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Writing About, For, and In Museums

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I should have been born a man…

…but not for the reason most people think that about themselves. It’s because, someday, when/if I decide to get married I’m hesitant to give up my last name. If I do things the traditional way my children will not carry my father’s name, they will carry my DNA but that is all. Anybody who meets them will not know that they are a Schwartz. The first time I had this thought was way back in high school. At that time, I was actually convinced my brothers might not produce a worthy enough heir to my family name and my heritage, at least the most obvious part of it, would be lost forever. (I can at least now retract that statement)

Family Tree

Free family tree charts available via findmypast.com

I am extremely attached to my family and its roots, so I suppose I should understand that my children will be proud to carry their father’s name as well. But, what about mine? The truth of the matter is I’m not just a Schwartz. I’m a Schwartz, Taplin, Johnson, Haiar, Hoepner, Mangler, Gerdts, Weisler, Haye, Kuhl, Batey, Grossman, Cook, Flor, Weimerskirch, Manders, and on and on and on. You may call me Schwartz, descendant from the island, Fehmarn, off the shore of Germany but actually, I’m thousands of amazing people all rolled into one. Literally, a piece of each of them lives on through my DNA. Think about that. That’s genealogy.

A week or so ago I was extremely blessed to receive 148 pages of information pertaining to my paternal genealogy. I took a chance by e-mailing a gentleman whose website had been closed down for several years and was lucky enough to hear back from him immediately. What I received was an ahnentafel (German for “ancestor table) record covering (to me) 20 generations back to the beginning of the 1400s. These records are derived from 30 years of research by the man who sent it to me, 40 years from the man who gave it to him, and before that the brotherhood records straight from the island which, if I understand correctly, are no longer available to the public. Instead of being listed like a family tree diagram this is a fixed sequence numbering system of ascent. If I am 1 then my father is 2 and my mother is 3. my paternal grandpa is 4 and grandma is 5, maternal grandpa is 6 and grandma is 7. Men are always even, females are always odd (Haha!), forgiving the subject no. 1 of the record that is. It’s a whole mathematical formula that is actually quite interesting, but I won’t take the time to fully explain to you here. Google it.Ancestors of Pamela Sue Schwartz

I finally broke down and got the Family Tree Maker software because the data was just getting to be too much to sort out on my own. It’s pretty amazing, glichy and slow at times but it makes up for it in all the different reports, charts, etc. you can publish. I have been finding a lot of interesting things, like my 3rd great grandmothers were sisters… what can I say, we’re German. Keeping the lineage pure and stuff. Chances are there will be more personal genealogy posts in the future.

Aside from my own stuff, I’ve been conducting a lot of research at work for individuals from afar about their genealogy and it has presented a lot of frustrating, interesting, time consuming, yet enjoyable mysteries. One woman from British Columbia is just trying to find where her great grandfather is buried. I spent last Tuesday morning walking through a pioneer cemetery in -7 degree weather, by myself, some where in the north of Boone County. It was sad, beautiful, and peaceful. Other than my own, the only footsteps to grace the freshly fallen snow were those of the deer and an occasional rabbit. I walked from stone to stone, plenty belonging to infants and young children, admiring the shapes, decorations, and inscriptions, many of which were illegible.  I did not find Richard Berry. Our last records of him are in an 1885 census and 1887 history as the Chancellor of a local Knight of Pythias organization. Was his 6 year old granddaughter, who died of (at the time rampant) diphtheria buried next to him? She was originally listed in one cemetery but actually rests in another. Though some graves were moved in 1896, that was also the year she died, hard to believe they buried her and moved her shortly thereafter. There is plenty of space around her plot in the new cemetery but no markers to be found marked with Richard’s name. He has no death record, no cemetery listing, no probate record, no obituary. He just disappeared.

BethelOwen

These are the interesting mysteries of genealogy. I’m sure I will come to that place in all sides of my family when some piece of information just simply can not be found, either because the records were destroyed or because they were simply never made. That being said, I’ll keep trying.

