When moving over 25,000 works of art, even a single mile trip can be a huge challenge.
This is the journey the Davison Art Center (DAC) collection will begin in March to its new home at Olin Library. The move will continue until the end of the summer, at least. Between planning and the rise of COVID, the DAC collection has been closed to the public for almost three years and Davison Art Center curator Miya Tokumitsu and Caleb T. Winchester University librarian Andrew White are thrilled that the collection takes its place at the heart of the Wesleyan campus.
During this time, Tokumitsu and the DAC team inventoried the collection, prepared the new DAC spaces in Olin, and began staging them in the DAC in preparation for the move, examining each item in the collection. These undertakings involved the entire DAC staff, including temporary DAC staff members, as well as collaboration with the Wesleyan facilities department and library colleagues. Over the next few months, DAC artworks will be placed on trucks by movers specially trained to handle fine art. Items will be stored directly at Olin.
“It’s important to be very meticulous in all of these processes so that things don’t get lost physically, and also so that our records don’t get mixed up,” Tokumitsu said.
The DAC collection is made up of prints and other media from the 15and century to the present day. Many objects in the collection are small, but the DAC contains three-dimensional objects, paintings, and several large framed works of art, which create their own challenges during the moving process.
“It’s a 3D puzzle,” Tokumitsu said. “To go around a corner, several people have to stop what they are doing and think together and understand.”
This will be the collection’s third move in its history. His original home was on the third floor of Olin. The Davison Art Center opened in 1952 in a modern addition to the historic Alsop House, built between 1838 and 1840, but over time the collection has outgrown the current facility. “The new location has improved conservation and safety standards and better environmental controls. I know there are lamentations about the move, but this space actually meets the needs of the collection,” White said.
The move to Olin will not only provide better facilities for maintaining and displaying the items, but it will likely give more people the opportunity to view them in the first place. Olin receives approximately 250,000 visits per year. Because of this level of foot traffic, Tokumitsu and White believe the collection will now be a central part of the Wesleyan experience rather than something to be sought after.
White also thinks that having the art collection in Olin gives his team the opportunity to broaden the notion of what a library can offer. At 19and century, the idea that historical fine art would be housed alongside books was common, White said. Over time, this model for libraries has become less common. Adding artwork to the library’s archaeology, anthropology, biology, and natural history collections helps Olin come full circle.
“The library itself is no longer just concerned with something that takes the form of a book or is on paper, or a digital version of that,” White said. “We truly have the opportunity to work with students and faculty to present a wealth of artifacts that will inform learning and scholarship.”
Tokumitsu and White hope to open the study halls in the 2022-23 academic year, making the collection easily accessible to the Wesleyan community and the public. “I always emphasize to students that they don’t need to have an assignment or a research project to see the art in the study hall. If you just wanna come see 19and century prints, you can do it. I love getting these emails,” she said.
Until the day the collection returns to its full glory, Tokumitsu draws the attention of art lovers to DAC’s robust online collection. Over 6,000 high-resolution images can be found on CAD’s publicly accessible online database and can be downloaded free of charge. “It offers a whole new way to engage with collecting,” Tokomitsu said.
More information about the Olin Library and the Davison Art Center is available online.