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 Preserving Works on Paper

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UMD's Tweed Museum of Art Embarks on Massive Conservation Project

George Catlin University of minnesota Duluth
George Catlin (American 1796-1872) The Snowshoe Dance. Hand-colored lithograph. Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art. Gift of Richard E. (Dick) Nelson.

 

SELECTED "WORKS ON PAPER"
 
James Otto Lewis (American, 1799-1872) Nabu-naa-kee-shick or The One Side of the Sky, a Chippewa Chief [Fond du Lac Treaty]. Hand colored lithograph. Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art. Gift of Richard E. (Dick) Nelson.
millet  
Jean-Francois Millet (French 1814-1875) Le Depart Pour le Travail (Going to Work), detail, 1863 Engraving on paper. Gift of Mrs. E.L. (Alice Tweed) Tuohy.
gag  - University of Minnesota Duluth  
Wanda Gag (American 1893 - 1945) Spinning Wheel, lithograph on paper. Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation Purchase Fund.
thunderbird  
Norval Morrisseau (First Nations Canadian 1932-2007) Thunderbird, 1962. Acrylic paint, ink on paper. Sax Brothers Purchase Fund.
friberg-  
Arnold Friberg (American 1913-2010) Untitled, 1953. Oil on canvas. Gift of Potlatch Corporation.

The Tweed Museum of Art is making progress to catalogue and house its extensive collection. Thanks to their new 3,600-square foot storage space in UMD's Montague Hall and an $80,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant (Legacy Grant) administered through the Minnesota Historical Society, the Tweed has taken a big step. They are completely documenting and storing their 4,200 works on paper, which is about half of their entire collection of 8,000 pieces of art.

THE PROCESS
This large documentation and rehousing project has been going on since 2009. Newly-acquired movable storage units are the current home to art objects, baskets, and sculpture, from the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art, and other collections.

In order to have the project finished by June 2014, Tweed hired four people to document and re-house the museum’s works on paper. Ken Bloom, director of the museum, along with registrar Camille Doran, are spearheading the project. A collection technician, two cataloguers, and a photographer have been hired to complete the project in a 50-week period. Eric Dubnicka, who worked as the Tweed's museum preparator for six years, will take on the collection technician role. The two cataloguer/collection workers are Gina Sacchetti and Krista Suchy. The photographer/digital image archivist is Mike Cousino.

Doran said the project is a massive undertaking, “The key to the project is the rehousing of the works-on-paper," she said. "While the goal for every piece is to rehouse it for preservation and safer access, we are also creating a searchable database for each work." Each item needs to be reviewed, described, catalogued, and photographed. In addition, the condition of the piece will be assessed. Each piece will have a new home. Most of the work will be stored in flat files but a few items, folios with multiple images stitched together for instance, will be stored in the new movable storage units.

Tweed is creating an online system that will allow the entire collection to be accessed by anyone around the globe. “What we’re trying to create is an egalitarian system,” said Bloom. With this access, the public can choose what they’re interested in. "There are very few museums in the world that have their entire collection on a searchable database," Bloom said. "The works the public sees won’t be controlled by the museum curators."

THE COLLECTION
The Tweed's vast selection of works on paper has pieces that date back centuries. “This collection is the legacy of the community and region,” said Bloom. Famous artists Wanda Gag, Karen Savage, George Catlin, and Bela Petheo are also featured in the Tweed’s collection.

Some of the oldest works on paper the Tweed has are the Fond Du Lac treaty portraits by James Otto Lewis from the mid-1800s.

Wanda Gag’s piece Spinning Wheel, a lithograph on paper was done in 1925. From New Ulm, Minnesota, she was strongly influenced by her community.

Karen Savage’s piece Edge of the Water is an oil pastel work on paper done in 2010. Savage is one of Tweed’s many Ojibwe artists.

George Catlin’s The Snowshoe Dance is a hand-colored lithograph work on paper. This is one of the pieces in the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art.

Bela Petheo created his painting The Depot, a watercolor and acrylic on paper, in 1976. Petheo is a working artist who taught art at St. John’s University for more than 30 years.

Project Support
Funding for this massive undertaking came from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant (Legacy Grant) through the Minnesota Historical Society. Legacy funds are provided through the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesota voters. The Museum's project was recommended for funding by the Historic Resources Advisory Committee at its meeting in September, 2012 and approved by the Minnesota Historical Society's Executive Council on September 20, 2012. In notifying us of the award, Deputy Director of Programs Pat Gaarder said, "The Society is honored to support your efforts to preserve our State's heritage.


Story by Jessica Noor and Cheryl Reitan, May 2013

 


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