New Smithsonian Exhibition Examines the Art of Looking at Exhibitions

Just how much has the museum-going experience changed over the years? That’s what the Smithsonian‘s Archives of American Art — a collection of artists’ journals, sketchbooks, correspondence, and other printed and paper ephemera — set out to illustrate in its new exhibition, “A Day at the Museum,” which opened earlier this month at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery.

In a lot of ways, museum-going has changed,” curator Mary Savig told Around the Mall, “so we want to show people the things that are the same or why things are different.”

The exhibition includes artists’ first-hand accounts of especially formative visits to museums, like Eleanor Antin remembering her childhood trips to the Museum of Modern Art and Lee Bontecou‘s memory of a major Vincent van Gogh show at the Metropolitan Museum.

“Some people have fun going to see exhibitions with their children or their parents, and some people are just there to study, because they’re students, some people are guards,” Savig said. “We really wanted to show a variety of experiences at museums, because that’s what our visitors will have.”

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Detail from Dorr Bothwell illustrated diary, 1942 February 9-March 22. Dorr Bothwell papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.)