Q&A with Sara Shahabi

Graphic designer Sara Shahabi was commissioned by the Walters to create the title wall for Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

Graphic designer Sara Shahabi in the "Pearls on a String" title wall that she created.

Sara Shahabi’s background in exploring experimental English and Farsi typography made her a perfect fit for executing the evocative title wall that greets visitors at the start of Pearls on a String. Her installation continues a theme in the exhibition that considers how artists, patrons, and poets form a constellation of relationships. In Sara’s work we see a contemporary expression of that theme, to compliment works from the Islamic courts of the sixteenth- and eighteenth-centuries. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

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Art Conservator Q&A with Julie Lauffenburger

Julie Lauffenburger, Interim Director of Conservation and Technical Research shares her passion for conservation, curating the Gold in the Ancient Americas exhibition and her journey to the Walters Art Museum.

Conservator Julie Lauffenburger in the Conservation Lab with a textile for an upcoming exhibition.

Why are you so passionate about preserving art?

I am a bit of a history nerd. Just ask my children—always a historic site wrapped into a family vacation! Preserving art to me is about preserving the legacy of human creativity: what makes us human and what is universal about all of us wherever we live. I have always been fascinated by material culture and have always wanted to travel and see the world; preserving art ensures that material culture from around the world will be there for future generations to discover. It makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger.

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The Walters Art Museum’s Unsung Veteran

Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe.

MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle
MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle
MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle

As we remember the service of our friends and loved ones on this Veterans Day, I thought you might like to hear about the exploits of the Walters Art Museum’s most unsung veteran. Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw combat in the South Pacific as Assistant Wing Officer with the first Marine Aircraft Headquarters.

In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe. His expertise in art and also his language skills enabled his work, and one remarkable event in late 1944 is well worth recounting. He entered the Chateau of Haute Koeningsbourg, in the Alsace region of France where allied troops had identified a cache of artworks hidden by the Germans. On his inspection of the chateau, Ross discovered the Isenheim Alterpiece by Grunewald. It was protected by American forces until the end of hostilities and returned to the Unterlinden Museum in Alsace where it can be seen today. The MFAA units had an enormous task to locate and secure cultural treasures. They often worked alone, and arrived in locations immediately following fierce battles that took place as the Germans retreated. Two MFAA officers were killed in the line of duty.

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Students and Teachers at the Museum

This is an installment of the weekly interview series, on the Culture Comment blog. It’s called “Behind-the-Scenes.” Each week, we’ll discuss new facts and information about the people that make the Walters Art Museum tick. Now, let’s meet Amanda Kodeck.

This is an installment of the weekly interview series, on the Culture Comment blog. It’s called “Behind-the-Scenes.” Each week, we’ll discuss new facts and information about the people that make the Walters Art Museum tick. Now, let’s meet Amanda Kodeck.


Gary Vikan: What do you do at the Walters?

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Illuminated Manuscripts on the Internet: How do we do it?

We are digitization specialists in the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books. We’re working to digitize the collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Scanning the pages of a medieval manuscript

This is an installment of the weekly interview series, on the Culture Comment blog. It’s called “Behind-the-Scenes.” Each week, we’ll discuss new facts and information about the people that make the Walters Art Museum tick. Now, let’s meet digitization specialists Diane Bockrath and Ariel Tabritha.

Diane Bockrath & Ariel Tabritha: We are digitization specialists in the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books. We’re working on a special project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize the Walters’ collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts and make it available on the Internet. That means we capture a high-resolution digital image for each and every page in the books, using a 33-megapixel camera and a custom-built book cradle system that supports the fragile bindings. Then we crop and correct each image for color, perform quality control, and deliver the images to their long-term archival homes, along with their appropriate descriptive information, or metadata.

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