A Look Back Into the Archives: Art in Use

By Mandy Tomasik, KSU library & information science practicum student

It’s that time of year when the air turns chilly and thoughts turn to things comfy and cozy.  I have been in squirrel mode preparing my apartment for the cold weather ahead, since the thought of hibernating in a cluttered space makes me claustrophobic all over.  So, with housekeeping on my mind, I couldn’t help but notice while working in the archives the significant number of house and home-related exhibits clustered in the mid-1940’s to early 1950’s.  There’s probably plenty to be said about the interest in domestic affairs and industrial design in the aftermath of WWII, but I’ll leave that to the experts and instead share my favorite finds from:

Cover of exhibition catalog for Useful Objects for the Home, picturing (from left to right), Clothes, military, nail and hair brushes with “Shaped for Use” plastic handles, Wood bowl “turned to shapes of unusual thinness and proportions”,  “Chemex” coffee maker - “All glass one piece coffee maker with shaped wood ring grasp handle”, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Cover of exhibition catalog for Useful Objects for the Home, picturing (from left to right), Clothes, military, nail and hair brushes with “Shaped for Use” plastic handles, Wood bowl “turned to shapes of unusual thinness and proportions”, “Chemex” coffee maker – “All glass one piece coffee maker with shaped wood ring grasp handle”, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

First of all, who could pass up this (now) classic Eames coffee table and chair?

“Evans-Made, Eames Designed” coffee table and chair from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

“Evans-Made, Eames Designed” coffee table and chair from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

After all, I’m going to need somewhere to park my new wire recorder!

Wire recorder from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Wire recorder from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Truly though, I want this.

There’s something illicitly fascinating about smoking-related objects from back in the heyday of cigarettes, like these ashtrays and “cigarette box”.  Very Mad Men.

Ashtrays and cigarette box from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Ashtrays and cigarette box from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

However, those don’t hold a candle (or a match?) to this “Glamor Kit”!  The ladies surely went wild over this “Plastic combination cigarette case and compact”.

“Glamor Kit” from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

“Glamor Kit” from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

So glamorous!

The items in Useful Objects for the Home were selected based on their practical applications, while keeping design as a primary consideration.  The exhibition catalog (pictured at the top) lists the objects, their designers, producers and retailers.  “Prices range[d] broadly between 20¢ and $25,” (Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives), and the majority of items were available in local Akron stores.

This exhibit, which took place November – December 1947, was part of a series called Art in Use, which included companion exhibitions titled Plan Your Home (January 1946), Made in Akron (September 1946) and Contemporary Furnishings (February 1947).  The Akron Art Institute, the precursor to the Akron Art Museum, offered a four year course that included instruction in field of industrial design.  At the Institute’s art school, “All art students, regardless of future plans for specialization in art, [were] required to participate in the study of ‘art in use’.” (Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives)

If we’re going to be all holed up in the coming winter, it might as well be with some well-designed and useful art!  Of course, when we must venture out, there’s always the option of cozying up with some art here at the museum too.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s