Category Archives: Illinois

Artist Spotlight: Edward Gorey

Best known as an illustrator of vaguely Victorian and morose themed works, Edward Gorey was born in Chicago, 1925. I grew up fairly familiar with the artist – several of his books were on our family’s bookshelves, and my parents were (and are) faithful fans of the PBS program Mystery! Occasionally on Sunday nights I would hear the wailing of an animated woman atop an ink and paper building (see video at 25 seconds), a fine sound to close the weekend.

Gorey crafted the animation for the PBS Mystery! series introduction in 1980, and the work highlights much of what today is considered signature Gorey. The macabre and almost haunted humor of the artist pairs well with the spirit of the program. During his career Gorey’s style was often termed “goth” and his works warmly embraced by the Goth subculture. In reaction to his work being titled “goth,” the artist told The New Yorker in 1992, “If you’re doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there’d be no point. I’m trying to think if there’s sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children – oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that’s true, there really isn’t. And there’s probably no happy nonsense, either.”

Gorey's grim alphabet - as featured in his work "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" (1963).

Gorey’s grim alphabet – as featured in his work “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” (1963).

The artist’s formal training in his craft was limited – he spent only a semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1940s. Later, Gorey would leave Illinois behind him and spend time in New York City, where he worked with Doubleday Anchor as an illustrotor for book covers. The artist became well-known for his own works and artistic style when the Gotham Book Mart featured some of his pieces. In addition to lending his talent to books and his own works, Gorey was also responsible for the decor and costumes behind the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula. The artist was awarded a Tony for his work on costume design. Later in life Gorey purchased a 200 year-old home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he continued to illustrate, but also dived into the realm of puppetry.

Edward Gorey - Artist & Puppeteer. Image: Edward Gorey House

Edward Gorey – Artist & Puppeteer. Image: Edward Gorey House

Gorey died in 2000 at the age of 75. Today, that centuries old home in Cape Cod hosts an Edward Gorey museum, The Edward Gorey House. Open seasonally, the website promises an educational and enlightening look into a masterful, fun, and interesting artist. For those interested in Gorey’s work and not close to Cape Cod, the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago is currently presenting “The Art of Edward Gorey,” an exhibition up through June 15. Promising to be full of prints, letters, and unique emphemera, the exhibition looks very interesting. When we make our Illinois tour at the close of May, we’ll have to see if we can squeeze this exhibition into our schedule.

Chicagoans, have you seen this exhibition yet? I’d love to hear what Chicago EMPs think – or if any of the Windy City EMPs had the opportunity to contribute on this neat project.

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Professional – and Personal – Development

Yesterday I was able to sneak out of the office (during my lunch break, it wasn’t that scandalous) and attend “Legacies & Lunch” a brown bag lecture series supported by the Arkansas Humanities Council. Hosted at the brand new Ron Robinson Theatre in the River Market District, the theatre was a mere hop, skip, and a jump away. The subject of the lecture was in keeping with Arkansas Archeology Month (this month!), and presented by the State Archeologist, Dr. Ann M. Early. With a presentation titled “Big News from Old Stuff” I was hooked even before I sat down. In a quick hour, Dr. Early explored the provenance of several collections within the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) archeology museum collections – including some with ties to the museum. By focusing on a few key collections, Dr. Early helped tell the story of collections as a whole, as well as highlight significant historic archeology events in the state. Many of the local connections and archeology sites were new to me, and there were a few times when a physical map of Arkansas was presented as evidence where I was a bit confused (which river is that again?). Thank goodness Little Rock is located in the dead center of the state!

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Attending the lecture was very fulfilling. Recently I have been feeling…a bit cut off from academia. Despite visiting several sites of informal learning in our new home, and taking advantage of the documentary selection available on Netflix, I have been missing the scholastic atmosphere of a classroom. You may recall I blogged about brown bag lectures last year around this time, when I was invited to present my own brown bag with the Illinois State Museum. I also miss the element of working with a research museum as well, I think. There is something engaging and invigorating about attending all-staff meetings and hearing about the latest publications from peers! Thankfully, there are several volunteer opportunities I am currently exploring in the area to keep myself professionally active and personally satisfied. I am also hopeful to take a stronger role in my alumni organization as a potential board member, and attend at least a couple of national conferences this year, in addition to other regional and local opportunities. Work is also very busy, with some new programs and events debuting as we brace for Spring Rush with oh so many field trips – never a dull moment. Should be a busy time!

What do you do – in or outside your workplace, to stay professionally active and satisfied? Is there even time? Some days there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day or energy left!

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Favorite Childhood Museum Memory?

In keeping with the rebranded title of this blog, I thought I’d pose a question. What’s your favorite childhood museum memory?