Having *really* started delving into genealogy about 4-5 years ago I’m likely one of the youngest genealogists in existence. That being said, I’m happy to help others get started as it can be a little overwhelming. My end goal is a hard bound book with fold out trees, stories, photos etc. with three discs in the back, a dvd of home movies, cd of family oral histories, and a cd of family photographs. I hope to have a copy for each family member. This will happen quite a few years down the road. I wish somebody would pay me to retire and work on the project full time right now.

Side note: driving around the countryside usually poses at least a few beautiful views and interesting sites. Notice the creative sculpture on the left side of the structure. It’s a deer skull with an arrow through it, oh Iowa.

Barn

 


So, I’ve been thinking

So, I’ve been thinking.  I’m a very passionate, opinionated, and outspoken person, so this is always a dangerous thing. I often think, “I should blog about that…” but in reality they wouldn’t be very long posts. They’re over a tweet (140 characters) but under a post size. Recent topics include:

1. Sometimes I get really annoyed when I go into a restaurant and spend good money on a dish I could easily have done much better. Is there a benefit to not having to put the time into cooking and clean-up? Sure, but not when the dish is a fraction as delicious as I could have done for a fraction of the price. My crepes are better than your crepes.

20140125_1015372. NPR/IPR – I generally dislike the news because it’s depressing. However, I listen to public radio every morning on the way to work (at least until my reception goes out) to make sure that I’m not totally removed from the world. Politics and current issues get me super fired up. Most recently, re-sentencing for minors. Don’t even get me started. Furious.

3. I hope I’m a gorgeous amazing old(er) lady some day. Examples: my grandmothers, Maggie Smith, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Jane Seymour, etc. I figure I have an ok shot at aging well?

Though these all seem like dismal, pessimistic things (ok, maybe not #3). I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am and how thankful I am for each and every day. I get to call my grandmothers (91 and 93) whenever I want, I have a family I can depend on, I’ve done some traveling, I have two degrees and am debt free, etc. I really SHOULDN’T complain at all.

Recently, somebody I would consider a dear friend in Boone, passed away. Yes, I’ve only been in Boone about a year and a half, and to be honest had only seen Dwain a handful of times but I would consider him one of my biggest fans. The first time I met him was when he came in to talk to me about planned giving and some collectible items he was considering giving to the Society upon his passing. The very first thing he said to me, “Has anybody ever told you you have the most beautiful smile?” Now, my guess is this was one of his common compliments, but it is one I get a lot. I think it’s because I have big teeth.

The point is that Dwain was always smiling, only ever had compliments to give, and within a short time of meeting me became a huge advocate and supporter of my museums. His passing was unexpected and he was by no means old, so it came as a big shock to me when I overheard somebody mention his funeral. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day scramble and stress that is my life, but it’s at those times I need to remember the people who are, and have been, in my life that are/were always wearing a smile for me. I need to be rosier.

Though I’ve been blessed to have many of these people in my life, there are two people who almost daily come into my mind, reminding me to live to the fullest, to take advantage of my talents, to seek opportunity, and to love (and be vocally thankful for) those close to me.

Jim, who is the real reason I found my love of museums and is (one) of the people who pushed me as an artist. When I was just in high school, he was my bus driver, and unbeknownst to be at the time a phenomenal artist. He invited me to create a mural (and later another) with him for the school board meeting room. This is how I found myself at the local historical society, losing myself in historic photos of my little blue collar hometown. His support, and early interest in my development as a person and artist, has shaped my now 12 year career in museums. Also, he taught me never to settle, in both my professional and personal life, especially as I grew older. Though you’re gone Jim, your sound advice is still with me.20140114_183348

My Grandpa Taplin, the closest friend I ever had, passed when I was in 6th grade and there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about him. As a child I thought he was the kindest, most understanding, and sweet man in the entire universe. I believed he could talk to animals and make flowers grow, ahhh… the innocence that is childhood. Even so close to his passing, he found the strength to try and sit up and play one last game of Canasta with us. In honor of him I will never eat tomato soup with anything but a big spoon. I hope someday I can be as kind and caring as he was, and to experience a love like he and my grandmother had, always adorable and always so sincere. I am proud that my niece carries their names, Allie Rose. I have a feeling she will live up to filling some very  big shoes.

