I have a ritual that I perform just before an exhibition opens. For years now, I’ve taken all the files pertaining to the show off my desk and out of my office. Xeroxes of paintings, generations of checklists, research notes—they all go. The material gets organized and placed in the archive of the institution as a permanent record of the project. The ritualized aspect of the move is that I replace them immediately with the files for the next exhibition. Three-ring binders of images and manila files of articles all fit right back on my desk—same place, same order. I do not recall exactly when I started doing this, but it always reminds me that exhibitions are part of a larger history of a museum. With our summer show almost finished and looking great I’ve just pulled the big switch, moving from Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England to Moods of Nature: Jay Connaway and the Landscape of New England. I get a particular kick out of this transition as there is a close relationship between the projects indeed Connaway is represented in Call of the Coast for his years painting on Monhegan.
Switching files is also something of a melancholy task as it means my part of the project is finished. I’ll be giving lectures throughout the summer, but the actual hands on part of researching an exhibition in this case with my colleagues Amy Lansing and Susan Danly, organizing the project with Erin Damon and Ellie Vuilleumier, designing the show with Greg Welch and Karin Lundgren, and sweating the details of installation with Sage Lewis and Kris Kenow is over and done. In the end, this is probably why I place such great stock in switching files, it reminds me that there is always the next project and it will have its own life and, in the end, look just as elegant as this one.