Any archivist or museum curator will likely tell you: Making historic artifacts tangible and interactive – particularly inherently fragile ones – can be a challenge. Take it from Kimmie Dobos, curator of the new historic exhibition, Pewabic Through Time & Space, now in the upstairs galleries through October 21.
Dobos had a mission to connect visitors with Pewabic’s rich 115-year history as an operating pottery through to its still-thriving present day.
“I wanted to pull together an exhibition a little more interactive than what we normally do to help people feel more immersed in the culture of what we do at the pottery,” Dobos explains.
She did. One visitor to Through Time & Space last weekend “particularly liked how the past story was woven to the present through the prism of past workers and contemporary pottery workers. The photographs were fun to see and the “hands-on” exhibits are an A+…. Well done! I spent over an hour, Saturday, circling the exhibit and then more time in the shop.”
Kimmie Dobos curated Pewabic Through Time & Space, in Pewabic's galleries through Oct. 21
Through photos and other artifacts, the exhibition offers a look back at the pottery’s last century. While certain materials have changed for safety reasons, along with kiln technology, Dobos says that many of the processes haven’t. What has, says Dobos, is the educational outreach. Pewabic’s founders certainly encouraged learning and established ceramics programs onsite and at Detroit Arts & Crafts Society, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. Pewabic today strives to provide educational components more on the local ground level.
“Our focus is to try to be more inclusive and to reach more people in our community in an impactful way,” Dobos explains.
Dobos began planning the exhibition more than a year ago, matching historic images of the founders and images from Pewabic’s middle years with current makers and other staff today. She recreated Stratton’s studio so visitors can get the feel of it, working with the Detroit Historical Museum to include an example of a style of dress Stratton would have worn in her time.
“The Detroit Historical Museum was extremely kind and very flexible,” says Dobos. “They pulled a few items they thought would be helpful and let me choose from the array.”
Ultimately Dobos hopes visitors have fun with the exhibition’s interactive components and enjoy learning more about the people behind the pottery. The makers may be different today, but their handcrafted artistry remains steeped in what mattered most to Stratton.
Pewabic cofounder Horace J. Caulkins, 1916