Browsing through The Commons on Flickr, I came across these images of the Woodrow Wilson House, which I often pass by on S Street during a lunchtime walk. I didn’t know Wilson (who died on this day in 1924) was the only president to make Washington home after his time in office (I can’t image a president doing that now), making this the only presidential museum in town. Though not technically in the Dupont Circle neighborhood (rather in the adjacent neighborhood of Kalorama), the streets where the house is located are some of my favorite areas of the city, filled with embassies and home to the Spanish Steps–a great spot for a stroll after time in the galleries.
Front view of President Wilson's S Street residence in Washington, D.C. Date unknown.
Image from Crystal Bridges website, http://crystalbridges.org/mediaroom/press_building
A fellow librarian at Crystal Bridges tipped me off to check out the foreword in their brand new permanent collection catalogue which just arrived on my desk. I was already excited to get a peek at what was soon to be revealed down there in Bentonville, Arkansas, an unprecedented effort to collect the best works of American art and present them in a beautifully designed structure, harmonious with nature and clearly separate from the art worlds of the cosmopolitan coasts. News stories and New Yorker profiles have whetted my appetite for years now. The cover of the catalogue we received, which apparently is one of multiple designs, is a beautiful detail of Arthur Dove’s Moon and Sea II, (selected especially for us?). Flipping through to the foreword by Don Bacigalupi, director of Crystal Bridges, I see Duncan Phillips’s philosophy as a collector and museum director mirrored in the objectives of this brand new fellow institution:
The noted critic Robert Hughes once described the experience of visiting another museum founded by an extraordinary patron-collector, Duncan Phillips, as a “gift of intimacy and unhurried ease.” While we at Crystal Bridges welcome as many visitors as possible to this new museum nestled in the Ozark foothills, we want to ensure that the experience is like the gift that Hughes described: welcoming, special, and the opposite of rushed.
I’m probably not unique in being a museum professional with very little exposure to the military. And when I first heard about Blue Star Museums, I have to admit that the collaboration didn’t make sense to me. What would a joint venture between the military and an art museum look like? I went to the Blue Star Museums blog to learn more.
It was this video that really made an impact on me. Though their voices sound casual, the comments from these military family members describe fundamental experiences that civilian families take for granted: the importance of simply spending time together, making new memories to carry with them while they’re apart, getting to know their home towns in different ways between deployments or new homes while stationed in unfamiliar places. Blue Star Museums is a worthy project and highlights the effect museums, cultural institutions, and art can have on people in times that are challenging.
The power of art and museums on national spirit was not lost on our founder Duncan Phillips. Even some of the artists in our collection, military service members themselves, benefited from his efforts. In upcoming posts this week, I’ll explore the relationship between war and patriotism as seen in our museum’s history and collection.