Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sleuthing in Storage—A Game of Strategy

Above: The Scrimmage, Ida von Schulzenheim

With the passage of time, changes at the Worcester Art Museum are no more evident than with the turn-over of staff, new generations of museum patrons and new methods of engaging public audiences. But below ground, in the bowels of the building, there are some things that have not changed, in some cases not for more than a century. Specifically, unaccessioned art works, old loans and abandoned property, are still in the same storage vault where they were deposited many decades ago. Time has stood still for these works because their status, as property not owned by the museum, has excluded them from decisions regarding conservation treatment or disposition.

In recent years, over-crowded storage vaults have made accessibility to works not on public display a game of strategy. Moving several art works to gain access to another becomes a challenge itself. One solution to the storage puzzle has been to assess unaccessioned works of art-- including old loans and abandoned property--that might not be collection-worthy.

One abandoned art work, taking up a considerable amount of space in painting storage, is a 68” x 82” framed painting entitled The Scrimmage by Swedish artist, Ida von Schulzenheim. It depicts a life-sized confrontation between two hound dogs lunging at two hissing cats atop a wood pile. The receiving book entry indicated it had been delivered here in 1901 from artist Annie Barrows Shepley Omori, known in her inner circle as “Aunt Poo. Unfortunately, no documentation has been found to reveal why the painting was not returned to its owner.

- Sandra Hachey, Contract Registrar

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WAM Conservation Research Published

For the second year in a row, the foremost internationally peer-reviewed conservation journal Studies in Conservation (SIC) has featured research from the Worcester Art Museum on its cover. Distributed globally, SIC reaches scholars around the world, helping to raise awareness of WAM's world class collection and the exceptional work taking place in the conservation department.

The October 2013 and December 2014 editions of Studies in Conservation also featured images on their covers from the Worcester Art Museum research articles published therein (see photograph above).

The two articles, Evaluation of the relief line and the contour line on Greek red-figure vases using reflectance transformation imaging and three-dimensional laser scanning confocal microscopy, co-authored by Paula Artal-Isbrand and Philip Klausmeyer, and A Re-united Pair: The conservation, technical study, and ethical decisions involved in exhibiting two terracotta orante statues from Canosa, co-authored by Susan Costello and Klausmeyer, focus on works that are currently displayed in the gallery of Greek Art.

Publications like these are just one of many ways the conservation department seeks to care for, expand our knowledge of, and draw attention to the outstanding works found at WAM. Such articles not only assist other conservators working on similar objects elsewhere, but also help to develop contacts with curators, art historians, scientists, and archaeologists.

Above Left: Conservation treatment of the Worcester Art Museum's Greek stamnos attributed to the Tyszkiewicz painter, c. 480 BCE (1953.92) helped launch the larger research project published in the October 2013 edition of Studies in Conservation.

Above Right: Conservation treatment and analysis of the museum's two rare Orantes (funerary figures) from Southern Italy , 3rd-4th century BCE, is the subject of an article published in the December 2014 edition of Studies in Conservation.

- Philip Klausmeyer, Conservation Scientist and Paintings Conservator

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be Heard!

When you visit the Worcester Art Museum we ask you for your zip code. Beyond that we don’t know much about you, or for that matter how you enjoyed your visit.

To learn more about you, our visitors, including how you use and enjoy the Museum and how you think we could improve the visitor experience, we’ve installed a series of iPad terminals throughout the Museum. You may have already noticed them.

On these iPads, we ask a series of questions that should take about two to three minutes to answer. The answers can be completely anonymous; however, survey participants who provide us with their email addresses will be eligible to win a one year Museum membership. 

Why is this information important to us?  We use visitor feedback for planning future exhibitions, programs, and visitor services.  Connecting art with individual experiences, joy, and discovery is a crucial part of our 2020 Vision Statement.  Your input on our new visitor surveys will help us accomplish that!

I hope you will visit soon.  When you do, please stop by one of the iPad Surveys, and share your thoughts about WAM!


Adam Rozan

Director of Audience Engagement

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Sword for (Martial) Artists

I’m delighted to announce that at auction in London last week the Museum acquired a very rare German practice sword from the 1500s. Swords of this type evolved in the late Middle Ages as a safe version of the knight’s “hand-and-a-half sword,” designed for use in either one or two hands. The unusual shape of the blade maintains the weight and balance of a fighting sword while having a rectangular cross-section that flexes to prevent a thrust from injuring the opponent—much like the weapons of modern sport fencers.

Swords of this type are widely attested in German art of the 1400s and 1500s—the deadly dance of combat fascinated artists of the period, many of whom sought to capture the elegant flow of swordplay through paintings, woodcuts, and etched prints. One important example is Tobias Stimmer’s woodcuts in the Museum’s copy of Joachim Meyer’s Kunst des Fechtens (“The Art of Combat”). First published in 1570—about the time this sword was made—Meyer’s book is one of the most important swordfighting manuals of the period. In fact, my 2006 translation of Meyer became available again on the very day we acquired this sword—a pretty exciting day all round! Look for more news of the sword once it makes its journey across the Atlantic.

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

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