Museums on Film Series Looks at Contemporary Museum Theory and Practice


The series begins Wednesday April 9 with “Museum Hours” including a Skype dialogue with director Jem Cohen


EUGENE, Ore. -- (April 3, 2014) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art begins a new film series, “Museums on Film,” looking at the different aspects of contemporary museum theory and practice.  Organized by Dr. Phaedra Livingstone and Cinema Pacific director Richard Herskowitz, in conjunction with Livingstone’s Museum Theory course, the series begins Wednesday, April 9, at 6 p.m. with a screening of “Museum Hours” featuring a Skype dialogue with director Jem Cohen. Screenings include free popcorn and soda.


The “Museums on Film” series is comprised of five films: “Museum Hours” on April 9; “Herb and Dorothy 50x50” on April 30; “Objects and Memory on May 7; “The New Rijksmuseum” on May 28; and “The Art of the Steal” on June 4. All films start at 6 p.m.


The series is funded by a JSMA Academic Support Grant, made possible with funds allocated by the JSMA, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Robert Clark Honor’s College, which were generously matched by the Office of the Provost, to support collaborations that strengthen academic use of the museum.    


“Everyone has an opinion on museums and discussing these films will offer a forum for comparing notes on public opinions,” says Livingstone. “Through the series I hope to give audience members an opportunity to share what they currently think about museums as public institutions and to expose students to public perceptions not commonly voiced.”


The series begins with “Museum Hours,” a documentary/fiction hybrid that was an official selection at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. Starting at 6 p.m. on April 9, the evening includes a Skype interview with director Jem Cohen. Set largely within the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna, “Museum Hours” focuses on Johann, a museum guard who befriends Ann, an enigmatic visitor.  Finding refuge in the museum during her many hours alone in a strange city, Anne gradually befriends the guard. As they admire paintings by the Old Masters, the unlikely friends reflect on how artworks can infuse and shape their daily experiences — and perhaps even change their lives.


 “Herb and Dorothy 50x50,” on Wednesday, April 30, is the follow-up film to Megumi Sasaki’s award-winning documentary “Herb & Dorothy.”  In 2008, Herb and Dorothy Vogel made an announcement that stunned the art world. Known and loved as a retired postal worker (Herb) and librarian (Dorothy) who built a world-class art collection on their humble salaries, the Vogels launched a national gift project with the National Gallery of Art that would constitute one of the largest gifts in the history of American art: to give a total of 2,500 artworks to museums in all fifty states. The film takes viewers to eleven recipient museums, where they meet curators, visitors, and artists, both famous and unknown favorites of Herb and Dorothy.  “Herb and Dorothy 50x50” captures the last chapter of the Vogel’s extraordinary life and their gift to the nation, raising various questions on art, and what it takes to support art in today’s society.


“Objects and Memory,” a documentary about how we respond to history while it is happening, is screened on May 7. The film, which was PBS's national prime time special in commemoration of both the seventh and tenth anniversaries of 9/11, invites viewers to consider what they value most, and how we form communities across time. Narrated by Frank Langella, with music by Philip Glass, the film weaves together narratives of those directly affected by the trauma of 9/11 with interviews of those driven to recover objects of personal or historical value. Vérité scenes from the aftermath of 9/11 in New York and behind-the-scenes footage of the recovery effort paint an evocative portrait of how everyday objects become treasured possessions following a life-altering disaster.


On May 28, the series featured “The New Rijksmuseum,” which provides an inside look at the dispute-plagued renovation of Holland's great treasure trove of Dutch art. The Rijksmuseum closed its main building in 2003 and started tearing down walls in preparation for building a new structure of grand design by Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz. But the architects' initial plan had taken away the bicycle path through the center of the building, and opposition from the Dutch Cyclists Union was fierce. A tortuously slow permit review process also beset the project. We meet all the players — from construction workers to curators to city councilors — a range of characters worthy of great fiction. We watch in horror as the project manager, chief curator, and, ultimately, the flamboyant museum director abandon ship. The architects repeatedly yield to compromise and come close to leaving themselves. It's a slow-motion train wreck, but absolutely gripping and illuminating for anyone interested in art, museums, architecture, and city planning.


The series concludes on June 4 with “The Art of the Steal.” Made in 2010, this film looks at one of the art world’s most fascinating controversies. Don Argott’s gripping documentary -- a celebrated selection of the Toronto, New York and AFI Film Festivals -- chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of mostly French Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and African art, valued at more than $25 billion. In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes gave the collection to an African American college located just five miles outside of Philadelphia. Now, more than 50 years after Barnes’ death, a powerful group of moneyed interests went to court for control of the art, with the  goal of creating a new museum for the collection  in Philadelphia. Standing in their way is a group of Barnes’ former students and his will, which contains strict instructions stating about the future of the art. 


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America, Europe and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in the state of Oregon—and the only university museum--accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, Communications Manager, 541-346-0942,


Link: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,