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Letter from the Director: Spring 2015

Hood Quarterly, spring 2015
Juliette Bianco, Interim Director

All visitors to the Hood Museum of Art are confronted, and most often awed, by the magnificent ninth-century BCE stone carvings in Kim Gallery from the ancient city of Nimrud that depict the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, attended by both human and supernatural protectors. These objects—just six out of the nearly 65,000 that are preserved in the museum’s collection—are treasured by all who behold them as a direct link to humans’ individual and collective histories. This past February and March, the importance of protecting these objects was poignantly demonstrated as we watched members of the rebel group ISIS in Iraq destroy, on video, precious ancient Assyrian sculptures at the Mosul Museum. They then bulldozed Nimrud. The Hood staff is grateful for the efforts of the global art and archaeological community to renounce and combat this destruction, including, at Dartmouth, Susan Ackerman, the Preston H. Kelsey Professor in Religion, who is president of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), and Deborah Nichols, Professor of Anthropology, who is treasurer of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA).

The ingenious and creative mark-making of others—whether from three thousand years ago or from just last week—is powerful in itself and also fuel for further inspiration, and we celebrate that fact with this spring’s exhibitions and programs. Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk has occupied himself with the aesthetics and legacy of nsibidi, the communication system of Ekpe, a trans-ethnic secret society in Africa. His paintings and drawings now on view in the galleries, on loan from the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are accompanied by an exhibition of Ekpe ritual cloths with patterns of nsibidi symbols, on loan from Dr. Eli Bentor, in an adjoining gallery. Our presentation of these exhibitions is further enhanced by Ekpuk’s residency from April 21 to 24 to complete a monumental drawing on the walls in the museum’s soaring Lathrop Gallery. We invite you to watch his progress, talk with the artist, and view the exhibitions during this eventful week.

New gifts to the collection not only transform and deepen our holdings but also provide exciting new opportunities for teaching within the Dartmouth curriculum, making connections with campus and local partners, and engaging our visiting public. We are very pleased, therefore, to announce a major gift of contemporary photographs to the museum from Nancy and Thomas F. O’Neil III, Class of 1979, which includes works by Edward Burtynsky, David Goldes, Brian Ulrich, Dawoud Bey, and others. Please visit the exhibition Water Ways: Tension and Flow in Harrington Gallery to experience how these works support teaching and learning at the museum. We thank Nancy and Tom for their vision and generosity!

Foremost among the reasons for preserving and exhibiting works of such resonance as the Assyrian reliefs are the recognition and celebration of the importance of cultural memory. This is equally true for the museum’s important Native American art collection. As the work on digitizing this entire collection continues—thanks to a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—we reap the rewards of discovering and sharing new information about the objects it comprises. Currently on view in the Kim Gallery are works from the Arctic and Subarctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland that were the first to be studied as a result of the grant, including objects from a generous gift from Raphael and Jane Bernstein and bequest from Evelyn Stefansson Nef. We will continue to make what we learn available to all museum visitors in the galleries—and online, through a redesigned museum website that is coming soon.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Hood Museum of Art this spring and inviting you to enjoy, discover, and learn from the art and history that we are so fortunate to share!

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