Power, Mutiny and Monster Island

While processing the archival materials of the curatorial department of the Weisman Art Museum, I came across an article from MN Daily called Imaginative Immersion: Three Days, Five Artists, which was about an atypical exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum in February of 2008. These five artists were part of a group independent study with UMN’s art department inspired by Paul Shambroom’s exhibit at WAM the previous spring titled Picturing Power. The independent course culminated in “a semi-impromptu mural” titled Mutiny. The students–Andy Brinkman, Brett Gustafson, Miles Mendenhall, Rhett Roberts and Travis Hetman–formed the group known as Monster Island. Over the course of three(ish) days, Monster Island installed Mutiny in the Shepherd Room of the Weisman Art Museum.

Monster Island

mon·ster is·land

  1. Multi-headed art beast originating from Minneapolis, MN. Known to eat art.
  2. Geographical location designed specifically for the containment of gigantic creatures.
Thanks to the Wayback Machine for the snippet above from Monster Island’s former website

To exhibit in a museum is a truly amazing opportunity for students. The only caveat to this opportunity: they could leave no mark or trace on the walls of this room. Instead the students used large sheets of paper “(sketched, painted and chalked) and a whole lot of blue masking tape.” 

“In their five-day project, Monster Island sought to address this relationship between public and private space, and the power between and throughout those spaces, not only through the final piece, but also through the interactive experience of construction. While the process unfurled as a sea of paper, paint and chalk onto the carpeted floor of the Shepherd Room, the guys encouraged museum-goers to enter, examine and discuss.”

MN Daily reporters followed the mural project’s installation, evolution and soundtrack from beginning to the opening celebration on Feb 24, 2008. The article mentions a timelapse of the installation that I’d love to see someday.

For more, click on the images below or contact for the more information or a copy of the article.

Mutiny article, part 1.

Mutiny article, part 2.

Mutiny article, part 3.







Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Time Capsules: A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota





Photography has a curious way of encapsulating and immortalizing what might otherwise be a fleeting moment. Contemporary architectural photography is often devoid of people, sometimes placeless and gives a sense that the structures exist outside of time. While processing hundreds of photos for  A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota, these uncropped, raw, pre-published versions of the architectural photography struck me as time capsules, outside the norms of architectural photography. Even knowing the intended use, there still seem to be more questions than answers in these photos. Some capture people or places during everyday moments like sprinklers watering a lawn or filling up a battered hatchback at a quaint gas station. Some are dated by non-architectural objects like automobiles and signs, and some imply movement while others are hauntingly still. Moments of happenstance frozen in time.

Fifth in a series, this photo-post was inspired by A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota, published in 1977 as a supplement to University Gallery’s Bicentennial exhibition The Art and Architecture of Minnesota.


Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

“Art and Science Can Open the Door”

I find the two best parts of working in the archives are making discoveries while I’m processing materials, and helping people answer questions and make their own discoveries. In the library and archive world, the latter is called Reference Service. Recently, I was able to provide reference services using WAM’s archival collection, UMN’s digital conservancy and the Digital Content Library to help a researcher uncover information about a specific set of artworks by UMN faculty member, Walter Quirt (pronounced KURT), made while he was in the Yucatan region of Mexico.

Quirt was a mostly self taught painter, “a pioneer of American abstract art” and “a man of  strong and forthright opinions, a man of ideas” according to H.H. Arneson, Chairman of the Art Department, from a clipping dated November 17, 1958 found in the University Gallery’s press books.

Walter Quirt really was a “man of ideas” who, along with UMN studio art student Jack French, took art to science’s door. They traveled to the Yucatan region of Mexico in the Winter of 1967 to test a social science hypothesis regarding cultural visual preferences. To test the theory, the artists would take photographs of the local landscapes and urban terrains, then translate the linear elements and movement of the photographs into drawings which would then be shown to local residents to gauge their non-verbal reactions.

Page 1

During what little leisure time they had during this months-long trip, Walter Quirt made observational drawings of life in the Yucatan. Shortly after their return from the Yucatan, Quirt exhibited seventeen of his Yucatan drawings at the U Gallery. For the exhibition statement, he wrote:

Page 2

Most of the drawings in this exhibition are casual impressions of an amateur bull fight I witnessed in Ticul, Yucatan. Those not of this subject bear a relation to the visual test material Mr. Jack French and I worked on during our stay in Ticul, which we carried out on behalf of Dr. Strodtbeck of the University of Chicago and the sponsorship of The International Programs and Graduate School of the University of Minnesota.

