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Author Topic:   A silver gallery for Newark?
Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 03-27-2009 08:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not making any guarantees, but...

It looks as if, in 2010, I will be reinstalling one of my decorative arts galleries (in our 1885 Ballantine House "House & Home" galleries...) as a silver gallery. So...I'd like to launch an impromptu focus group:

Given that this is a smallish space, how do YOU silver buffs think it should be organized?

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wev
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iconnumber posted 03-27-2009 09:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think we need to know something of the collection's make-up. Time span? Local, regional, broad representation? Type specifics (ie hollowware, flatware, presentation, association, etc)? Are there associated galleries and how are they arranged?

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 03-30-2009 09:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Our collection is American silver, 1600s to the present, with strength in the 19th century. Local makers, but also from all over the US. Flatware, hollowware, jewelry. Lots of things with family history. Presentation pieces (some really nifty ones) but forms over time, style changes over time.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 03-30-2009 10:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How small is "smallish?" It would help to know how many pieces you could accommodate. That might dictate which themes would be appropriate.

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 03-31-2009 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Smallish. Meaning maybe 18 x 20. It's a bedroom in a Victorian house, essentially, since all of my galleries are in the Ballantine house. But, it's better than nothing. I have silver scattered throughout the period rooms and galleries of the house, but this would allow me to explore the idea of silver in the context of the home...

I'm toying with the idea of having cases built to go on specific pieces of furniture, and thus allowing me to include furniture and to show silver in context that way, too.

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agphile

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iconnumber posted 04-01-2009 06:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agphile     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
May I offer some rambling and probably naďve thoughts?

Given a smallish space and the need to make a selection from your collection perhaps we need to consider the interests and needs of the visitors you would most like to attract, or alternatively the theme that is likely to attract the widest range of visitors. I am trying to imagine an approach that would reconcile the interests of, for example:

The casual visitor who just wants the chance to admire your best and most important pieces,

The schoolchild who would like to see something that is fun and intriguing (and whose interest we want to catch),

The local historian or heritage buff who wants items of local interest,

The art student who wants to study the craftsmanship involved in making silver or the changes in taste over time,

The history student who wants to relate the history of silver to economic and social developments,

The designer just looking for inspiration,

The silver buff who would like to see a reference collection of some sort and is interested in all sorts of detail, including marks and what may seem to others over-subtle differences between like items.

Your idea of displaying silver on furniture implies that you might have in mind a theme to do with how silver was used. This could cater well for most of the above fairly arbitrary categories, as could a number of other possible themes. It has the advantage of providing more context and may look better than serried ranks of cabinets stuffed with silver to the point of being overwhelming. A possible disadvantage is that it might make it more difficult to study the detail on individual items if you cannot get close enough to them because the furniture is in the way.

Parallel or alternative themes for an American display (and I offer these thoughts with some diffidence as a foreigner) might be the progress from following European fashion to becoming a fashion leader, the impact of machine made silver on design and taste, the contrast between machine made and factory made and the survival of hand-made as other materials replace silver in the mass produced market.

However, the human story is probably why the owners wanted silver, what they looked for in it and how they used and displayed it at different times.

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doc

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iconnumber posted 04-02-2009 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I really enjoyed visiting the Charleston Museum and their chronological display of Charleston silver. I found it helpful to see the change of styles in a somewhat linear fashion.

I also once saw a very interesting space saving idea for an interactive display at a historical site in Ireland. They used vertical file cabinets and had plexiglass over the top of the file drawer. When you opened it, a recording played and there was a display item under the plexiglass. Kids loved it and you could put several cabinets in the middle of a room which was otherwise unworkable space.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 04-02-2009 08:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could you post pictures of the room so we might better visualize the setting? And maybe some of your existing displays? That would be a big help. Thanks

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Paul Lemieux

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iconnumber posted 04-02-2009 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When you say you are thinking of incorporating the silver with furniture, how much furniture do you mean? Given the small space, I, as a silver buff, would prefer to see as much of the area as possible devoted to silver and keep other media to a minimum.

Is there anything stopping you from rotating the display every couple months or to offer an in-depth focus on different topics? Maybe presentation silver for a couple months, then Japonisme the next, etc., etc. That would enable you to work within the limits of your confined space but still be able focus on individual topics/periods fairly closely.