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This post is definitely more for me than for my readers, but, as I said I’ve been thinking. Occasionally, I like to put it all down. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of truly wonderful people in my life and I hope to meet many more. Some days when things are tough, be it work, my personal life, smashing my poor car up, etc. I just need to remember (and you should too) that life is wonderful, I’m healthy, and there are much bigger things ahead.


Let’s try this again

Friends,

It has been more than a year since I blessed my website with my presence. Let’s just say, there has been A LOT going on. I finished my Master’s Degree in Museum Professions (New Jersey), moved back to Iowa, took a job as the Executive Director of four different museums in Boone, IA, have done a ton of things, ANNNNNNNND got a puppy.  It has been a very busy year indeed.

I’d like to get back to this blogging thing and am going to make an attempt to make that happen at least once a week. I have many things I’ve been wanting to write about, but at the end of the day I usually find myself going back to work instead of sitting down doing something else I want. I won’t try to go back and make up for the last year, we’ve done that before… it’s intensive. Instead, I’m going to start over and will again be writing primarily on museum topics (sorry folks, it’s my life and it’s amazing), but also some personal things and other randomness.

Today, two things. First a brief review of the ridiculous amounts of things I’ve been doing. Second, the last year in ten pictures to get you up to speed. I just made that up by the way and haven’t even looked at my photos to see if that is possible. Challenge accepted.

My most recent goings-on have included the circus (yay!), a wedding in St. Louis, a lot of golf, some 5K runs, 5d movie theater, steak and pumpkin carving party, a yacht rock party, interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show, Covered Bridge Festival, Civil War Reenactment, Henry Doorly Zoo, Discover the Dinosaurs, Iowa Museum Association Conference in Sioux City, an apple orchard, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been having some fun. The last month has been heavily focused on going to the theatre with Marco.  Four musicals in four weeks. My reviews, in sort of brief:

Memphis: Excellent. The cast was great and the show was fun, not to mention the choreography.

Book of Mormon: Extremely funny, though the humor was just a LITTLE too crude for me at times.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County: Now this one I HAVE to talk about. It was bizarre. Anybody who knows me knows that I am/was a huge Stephen King fan. So to see a horror musical by he and John Mellencamp was extremely intriguing. Brief background, in 1967 brothers are fighting over a girl and one dies the other commits suicide with the girl. Come to present day and their nephews seem to be headed towards the same fate. Ghost Brothers is about their father trying to save them from what he saw happened to his older brothers.

I would actually call this a country tragedy.  Though the actors were talented, all having  interesting voices, the music itself was not what I expected. The reviews I read beforehand were right on target, this show was extremely disjointed and in no way “spooky”. I wanted so much more creep factor and just couldn’t seem to find it. In a couple of the numbers it began to eek out in accordion riffs and dark lyrics. No spoilers,but the worst part was at the end when momentum was building and you start to think you could actually start “feeling” the play, one of the three narrators (the bad conscience) makes several very poor timed jokes. Overall consensus, see it if you get comped tickets like we did.

Wicked: This Friday! I’ve already seen this show and loved it, I hope this cast is just as great.

Now for the part people like, pictures! Things I LOVED about the last year or so.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Learning how to snowboard and fracturing my tailbone. Can't wait to get out this winter.

Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves here.
Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves.
Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

The birth of lil' Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

The birth of lil’ Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

So, this is near where I work. Amazing!

This is near where I work. Amazing!

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.


Illuminating the Barnes – Friend or Faux?

