Photo Friday: Documenting Exhibitions Across Campus

As many of you know, Cranbrook Archives is located in the lower level of Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM). At various times throughout the year, museum registrars and preparators install and de-install the exhibitions presented in the galleries at CAM. Over the past few weeks this process of de-installing exhibitions in the lower galleries started, in preparation for new exhibitions to take over these spaces.

The first exhibition held at Kingswood School in what is now the weaving studio. Primarily designs for Kingswood School, but includes costume designs by Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. Photographer, George W. Hance, 1932

I am always in awe of the work that goes into changing these spaces to support new ideas and work – from the vision and physical work of the preparator and staff to the tracking, un-packing, and condition reporting that is completed by the registrars – it is impressive! In our collections at the Archives, we have correspondence, exhibition files, posters, publications, and photographs to document more than 85 years of exhibitions not only from CAM, but also from Cranbrook Kingswood Schools, the Institute of Science, and exhibitions that faculty and students have participated in across the country.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

A Rugged Individualist: Luella Schroeder

One of the best things about being an archivist here is learning about the amazing people connected to Cranbrook’s history. Part II of our posts for Women’s History month focuses on Luella C. Schroeder (1918-2004). In 1946, Schroeder was hired as an Assistant Preparator at Cranbrook Institute of Science. A woman of many talents, she worked at a book binding studio in Delaware and as a draftsman during World War II for Chrysler before taking the position at CIS.

Schroeder’s college studies were divided between the natural sciences and art. She later studied photography – a skill she relied on heavily at CIS – as the photographer of the Institute’s collections and exhibitions. A member of the Photographic Guild of Detroit, she was one of 100 photographers to be awarded a prize in Popular Photography magazine’s 1957 photo contest.

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Schroeder preparing an exhibition, 1956. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In addition to her photography work, Schroeder created dioramas and models for exhibits and taught lapidary classes. Her love of nature was evident in her creations for the Institute – from plant life to insects to bee hives. In 1954, she built an elaborate hive illustrating the lifecycle and production cycle of bees. Her work was admired and praised by her colleagues and visitors alike.

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Bee Hive exhibition, 1954. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

After working at CIS for 12 years, Schroeder left her position in 1958 to pursue her hobby of silver jewelry making. She fell in love with Vermont, and moved there to devote herself to her craft. In a 1961, Times-Argus article she was quoted, “I wish I could tell you why I love Vermont, maybe it’s because it is the last stand of the rugged individualists – the one place where people still really make their lives for themselves.”

Schroeder’s hobby became her life-work. She credited the Institute in making her jewelry more creative (due to her ability to cut gems which she learned while at CIS). Her work was on display at several museums nationally and abroad, and was exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair. In 1965 she created a pin she titled, “Forged Sunburst.” America House re-named the pin “Solar Flair” in an advertisement in New Yorker magazine and Schroeder was deluged with orders.

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Burlington Free Press, 13 May 1965. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Several pieces of Schroeder’s work were selected by the American House retail store in New York, which is sponsored by the American Craftsman Council. Her jewelry was also marketed by the Detroit Artist’s Market and the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. In 1985, the Vermont Handcrafters bestowed a Lifetime Membership to Schroeder for her dedication to Vermont Crafts. Clearly her work and dedication made an impression on many – including the Cranbrook community.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

 

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