Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Preservation Plus, Part 3: Museums By Moonlight

The fourth day of the conference was dedicated to a fun event run by Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Museums by Moonlight, a program PBN has run in the past, was dedicated to highlighting certain parts of the city that people may not have seen (inside the Richardson-Olmsted complex, and the Buffalo State Art Conservation Lab) as well as providing exclusive access to some of the amazing museums Buffalo has to offer.

When mapping out my night, Richardson and the Conservation Lab were the must-sees. I decided to take a route that began at the Forest Ave Resource Center and would end at the Lab, hitting as much in between as possible.

The Forest Ave Resource Center is part of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society network of buildings. Located on Forest Ave, the Resource Center's main entrance may seem a little strange; visitors travel through an opening beneath a colossal plaster woman's head, just as visitors to the 1901 Pan Am would have travelled through it to get to a Mirror Maze. 

Instead of a room of mirrors, however, guests are treated to a large exhibit dedicated to the Pan Am, with a small building from the original grounds, as well as a model of the Electric Tower, the dazzling centerpiece of the whole exposition.

The exhibit is a great peek into the past, even when that past is a little uncomfortable. Some of the exhibits are a brutal reminder of how far we've come in the last 100 years.

My next stop was the Richardson-Olmsted Complex, and my initial thought was in the same vein as at the Resource Center, "Over the last 100 years... have people gotten shorter?"

The Richardson-Olmstead Complex, constructed over a period of 20 years between 1870 and 1890, was the product of renowned architect H.H. Richardson and planner Frederick Law Olmsted. "Richardson Romanesque," the style the architect incorporated into many of his designs, including the New York State Capital in Albany, defines the ornate exterior of the building. The inside of the building is absolutely cavernous, as part of the Kirkbride system. Though this design was supposed to engender comfort inpatients, it merely gives the impression that Buffalo was once home to mentally unstable giants.

Though the restoration efforts are continuing, at the moment only portions of the first floor are at the point where visitors can tour the building. The grounds are also being returned to the original Olmstedian planning of the 19th Century.

The Burchfield-Penny is open to the public daily, with multiple exhibits, including rotating works of the museum's namesake, the works of James Vulo at the moment, and two featured artists as well. Currently, the works of Buffalo native Spain Rodriguez are on display, and his dark and graphic comics touch on topics of poverty, sex, violence, and revolution. Additionally, McCallum Tarry's exhibit "Intersections" combines video, sculpture, and a unique portraiture series designed to make you look and focus on the faces of protesters arrested in Montgomery, Alabama between 1955-56.

If you are interested in looking at these exhibits, the Burchfield Penny Museum features a free admission day on the second Friday of every month. If one day of free art is not enough however, you should also check out the Albright Knox's event occurring this Friday, October 5th, and every first Friday in subsequent months.

My last stop for the night was the Buffalo State Art Conservation Lab. The Art Conservation program at Buffalo State is one of the most renowned at the school, and the facilities in the lab are visible proof of this, featuring state of the art imaging equipment, as well as large well-stocked classrooms. One of the classrooms, where experimental conservation techniques are practiced, looked more like the office of an alchemist than an art student.

The program has several concentrations, including paper and painting repair, but the orangutan being repaired for the Science Museum convinced me that, if I were to consider a change in career path, objects would be the route for me.

For those interested in the program, be sure to check out the "Admission Requirements" on the "Apply" page: the Conservation Lab accepts only 10 students a year, and is incredible selective when it comes to their applicants. One student mentioned how she had worked over the previous eight years preparing for the program, and a member of the tour I was on noted that a friend of his, who was now in his 40s, had been applying to get in for over a decade.

The Museums by Moonlight tour was another great program by Preservation Buffalo Niagara to highlight some of the wonderful gems in Buffalo, as well as a great addition to the Preservation Plus conference. Many forms of preservation were present in the event; preserving history at the Resource Center, preserving architecture at Richardson, preserving culture at the Burchfield Penny, and preserving the art and artifacts that fill all of these places at the Conservation Lab.

Be sure to check out PBN's Buffalo Tours page for other great events that show off how much else Buffalo has to offer.

(This is part of a four-series about Preservation Plus: Part 1, Part 2)

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