Author Archives: Alexanne Brown

About Alexanne Brown

I'm a Project Archivist exploring the BMA’s archival collections on a grant from the National Historic Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC).

Summer in the BMA gardens

June 21 marks the first official day of summer, and a good time to explore the BMA’s Sculpture Gardens. Here in the Archives, the Photograph Collection holds images of many outdoor BMA events, from groundbreaking ceremonies for the Museum’s John Russell Pope building to children’s tours to the 1998 Caribbean Festival complete with steel drum band.

Maybe it’s the sunshine and trees, but as I’ve archived photos of these events I’ve noticed that people seem a little more at ease, and a little more willing to participate in activities than they might be in a traditional gallery setting. These two East Garden events from the early 1970s embody the spirit of the time:

Summerlight, an “environmental form” from the artist Robert Harding. May 23, 1970.

Summerlight, an “environmental form” from the artist Robert Harding. May 23, 1970.

Young participant in an outdoor sculpture event. August 12, 1972.

Young participant in an outdoor sculpture event. August 12, 1972.

Meanwhile, Janet and Alan Wurtzburger, at that time already major BMA donors of African and Pacific Islands art, were amassing a collection of sculpture at their Baltimore County estate, Timberlane. This collection was realized in the Wurtzburger Sculpture Garden, which opened thirty-five years ago this month.

Guests interact with the sculptures at the Wurtzburger Sculpture Garden dedication. June 7, 1980.

Guests interact with the sculptures at the Wurtzburger Sculpture Garden dedication. June 7, 1980.

Eight years later, in June of 1988, the Ryda and Robert H. Levi Sculpture Garden opened to the public. The garden showcases works from the second half of the 20th century, and as BMA Senior Registrar Melanie Harwood has blogged, the installation of large-scale sculptures has often provided quite the challenge for BMA staff. Thankfully, the rest of us are free to simply enjoy the gardens, whether on a reflective solo stroll or during one of the BMA’s many festive events, such as the Jazz in the Sculpture Garden summer concerts, which have been held since the 1980s.

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden audience, June 30, 1994.

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden audience, June 30, 1994.

BMA Photographs Collections are being processed through generous support from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC). The BMA Sculpture Gardens are free to the public and open Wednesday-Friday 10am to dusk, and Saturday-Sunday 11am to dusk.

A closer look at the BMA Archives

Through a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the BMA Archive is working to provide greater access to some of its most heavily-used collections. As part of my work as the Project Archivist on this grant, I’m processing the Archives’ Photographs Collection: more than 150 boxes (43 linear feet, in archivist-speak) of photographic material documenting exhibitions, events, people, and the BMA grounds from 1923 to the present. The collection provides a rich visual overview of the BMA’s history—and the people and works of art that have shaped the institution.

The BMA’s Archives holds some particular gems, but as with many archival collections, more value can be found in the sum of its parts.

Model of the Waterman house parlor of Warren, Rhode Island, circa 1820, American Rooms in Miniature by Mrs. James Ward Thorne exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1943. Exhibitions Photograph Collection, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art.

For example, look at this photograph. At first glance it appears to be a 19th century parlor, or maybe collection of furniture in one of the BMA’s period rooms.

AIC_00044752-02

Model of the West Parlor, Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1743-1799, American Rooms in Miniature by Mrs. James Ward Thorne exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1943. Image courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago (Image No. 00044752-02)

But looking through other photographs from this exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that something else is going on here. These images show the intricately decorated interiors of American Rooms in Miniature by Mrs. James Ward Thorne shown at the BMA in 1943.

Other photos demonstrate changes in the BMA’s history over time. The Photographs Collection includes images from many of the Maryland Annual Artist exhibitions throughout the 20th century. Even just a quick glance at the images of the exhibition judges provides an interesting look into the changing tastes and interests of the art world.

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, judges for the Fifteen Annual Maryland Artists exhibition, 1947

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, Judges for the Fifteenth Annual Maryland Artists Exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1947. Exhibitions Photograph Collection, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, Richard Tuttle, jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, 1970

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, and Richard Tuttle, Jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1970. Exhibitions Photograph Collection, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Finding aids for the Photograph Collection, along with the other collections whose processing is generously supported by the NHPRC, are currently being completed. Digital collections and other finding aids can be found on the BMA Archives site.