Collection Glimpse: American Folk Art Museum

This is the third segment in a series of posts entitled, “Collection Glimpses.”  Each post in the series  focuses on a unique collection, innovative repository, or a not well known cultural heritage institution. The first post highlighted the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive and the second installment focused on the Gardiner Museum

 Established in 1961, the American Folk Art Museum is dedicated to the display, preservation, and interpretation of traditional folk art and contemporary self-taught artists from the United States and internationally.  The museum hold folk art items from the eighteenth century to the present.

In addition to an extensive collection dedicated to traditional folk art of all mediums and contexts, the Museum’s Contemporary Center highlights recent works of art and culture which reflect the ongoing tradition of self-taught artistry in the United States.  The Center presents lectures, symposia, and special events.  A portion of the Center’s contemporary works can be viewed online

Other than the unique items in the collection, the factor which makes the American Folk Art Museum stand apart is the museum’s commitment to outreach and educational programming.  The Museum has an extensive collection focused lecture, tour, and workshop schedule.  Other outreach initiatives include hands on DIY craft  sessions, guitar afternoons, and free music Fridays.

For those interested in American folk art and not unable to visit the museum, there are a wide array of social media and digital display techniques used by the museum. The museum has digitized a number of items and made them available via an image gallery.  Additionally, in the past the Museum has produced some exhibit specific apps and digital promotions.  The “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” app is an interesting example of an app allowing remote access to an exhibit.

Overall, the abundance of digital resource and research potential provided by the American Folk Art Museum left me longing for a Canadian equivalent.  The Canadian Museum of Civilization does collect Canadian Folk art, however at the moment that collection isn’t overly accessible in a digital format.

Photo credit: joevare, cliff1066, and Steve and Sara,

Collection Glimpse: The Gardiner Museum

Gardiner Museum

This is the second entry in a series of posts entitled, “Collection Glimpses.”  Each post in the series  focuses on a unique collection, innovative repository, or a not well known cultural heritage institution. The first post highlighted the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive.  

History of the Museum
The Gardiner Museum is Canada’s only museum dedicated solely to ceramics and is one of the few museums in the world that focuses exclusively on ceramics.  The Gardiner Museum opened in Toronto in 1884 and was initially dedicated to holding the collection of artifacts held by George and Helen Gardiner.  From 1987 to 1996 the Gardiner Museum was governed by the ROM.  From 1996 to 2004 to Museum underwent considerable growth and the collection grew to include ceramics from around the world.  The Gardiner then closed from 2004 to 2006 to undergo renovation and expansion.  Since reopening the Gardiner has gained exhibition and display space, and a hands-on clay studio space.

 The Collection
 The collection held by the Gardiner Museum contains more than 3000 pieces of ceramics from around the world.  The items in the collection range from ancient pottery to contemporary works of art. A large percentage of this collection has been digitized and made available online.  The browse collections feature is a bit clunky, but the ceramics are sorted by collection type and are well photographed.

The Gardiner Museum also houses the Gail Brooker Ceramic Research Library.  This library contains over 2500 items including auction catalogues, rare books, scrapbooks, periodicals, and special collections.  The collection is searchable online.  However, the collection is non-circulating and must be consulted onsite. 

Educational Programming
The Gardiner offers a variety of clay classes for all ages and skills levels.  All of these classes are run by professional ceramists and are held in a studio setting.  The museum also offers school programs, workshops, and group tours.  The Museum also holds “Id Clinics” where patrons can bring in objects and have them identified by curators.  Additionally, every day at 2pm the museum offers guided tours with the price of admission.

The museum has fairly decent hours and is reasonably priced ($12 for adults and half price admission on Friday evenings).   For anyone interested in the clay medium this is the Canadian institution to turn to – both in terms of research materials and exhibited collections. 

Photo Credit: wvs and  StudioGabe