Many of the digital history projects I have browsed during this quarantine were produced by institutions I have visited in-person. Looking at the Brooklyn Museum’s webpage on “The Dinner Party” helped me experience an exhibit I’ve seen multiple times in a new way. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has produced a virtual tour which highlights one of my favorite parts of the museum, the Temple of Dendur. While seeing these familiar places in a new way has been an exciting discovery during this period, perhaps more exciting has been getting to look inside institutions I have never visited. I have already started planning some post-quarantine trips based on these new virtual experiences. One such place I hope to visit in-person is the Winterthur Museum.
The Winterthur has turned to its Instagram page to provide would-be visitors with an intimate look insides its galleries. Right before the shut down began, the museum opened its newest exhibit “Re-Vision 20/20: Through a Women’s Lens.” The exhibit re-examines objects in the Winterthur’s collection through the lens of women’s history and focuses on the stories of women creators and thinkers. While many people may not have been able to view the exhibit in-person yet, the museum has posted two videos to its Instagram that allow guests to see some of what it entails. Both videos are formatted as a conversation between the director of museum and engagement and curator of exhibitions. In the first, they provide some insight into the curatorial process. When creating “Re-Vision 20/20” they were presented with an incredibly diverse mix of objects. The challenge was how to bring these objects together. One theme they landed on was “who knew?”. The case they highlight in the video exemplifies this theme. Inside are a book of poems by Phillis Wheatley, a statue of Catharine Macaulay, and a dish featuring the image of Nellie Bly. Each of these women were a pioneer in their respective fields; Wheatley was the first African American to be published in the American colonies, Macauley was one of the first women historians of England, and Bly was arguably the creator of investigative journalism. These three women, who at first glance share little, are united in the honor of being “first.”
The second video looks at two artbooks created by Mary Gartside. Gartside was also a pioneering woman, a distinguished artist who did important work on color theory. The two books illustrates the challenges of being a female artist in the eighteenth century. The first book is filled with illustrations of flowers, work that women were expected to do. The second book shows her color studies- abstract color blots.
Seeing these videos made me want to see more of “Re-Vision 20/20.” Like the curators said, the exhibit is composed of a diverse array of objects, which viewers can see in the background of each video, including dishes, a large floral pattern tapestry, and furniture. I am curious what stories these other objects hold. Until guests can visit “Re-Vision 20/20” in person, the Winterthur’s social media channels provide a great glimpse inside.