In honor of National Poetry Month, we took a look at the poets found in Wharton’s library. On the shelves we found works by Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Gavin Maxwell, Robinson Jeffers, William Carlos Williams and more. What stood out were two volumes of poetry by Wharton’s friend Ford Madox Ford — New Poems, and Collected Poems of Ford Madox Ford.
Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), a native of Britain, was born Ford Hermann Hueffer on December 17, 1873 in Surrey. Early in WWI, Ford worked for the War Propaganda Bureau where he wrote two propaganda books. After their publication, he enlisted in the Welch Regiment and was deployed to France. His experiences on the war front and with the propaganda department inspired Parade’s End (1924-1928), which was recently made into a BBC mini-series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall. It was broadcast on HBO in the United States early this year. In his lifetime, Ford would write over 50 books and count among his friends many of the literary giants including James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein, Theodore Dreiser and Jean Rhys.
Wharton was introduced to Ford through Theodore Dreiser, who sent Ford and his lover Janice Biala, to visit Wharton after they had visited Dreiser at his home in Mount Kisco, NY in the fall of 1934. While they were there, Wharton taught Biala how to carve woodcuts, and she painted a study of Wharton’s daughter Mary that is currently on display in Wharton’s bedroom. While Biala painted and learned to carve, Ford worked on his novel Great Trade Route; he wrote sitting at Wharton’s 1929 Flat-Top Desk (the Sawhorse Desk). Ford included a description of his visit to Wharton’s studio in Great Trade Route:
“A dim studio in which blocks of rare woods, carver’s tools, medieval looking gadgets, looms, printing presses, rise up like ghosts in the twilight while the slow fire dies in the brands…Such a studio built by the craftsman’s own hands out of chunks of rock and great balks of timber, sinking back into the quiet wood on a quiet crag with, below its long windows, quiet fields parceled out by the string-courses of hedges and running to a quietly rising horizon…such a quiet spot is the best place to think in.” You can read more of his description from Great Trade Route in the front of Wharton Esherick Studio and Collection (available in our gift shop and online store).
Wharton’s daughter Ruth remembers Ford’s visit. He was a gourmet cook, and her mother, Lettie, encourages her to learn from Ford. Wharton sketched Ford serving everyone.
On the title page of Collected Poems of Ford Madox Ford, (printed in 1936), is an inscribed message: “Mr. Mrs. Esherick for New Year MCMXXXVI-VII with all good wishes from Ford Madox Ford New York, N.Y.”. The volume is made up of 112 of his poems, including quite a few he wrote while on active service during WWI. According to the introduction of Collected Poems, “Mr. Ford professes to be ill-read in English poetry and not to care much about it. This is partly an attitude. He is a born romancer.”
Perhaps his best known poem is called Antwerp, which was written in 1915 (before he changed his name) about why the Belgians resisted the invading German forces making their way to France during WWI; it is included in this volume. We discovered an original publication of the poem tucked in the front cover, perhaps by Wharton. T.S. Eliot said this poem was “the only good poem I have met on the subject of the war”, it is also Ford’s favorite poem written during active service.
An October like November;
August a hundred thousand hours,
And all September,
A hundred thousand, dragging sunlit days,
And half October, like a thousand years…
That then was Antwerp…
In the name of God,
How could they do it?
Those souls that usually dived
Into the dirty caverns of mines;
Who usually hived
In whitened hovels; under ragged poplars;
Who dragged muddy shovels, over the grassy mud,
Lumbering to work over the greasy sods…
Those men there, with the appearances of clods
Were the bravest men that a usually listless priest of God
And it is not for us to make them an anthem.
If we found words there would come no wind that would
To a tune that the trumpets might blow it,
Shrill through the heaven that’s ours or yet Allah’s
Or the wide halls of any Valhallas.
We can make no such anthem. So that all that is our
For inditing in sonnets, pantoums, elegiacs, or lays
‘In the name of God, how could they do it?’
Thanks for stopping by, continue Reading Antwerp here.
More poetry by Ford Madox Ford.