One of the Yucatan drawings: Amateur Bull Fight, Ticul, Yucatan by Walter Quirt, 1967. Image Courtesy of Weisman Art Muesum, accessed through UMN’s Digital Content Library.

A year later, French exhibited his MFA thesis, also at the University Gallery.

St Paul Dispatch blurb from May 25, 1967















Although I wasn’t able to locate images of either exhibition on display, French wrote an interesting paper of his field observations and findings of the Yucatan project that closed with these thoughts:

Science has proven that energy is the essential force needed for life and motion. If the energy is misused it follows that life and motion will be in jeopardy. Art is also a form of energy and the theoritician [sic] can show that a’ specific art form has been created by the acceptance of a certain kind of energy. We know that science can measure physical energy forces. We have not been able to measure psychological energy forces, because we have never isolated a specific instrument by which to arrive at this
measurement. A test based on linear preferences may well be the necessary instrument needed for this energy measurement.

Psychologists working in the field of perception, now argue that visual stimuli do, in fact, affect mans’ social and psychological
motivations. Logically -then, the visual arts represent a socio-psychological force which can affect the attitudes and temperaments of individual and social behavioral patterns. If these two antecedents are alligned [sic] with a definite procedure for measuring the individual and social preference for a particular linear energy, it seems highly probable that art and science
can open the door to a deeper understanding of the living patterns of man and society.

Its a pretty great day when through references services in the archives we get to open a door to a place where art and science meet.

Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.


A Curious Little Package

What could be in this curious little package, rubber band stuck, found jammed into to the front pocket of a 25 year-old blue binder?


Mystery slides!



Three slides, depicting potter’s marks of renowned local potter Warren MacKenzie, found inside an Exhibit Tech binder.

The images on these slides look like mysterious runes or a secret language and in a way, that’s exactly what they are. These images depict potter’s marks, which are a kind of icon or signature used by studio potters to identify their works. In a museum setting, we rarely get to see these marks because they are usually located inconspicuously on the bottom of works.

These slides were made for a 1991 retrospective exhibition of the work of renowned local studio potter Warren MacKenzie. It wasn’t clear from surrounding files how these slides were used in the exhibition, but perhaps they were projected during a curator’s lecture or an artist’s talk to help exemplify different time periods or themes in the artist’s career. Perhaps they were projected on the walls of the gallery near works containing the marks. Maybe the images were turned into graphics for the exhibit walls or a publication.

To see examples of  MacKenzie’s work – but no peeking underneath, please – visit the WAM current exhibition: Ceramics from the Weisman Art Museum Collection | A Personal View

To learn more about potter’s marks and the potters that use them, explore The Marks Project.

Bye-bye curious little package. Hello archival sleeve!

Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.


One Gehry to Another – Postcards to the Museum



Usually we think of sending postcards from a museum, but postcards sent to a museum? Today’s archival highlight is just that: postcards sent to the Weisman Art Museum highlighting Frank Gehry designed buildings around the world. 

Postcard image of a home on Venice’s Ocean Front Walk designed by Frank Gehry in 1984. Original photograph by Jeffrey Stanton.


Postcard image of the Frank Gehry designed museum at the base of Seattle’s Space Needle — known as the Experience Music Project, also known as the EMP Museum, also known as the Museum of Popular Culture or MoPOP. Original photograph by Stanley Smith.


Postcard image of Prague’s notable architecture featuring the Frank Gehry designed building called Dancing House, which was inspired by the dancing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.


Postcard image of the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Original photograph by Grant Mudford.


Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

From the Publicity Books: Honoring Ruth Lawrence…I



At first glance, the University Gallery’s Publicity Books appear to be mere scrapbooks filled with mementos of early exhibitions, that were found filed away on a bookshelf somewhere in the back of someone’s office. However, tucked unassumingly into a Publicity Book dated 1953-1954, rests a short but impressive letter that challenges that idea.


