All Roads Lead to Cranbrook: A Fellow Says Goodbye

I began writing this blog post weeks ago but had to set it aside—because I became too sentimental to continue, but also because I was pulled into a discussion about an issue around 19th century chairs, Eliel Saarinen, and Cranbrook House (the exact details escape me). This, to me, is the perfect encapsulation of what the last two years have been: a whirlwind of emotional investment, intellectual engagement, and a work pace that proceeds at a quick clip as projects emerge from questions as diverse as “is this sandbox at Brookside a historic one?” (the answer is, “no”) to “how did those Cranbrook School chairs get all the way out to California, and what do we do with them now?” (the answer is, “we don’t know” and “return them into circulation after ensuring their condition and documentation”).

As the first full-term, resident Collections Fellow at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, I have worked with an amazing staff of individuals to field these questions and countless more (the less said about the discussion regarding spray-painted vandalism on the posterior of a sculpture on campus, the better). I have also had the chance to both figuratively and literally reach across the aisle to collaborate with the staff of Cranbrook Art Museum and Cranbrook Institute of Science, as well as the amazing volunteers at Cranbrook House. For two years I have watched the seasons turn from my desk in the lower level of the art museum. I have made a place for myself in CAM’s gleaming new Collections Wing as well as the less glamorous (but perhaps more curious and mysterious) storage spaces that fill attics and basements across Cranbrook’s sprawling campus. I have learned this storied site’s history, engaging with its past through three exhibitions and countless house tours, lectures, and public programming. And now, unfortunately, it is time for me to say goodbye.

Here I am hard at work in the Cranbrook House attic, cataloging and photographing historic costume. This job was always a surprise! May 2014.

Here I am hard at work in the Cranbrook House attic, cataloging and photographing historic costumes. This job is always a surprise! May 2014.

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Cranbrook and the Car, Part 4: On the Road Again

A Driving Force: Cranbrook and the Car may have closed to the public, but we’re not done with it yet here at the Center for Collections and Research. As Cranbrook Art Museum switches out exhibitions (and gets ready to install the yearly Graduate Degree Exhibition, a show everyone must check out), staff of both the Center and the Museum are busy dismantling cases, assessing the condition of objects as they come down from the display, and preparing spaces to hold new and exciting displays of art and design.

While A Driving Force: Cranbrook and the Car was not a huge show, it did have one very sizable object: the 1914 Scripps-Booth Rocket Cyclecar. In the collection of the Detroit Historical Museum, the Rocket came to us from the Owls Head Transportation Museum where it had been on loan for a number of years (if you missed it, read more about the move here). Now, nine months after going on view, it was time to return it home. This morning our registrar Roberta Frey Gilboe and associate registrar Gretchen Sawatzki helped to wheel the Rocket out onto Cranbrook Art Museum’s loading dock and send it back to the Detroit Historical Museum.

Museum objects need to be preserved in as best condition as possible, which means that driving the Rocket is pretty much out of the question. Even if we wanted to drive it out the building, though, that would be impossible – the car is not in working condition. Instead, we hired a car transporter to pick up the Rocket and drive it the twenty-something miles down to DHM. The following videos (filmed by Gretchen) give a sense of what is involved in moving a vehicle of this size and age. In the first video, Roberta and our truck driver roll the Rocket out into the dock and onto a lift. In the second, the three of them (Roberta, driver, and Rocket) ride the lift up to meet the bed of the truck. In the final video, they roll the Rocket onto the truck. As you can see, moving objects (especially ones as large and as complicated as antique cars) is a complex task. With a team of talented professionals, though, and given enough time, we can safely transport objects from space to space and make room for the new and exciting exhibitions to come.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/90781705″>Video 1: The Rocket Starts Rolling</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user21903363″>Cranbrook Kitchen Sink</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/90781706″>Video 2:The Rocket Rises</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user21903363″>Cranbrook Kitchen Sink</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/90781707″>Video 3: The Rocket Rolls into Place</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user21903363″>Cranbrook Kitchen Sink</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

– Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow

Fashioning Architecture

In 1931, attendees at the Beaux-Arts Ball in New York came dressed to impress. An annual party thrown by the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, the ball featured a different theme each year. 1931’s theme of “Fete Moderne — a Fantasie [sic] in Flame and Silver” was inspired by the New York skyline and the iconic skyscrapers that had recently come to define it. Fully committing to the theme, many guests came dressed as famous New York buildings. In this photo William Van Alen holds center court as the Chrysler Building (of which he was the architect) while other personified buildings crowd around him.

William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, with other masquerading architects around him. On the far right is Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York.  Source: NY Times/untappedcities.com.

William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, with other masquerading architects around him. On the far right is Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York. Source: NY Times/untappedcities.com.

 

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Photo Friday: Wartime Conservation, Kingswood-Style

Kingswood students Blenda Isbey, Irene Bard, and Nollie Campbell collect waste fat after their Home Economics class at Kingswood School, 1944. Harvey Croze, Cranbrook Archives.