The Wharton Esherick Museum celebrates Women’s History Month by featuring Consuelo Kanaga and Marjorie Content, two important photographers, clients, and friends of Wharton’s.
Consuelo Kanaga (1894–1978) grew up on the west coast and became a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. There she discovered photography and began work as a photojournalist. After seeing the work of Alfred Steiglitz, she tried to bring more artistry into her journalism, bay area photographers, including Dorothea Lange, encouraged her in her work. In 1924, she moved to New York to meet Steiglitz and found work for the New York American. After a few years in New York, she moved back to California where she became part of “Group f64,” which included Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, among others.
After years of travel, she settled in New York City, and married painter Wallace Putnam. She was moat likely introduced to Wharton through her friend, Marjorie Content. She photographed Wharton, his family, his studio, as well as his furniture and sculpture. Consuelo and Wallace acquired a number of Esherick pieces over the years.
Politics played a major role in Kanaga’s life and her art. She photographed for radical publications like The Masses, Labor Defender, and Sunday Worker. Her photographs of African-Americans are among her most famous images. In 1955, two of her images were included in Edward Steichen’s famous Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She continued to be a strong female voice in photography until her death.
Marjorie Content (1885-1984) was a child of privilege, but leaned toward the more radical social, political and artistic movements of the early 20th century. She was the business manager of The Sunwise Turn, the first bookstore owned and operated entirely by women. The bookshop was a hotbed of artistic and political radicalism. When her first marriage to poet Harold Loeb ended, she moved to New City, New York, where she was a neighbor of Henry Varnum Poor. Poor introduced Wharton and Marjorie, and they became fast friends. After the death of her second husband, Michael Carr, she returned to New York City, and commissioned Wharton to create a bedroom suite that remains one of his finest creations. He wrote to Theodore Dreiser, “It is one of the biggest & most complete things I have done. The new corner chest of drawers which also acts as a headboard to the bed I think is my best piece.”
Marjorie took up photography and her work caught the attention of Alfred Steiglitz. She traveled to the Southwest often, sometimes as a photographer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and sometimes to visit her friend Georgia O’Keeffe. She told interviewers of her trips to the Southwest, “I always stopped at Wharton’s… we never seemed to think that we were on the road until we took off from Paoli.” She brought back Navajo baskets for Wharton which are on view in his Studio.
She photographed Wharton and his work; most notably the furniture he made for her. Her portrait of Wharton is currently on display in the Museum’s visitor center, as part of our exhibition on the friendship between Wharton and Sherwood Anderson. Wharton gave the photograph, in an Esherick frame, to Sherwood to hang in his “Rogues Gallery” at Ripshin, his home in Virginia. Marjorie knew Anderson from her days at Sunwise Turn – the gallery had exhibited the painting Sherwood made (under Wharton’s tutelage) in Fairhope, Alabama.
In 1935 she married poet and author Jean Toomer, one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, and they moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Wharton helped them convert a barn into a home. Content was also a furniture maker and worked with Wharton on the construction; in the kitchen, the family is not sure where Wharton stopped and Marjorie took over. Under Toomer’s influence (many say domination), Marjorie gave up photography. But she left many lasting images.
You can find more about Consuelo Kanaga in Barbara Head Millstein’s Consuleo Kanaga:American Photographer, published by the Brooklyn Museum. Jill Quasha’s Marjorie Content: Photographs is a great place to learn more about Marjorie Content. Look for more images from both photographers this month on our Facebook and Pinterest pages.
While the Museum is closed to tours during the winter months, the staff still reports Monday – Friday to work of various projects like exhibit installation, archival/collection work, preservation projects and much, much more. Who are these staff members exactly? You may have met one or two when you’ve come for a tour, but read on and let us introduce you to the crew (or as we refer to ourselves: Team WEM)
Paul Eisenhauer, Executive Director & Curator
Paul started as a docent in 2003, became the Program Director in 2005, the Curator in 2008 and the Executive Director in 2010. Before WEM, Paul was an Associate Professor of Sociology at Chestnut Hill College. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania where he specialized in prison history. He entered the museum field doing volunteer work at Eastern State Penitentiary in its first years open to the public (it’s also his favorite site to visit, besides WEM of course). Outside of work, Paul works with prisoners at SCI Graterford through Temple University’s Inside Out Prison Exchange Program. Paul is an amateur woodworker, which is what first brought him to the Museum. He enjoys carving spoons and bowls and enjoys music and folk dancing.
