I love my job. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer and I travelled to New York City for the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Meet the Breeds event at the Jacob Javits Center, January 25-26, 2020. Two days of dogs, puppies, slobbery kisses, pats on the head (the dogs, not us), exhibition promotion, museum collaboration, and a few sneezes. Turns out, I have a slight allergy.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry on dog collars, the NSLM is partnering with the Museum of the Dog in New York City for the exhibition Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar. Selections from our dog collar collection will be displayed alongside artistic representations loaned by the Museum of the Dog. What better way to promote this than to go to the source?

American Kennel Club Meet the Breeds at Jacob Javits Center, NYC, January 25-26, 2020

The Museum of the Dog kindly allowed us to share their booth at the convention, where we set up a small display of collars and encouraged guests to visit the exhibition when it opens in 2021-2022. It was a great chance to spread the word, meet our colleagues at the Museum, and do a little research. We wanted to see some of the breeds, like the various hounds and dogs, we generally come across as a Sporting Museum.

Selection from NSLM Dog Collar Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2015

“Meet the Breeds” is not just a clever name. We literally “meet the breeds.” Each breed has its own booth with both human and canine representatives. As the AKC website states, “Almost 200 breeds of dogs and cats will be on site in elaborately decorated booths with elements from the breeds’ history creatively displayed as well as opportunities to learn from the experts about each breed in attendance.” This did not disappoint.

The sweet Scottish Deerhound was still waking up when we approached. She was certainly more interested in her owner’s glazed doughnut than the strangers who were hoping for a little love. She lived up to her reputation as being one of the taller breeds, coming up to our waists.

Scottish Deerhound enjoying a treat!

Another tall friend was Jamie, a Borzoi, who was particularly in love with Claudia. Jamie sidled up to Claudia for a scratch and then slowly started wrapping her nose around Claudia’s legs, not allowing her to move. When she was finally able to sidestep a little, Jamie inched along with her, head still pressed against her legs.

Jamie the Borzoi and Claudia

Finn, an Irish Red Setter, enjoyed letting us coo and scratch his ears. Secret, a Scottish terrier, allowed us to pet him as his owner gave us insight into the breed.

During our important research, we also wanted to see the dogs that were near and dear to our hearts.

Full disclosure: I grew up with dogs, but in the last decade, I’ve been a committed rabbit and cat owner. Being at the Javits Center, though, reminded me why dogs were my first loves.

Please bear with me as I briefly reminisce: my first dog was a Siberian Husky, Ninotchka, whom my parents brought home shortly after they were married. By the time I came along, she was an older girl who was very patient with two toddlers. After an incident with a larger dog who just wanted to lick me to death when I was five (the breed shan’t be named), I had a fear of all dogs that weren’t my beloved husky. That changed a few years later when I met Molly, my godparents’ Rhodesian Ridgeback. I would curl up with Molly and we’d fall asleep together after crashing from full bellies after Thanksgiving dinner. But, my number one girl was a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix, Annie, whom we adopted a few years after Ninotchka passed away. We were together for 13 years before Annie passed away at the old age of 15.

Thankfully I was able to see the brethren of my old friends here. I made a beeline for the huskies, where I met Foxy. Wearing black was a poor choice, but like everyone else there, I didn’t care. I just wanted to find a way to take Foxy back to Virginia with me. My plan was foiled, but Foxy did allow me to take a picture with her.

Can you come home with me?

I also gleefully saw the Ridgebacks and both German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, who (not surprisingly) had a very long line.

Claudia saw a poodle, who looked just like her beloved canine companion, Kasey. After staring longingly for a few moments, Claudia decided to greet this doppelganger and quickly became friends. Claudia also had the luck of being on the receiving end of love from the cutest Staffordshire Terrier puppy we’d ever seen.

Have you seen a sweeter puppy?

Our booth was next to the Rottweilers and, decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls, they were extremely popular. When there was finally a small break in their crowd, we darted over to say hi to Maverick, who promptly backed up into me and sat on my feet. Not only were Maverick and his cohorts fashionably attired, but it helped dispel the negative stereotypes about this loving and biddable dog. This is one of the reasons why Meet the Breeds is so important: to inform and educate people, to provide the correct background and knowledge of the different breeds.

