Director's Letter: Strange but Not a Stranger

Strange but Not a Stranger
Even when song lyrics defy deep interpretation, they can have a way of informing chapters in our lives. The Talking Heads song "Burning Down the House" has been a constant companion during my quarantine—as have many other songs by the band. I think what I like about the lyric "strange but not a stranger" is the peculiar suggestion of finding familiarity in the unfamiliar. This, for me, is true of the intense shared social stress of these times. One of my earliest memories is from the day my mom brought the television out of its daytime place in the closet (something very strange and never done in our house) to watch the constant coverage of the JFK assassination. She ironed, she watched, and she cried. I was clueless. I was four years old. In my garbled childhood film reel, as I grew up in the following years, the news bounced quickly from Viet Nam to riots in the United States, from the assassinations of RFK and MLK to unforgettable images from Kent State to Johannesburg—and now the television just stayed out of the closet.
Sadly, these times are no stranger to us. In the last few months, as historians have dredged up photographs of masked citizens fighting the influenza epidemic of 1918, echoes of other histories have become deafening reminders that meaningful change is still to come. The images are all too familiar as they tell the story of brutality, tragedy, and strife. People who have none strive for a voice, for a foothold of reason in a world quick to violent response. Overlaid on all this is the massive weight of pandemic, witnessed in images from field hospitals to impromptu morgues. Alas, all this turmoil is accompanied by grief and misinformation on a massive scale.
Through all this, can we even talk of a "return to normal"? I think not. Yet, while we are far from being out of the woods, Dartmouth and the Hood Museum are cautiously planning for "next normals." These will surely evolve in stages over the coming months and years—and probably often in ways that we cannot yet predict. We will continue to provide ambitious, meaningful dialogues virtually. We will share art of all kinds as best we can. While longing for the resumption of face-to-face engagements, we will forge ahead in our exploration of the possibilities for safely exchanging ideas.
One thing we can share with confidence is that the Hood Museum will continue in its commitment to providing spaces of representation for those too long underrepresented and opportunities for suppressed voices to find creative platforms to share their stories.
We can and we will.
John R. Stomberg
Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director


Written June 05, 2020