From the Director, Alex W. Barker
Time is an enigma few of us understand and none of us escape. As an archaeologist and a museum director I spend most of my waking hours fretting about time in one or another form—in one of life’s little ironies archaeologists are hugely concerned with time, but it’s the one dimension of the past we never actually recover as a real thing. It’s something we always have to estimate or infer. But as a museum director, on the other hand, time is all too real. All of a museum’s activities are constrained by four variables—space, staff, money and time—and my job involves figuring out how to best use (and preferably increase) each.
On that note I’m very pleased to introduce the Museum’s newest staff member, graphic artist Kristie Lee. Kristie’s an award-winning designer with more than twenty years of experience at the University of Missouri Press. In her time she’s designed countless books as well as marketing materials, brochures, mailings and magazines, and we’re very pleased to have her join us. Some time ago she even designed one of our previous books, Commitment: Fatherhood in Black America, which showcased photoessays by Carole Patterson and Anthony Barboza.
We also have two exhibitions concerned explicitly with time. Connecting with Contemporary Sculpture presents three-dimensional works being produced today, explicitly examining the ways that contemporary art uses form, volume, texture and space to capture the viewer’s gaze, expanding the visitor’s appreciation of both contemporary art and the intellectual themes it explores. And The Voyage of a Contemporary Italian Goldsmith in the Classical World: Golden Treasures by Akelo traces the work of a modern goldsmith working in an ancient idiom, and in particular, Akelo’s use of complex ancient techniques like granulation in the construction of his latter-day masterpieces.
Over the past few months we’ve also been able to add some remarkable objects to the Museum’s permanent collections. They too cover a considerable expanse of time, and range from a lovely twenty-sixth dynasty Egyptian cat to a seventeenth-century oil-on-stone painting, from hundreds of pre-Columbian pieces from the collection of Mr. William Scott of Kansas City to twentieth-century works by American impressionist John Ericson and commercial artist-icon George Petty. And as this issue goes to press we’re seeking to acquire a remarkable nkisi or nkonde, an African statue from the BaKongo sometimes called a “nail-fetish figure,” to be acquired in honor of two longtime friends of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, Ms. Anna Margaret Fields and Ms. Betty Brown.
Our research project studying the rise of Bronze Age societies in the Carpathian Basin continues, and with it a new set of temporal mysteries. One involves the preservation of organics (like wood) at the site. It’s rare for open-air sites subject to all the various processes of decay to have uncarbonized wood survive, yet we are finding an increasing number of fragments of wood dating back in time nearly four thousand years.
And, just in case I had no other reason to think about time, my old truck—which I’ve driven since graduate school—was just officially registered by the state of Missouri as a “historic vehicle.”
I hope I’ll see you at the Museum soon. Time waits for no one!