True Love!

Attending this event was wonderful in so many ways. Promoting the exhibition and getting such an encouraging response from the crowd was more than we could hope for and it was great to meet our counterparts at the Museum of the Dog. Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar is going to be a unique exhibition that will show how the relationship between humans and canines have evolved using tangible objects and fine art. But, also, it was rejuvenating. It had been a long week, a long drive to NY, and I was getting delirious. Walking sleepily into the convention center Sunday morning, I was instantly in a good mood getting kisses from the Akitas and Bergamese. We had fun recalling our pets from childhood and exchanging stories with our new colleagues and strangers alike, because nothing brings people together like a shared love of animals. Everywhere I looked, there was just an excitement and joy between attendees, both two-and-four-legged. Really, could there be a more wholesome event? In the words of wholesome Golden Girl Rose Nylund, “that’s dog love in your eyes!”

For more photos of dogs we were able to meet, check out our Facebook page or Instagram.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Let me put this out there, I love prints and I am not ashamed to admit it. I have several decorating my house, my favorite being Edvard Munch’s lithograph of The Scream. Though I love the warm colors of the oil and pastel paintings, the lithograph provides a rawness unique to the medium. Why can I afford a print of one of the most well-known works of art in the world? Precisely because it’s a print.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, copy of lithograph, 1895, copyright King & McGaw New Road, Newhaven, England, BN90EH

The term prints can be a little misleading as it can be used as a catch-all for a range of works on paper. Within most museums and galleries, it generally encompasses the various techniques of lithography, aquatints, block prints, drypoints, screenprints, and engravings. People love to hate them because they can be mass produced, which makes them more ubiquitous than their one-of-a-kind counterparts: paintings. An original print loosely refers to works made by the artist using one of the above methods. A reproduction would be a copy of an original work of art or, in the case of my version of The Scream, it’s more likely a copy of a copy of a copy, which technically (and confusingly) still qualifies as a print. Have I lost you yet?

“Mass production” doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. For many artists, especially before the advent of modern technology, it was a way to become more familiar to potential clients. Albrecht Durer (German, 1471-1528), arguably the greatest of Northern Renaissance artists, understood the importance of mass production. Engravings and lithographs made his works available to everyone whilst simultaneously spreading his name and thereby, his recognition.

Prints also show us what subjects and themes were considered popular enough to be reproduced. As they were so prevalent, it should not be a surprise to reveal that prints are the best represented medium within the NSLM collection. Several are currently on display in Gallery 7, including Herring’s Agricultural Scenes by John Frederick Herring Sr. (English, 1795-1865). These are three lithographs entitled Hay-making, Hop-making, and Ploughing.


The prints were initially published in 1856 (Hay-making) and 1857 (Hop-picking and Ploughing). Putting the works themselves into context, they capture a moment in time when there was a longing for “simpler” times, one where life was unencumbered by the noise and grime of the city in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. One where there was a desire for nature and the clean air of the countryside. But these prints are remembering a way of life that never was, instead it shows a romanticized version of arduous and demanding jobs. One would imagine that those undertaking these grueling tasks would be grimacing and covered in sweat and dirt. Instead, everyone, even those working, are spotless and neat. Figures are sitting on the ground, a child is petting a dog, women are talking amongst themselves. It is actually a very leisurely scene considering the subject matter.


Interestingly, the women bear a resemblance to images of a young Queen Victoria, who would have been in her late thirties when the prints were produced. It could simply be a coincidence that the leading publisher of the day, Henry Graves & Co., was the official publisher to the royal couple. As stated below each image, “…Henry Graves & Co., printsellers & publishers to Her Majesty the Queen & His Royal Highness, Prince Albert.” I would be curious to see how much input the publisher provided or maybe Herring was just being clever. The royal family was considered the epitome of the wholesome family and served as an example to others. This scene, then, could also represent the tenet of the family unit working together harmoniously.

“J.F. Herring” is listed as pinxit meaning “he painted” and “Vincent Brooks” is credited as lith, the company that printed the lithograph. (For more Latin terms and another print collection at the NSLM, see the blog entry Princely Prints by former Curator of Collections, Nicole Stribling.) Herring produced numerous works for the publisher Henry Graves & Co., and these could be purchased through mail-order catalogs. Hop-picking and Ploughing were available in Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser shown below.

Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser, August 10, 1858, Volume 18, pg. 144
Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser, August 18, 1858, Volume 18, pg. 54

Prints are very fragile and can be susceptible to a wide range of issues, from accretions and buckling to warping and wrinkling. They also require their own unique care – for instance, light levels need to be lower, and they need to rotate into storage more often. You can see in the below image the waves at the top of the paper, this is referred to as “buckling.”

Herring’s Agricultural Scene: Hay-making, 1856

Having been on display for several months, the Agricultural Scenes will be returned to storage shortly for a much-needed break. I hope you had the chance to see them for yourself.

While my print of The Scream is not an original print by any stretch, it was produced in the same spirit as Herring’s Agricultural Scenes: that of personal enjoyment within my little home and to symbolize my mood when someone comes to visit.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

The permanent collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum has over 1,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, weathervanes, and dog collars. That’s right, dog collars.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. and Mrs. Tim Greenan began collecting dog collars, eventually amassing 187 of them. In 2014, they donated their entire collection to the NSLM, making the museum one of the largest (if not the largest) repositories in the world for these niche objects.

Dr. Greenan and the Curatorial department are developing an exhibition for 2022 that will display the objects alongside works of art that feature similar collars. The show will also highlight the relationship between dogs and humans and how that relationship has evolved throughout the centuries.

It’s hard to remember a time when dogs have not been Man’s Best Friend snuggling up on our laps and eagerly awaiting our return. Initially, they were trained for war, hunting, working, fighting, and scouting. The one shown below dates from the 18th century and is firmly utilitarian.  The spikes repelled attackers and protected the canine.

Dog Collar, 18th century, British, metal,
7 inches diameter x 1 inches wide

The brass one below would have been used for bear baiting or boar hunting. It is important to remember to not look at such collars through 21st-century eyes, but rather keep it in context of the 18th century. While we view it as cruel, bear baiting was considered a regular sport for all societal classes at the time. This collar is inscribed “WILLIAM ECKLES ISLAND HILL 1792.” The sharp sawtooth edges would have protected the neck of the dog wearing it.

Dog collar, 1792, British, brass,
6 inches diameter x 2 1/2 inches wide

The large horsehair collar below (and my favorite!) is from the 18th century, possibly from Goa, India. It is decorated with orange agate cabochons and is almost 12 inches in diameter. You can imagine that this is also quite heavy and would probably have been worn by a mastiff.

Dog collar, 18th century, possibly Goa, India, horsehair leather with agate cabochons and brass mounts with ring attachment
11 3/4 inches diameter x 2 7/8 inches height x 3 1/2 inches wide

As dogs were domesticated, they also served as a status symbol: the breed, pedigree, and, of course, the collar. Tiffany & Co., known for their wonderful and highly sought-after jewelry, also produced many everyday objects, including the below silver dog collar from 1831-1832. It is inscribed with the owner’s name, “GEO. H. INGERSOLL ./ NEW YORK.,” is adjustable, and came to the collection with the owner’s choice for a lock. It was not uncommon for dogs to be stolen, their identification to be removed, and then be resold on the street as dogs in need of a home. The lock served to discourage would-be thieves.

Dog collar, 1831-1832, American, silver,
4 1/4 inches diameter x 3 /4 inches wide

The inscriptions could sometimes be whimsical and silly.  The one below is from the 1920s or 1930s and reads, “I’M / H.O. SWINFORD’S DOG / WHOSE DOG / ARE YOU?”

Dog collar, 1920s or 1930s, American, leather, 4 inches diameter x
1 3/4 inches wide

The image below shows an Italian collar from the 1940s with distinctly Roman motifs. One crest has an image of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus. The other crest shows the she-wolf that nursed the twins after they were abandoned. Incredibly appropriate motifs to adorn such an object!

Dog collar, 1940s, Italian, leather,
5 1/2 inches diameter x 1 3/4 inches wide

Stay tuned as we continue to learn about these everyday, yet fascinating, objects. We’ll be posting more teasers in preparation for the forthcoming 2022 exhibition.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

To piggyback on intern Grace Pierce’s wonderful blog post a few weeks ago, I’d like to highlight a little more about Paul Brown. 

