Monthly Archives: February 2013

Artist Spotlight: Vivian Maier

Have you heard her story? It’s a good one.

In March 2011 I was thrilled to attend the exhibit “Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer” at the Chicago Cultural Center. Centered on the life and works of the mid-20th century nanny/photographer extraordinaire, the exhibit was the result of a 2008 discovery via a storage unit auction of Maier’s life work (suddenly Storage Wars seems a bit more credible). Not only is the discovery of her work amazing – so is the quality of her work.

As an amateur photographer, street photography has always fascinated me.There’s something especially entrancing about Maier’s work. Her camera captures both light and shadows, and her subjects’ expressions span the range of emotion from anger to apathy.

Is there a particular artist or medium that inspires you?

Here are just a couple of Maier’s works to wet your appetite (All photos by Vivian Maier). For more photographs by Maier, check out this blog.



Hooked on her story?

Check out this trailer of a new documentary about her life and work:

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Visitors Count!

DIANE: It’s so refreshing to go to a museum with someone who doesn’t slide across the marble floors in their stocking feet.
SAM: Hey, those paintings look a lot better if you go by fast.

(Cheers, Season 3, Episode 9, “An American Family.”)

A museum visit – as highlighted through this Cheers quotation – can differ dramatically depending on the visitor. In an effort to better understand what makes (or breaks) a museum experience, visitor studies help institutions and organizations better meet the needs of current and future museum audiences.

As an intern, I am excited to be on board while our institution works with the American Association for State and Local History in the new Visitors Count! program. This program partners AASLH with the Center for Nonprofit Management of Nashville, and facilitates surveys, analysis, and benchmark results against other organizations in the field. As part of the Education Section, so far I have assisted with survey question feedback. I look forward to learning more about the program and about audience research in general as our work continues.

What really impresses you as a museum guest – or professional – when you visit other institutions? As a museum visitor, is there one thing you would change about your average museum experience? More gallery seating? A free coat check? All ideas welcome!

Read more about Visitors Count!

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Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

Indiana Jones AND Steve Martin assist with studying for oral exams.
I’m in good company.

Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions (1993)
Kathleen McLean

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Connecting with Collections

As an Education intern, one of my goals has been to connect audiences with museum collections. There are many ways museums engage the public with collections – exhibits, public programs, events, tours, online collections, etc. One way I have increased the accessibility of collections is to highlight art and artifacts at a monthly family program I plan and implement, Super Saturdays.

For February’s event “Mosaics, Murals, & More: African American Artists,” I featured work done by African Americans and highlighted the different mediums artists utilize. One of the artists featured was Mr. Imagination (Gregory Warmack), the late Chicago-based artist who used a variety of material and found objects in his works (part of the “& More” aspect of the program!). One medium Mr. Imagination used was sandstone, so I placed three examples of his sandstone sculptures on display. To connect with the pieces, children and families could create sculptures with Crayola’s Model Magic – an awesome play-doh like substance which hardens after a few hours.

In honor of Valentines Day, check out this neat Eiffel Tower a family created together:


Eiffel Tower, artist unknown.
Medium: Model Magic
February 9, 2013

Below is the case featuring some of Mr. Imagination’s sandstone sculptures. Throughout the day, I pointed out the pieces to emphasize the connection. I saw many families designing Model Magic works based on Mr. Imagination’s pieces – which was great!


Untitled, Mr. Imagination.
Medium: Sandstone
c. 1990s






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And the Oscar goes to…

Hollywoodland sign, c. 1920s. Photo in public domain.

With the Academy Awards fast approaching (Sunday, February 24), I was recently reminded of the ongoing planning and development for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Scheduled to open in 2016, work on the LA Museum has been in the news on and off the past couple of years.

As a student of history, film, and museums – I’m keeping a close watch on this museum! As many museums have to close their doors due to the climate of the field, it is interesting to watch the growth and development of other institutions.

Are there are any museums or cultural centers in the planning or development stage that you’re watching closely?

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