Goldstein Museum of Design Celebrates 40 Years

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Goldstein Museum of Design (GMD). In celebration of this landmark event, the museum is displaying “Seeing 40/40: Forty Years of Collecting at GMD.” This unique exhibit showcases 40 of the over 34,000 pieces in the museum’s collection.

In this interview, Lin Nelson-Mayson, director of GMD, and Jean McElvain, GMD’s associate curator, share the inspiration behind this meaningful exhibit.

Where did the idea for the Seeing 40/40 exhibit come from?

Dress, 1934 Elsa Schiaparelli knit rayon Anonymous Gift

Dress, 1934 – selected by Laura Fulk, an award-winning apparel and soft goods product designer based out of Minneapolis, MN.

“During a discussion about the upcoming anniversary with GMD’s Advisory Board, one of the board members mentioned an exhibition that she had seen of objects that changed the world. We didn’t have time to do the research for a selection of that significance, but the board and staff decided that 40 objects for 40 years was a good foundation for an exhibition. We invited community members to select the final 40 items by choosing ones that were meaningful or interesting to them.”

What was the most challenging part about creating this exhibit?

“GMD has over 34,000 objects in the collection and whittling that down to a manageable number was probably the most challenging aspect. We wanted participants to be able to select an object that resonated with them, but we didn’t want participants to be overwhelmed by giving them carte blanche to the collection. As the associate curator, I created a shortlist of around 75 objects with a number of considerations in mind; cultural context, available provenance, whether or not they had been displayed in the past 10 to 15 years, significance of the designer, and how well they represented a broad range of GMD’s collection.”

How did you select the 40 individuals to contribute to the exhibit?

“GMD staff and board members submitted ideas of designer and/or cultural thought leaders in our community who were then invited to be a writer for the exhibition. This list included former GMD board chairs, museum leaders, art journalists, leaders in craft communities, plus leaders from the college and University. The final 40 expressed enthusiasm for the exhibition concept and the personal invitation to contribute to the development of this anniversary exhibition.”

A quilt on display as part of the Seeing 40/40 exhibit.

Crazy Quilt, 1883. Selected by Karen Kaler, graphic designer, active volunteer in the university community, and spouse of University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.

Did you give the exhibit contributors any specific guidelines on how to select their item?

“Participants were asked to write something about the object in under 150 words, but otherwise not directed on selection. We invited participants to view the objects in person versus via photographs if they felt it would create a more visceral connection. For example, Karen Kaler, graphic designer and wife of President Eric Kaler, came by to view the quilt she selected in person, which gave her a deeper understanding of the object’s scale, texture, and detailing. While some participants wrote about the object they chose in a curatorial manner, others wove together personal narratives. The varied approaches yielded an array of fresh insights.”

What is the message you hope visitors will take away from the exhibit?

“The exhibition hopes to give visitors a sense of the breadth of GMD’s collection, which speaks to the evolution of an organization that has grown considerably in the last 40 years. On a more immediate level, visitors will experience a diversity of designed objects accompanied by a range of voices and interpretations. A visitor’s first impression of an object may be significantly altered by the context created in the author’s text.”

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