In 1986, his widow, Harriet, donated several works of art to the National Sporting Library, the predecessor of the NSLM. Within this generous artistic donation were personal papers, including almost one hundred decorated envelopes.  Though we don’t have the actual letters, the envelopes represent the courtship between the artist and his sweetheart, his future wife.

Both natives of Minnesota, Harriet went to school at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts while Paul’s family had moved to Garden City, New York.  They met after the Brown family had moved, his father staying in touch with friends back home.

The envelopes are sometimes addressed to “Harriet” but more often informally to her by her nickname “Sally,” sometimes spelled “Sallie” – the long letters allowing Paul to have fun, like in the instance below:

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.61

Many envelopes were decorated with images of stick figures, possibly enacting what Harriet was doing at school, for instance moving into Tyler House at Smith College:

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.37ab
Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.44

Or cheering on Harvard against Yale:

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.81

Shortly before her graduation, Harriet’s mother passed away, forcing the young woman to return home to St Paul. Her family lived for some time in the St Paul Hotel, a luxury hotel, then and now. The envelope shown below uses an elegant font that would not be out of place at a sophisticated establishment, her initials turning into its own brand. The motif on the left side mirrors that of the bellhop’s uniform, very much in the same manner that hotels tend to do – stamping their design throughout.

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.24

The artist often incorporated the postage stamp into the scene, like in the bellhop above, and in more abstract designs, like the one below:

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.13

His sense of humor came through, like the envelope below, poking fun at his golfing skills:

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.32

One last memento to share: an envelope postmarked on October 17 and decorated with a “just married” banner, perhaps the last letter before their nuptials on November 12, 1923. A fitting end to such a sweet collection.  

Collection of envelopes from Paul Brown to Harriet Smith Brown, National Sporting Library & Museum, NA2019.29.78

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As I was researching the sport of falconry for our recent event and demonstration a few weeks ago, I found myself going down a “falconry in art” rabbit hole.  Our Library really is a wonderful repository. We have several shelves of books with titles like The Art of Falconry (1943), American Falconry in the Twentieth Century (1999), Practical Falconry; to which is added, How I Became a Falconer (1972), Falconry for You (1960), and Falconry and Art (1987).  Grabbing the last title, I sat on the floor of the Library and dug in. I never noticed how much falconry is portrayed throughout art and really, how early it is shown: 4th-century Etruscan tomb decorations, an 8th-century Mesopotamian stele, and a 13th-century bas-relief in Turkey (pictured below). 

Bas-relief of falconers from the Ruins of Bogazkab (Asiatic Turkey), 13th century. The falconer on the right holds the leash of the bird.

Of course, one of the most familiar images of a falcon is in Egyptian iconography, the god Horus, who was depicted with the body of a man and head of a falcon. Interestingly, no images of a falcon in captivity exist nor is there a hieroglyphic symbol for falconry, which suggests that the sport was not practiced in Egypt. Likewise, there are no images in early Greek or Roman art, possibly for the same reason.

Image of the Egyptian god Horus.

Coinciding with the rise of falconry in the Western Middle Ages was the rise of its depiction in art.  The 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry shows several instances of King Harold with a hawk on his arm. In one, he is presenting it as a gift to William of Normandy.

This scene is after Harold has brought the falcon to William who is shown holding the hawk.

One of the most well-known works in art history is Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1413-1416), a devotional book, known as a Book of Hours. Amongst the psalms and prayers are calendars, each month alternating between depictions of agricultural and courtly life.  The month of August shows a scene of men on horseback and women seated aside with them, along with a groom in front, carrying raptors on their arms. 

A century or so later, birds of prey were included in The Lady with a Unicorn tapestry series. Dating from the late 15th to early 16th centuries, the six tapestries are thought to be allusions to the five senses with a sixth tapestry whose subject is unknown. Depictions of animals, both real and mythical, are interwoven throughout.

A falcon gently lands on the hand of the woman in the center.

On the other side of the world, falconry was a frequent presence in Eastern culture and, therefore, art. Terracotta figures found in Japanese burial mounds, known as haniwa, include figures of falconers. The one depicted below is from the Kofun Period (c. 250–c. 600 CE). These were life size and placed on top of graves.

