The 290 objects in Accession Number, a new exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), line the gallery walls in the order in which they were acquired by the museum between mid-January 1960 and mid-December 1962. They represent about three-quarters of the 396 objects acquired in those years.
While most exhibitions at art museums are curated, organized around a theme, a time period or a particular artist, Accession Number is un-curated, yet it tells the story of what the leadership of WCMA was doing, trying for and seeking to make of their museum.
WCMA Director Christina Olsen and art history graduate student Kerry Bickford MA ’17 chose the date range for Accession Number because it represented a period of change for the nation and for Williams. It was the early days of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon on campus in 1961. John E. Sawyer ’39 became president of Williams and was immediately confronted with a petition to change the fraternity system. And S. Lane Faison Jr. ’29 was the director of WCMA, which had just changed its name from the Lawrence Art Museum.
The exhibition also includes an interactive element conceived of by Olsen and designed and programmed by computer science professor Duane Bailey and several students that allows visitors to curate images of objects from the show on screens outside the exhibit.
View a slideshow of some of the noteworthy items in the exhibit.