I have now spent countless hours (thanks to Steve Miller,a mentor and dear friend’s e-mails and the clickable nature of the internet) reading reviews about the “new Barnes Foundation“. People seem to like it or they don’t. I am of the latter group. For a VERY brief review of the history of the Barnes you can read my last post. What makes the Barnes so unique are the seemingly (though they are not) random ensembles of master paintings, metal work, and furniture. Below is an example of one of Barnes’ ensembles, image from The Barnes Foundation Collection Gallery Guide I.

As I know not all of my readers are museum or legal professionals, I want to begin by explaining a little bit about the Indenture of Trust which Barnes created for his Foundation. The Indenture of Trust, along with the Bylaws, set forth the Foundation’s purposes, rules of governance, Board structure, etc. The Indenture included the following condition verbatim, “[a]ll paintings shall remain in exactly the places the are at the time of the death of Donor and his said wife.” (Information taken from the Fact Sheet I received at the May 10th press preview.) Pretty straight forward. BUT, just as Barnes had so much money he could buy many of the world’s most renowned paintings and hang them as he wished, the current Board and its funding corporations had enough money ($200,000,000) to ignore the Indenture and do as they wished for their own interests. Indenture denied.

First and foremost I find it ridiculous to let a group of corporations and private foundations pay for something that they did not fundamentally support in its original 12,000 sq. ft.  location, but if they can move it into Philadelphia and smatter their names all over it, sure they can spare a few million each. A mere 6 miles from its original home, the “Barnes in Philadelphia” touts the names of the Mellons, the Annenbergs, and corporate moguls such as PNC and Comcast. The building itself, a 93,000 sq. ft. bunker like block of hand-tooled Negev limestone, fitted on top with an as equally unappealing glass box, is home to the new faux Barnes. Several of the articles/reviews I read pointed out that what was once a structure dedicated to authenticity, where making copies of the art was strictly forbidden, a mere copy of the original exists; never to be the authentic historic Barnes again.

It’s hard to even know where to start, the new Barnes decimates almost everything the founder ever wanted for his carefully created collection.

Cut and dried, the issues with the new location:

  1. He wanted to keep his prized masterpieces out of Philadelphia and away from the likes of what Barnes referred to as “aesthetic whorehouses of art,” e.g. The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  2. He wanted to remain an educational center with an amazing art collection instead of an art museum with art courses.
  3. He wished to maintain the integrity of his collection by keeping it housed within the 1922 historical gem designed by Paul Cret.
  4. I highly doubt he would appreciate having one of the largest areas in the structure named after Annenberg, somebody who during his life he experienced an extreme distaste for.

    ‘The Light Court’ which bears the Annenberg name.

  5. Two classrooms have been inserted within the galleries for teaching. Barnes strongly believed the galleries were the classrooms and that all education should happen while surrounded by the artworks themselves.
  6. Matisse’s The Joy of Life has been removed from its location in the stairwell to a room in the floor plan that was originally used for Board meetings.

The Joy of Life, no longer in the stairwell.

Barnes created a masterpiece in his own right, separate from the stigma that is the white-walled, singularly hung art gallery of today.The Foundation’s 23 galleries provided a maze of aesthetic pleasure and study, a maze which is now dis-harmoniously interrupted by limestone and glass hallways with a view of the “garden in the gallery”. Other than this change in the gallery layout, most everything remains the same; the galleries are the same size, masterpieces and metal works hung the same. Minor changes have been made in the molding, window frames, windows and in the heights of the galleries to allow for clerestory lighting on the second floor.  So, all this trouble to exactly replicate the galleries and only gain a little bit of lighting? Why not enhance the original Barnes?

And, what is all of this about INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY? Gallery visitation is still being limited to 150 visitors at a time in the main galleries and there are only an additional 30 parking spaces provided. More so, the Barnes originated as an educational tool for “the common man”. What common man will be able to easily afford a date out with his family at $18 a head? For college students that’s at least three meals (or a WHOLE LOT of Ramen) they will be sacrificing for just one day’s entrance into the new Barnes.