His favorite parts of working at WEM are giving tours and researching Wharton and his fascinating life. Spoken like a true Executive Director, Paul’s vision for the Museum is to keep it moving forward as we go through the many changes that are occurring. Paul also plans to continue to spread the word about Esherick until his reputation matches his influence in 20th century American furniture and sculpture. He also plans to continue to bring Eshericks’s work to the public through exhibitions and publications.
When asked what Esherick piece he’d like to own, Paul couldn’t choose just one. His favorites included Oblivion, Reverence, the Library Ladder, the olive spoon in the kitchen, Babbie & Colt, the Fischer Corner Desk, the Dannenberg Dining Room, Twin Twist and Wharton’s Memo pad. He encourages everyone who envies his job to become a volunteer – you never know where it will lead.
Laura Heemer, Assistant Curator & Program Director
Laura started working at WEM as the part time Museum Assistant in 2010 and was promoted in 2012 to the full time Assistant Curator & Program Director. Laura holds a BA in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington with a focus on Museum Studies. Before working at WEM she interned at the James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, VA and hopped from one Chester County site to the another starting at The Mill at Anselma, then on to The Chester County Historical Society, Historic Yellow Springs and Valley Forge National Park. During her internship at Ansemla she picked up a brochure for WEM noting the “awesome staircase” on the front and planned to come for a visit but never did. Seeing the job posting for the Museum Assistant finally got her here, and she’s been hooked ever since.
Laura couldn’t choose just one favorite part of the job – working at a small museum you get to do so many wonderful things! As a self professed “museum geek” she loves working with the collection, cataloging and photographing it; working that close with Wharton’s work is a real treat. She loves the physical location of WEM and watching the weather change the look and feel of the hillside, she has a great view from her desk in the Visitor’s Center. She also enjoys interacting with visitors and the wonderful team of docents. Laura would like to see WEM do more demonstration days with the printing press, it’s always fun to see Wharton’s press in action. Wharton’s “Washington Press” is one of her favorite pieces in the museum, but of Esherick’s own work, her favorite is Babbie and Colt.
Outside of WEM Laura loves to go “museum hopping” (she recently started a blog: Making Museums Matter). She loves to go hiking & kayaking; is a youth leader and sings on the worship team at her church. She’s a diehard Red Sox fan and enjoys going to baseball games. Her favorite historic site to visit: Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts. Louisa May Alcott is her favorite historical figure and “Little Women” her favorite book, she said visiting Orchard House felt like going home.
Ashley Harper, Business Manager
Our newest staff member Ashley, grew up in Wharton’s front yard, attending high school in Malvern and upon graduation set out to see the world. She received a degree in the History of Art from the University of Michigan then moved abroad and lived in England, France and Italy. She received a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies from the University of Manchester then lived out of a suitcase for awhile, traveling through Europe and India. She worked in finance for a year but has spent the past few years working at various local historic sites including the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Bartram’s Garden and the Penn Museum where she has worked on digital archives projects, grant writing and programs. One thing she likes about her role at WEM is that it draws upon the accumulative strength of all of her experiences. WEM’s gardener Nancy Long is the one who encouraged Ashley to apply for the job knowing she’d be a perfect fit!
Ashley has been at WEM for a short time and when asked what her favorite part of the job and what her personal goals for WEM were responded with: ask me when taxes are finished! Her favorite part of the WEM collection is Wharton’s library. She says that as someone who likes to work creatively, she enjoys figuring out the influences and context around how a beautiful piece of art is made. Not just the physical crafting techniques but the mental exertions – the personal triumphs and tragedies. That way, when she finally figures out what her talent is, she can utilize all that knowledge and retire on a nice commission.