A 16th-century drawing, Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami, from a Persian Royal Manuscript shows a falconer with his hawk on the left-gloved hand and an injured duck in his right. The glove he uses looks detailed and contains some of the only remaining color.

From 18th-century India is a Portrait of a rajah, goshawk on fist, currently housed in the Louvre in Paris.  It shows a strong profile view of a man with a falcon perched on his glove, looking back at him.

We continue to see falconry throughout the Western Renaissance and into the 18th and 19th centuries.  As the popularity of the sport ebbs and flows so does its prominence within artistic tradition. So what, then, do we have in the 21st century to represent this ancient sport?  Photographs. Copyright laws prevent me from producing them here, but I invite you to Google “21st-century falconry photography.” Beautiful contemporary images appear of men and women continuing in the tradition of the medieval lords and ladies in Les Tres Riches Heures and the Indian Rajah holding a goshawk.

Falconry has, literally, withstood the test of time, remaining relevant in a modern world. The art produced throughout the centuries proves this. I’m eager to see what will be created next.


Image citations:

Falconers from Ruins of Bogazkab : Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Egyptian god Horus: By Jeff Dahl – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3280569Image of the Egyptian god Horus.

Bayeux Tapestry: Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry in Reading. The website has the entire story broken down by scene – certainly worth a click! http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/bayeux7.htm

Tres Riche Heures: By Limbourg brotheres – R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojedachateaudechantilly.com, Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108570 . The Book of Hours is currently housed at the Musee Conde outside of Paris, France http://www.domainedechantilly.com/en/accueil/chateau/reading-room/selected-works/

Lady with the Unicorn: Taste: http://tchevalier.com/unicorn/tapestries/taste.html, Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2724262
Currently housed at the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris, France
https://www.musee-moyenage.fr/collection/oeuvre/la-dame-a-la-licorne.html

Haniwa falconer: https://jref.com/articles/japanese-falconry.217/ . A wonderful resource on Japanese falconry.

Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Portrait of a Rajah, goshawk on fist: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.


Citations:

Resource on the Bayeux Tapestry: Robin S. Oggins, The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2004.

Resource on haniwa: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/art-japan/kofun-period/a/haniwa-warrior

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

It’s that time of year when things slow down, ever so slightly.  The spring exhibitions are open and there’s a little breathing room before we need to start devoting all of our energy to the fall exhibition.  This is a great time to catch up on the tasks that have accumulated on my desk.  One of the most important responsibilities in Collections is inventorying: to verify locations and assess the condition of all the works of art in all of our collections.  It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? 

The tools: measuring tape, condition report, flashlight, pencil (always a pencil!), dusting cloth, and the ever-present nitrile gloves. (after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1756-1822), Fox Hunting No. 3, hand-colored aquatint, 18 x 22 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016

There are two different types of inventory that we utilize: comprehensive and location.  A comprehensive inventory is just that, an inventory of the permanent, study, and loan collections, complete with thorough condition reports and photographs.  Depending on the size of the museum or gallery and staff resources, this should (ideally) be completed annually.  A location inventory has a smaller scope; it verifies that the accession number on the object matches the record, is in the correct location, and if the condition has changed. This is not as time intensive as a comprehensive inventory and should be completed if a comprehensive inventory isn’t possible.  Because of our staff size, we like to alternate annually between the two.

Recall the condition reports from my February 19, 2019 blog entry on the installation of the Sidesaddle exhibition. The inventory process requires that a condition report is filled out for each object and retained in the object folder. Along with the basic information, like title, artist, medium, and date, I also record a brief description of the object, including any defects, like warping of a canvas or scratches on a frame.  Visuals are always helpful when documenting changes.  I try to take as thorough a reference as possible, highlighting any potential issues that should be tracked.

The oldest work of art in our art collection is A Horse in a Landscape, an oil on panel by Abraham van Calreat (c. 1690).  That’s over three centuries of exposure and changing hands and an expansive time frame for it to be dropped, hung above a fireplace, or placed in direct sunlight.  Part of an inventory is to make note of chipped frames and discoloration which are just two possibilities of the previous three scenarios. Despite its age, A Horse in a Landscape is in very good condition.

