In August, the museum unveils its new programming for the Spalding House galleries. You’ll find education-driven exhibitions that look at the museum’s collection and art in general from different perspectives and illustrate how art can be used as an unexpected tool in learning about disciplines such as literature, math, music, social studies, and physical education. The exhibitions are curated with schools and teachers in mind, but are also designed to engage and captivate “regular museum goers.” These shows really do have something for everyone.
This debut comprises five focused mini-exhibitions that address literary concepts and devices—Francisco Goya: Proverbios, Letters to Lili‘uokalani, The Divine Journey: Narratives in Religious Art, Word, and Code/Character: The 47 Ronin. The literary connection to some works in these exhibitions are obvious, such as an Indonesian pidan depicting an episode from the classical Indian canon Jataka Tales, or William Blake’s series of prints of scenes from The Book of Job. Other works, like prints from Goya’s Proverbios series and Ed Ruscha's contemporary work News, will challenge the viewer to make connections expand their definitions of literary concepts. Letters to Lili‘uokalani, showcasing original letters handwritten by Hawai‘i’s last queen, invites visitors to do some writing of their own.
What might be the most exciting thing about this exhibition is what the museum visitor will not see—curators and educators working together to create a show in a way that really hasn’t been done before. Museum staff are all learning about this process together, and how to utilize the collection differently. “I gather this experiment, this exercise,” says curator of education Aaron Padilla, “will have profound effects on the museum somewhere down the line.”