The Harvard Art Museums launched an initiative last fall to shine a light on “untold stories” and promote greater representation among their exhibits.
The “ReFrame” initiative aims to take unseen collections out of storage and to reframe existing curations. Recent ReFrame installations include “Hyoso: The Art of Framing Japanese Paintings” and “Picture the Lives of Women,” which highlight the struggles and achievements of women in China and around the world.
Soyoung Lee, chief curator of the Harvard Art Museums, said the idea for the initiative came from Makeda D. Best, curator of photography and acting head of the modern and contemporary art division. museums. Lee said she and her staff have been evaluating opportunities for new representations of their collections.
“Each curator really went back to the collections they know best and asked themselves: ‘What are the works that are not currently on display, that deserve to be highlighted, because of the potential for stories? ‘they tell?'” she said. . “‘What’s currently playing that we need to look at from a different perspective?'”
Lee said she hopes the galleries’ “intimate experiences” will pique visitors’ interest.
“Like many museums, we also think and really think about presenting different ways to broaden a visitor’s understanding of different artists, cultures, time periods, etc.,” she said.
Museum staff encountered difficulties in implementing the project, according to Lee.
“Initially, we thought it could be a three to five year project that could potentially lead to some sort of holistic change across all of our galleries,” she said. “We are still investigating whether this is feasible, in part because the logistics of large-scale changes throughout the museum are really, in some ways, unreal.”
“It’s difficult to set up when you operate at the same time,” she added.
Museums have also faced challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic, per Lee. The Harvard Art Museums closed abruptly in March 2020 and did not reopen until September 2021.
“It is extremely difficult to plan and implement gallery changes when you are not only closed, but due to University advice many of our staff could not be on hand to do this. work – to go into storage, bring out the art, get together and talk about it, and also invite our students, our teachers and our public to talk with us,” she said.
In the long term, Lee said she hopes the initiative will help museums diversify their galleries.
“Ultimately, ReFrame starting with interventions, we think it could be a three to five year project or initiative, and help us with the long-term goal of bringing substantial changes to most of our galleries, redesigning, in fact, all of our galleries,” she said.
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