This story is part of our #FandMArts series documenting how the campus community continues to bring the arts to life in a virtual setting.
As the spring semester started, the team at the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College was eager to debut two new exhibits: “Containing the Muse: Artists’ Books as Expression & Form” and “What a Wonderful World.” They could never have predicted that, just after premiering, these two exhibits would close early due to a worldwide pandemic. But then they had an idea: If patrons couldn’t come to the museum, why not bring the museum to the patrons?
“It was such a disappointment knowing that we would have to close our spring exhibitions early,” Janie M. Kreines, curator of academic affairs and community engagement, said. “By moving the exhibitions online, we could continue to share them as much as possible with a broad audience and make them accessible to the F&M faculty, staff and students, the broader Lancaster community, and beyond.”
The team achieved this by creating two sites: “Containing the Muse” and “What a Wonderful World.” Each features vibrant, colorful images of the gallery space and individual works alongside in-depth looks at the labels and publication content. This format allows patrons to picture themselves walking through the gallery space as if they were onsite—from the comfort of their own homes.
The museum’s first exhibit, “Containing the Muse” debuted online Thursday, April 30. It was developed in partnership with the College Library and features 15 works from the library’s archives and special collections. From a colorful large box-mounted wheel (“Full Circle” by Julie Chen) to pill bottles, inkjet prints, adhesive labels, and a cardboard box (“Future Farmacuticals Box Set” by Fly), the exhibit explores the many different forms artists’ books can take while providing an opportunity for a variety of creative expressions.
“What a Wonderful World” debuted online Friday, May 8, and highlights the environmental art of Binh Danh, Rena Detrixhe, Ryan Hoover and Marion Wilson. From Detrixhe’s dirt rugs made of Oklahoma soil to Hoover’s tree forms created with an algorithm simulating natural growth patterns, each piece addresses environmental concerns with common threads throughout their work: science, memory and the lasting impact of human interactions affecting the future of our planet.
Creating these virtual experiences for “Containing the Muse” and “What a Wonderful World” helped guide the museum in a direction the staff had been interested in, but never had the chance to explore.
“We have always wanted to make our exhibitions available online in order to provide unique opportunities for F&M faculty to use in their classes, if unable to visit in person or to follow up after an onsite tour,” Kreines said.
She also mentioned new opportunities for the museum to develop even more digital resources, whether to be utilized by F&M professors, community who are unable to visit the museum or visitors who would like to share the exhibitions with friends who cannot attend in person.
“While COVID-19 has caused a lot of hardship, challenges and uncertainty, the situation has provided museum staff with an opportunity to focus on creating virtual exhibitions that we can share with an even wider audience,” Kreines said.
These digital resources take the original idea of bringing the museum to the patrons to new heights. The resources will include new digital exhibitions from the museum’s permanent collection, virtual experiences based on past onsite exhibitions, artist talks and lectures, and access to the museum’s collection through a new and improved database.
“We’re dedicated to making the Phillips Museum collection, as well as our exhibitions and programming, as accessible as possible, whether onsite or in a digital format,” Kreines said.
The museum's most recent virtual exhibition, “50 Years: A Celebration of F&M’s Alumnae Artists” is now available.