Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

What Does It Mean for a Museum To Be Truly Experimental?


Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014.

Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014

Ever since Carnegie Museum of Art launched the Hillman Photography Initiative earlier this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for a museum to be truly experimental. When I began my research three years ago, the major premise of the Initiative was to create something totally new in the field of photography. On the other side of a successful launch, I now realize just how ambitious our goal was. But at the time, it felt more like an amorphous challenge, albeit one that had all my problem-solving neurons firing. As with any experiment, we didn’t have a clear understanding of how the Initiative would manifest or what form it would take. Now that the project is up and running, I find myself looking back at how the Initiative was realized and some of the things we’ve learned so far. Continue reading

A Closer Look at the Technology Behind an Exhibition


"A Closer Look" iPads installed in the gallery.

“A Closer Look” iPads installed in the gallery

The museum recently opened Small Prints, Big Artists: Masterpieces from the Renaissance to Baroque, a comprehensive exhibition that traces the development of prints across the centuries, explores the evolution of printmaking techniques, and unlocks the images’ hidden meanings. The works in the show are dynamic, striking, elaborately detailed, and quite beautiful. If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition, it runs throughout the summer and I highly recommend it. Continue reading

Frances Benjamin Johnston in Charleston


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Frances Benjamin Johnston, self-portrait, in her Washington, D.C., studio, 1896.

I recently spent a few days in Charleston, South Carolina, researching and revisiting sites photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston. In the Heinz Architectural Collection there are 25 photographs by Johnston, an early female photojournalist and later in life a documentary photographer. Johnston’s interest in photographing buildings was mainly for preservation purposes. Her goal was to document the buildings should they be torn down, but also to inspire communities to preserve or restore the historic edifices if possible. The photographs in our collection represent houses, storefronts, and architectural details around the historic downtown Charleston area. The set was displayed in 1937 at the Gibbes Art Gallery, now the Gibbes Art Museum, and will be on view in the Heinz Architectural Center in the upcoming exhibition Architecture + Photography.

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Frances Benjamin Johnston, 148 Queen Street, Charleston, S.C., 1937, gelatin silver print. This image is one of the thousands of photographs taken by Johnston in the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South.

Johnston donated most of her archive to the Library of Congress. Part of the archive includes the original photographs of the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, a multi-year endeavor to photograph buildings from Maryland to Louisiana.

During my research trip I revisited the sites in Johnston’s photographs in an attempt to recreate the scene as much as possible. Many of the buildings in our set of 25 photographs are still standing, but a few are empty lots, or are completely unrecognizable. Below are some comparisons between Johnston’s images from 1937 and some from the recent trip.

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Market Hall, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Doorway at 32 Charlotte Street, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Parish House, Congregational Church, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Town Houses, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

Sneak Peek: Carnegie Trees


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Enjoy a first look at this year’s Carnegie Trees at tonight’s preview party!

A holiday tradition since 1961, Carnegie Trees is an annual event featuring six 20-foot Colorado spruce trees alongside our renowned Neapolitan presepio in the Hall of Architecture. This holiday season, each tree will be adorned with ornaments that celebrate the art of play—a prevalent theme in the 2013 Carnegie International.

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This year’s designers include Mernie Berger and Lowrie Ebbert; Carole Kamin; Nancy Lewis with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Cynthia Cooley and Suzanne McLaughlin; Laura Beattie with Frick Art & Historical Center; and the Society for Contemporary Craft.

Tickets can be purchased here.

New Hire: Hattie Lehman


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What is your official title and what are some of your general responsibilities?
Program coordinator, adult group programs. My main responsibilities are focused around the CMOA Docent Corps. Along with Becky Gaugler (assistant curator of education, programs for student & adult groups), I work to prepare docents to give the best experience possible to all participants of docent-led tours. I also work to expand and strengthen adult audiences and assist with new adult programming.

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?
I was the assistant curator of education at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, for the past 4 years. As a member of a two-person education department, I was responsible for a whole lot of everything, but focused primarily on youth and family programming and outreach.

What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year?
Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design; 1848–1900 at The National Gallery of Art. The brotherhood’s ability to so richly depict textiles on a two-dimensional surface knocks my socks off every time, I can’t help it!

If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be?

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Bruce Talbert, designer, British, 1838–1881; Gillow and Company, manufacturer, British, c.1730–1987; Side cabinet, 1867, walnut with walnut veneer, multi wood inlay, and brass; Berdan Memorial Trust Fund

Bruce James Talbert’s Side cabinet, manufactured by Gillow & Company, 1867. It is breathtaking.

Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less.
Friendliest place I’ve ever lived.

Favorite hobbies? Timewasters? Etc.?
I like to write letters the old-fashioned way, with paper, pens, envelopes and stamps. I will happily tackle any textile-related project and love my sewing machine. I enjoy time outside: in a garden, camping, or just walking around.