In late November of last year, the San Francisco Bay Region and Silicon Valley Chapters of SLA hosted a joint chapter tour of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. This was a special behind-the-scenes tour, showcasing the museum’s archives, collection storage, and other areas seldom seen by the public.
Our tour guide, Patience Young, presented us with a thorough history of the museum along with an overview of its operations day to day. We got to see where future exhibits are designed and put together, where Japanese swords and Mediterranean pottery are stored and kept safe from earthquakes and the elements, and where the entire collection is being digitally photographed, one piece at a time. As a participant on the tour, I was struck by the commonalities between museums and archives. The techniques used to store and preserve items, and the use of digital tools to document them brought me back my days as an intern at the Society of California Pioneers’ archive and research library.
The Cantor Center has been an integral part of Stanford University since its founding. Its original purpose was to make the Stanford family’s art collection available to students and the general public. The Stanford family, including Leland Jr., collected art as they traveled around the world, and this formed the basis for what was to become the Cantor Center. The museum now boasts a collection spanning more than 5,000 years of art history and including the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of the Musée Rodin in Paris.
After the tour, many of us gathered in the museum’s Kool Café for dinner and networking. It was wonderful to see that the tour was attended by members based throughout the Bay Area, from Danville to the San Jose area. Some of us also took some time to wander about the museum, taking in some of the exhibits after getting a sense of the work involved in creating them. This was a very memorable tour, and I think everyone who attended was thankful to the Cantor Center for giving us such an in-depth look behind the scenes.
By Kim Ewart