Since October 2010, The Weisman Art Museum has been closed to the public in order to complete a $14 million expansion project, to include four new galleries to showcase the permanent collection, a café cart, and an additional gallery space, the Target Studio for creative collaboration. Behind closed doors, WAM has been working on another “building” project that doesn’t require hard hats, tool belts or the qualifications to operate heavy machinery, but that does require a keen eye to detail, patience for repetition, and an organizational fortitude – the construction of the WAM Archives.
WAM Exhibition staff and archivists from the University Archives have collaborated to process over 180 boxes of archival material transferred to the Archives from WAM in a series of accessions that occurred between 1997 and 2009. The material, which begins in the 1930’s when WAM was first known as the University Gallery and guided by the director, Ruth Lawrence, also covers the restructuring and adjustment to the title of University Art Museum, and additionally records the planning and correspondence related to the museum’s move from a few rooms in Northrup Auditorium, to the internationally known Frank Gehry designed Weisman, under the leadership of current director Lyndel King, in the 1990s. Exhibits mounted, programs held, and activities pursued within this time span are represented within the boxes stored amidst the caverns of the University Archives in Andersen Library. This project will document, preserve, and make accessible the unique institutional history of the University of Minnesota’s art museum.
After completion of this first component, WAM will fine-tune it’s own policies and develop a guide for records management practices to ensure that materials created in the production of exhibits (such as the 2007 Bob Dylan exhibit) and other programs, events and administrative processes currently stored at WAM, are transferred regularly to the University Archives to be made accessible for all interested parties in the history of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.
Katie Covey is an Administrator and Special Projects Manager at the Weisman Art Museum.