The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Campus museums celebrate 40 years

paint a rock!
paint a rock!

A young boy paints a rock during the University of Richmond museums' celebration of their 40th anniversary. (Ivori Zvorsky/The Collegian)

Collegian Reporter

The University of Richmond Museums celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art with a Museum Day Open House.

The open house brought together students, faculty and staff with museum tours, refreshments, live music and hands-on activities for children that included face-painting, henna decoration and art projects. University of Richmond a capella groups Off the Cuff, The Octaves and Choeur de Roi performed at the open house.

The event took place Sept. 27, the Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day. Richard Waller, the executive director of University Museums, said the event had been held because Museum Day coincided with the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art.

"We wanted to do something that was for the community, and we've gotten a lot of students here, too," Waller said. "We wanted something fun rather than something like a serious panel discussion of museums."

The Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art opened in 1968 as the Marsh Art Gallery. In 2004, the museum was renamed to show appreciation for long-time visual arts supporters Joel and Lila Harnett of Phoenix, Ariz.

The University of Richmond Museums is made up of three museums: the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, and the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center.

The open house brought people of varying ages to the university. Kelly Hughes, a senior who works as a collections assistant for University Museums, said she thought the event had been a success.

"We're getting a lot of kids from the community and there are also some students, which is basically what they wanted," Hughes said. "I think they're pretty much trying to show the public that Modlin is something that they can come to and have fun with."

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While the open house brought many people, many students normally don't attend the museum exhibits. Amanda Kleintop, a sophomore who works as a museum attendant in the Lora Robins Gallery, said she usually saw older adults coming to the exhibits.

"I'd say a lot of people don't know it's there," Kleintop said. "I'm not sure if it's of interest to a lot of students even if they did know it was there. But the first time I went into the museum I was amazed by the amount of stuff that they have."

Marianne Williams, a sophomore marketing and education assistant for the museums, said that she thought there could be more student involvement, especially in the Lora Robins Gallery.

"That one gets very little attendance, but it's really interesting," Williams said. "It's actually a very neat place to look and also it tends to be pretty quiet and calm. It's a great place to go read and not be distracted."

University Museums brings 16 to 18 exhibits to campus each year. Waller said bringing exhibits to the museums had been a several-year process. The exhibit currently in the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art showcases collections of Inuit art from the United States.

"This is a traveling exhibition so we didn't organize it," Waller said. "But a lot of the exhibitions you see in here we have curated and organized. Each one has a different story with it in terms of how we came about to present the work."

Waller said the museums tried to bring different exhibits to campus in an effort to draw many people to see them. He said they had offered exhibitions with the Core course in mind, and they had also done programming with art history and studio art courses.

"I think truly we try to offer a wide range of exhibitions in terms of historical as well as contemporary art," Waller said. "We try to cast as wide a net as we can so if you're not interested in this exhibit, then maybe the next one."

Contact reporter Emma Anderson at

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