Now I can’t  blame Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for my not having a taste for modern architecture. A more in depth slideshow of the building is available at Philly.com. I also do not understand the randomness that is the “Barnes Totem” by Ellsworth Kelly at the entrance to the property. It appears to be a 40 ft. high stainless steel lightning rod shooting up from the ground and in no way visibly pays homage to the man who made the place possible. What ever happened to a good bronze likeness? However, during the press preview I fortunately had the opportunity of meeting, speaking, and touring with the architects, including landscape designer OLIN, around the building.  Though I don’t agree with the project, and don’t particularly enjoy the architecture, I appreciated many of the things they had to say about working on the project.

The exterior of the Barnes and the ‘Barnes Totem’.

Me and architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams

Interesting notes from the architects:

  1. They do not consider themselves to be ‘starchitects’, the architects who do whatever they wish with a building so that it screams their name. They felt they were there simply to interpret the Barnes and the visions of the Board.
  2. A common question asked by many is the obvious why didn’t they expand the galleries, make them bigger and brighter? Williams explained with an interesting analogy, that if a face gets fatter, the features (e.g. eyes, mouth, lips, etc) do not also grow but stay the same size. So you end up with a tiny little face within a big fat head.  Even if the gallery were to be expanded the artworks do not grow, and in order to be hung similarly you would end up with too much random open space.
  3. The architects REALLY enjoy being able to do everything with extreme exactitude, just like Barnes… So much that they even talked the Barnes into taking them over to Jerusalem to pick out the limestone for the building. I wonder why they didn’t choose the Indiana limestone? Regardless, it is beautiful and is presented in three distinct, hand-tooled patterns of varying colors, including a cuneiform pattern which resembles writing.

    Hand-tooled cuneiform Negev limestone.

  4. In addition to the aforementioned point, the architects were able to emphasize one level of quality; the bathrooms are the same as the galleries. Indeed, at least for the women each stall is actually like its own little suite with an individual sink and mirror. I daresay that if they would have built standard, yet elegant restrooms, they could have almost endowed a fellow small museum.
  5. I asked what the architects felt their biggest challenge was in completing the project. Due to the controversial nature of the project, Billie Tsien answered that she was entirely unaware of how many extremely vituperative people there are in the world who lashed out at them for having taken the project. Tsien mentioned, however, that the organization (the Board of the Barnes) protected them as best they could.

Though I in no way support the move of the Barnes, I greatly enjoyed my trip and the opportunity to attend the press preview, compliments of one Steven Miller. Look for his upcoming article in Museum Magazine, published by AAM.  Though we agree to disagree about the Barnes, I’m sure you’ll find his article witty and optimistic about the future of the Barnes.  He much less grouchy than I. Side note: I send a BIG thank you his way for his continued efforts in stowing me away to events I would otherwise be unable to attend, for his witicisms, and his continuing support.

Enjoying the Barnes Foundation.

In conclusion, I feel we have lost an important piece of American history. Philadelphians. and citizens of Merion, should be disappointed in themselves as they, especially, have allowed an important story in their ancestry to be permanently deleted; the story of industry and the uprising of art appreciation in Philly, now encased within a limestone and glass box mausoleum.


The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

I wrote the following blog post more than a year ago. There is no good reason why I never posted it, but now there is an excellent purpose for me to post it.  The following post is one I wrote in January 2011, following a visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the press preview of the NEW Barnes Foundation, relocated and entirely refurbished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. More on Thursday’s experience in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share my original and unaltered post to provide a comparison for my thoughts on yesterday’s visit.

Today a friend and I took a couple hour drive to Merion, PA to visit the Barnes Foundation. For those of you outside the field, built and designed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation houses an amazing collection of paintings and decor.  The travesty is that the board has decided to completely uproot the principles and setting of this art and move it into a modern building in Philly. After discussing the case in several of my classes, with multiple professors, I am still gravely against the move for several reasons.

