Museums & Galleries Qld

Camille Serisier reports as a Smithsonian Short Term Visiting Scholar

Posted on: 9 July 2012

Camille Serisier, Curatorial and Collections Officer for the Griffith University Art Collection, is currently visiting the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. as a Smithsonian Short Term Visiting Scholar. Camille is investigating open collection strategies utilised by the museum, particularly at the Luce Foundation Center and Lunder Conservation Center.

Week One: This week has been overwhelming, surprising and amazing. All the museums are bigger than I imagined. And they are incredibly well resourced. The Luce Foundation Center houses thousands of objects from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection in visible storage. Objects are offered to viewers in custom built display cases that merge the needs of conservation and object visibility. Pneumatic drawers are an impressive feature of the visible collection storage. These open with the push of a button, revealing a range of delicate 18th-20th-Century miniatures painted in watercolour on ivory.

On my first day in Washington, jet lagged and a bit disoriented, I attended an artist talk by Megan Mueller held by the Luce Foundation Center. The program brings artists from the local community into the center to do a presentation about their work that relates their practice to objects in the collection. It was a wonderful introduction to the center and the collection, which is dedicated to providing the local community with a point of access for discussion and consideration of their visual heritage. A definite highlight of the week was the Lunder Behind the Scenes Tour. The tour, run in collaboration with the Luce Center, takes visitors to each of the conservation labs. These labs are occupied during normal museum hours by conservators conducting work on museum objects for upcoming exhibitions and ongoing repairs of collection objects. Separated from the public by large panes of glass, visitors to the museum are able to watch conservators at work. Didactic panels explain the processes under way and where the objects will be displayed upon completion. The five labs are generously resourced. Each one is dedicated to a different conservations field, such as frames, painting or works on paper. During our tour one of the painting conservators came out to the group from behind the glass wall and very generously talked about the object she was working on and the types of treatments she was using. Many of the Smithsonian museums are open late for the summer holidays so outside of work hours I have been trawling the museum floors. It took four evenings to get through the National Museum of Natural History, but every moment was exciting and each room held new surprises. In addition to taxidermied animals of all shapes and sizes, they have an IMAX® cinema, a live butterfly enclosure and numerous interactive displays that attract children and adults alike. This afternoon I am going to visit the National Museum of American History. And tomorrow I am attending another artist talk at the Luce Foundation Center, where we will be learning how to screenprint unique designs onto t-shirts. And this is only week one!”


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Museums & Galleries Queensland

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