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Bringing the world to Binghamton.

By : Cait Anastis

Museum staff members Jacqueline Hogan, left, and Silvia Ivanova.
Stepping into the Binghamton Uni-versity Art Museum’s storage area reveals a treasure trove of artwork, representing cultures from around the globe. The museum’s 3,000-piece permanent collection is stored here; with objects carefully catalogued and ready for use during exhibitions and outreach programs. It allows the museum’s staff to present visitors with ever-changing opportunities to explore the world’s art and culture.

The collection is “eclectic,” including Japanese prints, African mud cloths, Egyptian artifacts and European artwork, said Jacqueline Hogan, the museum’s assistant director. It is also unique to the area as the Tri-Cities’ only historical collection with its oldest piece dating back almost 3,000 years. Museum director Lynn Gamwell hopes visitors will be inspired by what they see.

“I want them to find something that is interesting, beautiful and stimulating in an environment that is peaceful and contemplative, so that they’ll want to come back and see more,” she said.

As part of the University community, the museum’s focus is on education and serving as a resource for faculty and student research. “We would really like for it to be utilized even more,” Hogan said. “The artwork goes hand in hand with learning social sciences or history. It gives a more rounded look.”

Students of the sciences can also find learning opportunities within the museum’s galleries. A partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences has made a series of special exhibitions possible on campus, combining the arts and sciences. Since 1994, a number of different exhibits focused on the intersection of art and science have traveled from New York City to Binghamton, including art influenced by discovery of the double helix model of DNA and work inspired by Albert Einstein’s theories.

The exhibits merging art and science are Gamwell’s work and were sparked by her research on the rise of abstract art at the beginning of the 20th century. Not seen in earlier periods, abstract art is a product of rapid scientific developments.

“It’s a product of a scientific world, in which you find reality as existing in artificial realms,” she said. “It’s been a way to expand the audience of the museum beyond art students,” she added.

The museum’s public face is not limited to campus visitors to the museum. As part of an active outreach program, Silvia Ivanova, the museum’s registrar, works with teachers at area elementary, middle and high schools to bring art into the classroom.

“We were trying to make the collection accessible to the public in a different way,” she said.

For some students, the program is an introduction to the museum experience. When preparing for an outreach program, Ivanova selects seven to nine pieces from the permanent collection that fit the lesson plan and can travel without the risk of damage. The number of objects is kept small to keep from overwhelming students.

“We don’t want them to get the impression that the museum is someplace over-whelming or foreboding,” she said. “What we want first is for people to have a very good attitude toward the museum in general.”

The school outreach program involves two classroom visits. The first gives the students a chance to see artwork; the second provides an opportunity to step into the role of the artist and create some-thing based on the art they are studying.

Part of what she hopes the students will learn from these visits is that every-one is part of a long chain in human history and there is a need to preserve the artifacts of the past.

Being part of the University community allows the museum staff to explore ideas that wouldn’t be possible in other environments, Gamwell said. On campus there is support from the administration for exhibitions that take time and research, with a built-in audience for many exhibitions.

“(President DeFleur) creates the kind of environment that supports that kind of research,” Gamwell said. “You could never do this at a city museum.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08