A Note from Retiring Curator Timothy Riggs

Posted on

Curator talks to museum visitors in front of drawings hanging on a blue wall

Editor’s note: In August 2014, Timothy Riggs will retire from the Ackland Art Museum after 30 years of dedicated service. On July 19th, friends of the Ackland gathered at the Carolina Inn for the Museum’s Annual Spring Luncheon, at which Timothy was the honored speaker. The following is a thank-you note that Timothy sent to guests who attended the luncheon. For photos of the 2014 Ackland Luncheon honoring Timothy Riggs’ retirement, click here.

Dear Friends,

Just about a month ago when we gathered for the Ackland Spring Luncheon at the Carolina Inn, I looked out across that room filled with friends, family, and colleagues, and realized again just how many people across this community care for the Ackland Art Museum and what it does.

I want to repeat here the words of Joseph Conrad that closed my talk that day:

“For life to be large and full, it must contain the care of the past and of the future in every passing moment of the present. Our daily work must be done to the glory of the dead, and for the good of those who come after.”

Museums are places where the care of the past for the future is especially direct. We cannot hear Lincoln give the Gettysburg address, but we can look at a wood engraving by Winslow Homer that a member of Lincoln’s audience could have held in his hands and looked at just as we do. And I hope that our grandchildren will have the same opportunity.

In the past thirty years I have seen the Museum’s gallery space double, and I have seen the collection grow to the point where we could fill double our present space with outstanding works of art. I have seen a website and a digitization project make images of thousands of works from the collection available to millions of people. I have seen our Education department grow from one half-time public-relations-and-education person to five staff members and two graduate interns, and I have seen its programs grow far more than I can say.

In the coming weeks, I hope that you will visit us at the Ackland. Introduce a friend to your favorite piece, or challenge yourself to look deeply at a work you have not spent much time with. When I make myself stop in front of a familiar painting in the gallery, I’m almost always surprised in a minute or two by a detail that I’ve either forgotten or never noticed before. In Nicolas Lancret’s Dance in a Garden, two or three tiny dots of white make a wineglass sparkle—and you could cover the whole glass with a dime. The Ackland is a place for discovery, no matter how many times you have been here.

Or take time to glance at the last line of the label. Often you will see the name Ackland or Whitaker: the two men whose endowments have funded many of the Museum’s acquisitions. But increasingly you will see other names, of men and women whose gifts have enriched the collection. And then think of the names you don’t see: the curator or director who brought a work to the Museum or researched it, the conservator who cleaned or repaired it, the preparators who saw that it was properly framed. And the members, whose donations help keep the doors open so that you can be there to look at it.

I am grateful for your support of the Museum. It is because of art lovers like you that the Ackland will continue to grow and thrive as it moves into the future.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Riggs
Ackland Curator of Collections