Outside of work Ashley likes to do a lot of things from “the real to the random”. For example: cult practices, Pirate watching, conundrums, reading books (especially on history/art history related topics). She enjoys sports such as biking and playing ultimate Frisbee and she likes to knit and do photography (sometimes at the same time). She also enjoys blogging about Philadelphia’s First Fridays (http://larevegauchearts.com/) and has recently been working with a friend to help organize the development of an Artist’s residence in Downingtown, PA. She couldn’t choose a favorite museum or cultural event as there are too many to choose from, but said chatting with Bob and Ruth here at WEM might be her favorite.
She says to anyone out there reading this, she’s happy to have been invited on board and looks forward to getting to know everyone better. There’s never a bad time to stop in and say hi, otherwise, keep an eye out because you never know when she will pop up.
Coming up next: meet our part time staff, followed by a glimpse into the friendship of Wharton Esherick and Sherwood Anderson.
We’d like to apologize for not writing a new blog post for this month, it has been a very busy December here at WEM with lots of visitors coming to see Esherick’s studio before we close to tours for the winter. All month long we have been exhibiting a portrait of Wharton Esherick painted by his good friend Henry Varnum Poor, that was recently donated to the museum by Henry’s son, Peter. The portrait is oil on canvas and was painted in 1932; Wharton was 45.
Wharton Esherick and Henry Varnum Poor were close friends for nearly 50 years. They were born the same year and they died in the same year (1887-1970). Each influenced and supported the other in their similar careers. Both were trained as painters but in 1920 moved into the decorative arts to augment their incomes — Esherick into wood, Poor into ceramics.
Recent research suggests that they met through the E. Weyhe Book Store which also served as a gallery for up-and-coming progressive artists. The bookstore had commissioned Poor to make decorative tiles for its storefront in 1923; Esherick began exhibiting there — paintings, woodcuts, a chess set — by 1925. Our knowledge of the two men’s earliest association was Marjorie Content’s recounting of being introduced by Poor to Esherick at a picnic on the banks of the Hudson River in the summer of 1926. Both artists had infant sons named Peter: Peter Esherick born in February, and Peter Poor in May. Both artists also had young daughters about the same age: Mary Esherick and Poor’s adopted daughter, Anne. Wharton and Henry both shared a rich sense of humor.
Though they had much in common that brought and kept them together, they had very different personalities. Esherick was raised and educated in Philadelphia and strayed no more than 25 miles to set up his household and studio. Esherick was determined from childhood to be an artist. Poor was raised on a Kansas farm and headed 1,500 miles west to study economics at Stanford University. In his junior year, he switched his major to art, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1910.
While Esherick was content to live a somewhat reclusive “organic” life in rural Pennsylvania, Poor, a more public person, preferred the big cities — San Francisco and New York — making contacts that would help his career. A talented painter, his work was selected for exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as early as 1913.
After serving as “regimental artist” in an Army Engineer unit in France during World War I, he spent the spring of 1919 in Paris. Following a brief stay in San Francisco, he moved to New York where he soon met an influential dealer of books, prints and drawings, Mary Mowbray-Clark. At her suggestion, he moved to a well-established artist colony at New City, New York, on the west bank of the Hudson River just north of New York City.
In 1920 he bought land there, built his home and studio “Crow House” and began making decorative ceramic tiles. By the mid-1920s he was creating plates decorated with still lifes, allegorical scenes and portraits. Five such plates, including portraits of Wharton, Mary and Ruth, hang in Wharton’s studio in the dining room and kitchen.
