Director's Message

During my travels this past summer, I sought out the birthplace of Johann Carl Bodmer (1809–1893) in Zurich, Switzerland (the plaque on the wall states: "Indians were my friends."). Of course, we know him as Karl Bodmer, and his portraits of Native Americans in the early nineteenth century are considered some of the most detailed and accurate in existence. The world's largest collection of works by Bodmer is held here at Joslyn. The artist's original watercolors and prints documenting his 1832–34 journey with the German naturalist Prince Maximilian of Wied are regarded as the most perceptive and compelling visual accounts of the Missouri River frontier ever made. There is no end to the possibilities presented by the Bodmer collection for study and discussion of a key period in American history, and it was an honor to stop at his family home. This fall, we continue exploring aspects of American history with exhibitions devoted to the transcontinental railroad (an important part of Omaha history, of course) and quilt-making across the United States.

"May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world." This is the sentiment engraved on the Golden Spike, one of three ceremonial spikes presented to railroad officials upon the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869. Also known as the "Last Spike," it was dropped into a pre-drilled hole in a ceremonial tie of California laurel and tapped into place with a silver spike maul. At the moment of its placement, the word "done" was flashed by telegraph across the country. The three spikes (Golden, Silver, and Arizona) are reunited for the first time in 150 years here at Joslyn in The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West. Presented with Union Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, The Race to Promontory features extraordinary photographs and stereographs by Andrew Joseph Russell and Alfred A. Hart documenting the construction of the railroad that connected east and west and transformed America so dramatically.

Also this fall, we explore textile arts with the Museum's first-ever exhibition devoted to quilts. Pattern and Purpose showcases thirty-two American quilts from the collection of Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The quilts on view highlight an array of patterns and techniques from their skilled makers, but the exhibition also sheds light on the purpose of quilts. A quilt is utilitarian, but also a work of art. A quilt is a record of a family's journey, passed from one member to another. The exhibition stretches across the country with the origin of its objects, including quilts from makers in New England to Ohio, Kansas to California. With a plethora of outstanding programs about contemporary quilting, quilt preservation, and the making of community quilt projects right here at Joslyn, there is much to see and do.

If you are not a member of the Museum, consider joining. Members can look forward to a 2019 exhibition schedule that begins with the incredible 30 Americans, featuring over 60 works by contemporary African American artists from the Rubell Family Collection; a showcase of American design, specifically 200 years of stylish and creative chairs, in The Art of Seating; and Word and Image: The Saint John's Bible featuring the first handwritten illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery since the fifteenth century (many may remember the first St. John's Bible exhibition at Joslyn in 2006. The Bible is now complete, and this exhibition features new pages to explore). Members receive free admission to all of these ticketed exhibitions. Also in 2019, the work of three contemporary artists will be featured in the Riley CAP Gallery, and children’s book illustrators will be highlighted in the Mind’s Eye Gallery.

As you make your way to the Museum over the coming months, be sure to stop by the Hitchcock Museum Shop for holiday shopping, and don't miss Museum Store Sunday (Sunday, November 25) with one-day-only special benefits for members and the general public alike.

With best wishes for a happy holiday season and our sincere thanks for your support of Joslyn Art Museum now and in the future. See you in the galleries!

Jack Becker, Ph.D.
Executive Director & CEO