A very important internationally recognized photography exhibition is currently on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art at 135 Meeting St. It is titled “Photography and the American Civil War.” This exhibit, which features 240 objects, was developed by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is sharing it with only two venues outside of New York. The Gibbes Museum is one of those beneficiaries.
At the time of the Civil War, which is inextricably linked with the history of our city, photography was a relatively new medium. The images on display bring the viewer as close to the events of that time as is possible after a span of 150 years. Today we are used to seeing photographs and video of soldiers and battlefields; however, these photographic images exhibit a special kinetic power primarily because they are the first photographs of a major, culturally divisive, belligerent civil conflict in American history.
After reading Adam Parker’s coverage in The Post and Courier of the opening of the photographic exhibit, it struck me that people outside Charleston are taking more notice of our wonderful art museum than are we who live in the region. The curator of the exhibition and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director traveled to Charleston for the opening of the exhibition. They view the Gibbes as a partner.
The quality of the Gibbes collections and the scholarly interpretation of its artifacts provided by the Gibbes’ staff under the leadership of chief curator and director Angela Mack are broadly recognized for excellence in the national museum community.
This recognition of excellence greatly benefits our community because of the national and international partnerships that it attracts.
We should all be proud of the good work that the Gibbes does — especially its efforts to partner with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as we work together to continue a “healing/educational” process from a war that occurred 150 years ago.
Some see the arts as a luxury; others see the arts as fundamental to the intellectual strength of a community. Art museums and their collections inspire and teach all of us — especially our children. Also, manufacturing and intellectual property industries are attracted to communities that exhibit a strong arts program.
Younger, entrepreneurial people choose to live and start businesses in places that offer rich cultural resources. The Charleston region is blessed to have many cultural resources — too many to name here.
However, I can assure you that the exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art is culturally stimulating, provocative, educational and inviting. Also while there you should take some extra time to explore and appreciate other items on display — particularly the marriage of our region’s decorative and visual arts.
The Gibbes is not only a local treasure but also a national treasure — visit it to enjoy its excellence.
John M. Rivers Jr.