Museum founder Bob Bascom traveled to Crow House many years ago to interview Anne and Peter Poor. Bob recalls that, “although the outside of the stone house seemed typical for its period, in the style of a picturesque French farmhouse, the interior surprised and shocked us. For here we saw elements that had surely influenced Esherick’s later work: a curving stone stair carried on an arch to an upper chamber with a side door halfway up; a stone fireplace too similar in design to the wood surround for the dining room fireplace in the Curtis Bok House to be coincidental; a slit of a window deeply recessed in the stone walls; floor levels a step up here, a step down there. Poor had built this house with his own hands, working with the local workmen, as Esherick did in remodeling his barn in 1921 and building the Studio in 1926.”
Poor introduced Esherick to other artists in New City, including textile designer Ruth Reeves, for whom Poor had designed and built a house in 1922. The WEM collections contains one of her paintings, depicting the Esherick and Poor families at play together – the children in various stages of nudity, climbing trees and swinging. Nudity was popular among artists at that time. Three tiles by Poor over the fireplace in the house he built for Maxwell Anderson show Poor at work fully clothed, while the Andersons sunbathe in the nude.
In 1928, Poor, Reeves and other decorative artists founded the American Designers’ Gallery in New York. Poor exhibited a bathroom decorated in his ceramic tiles, including a life-size nude in the shower, which brought commissions for three more. Esherick joined the group in the spring of 1929, but the gallery soon folded. Poor’s 1929 installation was “Elements of a Dining Alcove” with a new emphasis on wood, perhaps influenced by Esherick. The walls were vertical rough sawn yellow poplar boards of heart and sapwood. The dining table was of similar boards, supported by a pair of inverted, handsomely made, saw horses — the conceptualization of Esherick’s 1929 Flat-top Desk (also called the Sawhorse Desk).
At this stage, a major difference developed in their art. Esherick abandoned decorative, representational surface treatments as unnecessary “literature”, relying thereafter solely on form. Poor made the decision to continue the pictorial, explaining, “For lightness sake I like a storytelling design. Far from subtracting, it adds one more quality to the complex that makes up enjoyment. The storytelling and humor involved must be purely visual.” Another difference came with Esherick’s abandonment of painting early in the 1920s for sculpture, while Poor continued to paint throughout his career.
In 1932, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired one of Poor’s paintings that had been exhibited earlier that year at the Museum of Modern Art. He was commissioned to create ceramic vases and lamp bases for the new Rockefeller Center — good enough to be stolen in the first few weeks. He was invited to join a gallery in New York that exhibited Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh and other prominent painters of the time. He also painted portraits of his two friends: Theodore Dreiser and Wharton Esherick. The Dreiser portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Esherick portrait is part of the collection here at WEM. Year after year, Poor won prizes and his paintings were purchased by museums around the country. He created frescoes and ceramic murals for public and private buildings and served on art commissions and juries. *
Happy New Year from all of us here at the Wharton Esherick Museum! Wishing you all the best for 2013, come visit WEM when we re-open for tours March 1. Look for a new blog post in January!
Learn more about Henry Varnum Poor and how you can help the preservation efforts for Crow House by “liking” them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfCrowHouse
*All but the first paragraph of this post was re-posted from the Spring 1993 edition of the Wharton Esherick Museum newsletter “The Quarterly”. The Quarterly is mailed out four times a year to our member’s; considering becoming a member today!
Early in his career, Wharton frequented Philadelphia’s Centaur Bookshop. He collaborated with the Press to produce woodcuts for some of their publications including Walt Whitman’s Song of the Broad-Axe (1924), D.H. Lawrence’s Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (1925) and The Song of Solomon (1927). Wharton also drew “pages and pages of centaurs, more and less abstract, playing with form over and over again” and also produced several woodcuts of the shop’s exterior. He even created a sign for the bookshop; a centaur with a wooden body and iron legs which is on display here at the museum.
Thomas Caldecot Chubb (1899-1972) wrote a poem called “Turkey Gobbler Land” that was
printed as a broadside by Centaur Press. The poem first appeared in “POETRY: A Magazine of Verse”, August 1934. Thomas Caldecot Chubb was the son of an insurance executive, but chose to pursue his love of writing and not the family business (just like Wharton did with art)
and he became a published poet and author. Chubb served in the Naval Reserve in World War I and in the office of Strategic Services in World War II, he supported himself as a writer for most of his adult life. Chubb’s list of publications include biographies on Dante, Boccaccio and Aretino and histories for young readers on the Byzantines, Venetians and Vikings as well as several collections of poetry.
