Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 31 July 2015.
Because of our commitment to engage the Ackland’s permanent collection, I cannot resist mentioning the excitement around our current exhibition highlighting and rethinking our holdings of painting and sculpture since 1960.
“It changed the way I think,” said one visitor from the Galloway Ridge retirement community in Pittsboro.
“Amazing selection of wonderful works. The Sean Scully painting is sublime – just one of many surprises!! Many unknown names, at least to me, producing fascinating work!! I’ll be bringing friends many times!!” wrote a former museum director from the area.
My thanks to all of you for talking about the Ackland! Because of you Testing Testing is rapidly becoming the exhibition to see and comment on!
But my main focus today is on a very different, but no less important part of the collection: Art of the Ancient Mediterranean. I am thrilled to announce the publication of a full scholarly catalogue of 227 works of art from many parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, including works from Egypt and the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Iran, Cyprus, Greece and Italy and ranging in date from around 5000 BCE to 1100 CE. An appendix documents the recent gift of an additional 211 ancient coins. Beautifully illustrated with gorgeous new color photography, this catalogue showcases a significant and valuable collection as never before. Our author is Professor Mary C. Sturgeon, just retired from a most distinguished career as Professor of Classical Art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has triumphantly brought to a conclusion a project that began well over a decade ago in seminars with graduate students researching these Ackland objects. The publication, with 344 pages and 727 color plates, is now available at the Ackland Museum Store ($80 for members, non-members $100). Continue reading →
This essay by Peter Nisbet was originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 16 March 2015.
Today’s word is refreshment.
Over the past several months, I have been thinking especially about a project that might be called “Ackland Refreshed”: imagining and implementing ways to make the art on display look even better and our museum visitors feel even better. After rearranging and reinstalling the collection, as well as switching to LED lighting (enhancing the visibility of our art, all the while saving money and energy), we have just finished repainting our galleries, adding carefully-chosen, art-enhancing colors to the walls. I have had many visitors tell me that the galleries have never looked so welcoming and elegant, and I invite you to experience these refreshed spaces for yourselves. Continue reading →
Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 23 December 2014, this is the fifth and final in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.
Dear Ackland Members,
I write this just as the days are beginning to get longer again and the New Year is in sight — a good moment to think about survival and persistence, the theme of this last reflection on how to think about the success of art museums. The other installments on this topic are now all available on this blog.
Survival can, in itself, be a measure of success for an art museum, for two reasons. Continue reading →
Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 11 December 2014, this is the fourth in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.
By the numbers… As promised in the last Member E-News, this installment of my communications about measuring museum success focuses on statistics. I’ve selected a range of metrics, each with its own strong signal about how well the Ackland is doing. I’ve abstained from any commentary (every statistic can be qualified and questioned in some way!), preferring to let these figures send a straightforward, cumulative message.
At the moment, of course, we at the Ackland are especially aware of statistics about our Annual Fund and Membership renewal, and I want to take the opportunity to warmly thank those who have already made commitments and to urge generosity for those still considering! If you have not yet made your end-of-year gift, please do so now. Your support is essential in underpinning all of our successes.
Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 25 November 2014—the Thanksgiving edition—this is the third in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.
In my considerations of how art museums should measure success, it is surely time to think about directly statistical criteria. But I don’t want to distract from the joys of Thanksgiving with extensive reflections on this, so let me just give you an appetizer of the kind of impressive numbers I’ll address in the next Member E-News in two weeks:
The Ackland is currently on track to see a 10% increase this academic year in the number of students and faculty incorporating visits to the Museum into their coursework, compared with last year’s record of 11,121—which itself was a 10% increase over the year before.
Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 13 November 2014, this is the second in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.
As I sit down to write the second of these musings about museum success, I find myself in Manhattan preparing to visit an exhibition of portraits by Egon Schiele, to which the Ackland has lent its splendid drawing of a woman (right). Indeed, at the moment, Ackland works are in special exhibitions in Essen, Germany; Los Angeles; Princeton, New Jersey; Jackson, Mississippi; and elsewhere. On my desk in Chapel Hill is a letter from the Metropolitan Museum of Art asking to borrow what is perhaps our greatest painting: Valentin de Boulogne’s St. John the Evangelist (below), and I anticipate soon receiving a request to send our Cleopatra and the Peasant by Eugene Delacroix to Minneapolis and London.
Each of these loans is, of course, unique in its circumstances. Each is evaluated on its own merits. But in the aggregate, can we not see the level of loan activity as a rough measure of success? It reflects the extent to which the Ackland has built a collection that can resonate with the current interests of art publics in many different contexts. We preserve art for posterity, but we also want our collection to engage with contemporary concerns in as many ways as possible. Statistics on loan traffic can signal the current relevance of the collection (as can the number of times in any one Continue reading →
Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 3 November 2014, this is the first in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.
Those who work in and around art museums often turn their minds to the thorny question: how do we measure our success? It is a challenging and stimulating question which can lead off into unexpected avenues. I thought I’d share with you some of my own brief ruminations on this question. I do hope that I hear from you with your comments and ideas on this. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org — I hope to report on interesting ideas. Collectively, we may come up with some good answers!
Let me begin with a simple anecdote. The very first exhibition of my professional career was a show of drawings by the radical and experimental German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), an artist I deeply admire. The details of the show aren’t relevant here; I want to focus on a dinner party conversation shortly afterwards. I found myself seated next to a sculptor, who, without knowing who I was, spoke movingly and at length about how this exhibition had Continue reading →