Works on paper have other potential concerns such as being susceptible to foxing.  Those are the small brownish spots you might see speckled about in old books or prints. The print below has evidence of foxing on the right border. 

Foxing can be seen most noticeably on the right-side border. Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874), Kentucky, 1867, colored engraving, 24 1/2 x 32 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Peter Winants, 2004

Another example of a noteable paper condition issue is seen in the image on the left below of the 1923 wedding invitation of the artist Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) to his wife, Harriet.  The discoloration is easily noticed.  What would have caused this?  Perhaps it was displayed in a frame where, over time, the light caused it to change. 

Invitation to the wedding of Paul Desmond Brown to Harriet Smith, November 12, 1923, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

The backside of the paper below has several issues including discoloration, missing elements, accretions, tears, buckling, and flaking.

Verso of paper with envelope affixed to the front, addressed to Harriet Smith, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

A comprehensive inventory also serves another purpose. Do the works of art under scrutiny still meet the mission of the organization?  As museums and galleries evolve, their mission statements and policies may need to evolve too.  This could include adjusting the scope of the collection plan, meaning that objects in the collection may be better suited for interpretation at a different institution.  If that is the case, further evaluation is warranted.

An inventory can be a long process, but it serves an important purpose; it is one of the principal aspects of Collections Management.  For now, if you need me, I’ll be in storage, listening to big band music, and plugging away at this year’s inventory.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

We have over 1,300 objects in the museum collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  Those objects can be broken down into three categories of collections: permanent, study, and loan collections.  Regardless of which collection an object belongs to, the motto is the same: we treat all objects with the same care and attention.

The objects in the permanent collection have been donated or bequeathed to the NSLM or purchased by the NSLM.  An example of this would be The Start of the Derby (1845) by John Herring Sr. (English, 1795-1865), generously bequeathed to the museum in 2017.  This is a wonderful painting by a popular British sporting artist and represents an ordinary moment in a unique style and tradition all his own.  The Start of the Derby will be part of the upcoming NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art exhibition, opening Friday, April 12.

John Frederick Herring, Sr (English, 1795-1865) The Start of the Derby, 1845
oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017

The study collection is comprised of objects that are primarily used for research purposes.  For instance, in NSLMology, we are including a bronze of a Mare and Foal, which visitors will be encouraged to touch.  Wait. Why is this allowed when every sign in the museum says Do Not Touch?  Because in this instance, the bronze is a 20th-century casting.  This does not make it less valuable, it is simply a later model, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with it.

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Jument Arabe et son Paulain (An Arab Mare and Foal),
model 1850; cast early 20th century, bronze with detached wooden base, 12 x 19 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, 2014

Our last collection is our loan collection.  In addition to the rare private lender, institutions frequently loan to and from one another and we are no exception.  Two popular bronze sculptures on display are from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond: Pointer Guarding Dead Game (1850) and Setter, Pointer, & Partridge (1848) by Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879). 

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Setter, Pointer, and Partridge, 1850, bronze, 9 x 16 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Forrest E. Mars, 69.29.2

Since we want to make sure different works of art are seen, and to allow the art to rest, we frequently rotate art from the different collections between being on-view and in storage. 

To keep track of our different collections, each one has a different numbering system.  Using the above objects as examples, the accession number for The Start of the Derby is 2017.3.1.  This means the painting was acquired in 2017.  It was the third acquisition that year, and it was the first object of that bequest.  We also received several other paintings within the bequest, therefore, those additional works received the subsequent numbers: 2017.3.2, 2017.3.3, etc. 

The objects in the study collection have an “S” in front of their number.  The accession number for Mare and Foal is S2014.13.1.  It was the thirteenth study object received in 2014 and the only object in that donation. Likewise, the VMFA bronzes on loan are numbered L2007.31.5-6.

This is by no means a universal numbering system.  Each museum is different.  Larger institutions may have different numbering systems within different departments.  Each work of art has a tag so we can track it whenever it is moved around the museum.  The accession number on the art corresponds to our digital cataloging system that records any location moves and stores all pertinent information relating to that specific object. That, though, is a post for another day…

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org