Otherwise, I like doc's point about having a chronological arrangement (perhaps the best/most unusual from each period). Such a presentation seems like it might be the most effective for the casual museum-goer, but still interesting to more expert silver-philes.

Dale is right, pictures would be a great help.

[This message has been edited by Paul Lemieux (edited 04-02-2009).]

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 04-02-2009 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You say that you have silver scattered around in other rooms - are those pieces in any particular context? Is there any theme that you would want to carry through or one from which you would want to depart? If there is none, I would think that a display of silver with Newark and/or New Jersey connections (makers and/or pieces with local history) would be appropriate for a smaller space - I assume you have enough to allow for some rotation over time.

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 04-05-2009 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The themes in our HOUSE AND HOME galleries vary. Why do we choose things for our home? Are we doing the right thing? And then there's silver in the various period rooms, and in the orientation gallery. For example, three of my most important early pieces are in Are We Doing The Right Thing? That's a John Coney caster from 1700, a Gerritt Onckelbag tankard from 1690, and a Joseph Richardson Sr. Tankard from 1740. Plus I have various other pieces of silver that are discussed from different points of view such as status (i.e. American silver vs. English silver vs. plated silver vs. pewter)and function (food service, specialization in the 19th c.)...but silver is only part of the overall dec. arts display of furniture, ceramics, glass.

The gallery I plan to use had been till last year called Do Things Make Us A Family? and featured a case of silver that was related to births and weddings and anniversaries.

I have taken some pictures of the gallery in its current set up--as an installation piece of contemporary art that uses 5000 real insects arranged on the walls in ornamental designs. It's pretty fabulous, but once it goes in June, I'll start planning what to do, and the Director wants something new, and even suggested a silver gallery, because so much of my silver is in storage.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 04-05-2009 06:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It sounds as if some of the other potential themes are covered at least to some extent. I would go with the NJ connections - that should be of local interest and should peak interest thru newspaper and local TV coverage to draw attendance from locals who have visited before (the Been There, Done That crowd) and boost local support for the Museum in the process.

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 04-20-2009 10:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are three images of my possible future silver gallery (2010)as it is currently installed, wonderfully and bizarrely, with the work of artist Jennifer Angus--INSECTA FANTASIA. There are over 2000 real insects installed on the walls and in the vitrines. But it does give you the idea of the space--a moderate domestic scale room. Eleven-foot ceilings. It's about 17 x 18 feet.


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doc

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iconnumber posted 04-20-2009 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having seen the room, I think the interior lends itself a display that shows the full extent of the Victorian craze for flatware and serving pieces for every possible item would be interesting. A roped off table fully set with side display cabinets for specialized serving pieces. The Dallas Museum of Art does a very nice job of displaying Mr. Bennett's collection of fish and other serving pieces by having them in a waist high lit cabinet.

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FredZ

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iconnumber posted 04-20-2009 02:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would suggest making a rotating exhibit. One for each historic period. I would limit it to local pieces.

Best,
Fred

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 04-21-2009 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aha! Trapped by reality. Once this gallery is installed, I won't be allowed to change it--other than tinker with individual objects--for at least a decade (which is to say, until after I retire). Rotation of galleries takes a lot of time and energy, and few museums have the resources to do this. Rotating galleries was what i had in mind when we opened the Ballantine House galleries in 1994...because of the 35,000 objects i have in storage...but the truth is that it has never happened. It would take a long post to explain in more detail.

Suffice it to say that what gets installed next year will be what the silver community gets for the foreseeable future. The gallery will be conceived of as for silver enthusiasts, however, rather than the general public. I can always work the general public in....

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 08-17-2009 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am currently thinking of trying to do what the Met Museum did for its Fletcher & Gardiner show--which is to use furniture as pedestals for cases holding silver. Now, you can see that the room is small, but I've recently had restored a great 1830s pier table and a great 1850s square piano. These might make great "pedestals" for silver related to that period.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 08-17-2009 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What did the Met do regarding the proximity of foot traffic? In a small room you would not be able to isolate the tables for security and would have to fix the cases to the restored tables, which might cause damage that you would want to avoid. Am I being paranoid or merely cautious?

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 08-19-2009 03:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
well, we wouldn't want to damage newly-restored surfaces, so I can only assume the Met came up with a system that protects the tops...this is all very iffy for me, since I haven't begun to figure this out in detail.

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