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Students curate exhibition of women photographers

Published July 26, 2004

Class members choose contemporary Mexican work for museum purchase and inclusion in exhibition

On view through Sept.19 at the Hood Museum of Art,   Looking Backward, Moving Forward: Women Photographers in the Hood's Collection showcases the museum's commitment to giving students the opportunity to shape acquisitions and exhibitions.


Dartmouth undergraduates selected the photograph Harem, by Daniela Rossell, for acquisition by the Hood Museum of Art. (IMAGES COURTESY OF THE HOOD MUSEUM OF ART)

Megan Fontanella '04, curatorial intern, and Jennifer Schreck '04, special projects intern, worked with Hood Director Derrick Cartwright to choose the photographs featured in the exhibition. Looking Backward, Moving Forward presents 34 19th- and 20th-century works by women photographers, including a recent acquisition selected for purchase by 13 Dartmouth undergraduate students.

Fontanella and Schreck use Looking Backward, Moving Forward to examine the recurring themes that link women photographers across the complex and varied terrain of photographic art. The exhibition encompasses photographic history from the daguerreotype image to contemporary  representations such as Harem, from the series Ricas y Famosas, 2001, by Mexican artist Daniela Rossell - a work selected for acquisition by  Dartmouth undergraduates.

Taking part in "Acquiring Great Art," a noncurricular course organized by Katie Putnam '04, the Hood's academic programming intern, 13 students met 12 times to learn about the ethics, logistics, and strategies that influence the decision to purchase works of art. Led by Derrick Cartwright and Katherine Hart, Barbara C. and Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming, the course met for consecutive Monday evenings and culminated in the purchase of the Rossell photograph.

Julia Margaret Cameron, Unknown Woman
Julia Margaret Cameron, Unknown Woman from Portfolio of Twelve Victorian Photographs, number 1 of 12

"It was really exciting to play an active role in the acquisition process, and I can't think of a more stimulating way to introduce students to the museum world," Dartmouth sophomore Emily Salas '05 said after the course. "It was exciting to be studying something contemporary, as we felt like we were acquiring something new and fresh that would enrich and enliven the museum's permanent collection."

Harem will be exhibited for the first time at the museum as part of Looking Backward, Moving Forward, sharing the limelight with other works by women photographers including Mary Post Wolcott, Dorothea Lange, Janine Gordon, and Sally Mann.

Looking Backward, Moving Forward highlights the museum's dedication to creating opportunities for students to learn about museums from the  inside out. Fontanella and Schreck chose the objects featured in the exhibition and used their research about each work to compose wall labels and an essay, which the museum published in an illustrated brochure with funding from the Dartmouth Class of 1948.

"Few museums would give undergraduate students access to over 65,000 works of art, and fewer still would encourage students to engage in a  thought-provoking study of that collection, pulling together pertinent art objects for an exhibition in a main gallery of the institution," Fontanella said. "This experience has proved invaluable both professionally and personally. Not only have I developed curatorial knowledge, but I have also interacted with an entire range of  professionals in the museum environment."

Fontanella's experience fulfills the museum's vision for the program.

"This project represents the strongest conceivable collaboration between the professional staff of the Hood Museum of Art and two promising young scholars," Director Derrick Cartwright wrote in the exhibition brochure. Acknowledging Schreck and Fontanella's scholarship, Cartwright credits the student curators for treating a previously "undervalued strength within Dartmouth's vast object collections."

Featuring almost 200 years of artistic production, Looking Backward, Moving Forward unites photography by women around the world and  celebrates the reciprocal relationship between the Hood Museum of Art and the student community it serves.

By SHARON REED

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08