Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The End. For Me, Not the Educational Opportunities!

My work on Currier & Ives: Perspectives on America comes to an end this week with a final report to our generous funders, Partnership for a Nation of Learners, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasters. In that documentation, I am proud to report that we have fulfilled our objectives and even surpassed some goals. In particular, securing national distribution was a real boon for the exposure of Springfield's efforts to make a local treasure a broader educational resource. The nationwide broadcast of the series goes beyond the requirements of the grant and importantly, it ensures that more people know about the importance of Currier & Ives and how their lithographs may be used effectively and easily as a vivid window to 19th century America. The focus of this project was always about education, not promoting one particular collection, and the national broadcast is our "cherry on the sundae"!

As I think my blogs reveal, this project has been a joy and a wondrous journey. I'm grateful to WGBY and the Springfield Museums for the opportunity to manage the educational partnership and to serve as Executive Producer of the documentary series. I am especially privileged to have worked with the Currier & Ives collector and expert, John Zak, and Kay Simpson, Director of Education and Institutional Advancement at the Springfield Museums. They have been invaluable partners and unflagging supporters. When I reviewed the documentaries recently, I was astounded by the depth and breadth of images and information that owe directly to the efforts of John Zak. Kay was my closest partner at the Museums and I can never apologize enough for forgetting to acknowledge her work at our biggest screening! I still cringe over that. Kay Simpson is the main force behind the success of our educational efforts and she also served as my teacher, educating me about the partners and the Project when I came on board back in April of 2007. She has always made time in her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions, share information, anticipate challenges, and share a chuckle. What an honor to work with her!

As I've mentioned before, I'm also especially indebted to videographer Mark Langevin and Senior Editor Ray Laferrier for their way-above-and-beyond efforts! I am fortunate to take away several wonderful friendships from my time in Springfield, Massachusetts. I'd like to take this opportunity to also thank Lynn Page and Keith Clark of WGBY for the energy and time they devoted to this effort. Their patience, diligence and talents are simply astounding.

Please keep an eye on our dynamic website for new features. We've wrapped up the edits on the podcasts and they'll be added to the site soon. Teachers will find the podcast Lesson Plans and Learning Activities an easily replicable resource in the classrooms. Students can enjoy the interactive features "What Is A Print?" and "Look Closer!", as well as "My Currier & Ives Gallery". The Museums will continue to train teachers to use the lithographs as a way to teach Visual Literacy and more. The Museums will also make sure DVDs of the documentary series get into the hands of librarians, curators and educators throughout the region and beyond.

As a result of this project, I understand so much more about 19th Century America and I hope you do, too. I've also developed a deep fondness for the work of the two gentlemen who have been my constant companions for 14 months: Nathaniel Currier & James Merritt Ives. I hope we have given the "Printmakers to the American People" the tribute they so richly deserve. And don't say I didn't warn you: you'll find that once you start appreciating these prints and seeking them out, it becomes a bit of an obsession! I have 4 now. As John Zak told me from the start, the collecting bug bites deeply.

I am convinced the grantmakers will agree their money was well spent. I know my time was. It is with a tinge of regret that I end this blog. It's been great fun sharing this producer's journey with you!

- Mary Steele