March 12, 1953

Dear Mrs. Lawrence:

It was with interest that I read the attached clipping in the Minneapolis Star.  It brought back many fond memories of my days on the campus; Mrs. Humphrey and I made countless trips to the gallery, there was always something new and interesting to be seen.  I particularly remember some of the modern art exhibits and the heated discussions they precipitated.

You are to be commended on the magnificent job you have done through the years. I know you must have derived great personal satisfaction from it.

With all the best wishes.

Sincerely yours,
Hubert H. Humphrey


The letter was sent to University Gallery director Ruth Lawrence from then senator and future Vice President of the United States, Hubert H. Humphrey shortly after his first unsuccessful run for president. Humphrey cared enough to write to Lawrence after coming across an article featuring Lawrence in the daily newspaper.  The article states:

In the beginning the gallery placed the emphasis on contemporary art and in this was the first among the city’s galleries.  

Now it has become what Mrs. Lawrence had planned: the “handmaiden of teaching.” Student shows, faculty show, shows on design, architecture, advertising art and interior decoration are aids to the student as well as pleasant to look at for the casual gallery visitor. 


It’s clear from Humphrey’s letter, that included the clipping, that the gallery had fulfilled Lawrence’s instructional mission in meaningful, lasting ways.



I don’t know about you, but if I received a letter out of the blue from one of our senators commending me for a job well done, I would certainly be flattered and I might frame or otherwise show off the letter. From the inclusion of such a glowing letter from a prominent local and national figure in the Publicity Book, one gets the feeling that the books weren’t tucked away in the back of an office but perhaps on display to be perused by students and visitors to the gallery or the Fine Arts Room.

In an archival setting, correspondence of all types are often grouped together within a collection. However, original order is a fundamental principle of archives because it can help define relationships. The Humphrey letter, while unusual for its placement in a Publicity Book, wasn’t misfiled but rather infers that these books were publicly used. Perhaps this letter inside the Publicity Book was almost as visible as a frame on the wall, and so a fitting way to honor Ruth Lawrence and her mission with the gallery.


Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.




Ready, Set…Process! (2017 edition)


It has begun… again.



Earlier this month, project processor Heather Carroll, graduate student from St Kate’s and St Thomas, began processing the newest set of Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum records that were recently accessioned. While most of the records are from the mid-2000’s to 2015, there are some older gems such as press books from the 1960’s and 1970’s. We’ll will be sharing these and other archival finds here.

Ready, set… Process!


Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.


WPA: Visual Aids to Teachers of Art

In her report titled, “University of Minnesota Gallery of Art,” with “Mrs. Lawrence 25-year report” written in pencil across the top, long time gallery director Ruth Lawrence provided a 24 page background on all of the activities of the Gallery over the course of 25 years. A large portion of the report — nearly seven pages — outlined the Works Progress Administration (WPA) work projects assigned to the Gallery. Ruth reflected, “By February 6, 1938, significant changes were taking place, but greater ones were ahead. On that date the Emergency Relief Works Progress Administration assigned a project of 20 workmen to the Gallery.”

From 1938-1942 WPA workers were assigned to annual work projects in the University Gallery. The main duties of their work consisted of developing an art reference service to support instruction at the University. Workers also created circulating exhibitions comprised of visual aids for teachers. These visual aids were matted, framed, and compiled by the WPA employees and distributed by the Junior League Clubs of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. Exhibitors from elementary and secondary schools, teachers colleges, and other small arts organizations throughout the state could rent the visual aid exhibits for a fee that covered postage.



Found within WAM’s collection of exhibition catalogues was a stapled report titled, “Visual Aids to Teachers of Art” that included descriptions of the exhibits and how they could be rented. A booklet titled, “Horses in Art, Exhibition No. 101” was also found. This booklet, which contains instructions and a sample curriculum, accompanied the exhibit materials. Exhibits were comprised of 10 reproductions of old and contemporary artwork that were mounted to boards, designed to be set in the grooves of a chalk well and rest against classroom blackboards.

Cats_017_VisualAids_1940.jpg Cats_022_HorsesArt_1941-2.jpg

After the outbreak of WWII, all WPA work at the University was re-assigned to the war effort, and the art reference service was scaled back to provide resources to University instructors and students only. Ruth reflected, “All traveling exhibitions were stopped. During the war years unfortunately, these were destroyed by a mysterious fire in the storage or fan room, beginning in the organ loft.”