Harold Mason, owner of the Centaur Book Press, asked Wharton to illustrate the poem for the broadside. Thomas Chubb corresponded with Mason about sketches Wharton had produced for the poem that would be turned into woodcuts. Chubb wrote to Mason:
“I am very much taken with the larger drawing which shows pine trees, rows of corn, a strutting gobbler with feeding hens behind him and a distant view of a negro shack…I hope you will ask Mr. Esherick not to change it in any way, except of course insofar as is necessary in developing a pencil sketch into a finished work. It is as if he had read my mind.”
Pictured in this blog post you can see the poem published in poster form, and the two woodcuts Esherick produced for this work (at the top left). Chubb returned the sketches to Wharton so he could create the woodcuts, and included some notes on them. He commented on the turkeys in the field: “This is the one to use. It is swell. T.C.C.”, and on a page full of turkey sketches he ranked them as “good” and “very good”. Here you can see Wharton’s sketches and Chubb’s comments, made on stationary from The Centaur Book Shop.
There is always maintenance work to be done around the Wharton Esherick Studio. This summer, we focused on the wooden addition that Wharton began in 1940. He used long white oak boards and battens as siding, hung on a wooden frame. The tower, as he described it in a letter to his friend Theodore Dreiser, rose above the entrance way on the west side of the stone studio. It was capped with a metal roof. Old photographs show a large “coffin door” on the front of this addition that was used to get furniture in and out of Peter’s second floor bedroom. When the silo was added in 1966, he extended the wooden addition using cedar boards and battens, and added a prismatic extension onto the metal roof.
Wharton would oil the siding with boiled linseed oil to give it some protection from the weather. Of course, the sun, rain and wind take their toll over time, so we periodically like to add fresh oil to the siding. That is not as easy as it sounds — mildew, algae, and lichens find a hospitable living environment on the siding, and must be removed before the oil is added. Peter Knecht scrubbed all of the siding, first with a wire brush, then with a scrub brush to clean off the algae and mildew. He
then washed it with a light bleach solution to kill any remaining organisms, and rinsed it thoroughly to prevent any bleaching of the wood. It was a joy to watch the weathered black and gray boards turn to golden oak as Peter scrubbed.
Then came the oil. In the past, we have mixed a biocide into the oil to slow the re-growth of the mildew and algae. This year we found an exterior oil finish made by General Finishes, that contained both a biocide and ultraviolet filters to protect the wood and finish from the sun’s powerful rays. General Finishes estimates that you can get about 300 sq. ft. per gallon. That is with new wood. Our old, weathered wood was far thirstier. We wound up getting about 60 square feet per gallon, requiring us to reorder twice to get enough oil to complete the job.
To safely cover the south face, Peter erected scaffolding over the Studio entrance. With the scaffolding up, we figured it was a good time to paint the windows as well. Using the color samples from the newly completed conservation manual,
we selected the appropriate green for these windows.
While Peter was working on the siding, John Madarasz painted the metal roof over the wooden addition. Unlike the copper roof on the workshop which develops a beautiful patina, the metal roof on the studio needs to be kept painted to prevent rust. John worked early in the day to avoid the brutal heat we had this summer, and managed to catch a couple of dry cooler days as well.
With the fresh red roof and the clean and oiled siding, the building looks refreshed. Come out and see it, it’s worth the trip.
When the Wharton Esherick Museum was created, a plan was drafted for Wharton’s heirs to sell their share of the studio collection to the Museum, a non-profit corporation. It would be a “bargain sale” so that the Museum could afford such a large collection and act as good stewards to exhibit and share Wharton’s life work with visitors. A capital campaign raised the money, and the Museum is now purchasing the collection in installments from the family. As we complete the acquisition, we have begun the process of accessioning the objects into the permanent museum collection. The word accession is used to describe the process by which a museum officially includes an object into its collection.
