Stumbled Upon Treasures

Santa Cruz Museum's Carranza Collection

The Santa Cruz Museum’s Carranza Collection

I am a huge museum nerd. Well, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since I work in an art museum! I love finding small, sometimes off the beaten path, museums. While walking around Toledo, Spain last summer I came upon the Santa Cruz Museum. Much like our museum’s nineteenth-century building, which originally housed government offices and was used as a hospital during the Civil War, the Santa Cruz Museum also is housed in an historic building that was once a hospital (their building dates to the sixteenth century). Initially, I was excited by the museum’s collection of assorted artifacts and paintings by El Greco, whose elongated figures seem so dramatic, yet life-like. But as I was about to leave, I made an exciting discovery: an area that looked like American Art’s Luce Foundation Center.

Bright tiles and architectural details hung on screens. Giant urns were displayed behind glass and stacked on plinths. Unlike the Luce Center, which displays a sampling of our folk art, sculpture, and contemporary craft collections displayed on shelves, as well as paintings hung on screens, the Santa Cruz Museum’s area only displayed objects from the Carranza Collection, an important collection of Spanish pottery.

I left the museum wondering about the collection and why the museum decided to display the objects in the way they did. Was this open storage with the idea of showing as much of their collection as possible like we do in the Luce Center? Or did they want to display the objects like people would have once seen them when they were first made? Also, how did people learn more about the objects? We display basic information about the artwork, including its accession number (the unique number the museum gives each piece when we acquire it). If you want to learn more we have computer kiosks nearby where you can read about the object and the artist who created it. But I don’t remember seeing any text in the Santa Cruz’s exhibition area. Since I work in a museum, I’m always interested in how other museums operate.

What about you? What’s the most memorable or intriguing place that you have ever stumbled upon while traveling?

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