Thanks to the accessibility of the Minnesota Daily’s PDF Archives, more information about the mysterious fire is gleaned when a search of the PDF Archives provided a copy of the November 5, 1942 edition of the newspaper, which contains the following headline, “Fire Destroys Northrop Art Works.” The article begins,

A fire of undetermined origin burning for more than half an hour in the organ blower room, 303 Northrop auditorium, yesterday destroyed almost all of the art displays, and equipment stored in the room.

About $250 worth of picture frame moldings, ten elementary school art exhibits and numerous picture display board were burned.

Thanks to the WPA project reports, the existence and preservation of posters and catalogues, as well as additional resources such as the PDF Archives, we are able to learn more about the unique services and programs that the Gallery once provided.

A post on posters…

Planning continues for the WAM Files exhibit that will open at WAM on July 14th… The exhibit will feature, amongst other unique items from the Archives, some of the first items of intrigue that the project processors encountered – University Gallery exhibition posters. A WAM Files blog post from February 27, 2011 profiles processor Areca’s initial reaction to her discovery of a set of exhibit posters. As the project continued, we kept finding posters – in the exhibition files, in a separate over-sized materials collection at the Archives, and even more in a box in the back of WAM’s work room (which will later be transferred to the Archives).


One of the many posters that we encountered was created to promote an actual exhibition of posters. The exhibit, simply titled, “Posters,” was held in the Gallery in the fall of 1952.

Correspondence written by Assistant to the Director, Ivan Majdrakof – found within the exhibition record in Box 4 – described the exhibit:

Rather than the artist-designed poster we concentrated on what we thought were good posters encountering a large public. A high standard of design was our basic criteria. Sources of material were: the New York Subway Advertising, the New York Times, Army andNavy Recruiting offices, Foreign Travel agencies, Cancer Society, our own collection of World War I work, and private collectors of early European posters.


Label text from the exhibition stated:


WELL DESIGNED posters rarely reach a large audience and yet nearly every poster in this exhibit has been seen by a huge number of people.

THE PRIMARY reason for choosing one work and disregarding another was its DESIGN BASIS. Did the poster stop you and invite consideration? Was it eye-appealing? How well did it sell its product? How much did it use the DESIGN ELEMENTS easel painting had and is passing on to it?

THE WELL DESIGNED poster is invariably emotionally satisfying. There is no convincing emotion without GOOD DESIGN.

SINCE the criteria of a STRONGLY DESIGNED poster before a large public was used we found that certain categories of the poster-makerʼs art were eliminated. Sentiment, sex, the actual graphic portraying of a product are more often absent.

THE GREATEST successes DESIGN-WISE seem to be in the realm of ideas. The CAREFULLY DESIGNED poster seems to stress emotional attitudes. Subtler, non-visible ideas lend themselves to CONTEMPORARY DESIGN. Yet the same challenge is there for all poster or visual communication. Only through more “extreme” successful solutions as those on display here will the level of this art be generally raised.

THESE POSTERS divide into three approximate periods. The earliest displayed here are from about the thirties when European poster art was quite advanced from a DESIGN STANDPOINT. The typographic layout of these early German posters still influence the works of VISUAL DESIGNING today.

When the WAM Files exhibit opens in July, we hope that museum visitors find a few eye-appealing posters that will invite their consideration…

Print Research

In Box 191, a folder titled “Print Research,” dated 1923-1977 was found. Contained within the folder were several examples of object labels that at one time identified works exhibited at the University Gallery. The objective of a label is to provide the credentials of the work – title, artist, medium, size, ownership, era, etc. Here are some examples:

*click on the image for a larger version

Mt. Sainte Victore, by Jacques Villon, Paul Cezanne


Still Life, by Jacques Villon, Georges Braque


Tempo, by Robert Kaufmann. This label was included with the work as part of the traveling exhibit, “A University Collects: Minnesota,” comprised of works from the University Gallery collection that was circulated by The American Federation of Arts in 1961-1962.


(The Dutchman’s), by Cameron Booth. This work, which is now part of WAM’s permanent collection, is identified by this label as a loan from the collection of H.D. Walker. Hudson Dean Walker’s art collection was donated as a bequest to the University after his death in 1976. Many of the works in his collection were placed on loan to the University as early as 1950.