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Letter from the Director: Spring/Summer 2010

Hood Quarterly, spring/summer 2010
Brian Kennedy, Director

In his speech on March 2, 2009, accepting the post of seventeenth President of Dartmouth College, Dr. Jim Yong Kim quoted one of his predecessors, John Sloan Dickey, who was fond of telling students “the world’s troubles are your troubles.” The belief that Dartmouth students can do something about the world’s troubles is deeply felt. Participation rates in the Peace Corps and in volunteer and study abroad programs by Dartmouth students are among the highest in any American college or university. Susan Meiselas, whose major exhibition is on display at the Hood Museum of Art this spring, is somebody who believes in doing something about the world’s troubles. She has been a witness to global events, and especially to people who are threatened by violence and war. She is committed to human rights and activism. She brings this social commitment and concern about ethics to contemporary photography, which is so open to manipulation and partiality. Perhaps more than most forms of art making, students today seem to be attracted by the immediacy of photographs. We thank the International Center for Photography and Marina and Andrew E. Lewin ’81 for enabling the Hood Museum of Art to present Susan Meiselas: In History, a truly powerful photographic exhibition.

Many academic departments at Dartmouth include the Hood Museum of Art’s collections within their curricula, and it is a source of delight that there is such consistent support from our faculty. Last year, we pulled 4,846 objects from storage for study by professors and their classes. The Bernstein Study-Storage Center, the museum’s classroom, was used by eighty-nine Dartmouth classes, and individual student visits totaled 1,166. Along with this work, we engage intensively with regional school and community groups, which resulted in 5,175 visits by school children to the museum and the Orozco mural. The Hood Museum of Art seeks to be an exemplary teaching museum, but we are especially concerned to engage Dartmouth faculty and students, along with administrators and our broader community, in a discussion about visual literacy, so that we can teach and learn how to better construct meaning from images. We have been assisted in this work over many years by support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who recently awarded a further major grant to establish an endowment to strengthen the curricular role of our museum’s collections and programs. The commitment of the foundation to the work of museums in advancing teaching by direct engagement with works of art is outstanding, and we are most appreciative.

Our summer exhibition, Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation, celebrates the heyday of the American film industry from 1920 to 1960. John Kobal was an outstanding collector and historian of Hollywood photography who explored how the major film studios used controlled marketing techniques to promote their stars, making famous the portraits of, for example, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and Elizabeth Taylor. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Kobal Foundation and Robert Dance ’77, longtime supporter of the Hood Museum of Art, who has curated the exhibition and written for the excellent catalogue.

The past year has been a difficult one for the Hood Museum of Art, given recent budget reductions at Dartmouth College due to a sharp drop in its endowments. Our program is strong and the museum staff has risen to the challenges. We are grateful for the support of the Dartmouth administration, the museum’s board members, faculty and students, and the wider community. The generous commitment of our museum membership is vital. I encourage you to engage with our many scheduled activities in coming months! We aim to be accessible to everyone; please visit as often as you can.

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