February 22, 2012
And the Oscar goes to…
This upcoming Sunday, February 26th, millions of people worldwide will turn their televisions on to catch a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood on the broadcast of the 84th annual Academy Awards.
Who will take home the Oscar?
In May of 1936, staff of the University Gallery wondered, “who would take home our Oscar?”
Press book clippings reveal a story that could surely rival any award-nominated screenplay – a plot line of crime and betrayal in a gallery caper that went unsolved. The leading role in this gallery mystery was in fact not an award… but a cat.
Assistant to the President, Malcolm Willey, who served as chairman of the Fine Arts Committee, was none too pleased about the theft, and penned a letter to the MN Daily that articulated his disappointment in the incident:
It is perhaps appropriate to claim some of the space in a column called ‘Over the Back Fence’ to talk about cats. Seriously, may I call to attention the implications that are attached to the theft from the Fine Arts Room last week of the wood carving of a kitten. The value of the piece is not the fact of major importance – $12.00 or $15.00, although it is surprising that anyone would steel a mere decorative object worth even this amount. The disappearance of the carving would be easier to understand if it did have more value. I can only assume that some thoughtless person, intrigued by the whimsicality of the piece, carried it off for display elsewhere. The University has tried in the Fine Arts Room to make available to the students a beautiful room that could be enjoyed with informality in moments of leisure. There have been large numbers of students enjoying the room as shown by its use. They have enjoyed the room freely and without anyone standing over them. If things are stolen, it is necessary to have the room supervised constantly. This defeats part of its purpose and violates the spirit under which it has been operated. Someone’s thoughtlessness or disregard of the fact that this carving was after all the property of the University, destroys the privileges that the many students have been given. The only hope is that the carving will be returned. It is an amusing piece and belongs in the room where all students can see and enjoy it. My hope in writing is that someone who did not think of the really serious aspects of a seemingly harmless prank, will read this letter and on second thought, realize how unfair he has been to the students – and then that Oscar will thereupon find his way back to the Fine Arts Room.”
As a result of the incident, a hostess system was implemented wherein volunteers from the Faculty Womens club staffed the Fine Arts Room.
Rebecca Wilson is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota, completing a minor in Museum Studies. She also serves as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Weisman Art Museum.