Thursday, April 29, 2010
in the Chadwick Archive
For several years now Jimbo Blachly and I have worked as the editors of the Chadwick Family Papers, a quiet scholarly task that has, nonetheless, generated a surprising amount of controversy, some of it heated. While we have considerable leeway with the papers, artifacts, and works of art, theirs is a proud and ancient family of dandies, aesthetes, amateur historians and sea captains that, especially in the face of its recent financial troubles, remains anxious about its position in history.
For this reason we’re obliged to find a place in our work for the contributions of the family’s own historians and to respond to the Chadwicks’ exacting editorial suggestions. Our editorship is in this sense a collaboration not merely between Blachly and myself, but between us and the Chadwicks. And yet the richness of the family’s archive far outweighs the administrative dilemmas and complex matters of etiquette sometimes involved in bringing it before the public.
A large portion of our task as editors has been to prepare educational installations and informational events about the family at the request of museums and non-profit arts institutions. What has been a surprise to me in my research, however, has been the rather Byzantine connections, historically, between the Chadwicks and these same institutions—a topic that has made for some embarrassment and even ill-will.
But as scholars we have felt it our duty to present these histories without simplifying or sanitizing them; indeed, Blachly and I could not be more revolted by the now several-decade turn in museum display away from rigor and detail and toward spurious claims about access and interactivity. But that’s another topic.
We offer here but a brief overview of our work for the Chadwicks, intended merely to acquaint the reader with the broad outlines of our archival labors. This sketch is supplemented in the main body of the blog, when needed, by both biographical details of some of the principal Chadwicks and prefatory notes on some of the particular circumstances surrounding the exhibitions, lectures and informational events for which we have assisted the family.
More on the family--a lecture by Lytle Shaw
More on the editors--an interview