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Too Many Tools…


I see that I haven’t written a thing yet in 2017.  Woke up today with the thought “I’ve got too many tools in my life.”  Okay not hand tools of the sort pictured in that public domain stock photo above, but too many tools of other sorts.   First world problem, I know. Let’s begin.

At 56, according to some sources, I’m beyond the age to gladly welcome new tools–even if they are labor-saving, into my life.  While that’s not quite true there are a surfeit of tools in my life right now.

A company for whom I do some part-time project management work has me using Trello for client management, SmartSheet for implementation management, ZenDesk for post-implementation customer support, JIRA for support on the development end,  Confluence to store customer documentation, and LucidChart for…well..charts.   For another project, for another company, we use Basecamp & Slack.

Various institutions of higher education have me using Blackboard, Google Docs, Scaler, Wireframe, and Omeka.  Coming this fall–yet another system yet to be determined.  For blogging and social media, I use WordPress and Medium, and of course Twitter, facebook, and Instagram.

Personally I’ve got this cocktail of apps designed to make me better, stronger, sleeker, faster, and smarter.  These include:  Fitbit, Running, Lose It! ,  Headspace, and Duolingo.

To accommodate all the tools above that are necessary though multiplicitous, I’m going to spend the second half of 2017 separating myself from some of the other tools that negatively impact my professional life.




Dress for the Job You Want!

Version 2

Once a year a friend and colleague (you know who you are) gives my 2nd year graduate students some tough love advice on the topic of their cvs/resumes.  Today was the day.  My two lovely students gathered in my tiny office to Skype with Nik and hear the results of a resume review by a senior museum professional with oodles (that’s right oodles) of resume review experience.


Thus when the he arrived on the video screen I was unsurprised to see him dressed to the nines, crisp dress shirt, power tie, vest, and beard and mustache impeccably trimmed. I on the other hand–because today is a writing day for me out at the University Farm–was dressed in jeans and a not as crisp white blouse.  It is also highly likely that my blouse already had tell-tale coffee stains.  Sigh.


At one point Nik reminded one of the students to dress for the job she wants to have, not the one she has now.  Since the first day of graduate school in 1984 my routine has been pantyhose, pumps, suit or dress, and pearls. Okay the suits are more drape-y now than they used to be, often involving slacks instead of skirts–imagine the 1970s television series Maude but with less polyester and feathers–and the pumps are now flats, but that has always been the institutional outfit.


Nik’s words occasioned one of those rare moments of personal and professional clarity–this morning, dressed casually to go out and spend the afternoon writing at the farm, I am dressed for the job I want to have.   Gotta go write.

“When one door closes…”

The famous maxim “When one door closes another opens” is generally inscribed to inventor Alexander Graham Bell.  Today’s reflection upon the Bell quote is due to the fact that I’m partway through one door and looking down the hall towards another set of doorways in my career passageway.   Or, as I like to think of it, here I go again heading from one desk to another.


My life has lots of doors and lots of desks.   I like desks.  I have five in my home–one in the kitchen that is used primarily for working with recipes from cookbooks and torn from magazines, and as a staging the events of the day.  I have two desks in the sunroom; one is for bills and busy work and the other for organization of projects and papers related to my consulting practice. The desk in the bedroom is used primarily for grading, and the one in the guest bedroom for writing fiction.


In terms of offices provided to me by others I have my own shelf at Ingall’s Library at the Cleveland Museum of Art, in the sunny, lovely reading room for art history research.  An office on campus at CWRU for meeting with students and grading.  And my favorite, a lovely writing office out at CWRU’s Valley Ridge Farm in a converted stable for writing non-fiction.


The paragraph below comes from a letter of recommendation written for me by a colleague.  And although I did not get that particular grant, today I am going to OWN his compliments:


She’s been a curator (at the San Diego Museum of Art), she’s been a teacher, she’s been a media consultant and pioneer in new media applications–she has a range of skills that one seldom finds in a single person, she’s adept at adjusting to new situations, and she combines “the old art history” with new modes of art history and scholarly inquiry in an impressive way.


