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Letter from the Director: Spring 2003

Hood Quarterly, spring 2003
Derrick R. Cartwright, Director

One of the primary aims of the new, expanded Hood Quarterly has been to share with our audiences more of what we are doing here at the Hood. By fully explaining the programs we provide and by posing more provocative questions of ourselves, the staff and I hope to engage you more deeply in the life of this institution. We also want to demystify the work that we perform on behalf of Dartmouth College. For many people—not just undergraduates—the day-to-day concerns of a world-class museum remain vague. What does the professional staff of a museum do with its time? In this issue we try to answer this sort of question, at least in part, by describing the considerable effort that goes into bringing great art to Hanover on a permanent basis.

To cite one example: museums acquire important works of art in a variety of ways. The Hood staff always follows our Collections Management Policy—considered a model document by many of our professional colleagues—as we decide how, what, and when to acquire new works for the permanent collection. When someone offers this museum an object as a gift, we must adhere to certain defined protocols. Usually a curator or another qualified colleague with deep expertise in the relevant culture area is consulted and physically examines the object. If the object contributes to our teaching mission or fills a meaningful gap in our existing holdings, then it is exhaustively researched and presented to the Acquisitions Committee. This committee is appointed by the Provost and is comprised of faculty members and other campus administrators (the Director of the museum chairs the committee but votes only in the case of a tie). This committee bears tremendous responsibility for what ultimately becomes property of the Trustees of Dartmouth College.

Occasionally, the museum purchases an object for its collection. The most significant of these purchases also come before the Acquisitions Committee for approval. This is a deliberate, consultative, and time-consuming practice, because all works of art, regardless of their monetary worth, must be carefully considered in terms of their aesthetic and historical value. Additionally, all purchased work should follow the strategic plan for acquisitions that has been developed by the museum’s curatorial staff. One stated goal of this plan is to acquire “destination objects”—works of art that are worthy of a visit to the museum in their own right—that hold out the promise of memorably transforming the gallery spaces that they occupy.

Being rigorous thinkers about the objects we acquire is one thing; finding intriguing ways to share these works with the public is yet another. The description of the way that we have directly engaged Dartmouth students in the recent acquisition of several photographs and my own diaristic account of how a major sculpture came to the Hood should help readers of this Quarterly to understand better the challenges of our own acquisitions processes and also, we hope, to appreciate more completely the rewards that they bring this community.

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