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Friday, December 28, 2012

Recent Acquisitions: Top 10 Fascinating Museum Acquisitions of 2012

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 6:30 AM

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5. The Founding of Silicon Valley

Loose wafers on a page in the notebook.
  • Loose wafers on a page in the notebook.

The 1,100 patent notebooks dating from the founding of the Fairchild Semiconductor Company have been compared to the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States. Hyperbole aside, the 115 boxes do speak to the rise of Silicon Valley as the epicenter of technological innovation. Fairchild was founded in 1957 by Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, Jean Hoerni, Julius Blank, Eugene Kleiner, Victor Grinich, Jay Last, and Sheldon Roberts. The founders made history with planar technology, which forever improved the reliability of semiconductors and altered the manufacturing of microelectronics. Texas Instruments acquired the notebooks in 2001 when it purchased National Semiconductor.

4. The Long Now Foundation Promises to Preserve Civilization -- On a Three-Inch Disk

long_now.jpg

Digital Obsolescence be damned, cries San Francisco's Long Now Foundation, which has been creatively fostering long-term responsibility for the future -- or at least the next 10,000 years. The latest project of Long Now, located at Fort Mason Center, is predictably far-reaching: a nickel disk with nearly 14,000 pages of information microscopically etched onto its surface. These are not digital encodings of long, numerical sequences. Each page on this "Rosetta Disk" is an image readable by the human eye through optical magnification. Resting in a sphere of stainless steel and glass, the disk can endure exposure to the atmosphere with minimal care. Research suggests that it should remain legible for thousands of years.

3. Creeptastic German-Mask Book Lands at the Museum of Performance and Design

creeptastic_2.jpg

When Stanford Professor emeritus Bill Eddleman spotted In Masks the Times Proceed: The Works of Make-Up Artist Wolfgang Utz at Buecher Bogan bookstore in Berlin, he immediately purchased it for the Museum of Performance and Design. Utz's work is unusual in Europe, and it also stands in stark contrast to American design, which tends to be realistic. There may be one or two other copies of the title in the United States, but they are most likely found on the East Coast, making it an exciting new addition to the collection.One after another, the book's plates (pages that are entirely composed of an image) reveal elaborate designs that are innovative and often startling. The expressions on the masks are distinctly spooky, and the wild coiffures can be simply alarming, which no doubt terrifies and entices audiences attending performances.

2. Artist John Severin Donates Work to Cartoon Art Museum Shortly Before His Death

When The Rawhide Kid was relaunched by Marvel in 2002, the main character was presented as a gay man, offering females makeovers and, despite heroically saving the day, making other masculine characters uncomfortable. Reception was mixed.
  • When The Rawhide Kid was relaunched by Marvel in 2002, the main character was presented as a gay man, offering females makeovers and, despite heroically saving the day, making other masculine characters uncomfortable. Reception was mixed.

In December of 2011, Andrew Farago, the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum, received a call from an elderly woman in Colorado on behalf of her 90-year-old-husband. "Are you familiar with John Severin's work?" Michelina Severin politely inquired, referring to one of the all-time greatest comic book artists in American history. Severin, a longtime Marvel comic book artist, had worked on Cracked and Mad since the 1950s, in addition to other well-known titles, including The Incredible Hulk. "He drew a comic about 10 years ago called The Rawhide Kid," Mrs. Severin continued, "and it got some press attention at the time." ​The museum showed interest, and he Severins moved quickly. Farago, who expected a sampling of pages from The Rawhide Kid in the distant future, was floored when all 115 pages arrived in San Francisco a month later.

1. Chairs Bought at a Yard Sale 30 Years Ago for Pocket Change Donated to the Asian Art Museum

Lockwood de Forest designed these chairs. Don't recognize the name? Neither did the collector who bought them at a sidewalk sale.
  • Lockwood de Forest designed these chairs. Don't recognize the name? Neither did the collector who bought them at a sidewalk sale.

There are an abundance of stories about people who buy something at a flea market and later discover it to be an authentic piece, but the buyer is usually an amateur. Chief curator Forrest McGill knows that professional collectors also stumble upon treasures, sometimes to his museum's benefit. In 2012, McGill was drawn to a set of chairs in a collector's home, but when he asked after the Lockwood de Forest pieces, a key figure in the American Aesthetic Movement, the collector had no idea who de Forest was. The chairs, his favorite for nighttime reading, were paid for with the cash he had in his pocket, an impulse buy 30 years ago at a sidewalk sale. McGill had them authenticated, and eventually wooed them away from the collector.

Follow Alexis Coe on twitter @alexis_coe.

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Alexis Coe

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