Photo Friday: Planning a Planetarium

Workmen spray down the McMath Planetarium dome, which is under construction. 1955. Cranbrook Archives.

Workmen spray down the McMath Planetarium dome while under construction at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.  1955. Cranbrook Archives.

The workmen who built the McMath Planetarium at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in the 1950s must have been circus performers as well as skilled craftsmen.  Here they balance on plywood platforms, managing a high-pressure hose as they perch above the nearly-completed dome.   The planetarium, which opened in 1955, has now been expanded into the Acheson Planetarium and includes research resources as well as visitor viewing opportunities.


Worker Bees and Spider Webs: Preparing Saarinen House

Walking through Saarinen House during the historic house tour season (May 1st – October 31st) visitors expect to see a few things; perfection in architecture, intricacies in woven textiles, beautiful leaded glass, and ingeniously designed furnishings. What visitors miss during the off-season is the buzzing of many “worker bees” laboring over the house’s care. As the Associate Registrar for the Center for Collections and Research, however, I am commissioned with task of caring for the house and preparing it for the public tour season.

Exterior plaque, Saarinen House.  Considered part of the Cranbrook Art Museum, Saarinen House operates as a historic house open to tours from May to October.   The house is interpreted to the 1930s, when the Saarinen family first built and inhabited the home.  Copyright Cranbrook Art Museum/Balthazar Korab.

Exterior plaque, Saarinen House. The house is open from tours between May and October and is interpreted to the period in the 1930s when Eliel and Loja Saarinen built and furnished their home. © Cranbrook Art Museum/Balthazar Korab.

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Photo Friday: The Other Cranbrook

Coppersmith's shop, Cranbrook, England.  July, 1901.  Henry Wood Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Coppersmith’s shop, Cranbrook, England. July, 1901. Henry Wood Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

In 1901, Henry Wood Booth, Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth’s father, took this photograph of the shop in Cranbrook, Kent, where his own father had worked as a coppersmith before moving to Canada with his young family.   A handwritten note on the back of the photograph, which is held in the Henry Wood Booth Papers at the Cranbrook Archives, explains that the copper tea kettle hanging from the door was made by Henry’s grandfather (the original George Booth), who also made his trade as a coppersmith.  Three generations (and a whole lot of people named Booth) later, George Booth’s great-great-grandson George Gough Booth would build an entire campus around the idea of promoting the applied arts, naming it “Cranbrook” in honor of this town and community.

Dispatch from the Archives: All Things Modernism

Mid-century Modernism has taken over my life!  I eat, sleep, and even dream Modernism these days.  In my role as Head Archivist, I wear many hats – the most recent being to assist the Michigan Modern curatorial team by locating all the cool “stuff” in our Archives related to the upcoming exhibition, which will be opening at the Cranbrook Art Museum on June 14, 2013.  This includes photographs, of course, but the most fun for me is finding correspondence, articles, and ephemera that when put together create a mosaic of a time or place. Continue reading

Photo Friday: Graduate Degree Exhibition

walter hickey thesis

Cranbrook Academy of Art student Walter Hickey’s model for a proposed development for the Detroit waterfront, 1935. Cranbrook Archives.

You know it’s April at the Cranbrook Art Museum when the building is overrun by graduate students from the Academy of Art, frantically putting together their final projects for the Graduate Degree Exhibition.  While the degree show (opening this year on April 22 and running until May 12) is a longtime tradition at Cranbrook (staged in some iteration since 1940!),  graduate theses date back to 1943— the first year the Academy was accredited as a degree-granting institution.   In 1935 Walter Hickey created this model as part of a larger project to redesign the Detroit waterfront helmed by Cranbrook Academy of Art director and famed architect Eliel Saarinen.

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