During World War II, students at the Cranbrook and Kingswood Schools became increasingly involved in homefront activities. Here, Kingswood students Blenda Isbey, Irene Bard, and Nollie Campbell collect waste fat after they’ve finished their Home Economics class. Fat could be used to make soap, in great demand because of wartime rations, but was also consolidated for use in explosives.

Poster advocating the re-use of waste fats in explosives. Henry Koerner, Printed by the Office of War Information, 1943. National Archives.

Poster advocating the re-use of waste fats in explosives. Henry Koerner, Printed by the Office of War Information, 1943. National Archives.

Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow

Art in the Time of War: Cranbrook’s Monuments Men

Monuments Men, opening today in theaters, chronicles the efforts of men and women in the US military to protect and preserve Europe’s artistic and cultural patrimony during World War II. Directed by George Clooney, the film has brought to national attention the work of these non-traditional soldiers, arts and cultural professionals who recognized that while the world was tangled in a struggle that engulfed countries and cost thousands of lives, the art and artifacts prized for centuries by those communities were equally at risk.

With the renewed attention to the work of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA)—nicknamed the “Monuments Men”—has come the realization at museums across the country that many of their early directors and curators were active members of the MFAA during World War II.  At Cranbrook we’ve uncovered the stories of two Monuments Men who played a role in our own history.

Robert S. Davis at Cranbrook, 1942. Cranbrook Archives.

Richard S. Davis at Cranbrook, 1942. Cranbrook Archives.

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Touchdown in Bloomfield Hills: The Detroit Lions Come to Cranbrook

As Superbowl season engulfs America and the Detroit Lions’ seemingly endless search for a new head coach comes to a close, we at Cranbrook look fondly back at the days when the Lions were a seasonal presence here on campus.  You might be forgiven for not immediately associating a 100+ year-old arts and education campus with pro football, but get ready to be schooled: the Lions used Cranbrook’s bucolic campus as their training ground for a number of years.

Detroit Lions players and coaching staff arrive at Cranbrook School for training camp. Pontiac Press, date unknown.

Detroit Lions players and coaching staff arrive at Cranbrook School for training camp. Pontiac Press, date unknown.

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West to East: Cranbrook School Chairs Return

The scene feels like the opening shot in a movie: a man browses a flea market, aimlessly brushing his hands over knickknacks while he waits for something to catch his attention. A pair of chairs  jump out at him, their warm brown wood and right angles crying out for his attention.  He investigates them, noting their early 20th century construction and the curious metal design inset at the crest of the chairs.  They look familiar, he thinks, and the camera zooms out as he purchases them and takes them home.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall side chair, designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1928.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall side chair, designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1928. The chairs discovered in California are identical.

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Not Quite Photo Friday: Hello from Norway*

Finnish postcard, 1921. Sent from "Jack Booth," John Lord Booth. Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Finnish postcard, 1921. Sent from John Lord Booth. Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

In honor of the Midwest’s own recently departed polar vortex, we thought we’d highlight we’d highlight a historic postcard from the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers at Cranbrook Archives. It appears that these Norwegian citizens are liking the cold about as much as we liked our own winter storm. Honestly, though, they should be happier – at least they have a reindeer to keep them company. Stay warm, everyone!

*Ed. note: eagle-eyed readers may have noted that we accidentally wrote “Finland,” when clearly this postcard is from Norway. Our only excuse is that it is Friday and we have been completely confounded by all this snow. Apologies!

Not-a-Photo Friday: Season’s Greetings!

Kingswood Christmas Card, 1944. Cranbrook Archives.

Kingswood Christmas Card, 1944. Cranbrook Archives.

As the holiday season swings into full gear, we thought we’d highlight one of our favorite historic Cranbrook traditions: the Kingswood School Christmas card. From 1944, this card features a woodblock print of Carl Milles’s Diana sculpture, one of the hallmarks of Kingswood’s campus. The Kingswood students who made it also managed to capture the movement and dynamic geometry of Eliel Saarinen’s remarkable leaded windows at Kingswood, a not-insignificant feat.

“Neither Snow Nor Rain”: Cranbrook and the New Deal Post Office Murals

In 1940, the Columbus, Kansas post office received an imposing addition: a giant slab of terra-cotta.  Mounted on the wall, the bas-relief showed mail delivery in a rural community, the sort of neighborhood where the postman drops off the mail in a field of horses.  Crafted by Waylande Gregory as part of a New Deal art project funded first through the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and then the U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts, the post office mural (titled R.F.D.) represents not only an example of Gregory’s large scale sculptural installations but also a period of time when the American government invested heavily in the idea that public art installed in everyday environments could bolster the American economy and elevate the national discourse.

Waylande Gregory, R.F.D. (detail), Columbus, Kansas.  Charles Swaney/Living New Deal Project, University of California, Berkeley

Waylande Gregory, R.F.D. (detail), Columbus, Kansas. Charles Swaney/Living New Deal Project, University of California, Berkeley

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