Autumn Quarter 2022
Paul B. Moses: Trailblazing Art Historian
September 12 through December 16, 2022
The exhibition centers on the life and work of Paul B. Moses. Beginning in 1962 until his untimely death in 1966, Moses worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at the University of Chicago. The list of his accomplishments within this all too brief time span is impressive: he taught classes in art practice and art history, served as an art critic for the Chicago Daily News, completed a number of original paintings, and conducted pioneering research in his field. His academic interests were wide-ranging, encompassing studies of Honoré Daumier’s political caricatures and a major book project on Edgar Degas’ prints. He also raised an important and ultimately influential critique of the way that Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was taught in the university classroom. This exhibition is an opportunity to reflect on his achievements as a scholar, educator, and artist at the University of Chicago, as well as on the challenges he faced as a Black man in the 1960s.
Winter-Spring Quarters 2023
But Is It a Book?
January 3 through April 28, 2023
What is a book? In its simplest sense, a book is a medium for recording information, usually text or images inscribed on a writing surface and held together by some type of binding. But does a book have to have a material embodiment? Is an audio book a book? Is an e-book a book? Are books art? Is writing art? Can book objects be art objects? Can art objects be books? How do we read them? And in what context? How do we decide whether non-traditional book objects belong in a research library or a museum? “But Is It a Book?” explores the range of formats, materials, and research potential of objects that do not conform to the traditional conception of a codex book and highlights objects that one might not expect to find in Special Collections. The show will explore questions such as, can materiality function as text? It also examines ways in which we read. The centerpiece, Wolf Vostell’s Betonbuch, offers a case in which the object straddles the book and art spheres and an interesting one in which the materiality may have consumed the text, and a discussion of a “reading” of the Betonbuch using scientific instruments.
Spring-Summer Quarters 2023
The Illinois Society for Medical Research and the Making of Chicago
May 8 through September 1, 2023
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, researchers at the University of Chicago and neighboring institutions joined together to form the Illinois Society for Medical Research (ISMR), establishing a united front against increasingly vocal antivivisection protests. Activist groups, led by the popular socialite Irene Castle McLaughlin, known for her role in reviving interest in modern dance, advanced legislation at the city and state level to ban the use of pound dogs for research and teaching with, many scientists believed, the ultimate goal of ending animal experimentation completely. In response, the ISMR assembled a broad coalition of university and business leaders, church and women’s groups, and kennel clubs in order to defeat the proposals, achieving victory with what became known as the “Arvey Ordinance” (named for Jacob M. Arvey), which allowed universities to access unclaimed pound dogs. The Arvey Ordinance formed a template for similar struggles across the United States, making Chicago a symbol in decades-long debates about the ethics and practice of animal experimentation. The exhibit will feature material from multiple periods of contest, including the early years, post-WWII compromises, and later debates, showing how the debates about animal experimentation were also ideological contests about how Chicago’s major universities should fit within the economy and power structure of an expanding metropolis.
Autumn Quarter 2023
Capturing the Stars: The Untold History of Women at Yerkes Observatory
September 18 through December 15, 2023
Capturing the Stars illuminates the history of women at Yerkes Observatory and demonstrates how their labor contributed to the advancement of the science of astronomy. Visitors will learn how and why women came to Yerkes, about their scientific work, and their lives after Yerkes. In so doing, this exhibit introduces visitors to the history of astronomy and women’s history in early twentieth century America while also emphasizing the importance of Yerkes Observatory within a broader, global scientific community.
Capturing the Stars tells the stories of these women and their work in two major ways. First, by focusing on the lived experiences of individuals, this exhibit enables visitors to understand what it was like to be a woman working in astronomy during the early 20th century. Second, by homing in on the roles of women in the scientific practices of the Observatory it shifts the narrative beyond the work of female calculators to embrace the full range of women’s labor – including observing, photographing, calculating, measuring, analyzing, and publishing. This exhibit also highlights the unique position of women at Yerkes where, in contrast to the better-known histories of the Harvard College and Royal Greenwich Observatories, women contributed in every stage of scientific research.