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The BF case is littered with ethical and legal issues.  A history of corruption, selfishness and politicking are amongst the many reasons why the Barnes is failing today.  Perhaps it was partially poor foresight on the part of the creator, but the majority of the destruction was committed by its very own board members.  At the time of Barnes’ death in 1951, though much had already happened, the battle of the Barnes had just begun. The current board of trustees now has hopes of wiping out the indenture all together, removing all wishes Barnes originally had for his carefully built collection.

This wonderful historic site is being wrenched from its home in Lower Merion Township and moved into the city Barnes so greatly insisted on staying out of, in order to “save” the organization.  Billions of dollars have been given by Foundations and companies to move the Barnes, companies who are not willing to give in order to save the Barnes in its current location.  A new building, unlike the collection’s original home in Merion, will house the collection along with several additional features.

These things aside, the BF contains an astounding collection conservatively valued at over $6 billion and boasts more than 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus and 14 Modiglianis. Each room was designed and arranged in a very specific manner by Barnes. Metal works including keys, hinges, clasps etc. adorn the walls amongst the paintings and drawings. Intended as an educational tool, students are meant to be taught within the galleries about appreciating art and understanding aesthetics and design.

A big disappointment of the day was that they had the second floor galleries closed to the public, unbeknownst to us before arriving. Secondly, the staff at the Barnes seem to go out of their way to make the place unwelcoming. I wonder if in a new location staff will be taught to smile.

What wasn’t at all disappointing on Mallary and my’s trip to Philly? An authentic cheesesteak covered in cheez whiz at Geno’s!

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Orange Groves and Beautiful Views

Sunday was my sort of day in Rome, the weather was amazing and we visited incredibly interesting places…I’m going to leave out the fact that I did get pooped on by a bird while standing in a lovely orange grove atop a hill.

View from Rose Gardens, Aventine Hill

We began our day in one of the most depressing ways possible at the Museo Storico della Liberzione di Roma or the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome.   During the Nazi occupation of Rome, approximately September 1943 through June 1944,this building was used as a detention prison by the Command of the Security Police.  A couple of the cells remain as was within the museum, with names and painful inscriptions carved into the walls of the cells by those detained there without light and little ventilation.  Several of the prisoners that were held here by the Nazis eventually met their demise during the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, when ten Roman or Jewish prisoners were chosen to die in order to compensate for each single German that had been killed, totaling 335 people.  Though we did have limited packets of information in English, all of the exhibitions were in Italian, making it difficult to read the entire story.

Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Next on to the Centrale Montemartini. I found this Museum to be absolutely fascinating because of the history of the institution itself.  The Museum is housed in what used to be the first public thermoelectric center in Rome (electricity plant).   Much of the hulking equipment and industrial machinery are still present in the building, which for a time had merely become offsite storage for the Capitoline Museums antiquity overflow.

In 1997 a structured exhibition was created in order to maintain accessibility by the public to these works of art, it was called “The Machines and the Gods”, which placed side by side classical art and industrial machinery.  I feel this is truly one excellent example of adaptive reuse and a perfect dichotomy of new existing with old. I especially enjoyed the use of soothing blues and greens for wall/accent colors as it helped to make peace of the transition between the harsh gray machines and the smooth tans and whites of many of the artifacts.

As far as our structured portion of the day, it was fairly short.  So far the rest of the afternoon Luciana and I headed out to Aventine Hill (another of the Roman hills) and it was absolutely lovely.  It was a peaceful afternoon of walking, sitting in the orange and lemon groves, looking at beautiful churches with more beautiful views, rose gardens and the absolute BEST view of all of Rome (or so I think).

Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, gorgeous!

On Aventine Hill there is a keyhole in a door to a garden.  If one looks through the keyhole you see down a shrub lined path with a sunlit opening at the very end.  Through this opening at the end you see a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s.  Now I thought this might be a little hokey but after seeing it I think I would definitely put it on the list of things one must do in Rome.  It is unfortunately hard to take a picture of this glorious view, especially with my brick of a camera so I’ll have to cite somebody else here.  Alas, another wonderful day in Rome.

What my camera saw at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.

What I ACTUALLY saw through the keyhole! Photo from http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Villa_Malta