Managing an art collection and preserving our nation’s cultural heritage requires significant time and effort. When objects are added to the Permanent Collection at the Museum, they are documented, numbered, measured, photographed, and housed in archival storage materials. For each object, curators identify the particular medium used by the artist and compile information about the artist’s biography, creative intention, and historical context. Once objects are exhibition-ready, curators make decisions about how to interpret objects in exciting new ways to create the exhibitions that attract visitors.
This winter, visitors will get a glimpse into the day-to-day activities of the Museum’s curatorial department in a new exhibition Vault Visible: Behind the Scenes at the Asheville Art Museum. Sure to appeal to art collectors, museum studies students, and anyone curious about the inner workings of a Museum, Vault Visiblewill give visitors the chance to observe museum professionals at work in the galleries as they carry out an inventory of the Permanent Collection, photograph objects, assemble crates, and perform conservation treatments, all in the public eye. Accompanying displays and programming will reveal the compelling stories behind the Museum’s Collection of 20th- and 21st-century American art, while also helping visitors learn how to care for works of art, identify various mediums, and, in short, think like a curator. As a special component to the exhibition, the Museum will be re-creating several of its storage spaces in the public galleries, bringing large numbers of ceramics, glass works, and paintings from the Permanent Collection out into public view. With the help of the transparent wall in the gallery, visitors will be able to peer into “the vault” to see how works of art are stored—an experience usually reserved for the Museum’s curatorial staff.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will be holding a series of behind-the-scenes programs. These will include workshops designed to teach practical skills in caring for works of art, as well as discussions centered on the challenges and delights of curating and collecting. Displays will change during the run of the exhibition to highlight the exciting discoveries made as the inventory unfolds.
We thank the Midgard Foundation and Jim + Bitsy Powell for their support of this exhibition, and the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) for their assistance with collections care.