All Things Return to Dust

Dear friends,

The Lost Museum exhibition is now gone, dismantled much like the Jenks Museum itself 100 years ago.  But in the final weeks of its run, the Jenks Society rallied for a number of happenings.

From May 6 to 8, we held a conference entitled Lost Museums: A Symposium on the Ephemerality & Afterlives of Museums & Collections.  Scholars, artists, and museum professionals converged in Providence for talks, tours, and performances.

Symposium presenter Amy Kohout noticed a bird collected by her research subject in the Lost Museum exhibit display case.

If you missed it, never fear: videos of many talks are now available through Brown’s YouTube account (search for “Lost Museum Symposium”). Also, the #lostmuseums Twitter hashtag gathered a number of photos and observations by attendees.

For the symposium, Jenks Society member Jessica Palinski curated an exhibition of work by artist Rosamond Purcell at the John Carter Brown Library.  It was entitled “Out of Their Depths: Giants of Land and Sea.”

Giants of Land and Sea exhibition.

Also, Liz Crawford and Becky Soules appeared on Good News RI, a local TV talk show, to discuss the Jenks Museum and the symposium.

Soon afterward, Peter Barstow, a descendant of John Whipple Potter Jenks, came to visit us from his home in Massachusetts.  Mr. Barstow is at work on a book about his naturalist ancestor.  He regaled us with stories of Jenks hunting in Florida and brought historical documents for us to see.  We were very pleased to meet him and to show him our exhibition.

Peter Barstow, descendant of J.W.P. Jenks, visits The Lost Museum.

Next, we received word that The Lost Museum exhibition had received two more awards, both from the American Association for State and Local History.  The first was the Award of Merit, a state-level honor.  The second was the History in Progress award, an additional honor bestowed by AASLH on a small handful of Award of Merit winners every year.  From the press release:

[The History in Progress award] is for a project that is highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, and/or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness.

The Jenks Society was one of three winning organizations this year. Thank you, AASLH!

A number of Jenks Society members received masters degrees in late May and early June.  At Brown, five of us received MAs in Public Humanities (with one continuing on to the PhD in American Studies).  At RISD Raina Belleau received her MFA.

We marked the occasion of commencement with a final performance of “Re-Collecting the Lost Museum,” which premiered at the Morbid Anatomy Museum last fall.

(What will become of the Jenks Society?  Some musings have appeared at the Center for Public Humanities blog.)

At last, on May 29 the bell tolled for The Lost Museum exhibition.  Artists retrieved their ghostly white works from museum storage.  Dead birds, skulls, and nearly 100 other objects returned to the collections that lent them to us.  We stripped labels and photos from the display case, exposing its nails and poster squares.

Liz Crawford packs up Jenksian art objects.

Liz Crawford packs up Jenksian art objects.

The recreation of Jenks’ taxidermy workshop remains.  By request of the Joukowsky Institute, it will stay up for another year.

As for the portrait of J.W.P. Jenks, it now hangs in the administrative offices at Rhode Island Hall, where it will remain in perpetuity.

Portrait of J.W.P. Jenks in its new environs.

With that, a two-year project and grand museological adventure has come to a close.

Thank you to all who contributed to the project — and to all who visited.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

Farewell to The Lost Museum!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s