Works on Paper Study Room Refurbished

Works of art on paper are by nature delicate objects that can be irreparably damaged from cumulative exposure to light. As a result, museums can only display these works for short periods of time, and then only in low levels of light to guarantee their preservation for future generations. With more than 26,000 accessioned prints, drawings, and photographs in the Princeton University Art Museum, barely one-half of one percent of the Museum's superb collection of works on paper is ever on view to the public at any given time. Instead, the vast majority remains mounted in archival mats, categorically sorted into boxes, and carefully housed in climate-controlled Museum storerooms. From there the works are available for presentation in adjoining seminar rooms (by appointment) to faculty, students, and outside visitors, or selected and framed for display in temporary exhibitions in the Museum galleries.

The primary function of any study room in a university art museum is to act as a classroom for teaching with authentic works of art, a practice that has been fundamental to the Princeton University Art Museum since its inception. Each year hundreds of students enrolled in a wide variety of coursesfrom the history of art and the humanities to freshman writing seminars and classes in the language arts—are taught in the prints and drawings study room using works from the collection. In many cases, these class visits present students with their first close exposure to works of art, examined in a seminar room setting to encourage discussion.

The Art Museum has recently refurbished its seminar room dedicated to the study of prints and drawings as the Works on Paper Study Room. For the first time, the room will be open to the public through organized tours on Thursday evenings and on weekends. Museum visitors can now examine prints, drawings, and photographs in a studious, contemplative environment in thematic installations selected to mirror the educational experiences of Princeton students. Set into glazed exhibitions cases, these informal installations of unframed works on paper will, in the words of Caroline Harris, associate director for education, “provide opportunities to explore new ideas and reach out to new audiences . . . to engage students and faculty in the museum process.”

The first two installations to be presented in the Works on Paper Study Room are perfect examples of this educational spirit: Poetry and the Arts, on view through June 8, derives from a course taught in the Museum this past semester by Professor Effie Rentzou of the French Department, in which students explored the connections between modern French poetry and the visual arts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Intaglio Techniques at Crown Point Press is curated by Erica Cooke, a first-year graduate student in the Department of Art and Archaeology and a Mellon Research Assistant who is currently working in Prints and Drawings.

Calvin Brown
Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings


The Works on Paper Study Room has been refurbished thanks to the combined generosity of Heather and Paul G. Haaga, Jr., Class of 1970; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; and the Bagley Wright, Class of 1946, Contemporary Art Fund.

Public access to the Works on Paper Study Room installations will be available through guided tours on Thursday evenings after 5 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays during normal Museum hours. Visitors may sign up at the information desk at the entrance to the Museum.

Scholars and students wishing to study the Museum’s collection of prints and drawings, or to visit the David Hunter McAlpin, Class of 1920, Photography Study Center, may still do so Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment only. Please consult the Museum website for further information.