I have had, in the past few weeks, the opportunity to lead gallery tours of our temporary exhibition, Through a Different Lens. I spent so much time with the photographs on display when we were preparing the exhibition and I was writing the publication that I’ve sort of forgotten what it’s like to see them through new eyes. Every tour I lead gives me the chance to see the material afresh.Yesterday, I led three tours of art teachers on a professional development field trip. They asked questions about photography and made thought-provoking comments on the show. One of my favorite moments was when we were standing in front of “Alexander Calder in His Studio, Roxbury, Connecticut,” and I was talking about the composition of the image. I had forgotten who I was talking to! The art teachers took over the discussion, remarking on how the photograph was full of angles and geometric shapes, and Calder was the only organic thing in the entire picture. Perfect comment.
Talking to people about objects is an opportunity for information and insights to flow both ways. In Through a Different Lens, we have a room devoted to photographic technology that bridges the gap between the nineteenth and twentieth century photographers. I LOVE walking people through that room and seeing their delight when they recognize the kinds of cameras they used to use (and still might, in some cases), on display in a museum. I might know more about the history of the piece and the person who made it, but visitors’ personal connections to the material and observations about it is just as useful.
Tasha Caswell is a Project Cataloger/Researcher at the Connecticut Historical Society