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Hudson Walker: Curator, Patron, Friend

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In a report compiled by long-time gallery director Ruth Lawrence to reflect upon the 25th anniversary of the Little Gallery in 1959, a section titled, "The First Curator," described Hudson D. Walker's background and his brief, though instrumental, role in the foundation of the Weisman Art Museum as The Little Gallery in 1934:

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"The University was most fortunate in obtaining Hudson Walker, who in March, 1934, was appointed the Gallery's first curator of art. Mr. Walker was experienced in Gallery operations and management. He was the grandson of Mr. T. B. Walker, founder of the Walker Art Gallery. Hudson Walker was no novice in the functioning of a museum. He had been trained at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, for work such as this. He knew the practical side, the importance of shipping and care of works of art worth thousands of dollars. He was especially aware of the responsibility of borrowed works. He had developed a small gallery of his own in Minneapolis, dealing in such works as watercolors, woodcuts, etchings, etc."

Walker was officially appointed to the title of "Curator of Art" at the University in March of 1934, and departed at the end of his appointment in June in order to pursue the establishment of a gallery in New York City. However, his role with the University of Minnesota and the Little Gallery did not conclude with the end of his employment. Walker's relationship would inspire additional titles in relation to his contributions to the University and to the museum.

Lawrence's description of the First Curator only briefly touches upon the work done by Walker in those few months he was employed at the U of M. For the very first exhibit that was held at the gallery, he arranged for the loan of 18th and 19th century paintings from regional art museums, and covered the expense to insure the works out of his own pocket. At his departure, Walker imparted some advice to university administration that would shape the formation of the gallery in its formative years. He emphasized to Assistant to the President Malcolm Willey that "There should be some anchorage provided in the way of a permanent collection to insure a permanency of interest" and added that the gallery should emphasize a "workshop character" as opposed to the "traditional notion of a museum as a place for safekeeping of rare objects."

In 1950, Walker placed works from his private collection on loan to the University of Minnesota. The loan included many pieces by the artists Alfred Maurer and Marsden Hartley. He, along with his wife Ione, also made many generous gifts of artwork and additional donations to the gallery in the following years.

WalkerOutstandingService.jpgIn 1965, Walker became an award winner and honoree when he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Minnesota Alumni Association. A letter (at left, click for a pop-up to read) from the President of the Minnesota Alumni Association addressed to Gallery curator Betty Maurstad, extended a formal invitation to the ceremony that was held to present Walker with the award.

In conjunction with Walker's receipt of this award, an exhibit titled One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection was held from November 4-December 19, 1965 at the University Gallery. A dedication by University of Minnesota President O. Meredith Wilson, printed within the catalogue that was prepared for the exhibition stated, "The collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walker is an important resource in furthering the University of Minnesota objectives of teaching, research and service and has aided immeasurably the University's development of significant programs in the visual arts."

Exhibition catalogue, One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection:
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Polaroid photographs taken at the exhibit opening show Walker amongst other attendees in the hallways and stairwell that lead to the gallery in Northrop Auditorium:
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WalkerExhibitOutline.jpgA drawing of a proposed gallery layout for the exhibit was found in the exhibition file in Box 11 of WAM's archived administration records. From the drawing, (at left, click for pop-up to review) one can assume that the exhibit was split into sections-one section of 22 miscellaneous works from Walker's collection, another section that contained 12 works by the artists Alfred Maurer, another room dedicated to 14 large Marsden Hartley paintings, and a final section of Alfred Maurer graphic works, that appear to have been placed in the hallway that lead to the gallery.

More polaroids were found in the exhibition folder that show the works displayed in the gallery space:

Alfred Maurer, "Portrait of a Girl with Gray Background," 1930, oil on composition board
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(1) Alfred Maurer, "Two Heads," 1930, oil on composition board
(2) Alfred Maurer, "Two Figures of Girls," 1926, oil on composition board
(3) Alfred Maurer, "Still Life with Cup," 1929, oil on composition board

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Artworks by Marsden Hartley, as displayed in the exhibit:

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An additional item found alongside the polaroids in the exhibition folder is a note from Walker to President Wilson that expressed Walker's appreciation for the acknowledgement he received from the University:
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Two additional titles were given to Walker on the occasion of a 1977 memorial exhibition titled, Hudson D. Walker: Patron and Friend. The exhibition commemorated Walker and the bequest of his collection to the museum.

