Today, we went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)/ National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and also were able to tour the Lunder Conservation Center. Although I have visited this museum before, I was excited to see the space again. I had forgotten how vibrant the colors were and the variety of the collection.
“Jane Adams,” National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Location: S322
My favorite thing today was the story-telling activity. I chose the Julia Adams (1860-1935) portrait pictured above. I didn’t know who Julia Adams was prior to reading the panel. However, what struck me about the painting was her expression. She seems to be very focused and firm. Instead of looking straight ahead at the viewer, she keeps her gaze to the side and fixed on the road ahead. I also got the sense that she seemed somewhat tired. After reading the panel’s information, I came to the conclusion that it might have been done intentionally. Adams was one of the first women to receive a college degree. In the nineteenth-century, this certainly would have been quite a feat. No doubt, she overcame many challenges in order to meet her goals.
“Eudora Alice Welty,” National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Location: S342
My partner chose the portrait of Eudora Welty (1909-2001), a woman from Mississippi who was an accomplished author and Pulitzer prize winner. Together, we combined the stories of these two collection objects to create an entirely new story. Surprisingly, it wasn’t much of a stretch to intertwine these two portraits.
We presented a mother and daughter story. Jane Adams, acted as the mother to Eudora Welty. From the portrait and object label, we concluded that Adams would be eager to reminisce her struggles and experiences to her daughter during her last moments on earth. As a writer, we believed that Welty would be eager to write down her mothers’ words and later become inspired by them.
Although Adams lived in Illinois and Welty in Mississippi, the story seemed very plausible. The women were very similar; they were trailblazers and a great example of female determination. Both worked hard to complete great accomplishments. I was glad for this exercise today because I realized just how powerful museum objects are. Museum objects can show common struggles and experiences. It was a great warm up for our group project, where we will need to intertwine three museum objects to tell a greater American story.