This process starts with the assignment of an accession number, an individual object ID number unique to each object that includes the year the object was accessioned into the collection, what its accession group is and what number item it is in the accession group. WEM uses the standard tri-nomial numbering system suggested by the American Association of Museums. (Example: 2012.001.017) To keep track of our collection, we use PastPerfect Museum Software, which is produced by Pastime Software Company, Inc. PastPerfect is used by thousands of large and small museums all over the United States and we are fortunate to have them headquartered just down the road from us in Exton, Pennsylvania. Once accessioned, cataloging information can be added directly to the PastPerfect record.
This summer, we have two interns who are dutifully cataloging each object in the acquisition: Mike Cavuto and Aurora McFee. Mike and Aurora have been working hard, learning the ins and outs of curation and collections management. We started the cataloging project with Wharton’s oil paintings. This required that we take down the paintings from their storage location in the studio, so on went the cotton gloves and Aurora and Mike learned how to properly handle museum objects: two hands at all times no matter how great or small. With each object, Mike and Aurora record basic information such as the title, artist, height, width, medium, etc., but they also record a detailed description, photograph the object, records its current location as well as the object’s over all condition. After all of this information is recorded, the object’s ID number is applied directly to the object so that any staff member can easily look up the object in PastPerfect and find all of the information they need. The data will be easily accessible for future research and collections management (tracking outgoing & incoming loans, condition & conservation reports and the object’s location on site).
We truly appreciate our interns for contributing their time and efforts in this daunting task of cataloging the collection. This month, we shine our volunteer spotlight on Aurora and Mike.
Aurora is a veteran WEM volunteer, who started as a docent at the age of 16. A class assignment prompted her to volunteer, however her artistic affinity and love for Esherick’s work keeps her coming back. This fall, Aurora returns to the Rhode Island School of Design for her senior year. At RISD, Aurora studies print making, and produces art in the woodcut, lithography and intaglio mediums.
She even makes her own paper in the Japanese tradition, which she learned while in Kyoto this past winter. She is a talented artist; most of her work carries a bucolic theme with nostalgia for the days of John Muir or Kit Carson. This past spring, Aurora contributed a stunning woodcut to our major exhibition, Poplar Culture: the Celebration of a Tree. To view her work, visit her soon to launch website www.auroramcfee.com.
Mike, has continually impressed us as a quick study and a diligent and enthusiastic volunteer. His accomplishments in organizing poetry readings and art galleries in the West Chester area, as well as his writing, arranging and producing of the original rock opera, Dooms Service (it’s one performance was unfortunately never recorded). He first visited WEM with his high school culture club, Pie in the Sky. He fell in love with the Thoreau-like feel, and how the Museum resonated Walden in its construction and setting. This initial visit stuck with him and led him to inquire about an internship this summer.
Mike has found that one of the perks of his internship is exploring and studying the treasures throughout the Museum. He has spent considerable time exploring Wharton’s library not only enjoying Esherick’s eclectic collection but also doing research for a project on connections between Wharton’s work and the Bauhaus movement in Germany. In addition to the cataloging project, Mike is also leading tours–a big help in this busy summer tour season.
Along with his volunteer work at the museum, he also manages an ice cream shop in West Chester. This fall, Mike starts his sophomore year as an Art History and English major at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Eventually, he would like to enter into academia and teach English or Art History. His advice to anyone who wants to volunteer at WEM:
“Have fun and explore a little. I find something new every time I’m at the [M]useum. Just like all art, a true love for the work of Wharton has done is infectious. Your tours will love it even more when they see how excited you are to be interacting with this amazing collection of art.”
Thank you Aurora and Mike!
If you’re interested in becoming an intern or docent we’re always happy to talk with you. Cataloging the collection is an ongoing process. If you’re interested please contact Curator, Paul Eisenhauer at email@example.com or our Program Dir. & Curatorial Assistant Laura Heemer at firstname.lastname@example.org.