spectrum due to the uncertainty of how their child might behave when here. It became apparent that the key element for hosting a program for this audience should include the following: an event that was private for families who had kids with autism, working with an autism specialist to plan activities to meet the specific needs of children on the spectrum, and providing resources to parents about the DMA.

For our pilot program in April 2010, I worked with an autism specialist to schedule the morning’s events, connected with a music therapist specializing in working with children with autism for a performance, and created a social story so that parents registered for the event could review and plan in advance with their child. The response for the first event was overwhelming! It was important to keep the attendance relatively low, so as not to overwhelm the children—and the waiting list grew to be just as long as the list of attendees. We received supportive affirmations from grateful parents both during and after the event.

Five years later, these events are still robust and constantly adjusting to accommodate community needs. When we piloted this program, the prevalence of autism was 1 in 110 children. Since 2009, the frequency of autism has increased to 1 in 88, and more recently 1 in 68. The DMA program has evolved over the years to include themes for each event, the creation of a quiet-sensory space with the help of the School of Occupational Therapy at Texas Women’s University, and tours for teens on the spectrum.

We have learned a great deal from visitors over the years at our Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, including how important the experience is for the siblings. Annie, age 11, told us that she “like[s] coming here because no one stares at my brother.” It’s feedback like this that helps us improve the program, and we love hearing the impact the event has on our participants:

Angie and her son during an Autism Awareness Family Celebration

“Our family has a 6-year-old nonverbal son with autism, and a 3-year-old son that is typically developing. We are an active family that loves to enjoy what DFW has to offer. We’ve been going to the DMA Autism Awareness Family Celebration events for the last few years, and we absolutely love them! Having been to many other family events and museums in the area, we have never found anything like what the DMA offers. It is exciting and refreshing that the Museum provides a safe and fun sensory-friendly event for kids on the spectrum, as well as for siblings. It is good for my youngest to see other families similar to ours. We struggle with finding activities that both of my boys can enjoy. From the interactive music program to art activities and sensory toys, the DMA has thought of everything. We love watching them play and interact together! Thank you!” —Angie G.

Rachel's son attending Hands-On Summer Art Camp for Children with Autism at the DMA

Rachel’s son attending Hands-On Art Summer Camp for Children with Autism at the DMA

“Our family is so thankful for the DMA’s outreach to the autism community. From the beginning, the DMA educators have provided programming very thoughtfully organized with the input of autism specialists and parents. Programs such as the Autism Awareness Days and their Summer Camp have opened up a new avenue for families with special needs children to explore and learn in the art museum. My son has attended the Hands-On Art Summer Camp for the past four years, and I’ve been so impressed with the camp preparation, the camp curriculum, and the trained educators and volunteers who have connected children with autism to the DMA’s art collection. My son feels very welcome at the DMA and always wants to return, which is such a blessing in light of the lack of educational public programming designed for children on the autism spectrum. The DMA has found their niche offering high-quality educational opportunities for special needs populations.” —Rachel S.

As we continue to learn more about the needs of children with autism, the definition of best practices in museums programming for this audience will continue to evolve. Society’s awareness of autism is fast-growing and, hopefully, more and more public institutions will begin to offer specialized experiences for kids on the spectrum and their families. It is important that nonprofits work together to share resources and help families with children on the spectrum feel comfortable visiting museums. Whether it is offering a summer camp just for children with autism (check out this year’s Hands-On Art Summer Camp at the DMA), creating a quiet corner in a museum gallery, or making a sensory-focused guide of your institution, we want all kids to have opportunities to learn, play, and have cultural experiences with their families.



Learn more about all of the access programs the DMA offers at

 Amanda Blake is the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,034 other followers

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Flickr Photo Stream

More Photos


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,034 other followers