I haven’t decided which desk I’ll be starting with on November 1 but I’m looking forward to opening a few doors and adjusting to some new situations.


Quattrocentrist here! Very excited to be named as one of the 4th class of Community Representatives for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).  My goal is to spread the word about DPLA to Cleveland’s wide array of cultural organizations that combine library, archive, and museum services and foster inter-institutional collaborations.

One reason why I wanted to be associated with the DPLA is I haven’t felt so excited about the potential for serendipitous discovery since the physical slide library disappeared from the Ingalls library at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  More to come about Ingalls in further posts because it is one of the best run and managed art research libraries in the United States….but wait…I was talking about serendipity.

I love the DPLA because I consistently run across items and connections that make my mitochondrial DNA sing for joy at our interconnected world.  So what I’ve been doing recently is simply exploring the (to me) untapped resources of the DPLA and thought I might use this blog to occasionally share my discoveries with you in the hopes that you will venture into the DPLA and make connections  yourself (and maybe share them with me).  Try it!

Today’s discovery is Henry Lovejoy Ambler’s 1911 History of Dentistry in Cleveland, Ohio.  Ambler’s book entered the DPLA via the Open Knowledge Commons from the Columbia University Libraries.  And lo and behold, because everything comes full circle, I just typed in Henry Lovejoy Ambler’s name in the Cleveland History Center of the WRHS  and discovered that resting comfortably in a box, two floors above my office is the original manuscript for the History of Dentistry as well as his manuscript for Facts, fads and fancies about teeth (Cleveland: The Helman-Taylor Company, 1899).   I’ve got a dentist appointment this Thursday and I can’t wait to share today’s adventure with my dentist Dr. Jason Schermer.  DPLA I love you!


The Tiger and Lion May Be More Powerful…

…but the wolf does not perform in the circus.

In 3 hours (EST) I will be closer to 60 than 50 and so, predictably, trite aphorisms like the headline for this post seem to resonate.  My patience for meetings, office politics, and short-sighted non-fixes for endemic issues in museums and academe is at an all time low.  As a part-time museum employee and adjunct faculty at two research universities I have no credible standing in either world.  Full-time employment is the measure of worth in the museum world and tenure in the Ivory Tower, my own sense of professional worth is these days measured in friends made, experiences accumulated, words written, and mentoring opportunities.  It’s snowy and cold outside.  The future is mine to make what I will of it.  And so tonight I howl.

Transition & Paralysis

photoThe Bookshelf Above My Desk at Home

In just a few short days I will officially transition from spending most of my time thinking about museum studies to spending most of my time thinking about 19th Century philanthropy.  I’ve been planning this leap on and off for more than three years and now that it is here terrified.  My bookshelf is full of interesting titles:  Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” Tyler’s oldie but goodie “Freedom’s Ferment,” a book of articles edited b Lawrence Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie “Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in the United States,”  John Malcom Brinnin’s fun “The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic.”

I should be so excited but I’m only beginning to know what I don’t know and the result is books that end up looking like this one with notes and comments on every page.


So today I am sitting in my office at home paralyzed, unable to make a decision about what to do next.  What am I going to do: read, cry, answer emails, plan, shop, bake cookies, straighten the house (only as a last resort, don’t worry), or blog?   Blog it is.

A few photographs, a short blog and it’s all good.  One step in front of the other, one bite of the elephant at a time, I will move forward in looking backward.   Channeling my inner Yoda, “Lucky am I to do something I love.”   Wishing you all the same.