Sometimes this moment acts as the catalyst which may drive folks into the field. For others, a favorite childhood museum memory is merely the first of countless, as they enjoy sites of heritage, art, and science throughout their lives as visitors and/or volunteers.

One of my favorite childhood museum memories is visiting the Swedish American Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Located mere feet from where some of my family were born and bred, the museum is located in the heart of a very Swedish neighborhood, Andersonville. I remember visiting this museum with my sister, mom, and grandma, and taking in the bright blues and yellows of the walls, exhibits, and museum store while fervently inhaling the smells of the Swedish bakery across the street. While short on actual content, the welcoming and warm impression that I got from the museum has stayed with me through today.

The Swedish American Museum is located in the heart of Andersonville, a Swedish neighborhood on North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois.

The Swedish American Museum is located in the heart of Andersonville, a Swedish neighborhood on North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois.

As museums work to create engaging and educational exhibitions, diverse programs, and special events, an important concept which event planners, programmers, administrators, etc.  keep in mind is the “tone” of the event. Visitors don’t need to come to the museum. Museums can’t force visitors through their doors (as much as some may want to…). For the most part, museums aim to create welcoming atmospheres of informal learning, where visitors are invited to explore, discover, and form a relationship with the museum. Whether the resulting relationship is a one-time visit, a yearlong membership, or a lifetime of dedication to the museum’s mission, the initial and lasting impressions that visitors get when visiting an institution may often stay with them, long after the content and facts may fade.

Side note:  I’ve since been back to the Swedish American Museum several times –  it’s fantastic. I can’t wait to return again. Perhaps in May this year, when we briefly return to tour the great state of Illinois…

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Raising the Bar

Happy 2014!

As I look forward to the New Year and all its rich and exciting possibilities, I wanted to take a moment to recognize some major personal professional milestones that 2013 saw and outline some goals for the future. During the last year I….

  • Completed a competitive, yearlong internship

  • Successfully completed and defended my graduate exams 
  • Walked across the graduation stage and earned my Masters Degree

  •  Accepted a position – in a new state 

  •  Moved to said state and passed a probationary period of employment

  • Discovered a charming historic neighborhood we call “home,” for now  

While I continue to grow in my new position, and we continue to explore this new geographical region, I am going to make an effort to be more mindful of blogging and attempt a greater frequency of posts. Easier said than done, correct?

Another goal I am keen to pursue is to volunteer more. While living in Springfield I enjoyed volunteering with the arts association and public library, but now that I’m in a new town – it is time to expand my horizons. While I enjoy volunteering in my field – I consider this a great way to give back to a community AND grow, I am eager to volunteer in fields unrelated to my own.

One organization that I grew to really appreciate and respect last year is Optimist International. A volunteer with the ISM was highly involved with the Optimists, and I was able to present on behalf of the museum to this organization in July 2013. The mission of Optimist International is “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids.” For more information, check out their website. While attending the organization’s meeting in July, I was struck by the positive attitude of its members and their dedication.  I look forward to exploring local branches of this organization, and seeking out similar volunteer opportunities. 

In addition to blogging and volunteering, I am also eager to travel. Through work I’ve been able to explore some of the immediate region through educational outreach. Beyond this though, I am eager for day-trips full of photography, winding roads, towns big and small, and seeing what exactly is unique to the so-called “Mid-South.” A few posts ago I made a list of cultural and historic sites of interest. I look forward to adding to this list.  

So, reader. What sort of organizations do you volunteer with? Any recommendations? Also – any adventurous tips for this Yankee? I look forward to pushing myself personally and professionally during this next year – to explore this new position and all the regional possibilities this area may offer.  

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Presenting…YOU!

I recently attended the Central Illinois Volunteerism Conference (CIVC) held in Springfield, Illinois. This was a great opportunity to learn about volunteer recruitment and organization, as well as network with many area professionals. As a volunteer at this conference, I also had the opportunity to assist “behind the scenes.” This entailed attending conference calls, creating some social media materials, and assisting the day of the event with attendee registration, set up, and speaker orientation.The event went smoothly, and I’m very excited I was able to attend and help!

Before and after this conference, I was inspired to pursue “conference etiquette.” I was curious about what the professional standards were on such things as networking etiquette and, quite simply, what to wear.  I quickly discovered a blog post by the Emerging Museum Professionals (EMPs) discussing this exact topic, and it confirmed many of my thoughts. For the most part, much of an attendance at such a professional gathering suggests common sense – i.e., wear comfortable shoes, be prepared to take notes, plan ahead. Conferences are a great chance to hear presentations and panels, attend diverse workshops, meet other professionals in the field…but it is also an opportunity to present yourself in the field.

Do you have any conference tips? If so, please share! (You’ll be pleased to know I had no planning or wardrobe issues while aiding the CIVC.)

For further details and tips, check out the original EMP post!

