Holiday at the Museum

Over the past few days, as I’ve prepared for the upcoming holidays and the exhibition openings that follow shortly there after, I could not help but think about “A Night at the Museum”.  The Robin Williams and Ben Stiller film about the new night security guard (Stiller) and his adventures with the things inside the museum that come to life every night (Williams and others) since the arrival of that mysterious Egyptian artifact in the 1970’s. Granted, that is the Natural History Museum in NYC, and I have been spending my days, not nights, roaming the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana.  But I find myself thinking about the film all the same.  It has that sense of expectation and wonder I’ve found creeping into me.

In my daily ‘roaming’ I have been pulling the works on paper for the upcoming exhibition African American Images from the Swope’s Collection and condition reporting, documenting, matting and framing those pieces. During this process I have found a few treasures hidden in the Swope’s store room.  (This is where the holiday part comes in!)  I decided, as I pulled work on paper after print after work on paper that I might as well photograph them for our database.  (We recently converted to PastPerfect and it allows for images and digital media  to be linked to each object file.)  I set up the tripod, camera and the easel (luckily this drawer was all matted), turned on the lights and started photographing.

As you can imagine the work was excellent, each one a sparkling example of the different printed/drawn medias, but the first twenty or so images were fairly typical.  A landscape here, a figure there, and on it went.  As I came to the last seven in this particular drawer, I found the treasures that have made this year’s holiday season so bright for me.  These are my seven images of Christmas, rather than the twelve days.

The first image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Louis Prang & Co.
Christmas Poster, 1862
Color lithograph

The Second image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Thomas Nast
Same Old Story, 1872
Colored wood engraving

The third image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Thomas Nast
Merry Christmas, 1879
Relief

The fourth image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Thomas Nast
Ulysses the Giant Killer, 1965
Wood engraving

The fifth image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Thomas Nast
Santa Claus's Route, 1885
wood engraving

The sixth image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Thomas Nast
Christmas, 1963
Wood engraving

The seventh image of Christmas that the Swope store room gave to me:

Winslow Homer
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 1859
Colored wood block

So this is where I find myself today, the eve of Christmas eve. Thinking about holidays past and present, feeling the nostalgia of Christmas, and wondering how the Christmas spirit has infected me so thoroughly.  Try as I might, I can’t be the Scrooge I want to be.  I will blame this entirely on Nast, Prang & Co, and Homer, and I thank them for it.

Happy Holidays!

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