San Diego Museum of Art’s “Portrait of a Man” – Off My Plate

Giorgione (Giorgio da Castelfranco), "Portrait of a Man, " Oil on panel, 1506, 11 7/8 x 10 1/8 in.  Gift of Anne R. and Amy Putnam, The San Diego Museum of Art, 1941.100 (

Giorgione (Giorgio da Castelfranco), “Portrait of a Man, ” Oil on panel, 1506, 11 7/8 x 10 1/8 in. Gift of Anne R. and Amy Putnam, The San Diego Museum of Art, 1941.100 (


This portrait has haunted/dogged me for 23 almost 24 years.  I began researching this as a young curator and now as a seasoned (salt, pepper, and lots of butter) museum professional I have finally published my thoughts on a knotty problem.  You can read my thoughts in an article with the unwieldy title coming up) “Unvarnished Reflections: Giorgione’s Portrait of a Man (Terris Portrait) in the San Diego Museum of Art, the Quest for Cultural Authority, and the Ethics of Authenticity in American Museums.”  Said article appears in a new volume “Renaissance Studies: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Edward J. Olszewski.” (Edited by Jennifer H. Finkel, Michael D. Morford, and Dena M. Woodall. 

Don’t think this will ever be a bestseller but at least I am finally in print and on the record.  Yay.

I love archives…

Today I finally made the trip to I Tatti.

Last autumn, just after completing and sending off an article to a publisher, I ran across a reference to 15 letters in the Berenson archive that seemed promising.  Today the promise paid off but more on that anon

We arrived in Florence yesterday around noon after a series of flights through Newark and Brussels.  Family managed to power-through the day and though we went to sleep at a  decent hour it was still 11 before I managed to drag myself out of bed, get dressed, and wander downstairs to find a pastry and a cappucio before heading off to the mother-ship.

Caught a cab in Piazza Santa Croce, and I’m awfully glad I did because a) it’s hot here  and b) I’ve never been terribly good with public transport in Italy.   Wasn’t a straight shot as the nice lady cab driver and I got side tracked by the Villino I Tatti.  Arrived at I Tatti just before noon and had the place virtually to myself.  A nice receptionist located a librarian who found the appropriate file that had been left for me.  I pulled out the trusty first generation iPad and my bluetooth keyboard and got to work.

There is a story Erwin Panofsky told about himself that I am fond of paraphrasing and it goes something like this: when he was born the fairies that brought good looks, wealth, and wisdom weren’t able to attend his christening but the fairy that did show up was the one that gifted him with the ability to open a book to whatever passage he needed.

Well folks that  is the kind of day I had today.  Twelve of the letters were interesting but of no real use to me but three of the letters, oh joy oh bliss, three of the letters provided if not exactly what I was looking for something that was pretty darn close.  I may not have the smoking gun but I’ve got the gun and a bunch of smoke not too far away from the gun and for two hours work on a sunny day in June that’s good enough for me.   (Plus a bonus letter from Bernard Berenson in one of the files had a delightful comment about Panofsky.   I just love it when larger than life heroes from the history of art history weigh in upon one another).

Right back where I belong: Florence

Sorry no picture for now.  In Florence, arrived today, staying in a lovely rental apartment on Piazza Santa Croce.   Third floor windows have spectacular views of the Chiesa Santa Croce, and in the background San Miniato al Monte  shines like a jewel.   Arrived exhausted around noon today but little sleep to be had as govt. of Florence is in the process of erecting the field and spectator stands for the annual “Calcio” matches held to celebrate the feast of Saint John the Baptist on St. John’s Eve (June 24).   Tomorrow I-Tatti!

Have you seen this man? A little help from the field.

"Portrait of a Man"

“Portrait of a Man”

Around ten years ago I bought this small [ 9″x 11″] painting (probably watercolor and gouache) at a garage sale.   My guess is  this man is to be found staring out at us from the background of a late 15th/early 16th century fresco (Perugino?  Pinturrichio? Raphael?).   I’d appreciate it if friends in the field would forward this image/post to anyone who might be able to help in identifying the original source for this image.  My photograph is yellower than the original–blame the photographer not the camera–as the image is behind glass and firmly nailed into a frame which would need to be destroyed in order to get to the actual image.