By Jove! What a collection!

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On this day in 1759, the British Museum opened to the public in the Bloomsbury district of London. The original collection was donated by a doctor, Sir Hans Sloane who had amassed what he called "a cabinet of curiosities." The collection included thousands of books, manuscripts, items from the nature and art objects from around the world. The round, domed Reading Room was built over a hundred years later and could hold one million volumes. Until recently, only those who presented an almost exhaustive life history as well as references could use the collection. Some lucky users included Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Gandhi and George Orwell. Lenin was initially denied access because of difficulty locating a reference. The museum has created digital records of items in their collection which can be accessed on their website. The Library also owns many books that contain objects that belong to their collections.

The Rape of Europa

Amidst the destruction of World War II was the further devastating loss of much of Europe’s great art and architecture. The fascinating 2007 film, The Rape of Europa, tells this story based on the book of the same title by author Lynn Nicholas. Nicholas spent ten years in Belgium researching what would become a best-selling book in 1994, and the film examines the newest issues and later research since its publication.

The German Nazi party is now believed to have stolen one-fifth of Europe’s treasures during WWII. Although much was recovered by the Allies, a large amount remains missing, damaged beyond repair, or in need of restoration work that is still continuing today. Pillage and looting during war was certainly not something new before WWII, but it seems to be the systematic methods involved during WWII that made the crimes so horrific. It was a highly organized operation that not only allowed Hitler's Germany to amass a wealth of art by theft, but also involved the complete destruction of historic landmarks - such as the Royal Castle of Warsaw - to further dehumanize other cultures. The Rape of Europa is a worthwhile documentary about a subject I knew little of beforehand and was glad I took the time to watch. I highly recommend.

Secrets of the Library: Museum Adventure Pass

museummuseumExpecting out of town visitors for the holidays? Show them the rich cultural offerings of southeast Michigan (and get out of the cold) with a Museum Adventure Pass, which offers free admission for 2 or 4 people to participating museums. Walk off that extra helping of mashed potatoes in the grand halls of the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History, the Arab American National Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and many more! Passes are available at all branches.

A visit to UMMA

One of the great things about library staff day was getting to visit the University of Michigan Museum of Art -- and being given a wonderful tour by Prue Rosenthal. There are many reasons to return, including that striking metal sculpture made from gun parts; the Tiffany glass piece; and in the gift shop, beautiful wood art reclaimed from trees felled to build the museum's new Frankel Wing. Similarly, AADL reclaimed wood from the site in building Traverwood.

Happy Anniversary, MOMA!

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On this day in 1929, nine days after the stock market crashed, the The Museum of Modern Art in New York City opened its doors. The Museum contains an extensive permanent collection, including French impressionist paintings, modern photography and sculpture. Current exhibits include "New Photography" and Monet's Water Lilies series. So if you're planning a trip to New York this coming holiday season, put MOMA on your list of hot spots.

The Lens of Impressionism @ the UMMA

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The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850–1874 opens at the UMMA October 10, 2009.

This exhibition (as well as the accompanying catalog) is a captivating exploration of the impetus of early Impressionism along the coast of Normandy. The invention of the camera and the development of early fine art photography will be seen as the specific catalysts that brought about a new approach to painting.

Paintings, photographs, and drawings by some of the most treasured artists in the Western canon—Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Claude Monet among them—as well as pioneering photographers such as Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq will be showcased.

"Inspired by the scenic Normandy coast of France, these works—including representations of beach scenes, seascapes, fishing villages, resorts, and the region’s pastoral beauty—will be brought together with archival materials related to early tourism and regional expressions of French nationalism from popular culture for an innovative examination of the impact of the then-new medium of photography on ideas of image making, the recording of passing time, the capacities of painting, and the rise of Impressionism itself. "

Organized by UMMA, the exhibition will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art after closing in Ann Arbor on January 3, 2010. Check program schedule for docent-led tours.

The Obamas' White House Collection

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As reported by the BBC, President and Mrs.Obama have decorated their private rooms and the Oval Office with a range of modern and abstract art, adding to the extensive permanent White House art collection.

Among them are new pieces by contemporary African-American and Native American artists, as well as established artists such as Josef Albers, Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and Edward Ruscha. Lesser-known artists such as Alma Thomas (photo), an African-American abstract painter of the 1960s and 1970s and Glenn Ligon are also chosen. (The complete list). A significant number of the library's collection of books on these artists are gifts from the Ladies Library Association.

One New York art dealer described the Obamas' choices as "highly sophisticated". The curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery, where many of the items are on loan from, said it was "great art to live with".

Secrets of the Library: Art Prints

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Every so often, we'll feature some "Secrets of the Library," resources available here at AADL that you may not know about. Today's secret: Art Prints! Did you know that we have hundreds of framed Art Prints from a wide variety of artists for you to borrow to redecorate your home or office? You can take Art Prints home for eight weeks. The best way to see what we have is to check out our inventory on the second or third floors of the Downtown branch, but you can also browse the catalog 'By Format' if you know the title of a specific work. Even some of the pieces on our walls are available for checkout!

(Un)Natural History: The Museum Unveiled

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The exhibition (Un)Natural History: The Museum Unveiled on view now through December 6, 2009 @ UMMA, features Richard Barnes's series of photographs Animal Logic (catalog on order) that examines the role the museum plays in our understanding of ourselves through the acts of collecting, preservation, and display. Images from this large body of work include photographs of the collections from the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Comparative Anatomy in Paris, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the California Academy of Science. (Un)Natural History focuses primarily on the natural history museum and by extension collecting institutions in general, providing a kind of behind-the-scenes look at museum practice and display.

This exhibition coincides with the University of Michigan LSA Theme Semester Meaningful Objects: Museums and the Academy.

Friday Art Group at Center for Independent Living

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Join the Center of Independent Living every week as they exercise creativity in the Friday Art Group. Art sessions begin at 1 pm and generally end at 3 pm. Participants choose which project to do each week. Past projects have included trinket boxes, mosaics, decorating ceramic plates before firing, and jewelry. Bring your creativity, music to share and, if you like, a snack. Projects generally take between two and four weeks to complete. The program is free, but please call if you plan on coming so there will be more supplies on hand. The art comes to life at the Ann Arbor CIL, 3941 Research Park Drive, Ann Arbor. For more information, contact Sue Probert at (734) 971-0277 x34 orsuep@aacil.org. The group now meets in the Gathering Place or kitchen in the CIL.

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