Who are we as an institution? That is the question the staff set out to answer this year. Though this is an essentially metaphysical question, it has important practical applications. We need to be clear about our priorities when it comes to the allocation of our precious resources—human, financial, spatial, and temporal.  

As the first step, we reconceived our vision. We asked what the Museum means in the world—what difference it can make in the lives of those who engage with it. To arrive at the fiery language of our new vision statement, we imagined it as the utterance of the visionary, the thinker unfettered by practicalities.

Then we needed to consider how to carry out that vision. For the mission statement we felt that the Museum functions as much more than the caretaker of the 24,000 objects in its collection. While we have long embraced our primary role as a teaching museum, we recognized the need to clearly articulate what the Museum does now. It cares for its collections, yes, but it is also deeply involved in reconceiving the display of art and material culture, interpreting objects, and organizing opportunities for a variety of creative collaborations with faculty, students, and the community at large. In other words, we are a catalyst for creative thought through the display and interpretation of art and material culture in our galleries.

The new vision and mission statements reflect these goals and offer a clearer picture of how the Museum actually functions—both on campus and in our community.

The next step was figuring out a way to signal distinctly who we are. This required changing our visual identity in a way that reflects the values embedded in our vision and mission. With the latest edition of the MHCAM Newsletter, we introduced our new logo and typeface. The new logo emphasizes our role as a college museum by using the “c” as the bridge between “Art Museum” and “Mount Holyoke.” The font was hand drawn just for this logo. We are excited by the creativity that inspired this new visual identity—and by the creativity that it is sure to inspire.

We have also debuted this brand new website. Here you will find many of the most obvious changes to our visual identity. We have redesigned everything about our website, using our mission as a guide. The new site will help us “steward, serve, foster, provide, and generate.” It emphasizes the collection as our core and engagement with objects as our chief goal. Over time we will be adding more content to this site. Soon we will boast lectures, related reading and images, and interactive approaches to working with art and material culture.

Despite our exciting new web presence, the galleries will continue to be the locus of our most concentrated activities. This fall you will find three new contemporary art exhibitions at the Museum. Judy Pfaff has worked with me on making a carefully selected presentation of her work at a key moment in her early career. It has been pure joy to work with such a perceptive, intelligent, and generous person. And I know that my colleague in the philosophy department, Professor Thomas Wartenberg, has felt the same way about working with Mel Bochner on his research into the artist’s challenging illustrations to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. In the related exhibition, Wartenberg brings new light to these important conceptual works, which are recent additions to the permanent collection.

Finally, we welcome the newest member of the curatorial team, Hannah Blunt. Hannah joins us from the Colby College Museum of Art where she was the Langlais Curator for Special Projects. For her debut at MHCAM, Hannah has created a sensitive and nuanced exhibition featuring contemporary works from the permanent collection. She centers her show, Energies and Elegies, on concepts of transformation, impermanence, and loss. Her exhibition features work in which the difference between presence and absence is far from absolute.

I look forward to welcoming you to the Museum, both physically and virtually. This fall our schedule is filled with great lectures, exhibitions, talks, and social moments. And, as always, you’re invited!

John R. Stomberg, Florence Finch Abbott Director