 

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Visitors Count – Continued

Summer marks a strong tourist season here in Springfield. As the state capitol we get many individuals and families from across the state, country, and even international visitors enjoying the season. It’s a great time to meet so many visitors interested in learning more about Illinois’ natural and cultural history. This month and next, I’m continuing my work with our Education Section with Visitors Count (see more in an earlier post here).

This is a great program which will allow us to grow from our visitors’ insight through surveys. Another way we learn from our visitors is through paper and electronic guestbooks in our lobby, through comments shared with staff and volunteers, and finally through keeping track of reviews on websites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. At the end of their visit, we encourage visitors to share their experiences online so that other visitors will learn about the ISM.

When I travel, I consult websites such as Trip Advisor to help plan my trip. I recently made my very first review on a website, and their web staff mailed me a luggage tags as a special thanks! What other sites do you and your family explore? Do you share your experiences? Why or why not?

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Partnering with a Campus Museum

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the exhibit “Experiences of the Illinois Civil War Soldier: Reflections through Art and Artifact” hosted at the Tarble Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University.

Current students in the Historical Administration program partnered with the Tarble Arts Center (an AAM accredited institution) to share the stories of Civil War soldiers from Illinois, with a focus on art and artifacts. It was a fascinating, focused look on a popular topic as we continue to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War – the students did a great job!

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Explore an exciting new exhibit at the Tarble Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University.
Photo credit: HA Class 2012-2013.

To see the exhibit up close, explore the exhibit’s TumblrFacebook, and Twitter. Students created these social media pages through class assignments in Museum Digital Apps I & II. The sites outline the exhibit from a “big idea” to hammer and nail construction, and each site grants a unique behind the scenes look at the arch of the project. 

My graduate class also collaborated with the Tarble Arts Center, working with their permanent art collection and archives. One of our projects was to research and craft a disaster plan for the collection. It was a wonderful opportunity to apply material learned in the classroom (best practices, theory, etc) directly with a partnering institution on campus.

Campus museums play a great role in the development of not only budding museum professionals, but also students and staff affiliated with the arts, humanities, sciences, and all sorts things in the realm of informal learning.  The role of campus museums was recently discussed in the American Alliance of Museums LinkedIn group.

Did your college or university have a museum or two? What type? How did you connect with it as a student or visitor?

 

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Snapshots of a Symposium

Below is just a glance at the 36th Annual Historical Administration Program Association Symposium which was held this weekend at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL. It was a wonderful chance to stay current in the field, learn new resources and study trends, connect with classmates and meet alumni! More on this conference later, but here’s a look to wet your appetite. . . 

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There were multiple conferences being held this weekend, so signs across campus helped direct out of town visitors. 

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Half of the 36th Annual Historical Administration Program Association Symposium was held at the MLK Jr. Union at Eastern Illinois University. Flowers AND trees were in bloom – no snow!

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Symposium Swag! One of the included goodies at the symposium was a mini tape measure sporting this year’s logo, “Keep Calm and get the Disaster Plan.”

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The Symposium featured a variety of speakers and mini workshops, including a session held at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. The day was very insightful and a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with HA alumni and meet new and returning students.

 

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Illinois Museum Day

Happy Illinois Museum Day!

The Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) and Museums In the Park joined forces today at the Illinois State Museum for Illinois Museum Day. Museums and other cultural institutions organized today at the Museum and met with state and local lawmakers to advocate museums and the arts!

This was my first year attending Museum Day, and it was a great opportunity to network with individuals passionate about the museum field. The morning consisted of a breakfast social with legislators. This was a wonderful chance to meet and greet several visitors to the ISM from near and far across the state. This breakfast session was followed by an overview of advocacy goals, the state of museums in Illinois, and the role museums play culturally and economically on the local, state, and national level. After the morning session, attendees were invited to visit the Capitol Building and meet with their legislators.

Do you have a favorite Illinois museum? Which one?

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Illinois Museum Day
April 11, 2013
Illinois State Museum

 

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Connecting with Collections

This week I’ve been working with our wonderful curators to incorporate animal specimens from the Museum’s research collection in an upcoming program. The program will focus on endangered wildlife from Illinois. The event’s objective is not only to educate visitors about the range of plants and animals in danger, but also highlight what people can do to help. Museum visitors will also get a chance to see collections rarely on display! 

A range of animal specimens will be on display, including snakes, turtles, and birds from the area. Some of the specimens will be real, preserved examples of the species while others will be realistic models.

Here is a sneak preview of what will be featured at the program: 

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Several examples of snake models.
Included is Kirtland’s Snake – can you spot it?

Because of the condition of the models and the specimens, visitors will not be able to touch the examples, but will have the opportunity to closely observe the examples during a drawing activity. The event will feature other hands-on crafts and activities.

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