In Fall of 2017, the Block Museum was pleased to welcome Joe Scott into the role of Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator. Joe comes to the museum with over fifteen years of exhibition design experience including work with The University of Chicago Libraries and The Art Institute of Chicago. He will be working closely with our Exhibitions department on the creation of Block Museum exhibitions from inception to installation. Joe took a break from installation preparation on our Winter shows to talk with us about his experience.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you find your way to museum work and this field?
I started out working in an art museum during my undergraduate art school days where I worked as a student assistant for exhibition installations. Since that time, I have worked within a variety of institutions–historical, art, science, archaeological, rare books and archives–and have encountered an extensive range of materials–from mummies to tea cups!
What particularly interests you about working within an art museum?
I respond to museums’ roles of stewardship, and I also prefer the format in which art and curatorial content are presented within an art museum context.
Can you tell us about some of your previous projects in the field?
My most recent projects dealt with rare books and archival materials at the Special Collection Research Center at the University of Chicago Library. As the exhibition designer, I collaborated with fellow staff members, faculty, and graduated students in developing and producing exhibitions. As a mountmaker, I had the opportunity to work with a broad range of materials for exhibitions: Islamic Art from the David Collection, Copenhagen; ancient Mississippi valley materials from the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program; and at the Museum of Science and Industry, I worked on a permanent installation of a Body Worlds specimens of “plastinated” human remains – an odd highlight, for sure!
What will be some of your first projects at the Block?
First and foremost, integrating into the work environment and acclimating to my new position! I am already working on several projects, Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt, and Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella, both of which open in early January, 2018. Those are followed by the Hank Willis Thomas exhibition in Spring of 2018. I have also been helping out with some of the early exhibition planning for the 2019 exhibition, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Medieval Trans-Saharan Exchange. Along with the exhibition projects, I have begun working with the collections within the context of classes, curatorial research, and collections management.
What drew you to the Block Museum mission, exhibitions, and collection?
I like the dynamics of smaller institutions, and the new initiatives of the Block are infused with a vitality that is excitingly appealing.
What are your goals for the Block Museum’s evolving exhibition department?
There are some exciting and very complex projects on the horizon which will demand collaborative planning and implementation. My sights are set on offering my experiences with both visual and logistical organization as it relates to these projects. I’m also planning on learning from the Block’s experiences with multimedia installations and collection management processes.