Regardless of how one refers to Hudson Walker when recalling the history of the museum - first curator, patron, or friend - it is clear that no appellation can truly capture all of the contributions that he has made to its legacy.

Baltzley Binder Bounty

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According to Wikipedia, in 1910, Louis Baltzley invented the binder clip, Patent # 1,139,627, so that his father Edwin no longer had to bind his manuscripts by sewing the pages together through holes punched in the pages (which was the standard method in the day).

Web_LastClips.jpgIn more recent times, the binder clip is commonly used in offices of all types to bind large volumes of paper together. In the case of the WAM Files - the working administrative records kept and contained by Gallery/Museum/WAM employees - binder clips were used to organize and contain such items as lengthy grant applications, full sets of label text for exhibits, duplicate copies of press releases, sets of photographs, etc...


In our pursuit of minimal-level processing, binder clips were removed from the files, resulting in a growing bounty of fasteners.

As I began to encounter CDs, DVDs, and disks of all shapes and sizes during processing, I pondered over the fate of binder clips as offices adopt digital processes and searched for possible additional uses for the clips. To my surprise, some very ingenious do-it-yourselfers have recorded videos on how to make an iPhone Binder Clip Dock to fasten-bind-clip their digital devices in place.

If only I had an iPhone... imagine what I could do with all of these binder clips!

Recaption/Recontext

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I've come across a few visitor's register books in the files from the 1980s and 1990s (visitors wrote their name, where they hailed from, and any comments about the show.) I began perusing the register for the 1989 show Recaption/Recontext, featuring photographs from the Cray Research/Film in the Cities collection. The show was curated by photographer Vince Leo, who paired each photograph with a quotation about photography from a variety of sources, thus "recaptioning and recontextualizing" the images. In the catalog, Leo states his general aim is "to agitate against or puncture what we usually think about these photographs in particular, or about photography in general; to open gaps in interpretation instead of closing them."

Some of the comments in the visitor's register book about this show caught my eye:

  • Took me back home.
  • Gave me hope.
  • It's nice to know photography is not dead.
  • It's bare! But wow!
  • Why are the two pictures pertianing to black people "lent by the artist" and not owned in the collection?
  • I loved the variety. Some photographs leave me entranced and with the need to see more.
  • Deep! / Intense
  • Illuminating a wonderful example of the power of context!
  • I agree - do whatever you must to get your point across - nothing is sacred.

And my favorite comment was simply: "Art?"

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Invitation for the exhibition "Recaption/Recontext"

Building on Imagination...

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The large and oddly-shaped brochure for the University Art Museum's show Building on Imagination: Architectural Imagery in Children's Books caught my eye in the files. Soon after, I found a hand-made prototype of the brochure, colored with marker and pasted together, with lines in place for text. I love that the brochure design itself is imaginative and inventive, echoing the towers a child might build.

Building-imagination_broch-side.jpgThe exhibition explored architecture within children books, featuring original illustrations from books such as "Kenny's Window" by Maurice Sendak, and "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" by Gustaf Tenggren, among others. It toured around the region to 23 sites from 1989 to 1992. The Northfield News wrote of the exhibition in 1991:

"Besides examining architecture in children's book illustrations, Building on Imagination also highlights children's experiences of real buildings and of designing make-believe buildings with blocks or blankets in messy bedrooms. A set of stone blocks from the Victorian era included in the exhibition demonstrates the appeal architectural toys have had for children long before Lincoln Logs or Legos became popular."

Cordially III

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The University of Minnesota Art Museum cordially invited visitors to view the exhibitions, The Woodblock Prints of B.J.O. Nordfeldt and Emily Nordfeldt's Legacy: Paintings, Drawings and Prints of B.J.O. Nordfeldt at a reception held Sunday, February 17, 1991, which included a gallery talk, woodblock printing demonstration, and tea, sherry and light refreshments.

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A large collection of Nordfeldt's works can be found in WAM's permanent collection.

A Packed House

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Packing artwork or other delicate artifacts is something of an art itself, and museums need to have it down pat. The objects must fit snugly and be protected from jostling and the elements. This is particularly tricky with traveling exhibits, such as this 1984 show Making America Strong: World War II Posters, created by the University Art Museum. These polaroids document the behind-the-scenes packing process (or perhaps unpacking, it's hard to tell!) of the framed posters at the Museum.

