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Glimpsing a Photographic Wonderland

The Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana, is a truly remarkable place, notable for embodying outstanding work of its architect, Eero Saarinen, its landscape architect, Dan Kiley, and its interior designer, Alexander Girard.   Here, the stains of mid century modernism strike a chord whose resonance few others can equal.

Its visual resonance is amplified by having been recorded by two of the most important architectural photographers of the twentieth century, Ezra Stoller (1915-2004)  and Balthazar Korab (1926-  ).  As we work to understand the property and the changes it underwent, to have the photographs taken by these men is to sift a treasure almost beyond one’s wildest hope. Many preservation projects must rely on much less for visual documentation.  Imagine being immersed a career of genealogical and historical research and suddenly working on an individual whose every portrait had been taken by Cecil Beaton or Irving Penn!

Monica and Balthazar Korab, Photo by Mark Zelonis

Monica and Balthazar Korab, Photo by Mark Zelonis

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Filed under: Art, Design, Local

 

Savoring New Beginnings

I joined the IMA staff in 2000 when the museum was already well along with its project to renovate and reinterpret Oldfields, the former home of J. K. Lilly Jr.  The house was a construction site from top to bottom, and indeed beyond its walls, with many of its interior features and surfaces hidden behind protective coverings to prevent the damage that comes so easily when tools, ladders, materials, and equipment are constantly on the move.  While things were thus covered, we planned for the appearance of the house when it would reflect the early 1930s, the time the Lilly family first lived there.  An image of the house slowly came into focus as we made final selections of paint colors, furnishing choices, and textile selections.  It was an exciting process, one rare enough in one’s career to be especially savored.

lilly house

Lilly House at the IMA

lilly interior

Interior view of Lilly House

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Filed under: Art, Musings

 

Number Two

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As the IMA website indicates, we have taken official possession of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. This will make the second National Historic Landmark property the IMA has in its collection (Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens being the first). How’s that for bragging rights! As a practical matter however, home ownership is not all fun and games in this situation. Ahead lies a road of challenges for the staff working on MHG teams.

Columbus is an hour’s drive south of Indy, which makes it difficult to explore the house and conduct business with the current local staff. Director of Lilly House Operations Bradley Brooks, head of our team of six, has spent a lot of time on the phone and making the trek south in the run-up to taking possession of the property. He has interacted with everyone from members of the Miller family to a nephew of  Eero Saarinen. Bradley has been, and continues to be a very busy beaver.

The task of converting a residential property into a museum showcase has been an educational experience for our team, so far. It has forced us to look at all the things we do here at the museum, a lot of which we take for granted, and formulate how to adapt and transplant these practices to a former family home fifty miles away.

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Filed under: Art, Conservation, Current Events

 

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