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K-State Today

January 14, 2013



150 years of wonder: Beach Museum exhibition brings together objects from many university departments in honor of Sesquicentennial

By Communications & Marketing

Kansas State University's Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is honoring the university's 150th anniversary with the special exhibition, "The Museum of Wonder: A Great Land-Grant University Collects." The exhibition will run from Feb. 12-Oct. 13 in the museum's Pelton and Hyle Family Galleries.

"The Museum of Wonder" will showcase artifacts from numerous university departments as a way to celebrate Kansas State University's land-grant heritage. An adjacent gallery will feature a reading room and activity area called "The Library of Wonder," which is being developed in a partnership with the K-State Libraries.

The installations draw inspiration from 16th- and 17th-century European "Wunderkamern," or "Cabinets of Wonder," where arrays of fascinating and beautiful objects from many different categories were displayed together, according to Linda Duke, museum director.

"'Wunderkamern'" lacked the separation of artifacts based on specific fields of study, such as art, science or history that is typical of modern-day museums," Duke said. "'The Museum of Wonder' and 'The Library of Wonder' will invite visitors to enjoy objects in unusual juxtapositions and to consider how material objects can represent human knowledge and society's memory."

Artifacts from the geology, aviation, physics and architecture departments, the College of Agriculture and more, as well as several ethnographic objects that have never been displayed before, are part of the exhibition. Entomological specimens, furniture and plaster casts of classical and renaissance masterpieces will be included, along with works of art from the museum's own collections.

"The Library of Wonder" will be hands-on and will allow visitors to browse books, look through a microscope, draw, and search websites related to the artifacts on display.

"This project deliberately combines items from very diverse fields of study in order to allow visitors to make their own associations among items that typically might not be considered related to one another," Duke said. "We hope that looking at and wondering about the objects in this installation will encourage people to think creatively, and will promote conversation among the exhibition's viewers."

The Beach Museum will have a public opening reception for "The Museum of Wonder" and "The Library of Wonder" from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14.

The exhibition will be refreshed during summer of 2013, with some of the items being removed and replaced with new ones, so Duke recommends making multiple visits to the exhibition.

In conjunction with the installations, the Beach Museum, K-State Libraries and the university's art department are sponsoring a talk by New York-based artist Fred Wilson, who will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28, in 114 Willard Hall. Wilson is an internationally recognized artist who has frequently looked at the way material objects are used to convey information and history. His presentation is free and open to the public.