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Packing/unpacking for the show, and a poster for the show in St. Cloud

Folk Arts

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A September 25, 1984 UM News Release (Digital Conservancy) announced, "Folklorist to Survey Minnesota Arts and Artists"

"If you are the latest in a long line of duck decoy painters, quilters or Slovenian pastry decorators, Willard Moore wants to hear about you. Moore, a Minneapolis folklorist, will conduct a yearlong hunt for Minnesota folk arts and practicing folk artists. The University of Minnesota Art Museum will coordinate and administer the survey, which will begin Oct. 1. Moore, as guest curator, and the museum staff will organize an exhibition and publication on Minnesota folk arts from the material he collects."

Moore's hunt brings to light the research involved in creating museum exhibitions. This survey resulted in a book, and the University Art Museum exhibition, "Circles of Tradition: Folk Arts in Minnesota," held in 1989.

The front and back cover of a promotional material created for the exhibit, found amongst the many boxes of folders that document this exhibition and related programming and events:


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You are Invited...

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Many events are organized in relation to exhibitions: openings, galas, previews, special lectures, concerts, etc. The WAM collection contains many invitations to such events in association with exhibitions past.

American Identities: Cabinet Card Portraits, 1870-1910, from The Doan Family Collection
Exhibited February 25-March 22, 1985 at the University Art Museum in Northrop Auditorium.


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From a February 19, 1985 UM News Release (Digital Conservancy):

"The exhibition presents a selection of 55 Cabinet cards, primarily Midwestern in origin, collected by the Doan family of Fort Dodge, Iowa, over the past 20 years...


The "artist-photographers" who produced the portraits shifted around scenes and properties until the right "fit" for the subject was achieved... It was important to present subjects at their best in the chosen role, whether beau, debutante, successful merchant or farmer, war hero or proud parents. Even the most humble person took on an air of dignity in the photographer's lens."


Art Sandwiched In

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Web_WAM_059_ArtSandwiched_Egypt_Eames_1.jpgAlmost everyday for lunch I have a turkey sandwich at my desk (not in the Archives - no food allowed of course). This is not very exciting, or interesting whatsoever. I thought about my mundane lunch ritual when I came across the folder titled, "Art Sandwiched In" in BOX 88. In the late 1980s, the University Art Museum conducted lunchtime art programming for University staff. Lectures were held on a variety of art topics, from the history of furniture to ancient world wonders.


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Although this program has long since ended, I found myself jealous of the University staff members of years past who had this exciting lunchtime opportunity open to them. Then I thought of the University's Public Art on Campus program, administered by the Weisman. I think I'll create my own lunch time art appreciation series, grab my turkey sandwich, leave my desk behind, and find a bench next to a campus installation to "sandwich in" some art...


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The Balloon: A Bicentennial Exhibition

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To celebrate the invention of the balloon in 1783, the University Art Museum held a bicentennial exhibition in 1983... and collaborated with other arts organizations to provide events that featured the art, technology, and history of - the balloon.


New_Balloon4.jpgThe 1984 U of M Summer Session Bulletin (contained within a "Ballooning" folder) features the ballooning festivities by including a cover image of a hot-air balloon that was present on campus (with a design that matches the original Montgolfier balloon).

From a September 6, 1983 UM News Release (Digital Conservancy),"200 Years of Ballooning Will Be Celebrated with Facts and Fancy at U of M Art Museum,"

"Original engravings, watercolors, etchings and decorative art objects will depict experiments and fantasies in balloon design and will indicate how the balloon was used as a symbol and in satire... An additional exhibition of photographic murals will show the development of flight from its invention to the present."

The exhibit included items from the U.S. Air Force Academy's Gimbel Aeronautical Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, MIA, as well as the U of M Libraries own ballooning collection.


(Today, Images of Ballooning from the Piccard, Scholl and Winzen Collections can be accessed from the UMedia Archive.)

The opening preview invitation for the exhibition reveals how "Ballooning" was introduced to the University... complete with fashion show, a gourmet balloon-inspired buffet dinner, and balloon launch. (Though, note that the fireworks were canceled).
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The news release also indicates that music would compliment the festivities:

"Students and faculty of the university's School of Music will perform musical selections arranged by Professor Robert Laudon at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 in Scott Hall"

A recording from the performance was kept along with the exhibition files:

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