Museum Magazine, Fall 2019, Number 75

Museum Magazine Issue 75 (Fall 2019)

From the Director, Alex W. Barker

Janus, the Roman god of passages, beginnings, endings, and transitions is usually depicted as having one face looking to the future and the other to the past. Museums are much the same—we hold collections from the past, but do so for the benefit of posterity, always seeking new ways to make the irreplaceable art and artifacts in our collections more meaningful and relevant to latter-day audiences.

Janus is also a meaningful tutelary in another, related regard. Museums like ours have a dual nature. On the one hand we’re a public museum with an active education program that engages schoolchildren across the region, as well as a growing docent program of dedicated volunteers who make our collections come alive to audiences of all kinds. Those audiences range from pre-K schoolchildren to medical students in residence, and from art students learning to draw in the Gallery of Greek and Roman Casts through focused and formal instruction to the convivial informality of the Museum’s Tuesday sketching group, which requires neither previous experience nor artistic talent. We serve the people of mid-Missouri whatever their age or background.

We’re also an academic museum, actively studying the collections and adding to knowledge in a range of scholarly disciplines. Many of the antiquities in our collection reflect decades of focused and systematic field research, our collections reflect ongoing scholarship regarding the provenance, significance, and history of specific works of art, building rich biographies that add layers of meaning and context.

Those dual natures come together in exhibitions that translate new and continuing scholarship into fresh interpretations and presentations. They’re showcased in this issue as well—Dr. Linda Endersby’s new acquisitions section will help you see the familiar art of Missouri’s Capitol in new ways, appreciating the process of creation as well as the finished work. Dr. Benton Kidd’s discussion of first-century Jewish ossuaries dives more deeply into a distinctive kind of object found during the Second Temple period in a restricted area near Jerusalem, but which excite popular imagination because of several inscriptions suggesting Biblical personages. We give a preview of an upcoming exhibition examining the development of printmaking in the Renaissance—an exhibition that brings together both scholarship and pedagogy, and will be developed in conjunction with a course Dr. Alisa McCusker is teaching this fall. Dr. Lisa Higgins highlights recent Missouri Folk Arts programs, including a highly-regarded MFAP program examining arts and aging—a crucial topic for a nation soon to have more people over the age of sixty-five than children for the first time in its history. And Dr. Cathy Callaway explores programs aimed at children—the opposite end of the age spectrum. She also showcases the Art of the Book Club, whose members examine art through the sharpening lens of literature.

Taken together, these offerings reflect the balancing act at the core of the museum enterprise. We bring the light of scholarship to bear on familiar objects so you can experience them in novel, unexpected, and unfamiliar ways, while simultaneously opening up the Museum to new uses, new audiences, new voices, and new ways of experiencing art and telling its myriad stories.

But there are many more stories to tell. I hope you’ll come to the Museum and experience our exhibitions firsthand, or take part in one of our array of changing public programs, or get involved in the Art of the Book Club, our Sketching Group, the Museum docent corps, or Museum Associates.

And speaking of transitions, a final bittersweet note. While I wouldn’t exactly describe them as retiring—they’re some of the most engaging and vivacious people I know—several long-time friends of the Museum have announced they’ll be stepping down from their positions at the University. Jo Stealey, Professor of Art and head of the School of Visual Studies, is stepping down, although she will continue her stewardship of the Artist in Residence program. Ted Tarkow, longtime Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Science and Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies—a classicist who could actually make ancient Greek fun—will be taking his retirement. So too will Susan Langdon and Marcus Rautman, both Professors of Ancient Mediterranean Studies and eminent archaeologists. We wish them all well, and hope retirement will give them more time to visit the Museum.

You should, too!

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Year: 
2019

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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association