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Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
87 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074


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Monday, Tuesday, Sunday Closed

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The Allen's collection is particularly strong in 17th century Dutch and Flemish painting, Japanese prints, early modern art, African art, and more.

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From the Director

Garden of the Princess, Louvre (1867) by Claude Monet. R. T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1948.296 Garden of the Princess, Louvre (1867) by Claude Monet. R.T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1948.296
Andriaderstine 0552

Photo by Tanya Rosen Jones

A Message from the Director

Connecting in new ways with our audiences, and attentively stewarding the museum’s collection, are both important aspects of the work that the staff and I have set for ourselves in the AMAM’s new strategic plan, entitled A Deep Heritage, A Dynamic Future: Community, Creativity, and a Culture of Care. The plan—including the museum’s new mission, vision, and values statements—is available on our website at and we hope you will take time to peruse it.

As I wrote in an introduction there, during the past several years the museum field—like society overall—has encountered tremendous challenges in the form of health crises, economic turbulence, and international conflicts. We also experienced much-needed reckonings around racial injustice, a new focus on issues of gender equity and accessibility, concerns relating to ownership of cultural property, and continuing environmental vulnerabilities due to climate change. Along with these important matters has also come a new attention to the proper acknowledgment of Indigenous and other groups—and I’m proud that the the AMAM staff has been working recently both to highlight Indigenous items in the museum’s collection through thoughtful exhibitions and gallery presentations, as well to grapple with the difficult issues that ownership and custodianship of such items present. Importantly, they have been doing so through conversations with members of Indigenous groups, connections that we expect will only increase in future years as we seek to learn from experts of various fields—including Indigenous American and Pre-Columbian cultures, and Islamic and African art—in which the museum has collections, but no curator with significant relevant expertise.

Currator of Academic Programs Hannah Wirta Kinney has recently highlighted Indigenous American items in focused presentations, including Divergent Paths, which reconstructed the different journeys two pairs of moccasins took upon arrival at Oberlin College in the 19th century, one pair ending up in the AMAM and one in a collection without formal institutional oversight (now stewarded attentively by Amy Margaris, Associate Professor of Anthropology, who has been an excellent colleague and advisor regarding proper care for the Indigenous items the museum currently holds); Dis/Possession, which explored, through American artworks, ideas about the land that reinforce a settler colonial mindset; and Objects of Encounter: American Myths of Place, which examined how the works of both Euro-American and Indigenous artists encapsulated both real and imagined encounters with other people and places. One smaller intervention in the galleries, installed in February 2022 by former student curatorial assistant Audrey Libatique (OC 2022) working with former curator Alexandra Letvin, remains on view in our East Gallery. A case in the gallery includes works made by late 19th and early 20th century Indigenous artists from the Southwestern United States, including three pots by Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez as well as silver necklaces made by Diné (Navajo) artisans and other works made specifically for the increasing numbers of tourists who were able to visit the Southwest following the expansion of railroads. Installations such as this combine several strategies—highlighted in our new strategic plan—that AMAM staff are using in their work with our audiences and our collections. These include close interaction with students, faculty, and/or community members in the preparation of exhibitions; attempts (I would say, successful ones) to make a big impact in a small space—in this instance, in just one case in our East Gallery, with others in similarly intimate spaces, including the Northwest and Southwest Ambulatories and Education Hallway; and the use of collection works to confront difficult and topical issues, while seeking to raise awareness and discussion among our visitors.

Collecting contemporary works from Indigenous artists is also a priority; indeed, the very first acquisition I made after becoming AMAM director in 2012 was a print by Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith (Salish Flathead/Cree/Shosone), Theatres of War—pointedly, the first contemporary Indigenous work to enter the AMAM’s collection. We’re delighted that this aspect of the museum’s holdings has grown substantially since then, including through the Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow) print featured in this year’s Shared Art program (see page 15) and through three prints by Jeffrey Gibson (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Cherokee)—who has recently been chosen to represent the United States at the next Venice Biennale.

Many recent acquisitions by contemporary Indigenous artists have come to the museum as generous gifts from Driek (OC 1965) and Michael (OC 1964) Zirinsky—whose donation in 2015 of a textile by Anna Von Mertens features prominently in a new exhibition in our Ellen Johnson Gallery. While that work relates to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the exhibition focuses on the pathbreaking, yet too-little known, American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, whose studies at Oberlin from 1885 to 1888 set the stage for her later career. We hope you’ll visit us soon to see this and other new exhibitions, and to help us celebrate the work of Oberlin students past and present, and the ways that their efforts—some of which are highlighted on pages 16 and 17—and those of the museum’s talented staff in concert with community members, continue to resonate positively today.

Andria Derstine
John G. W. Cowles Director

September 1, 2023

View Previous Director's Letters

Statement on Violence and Discrimination targeting Asian-Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders

The visual arts community at Oberlin College (Art History, Studio Art, the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Clarence Ward Art Library) recognize and condemn the racial violence in Atlanta, which is a culmination of ongoing harassment and discrimination targeting the Asian-American, Asian and Pacific Islander communities. A persistent blight on American history, this discrimination has intensified in the last year, amplified by politically motivated racist and xenophobic associations between these communities and Covid-19. These hateful actions and words, and the underlying racial stereotypes that support them, hurt the Oberlin College community, including our students and colleagues; they are antithetical to what we stand for professionally and personally. We commit ourselves to the action of building an Oberlin community that is free of discrimination and harassment, and equitably supportive of all its members. This work builds on the necessary anti-racist work we have begun in the Oberlin visual arts community and are committed to continuing.

With this statement, we echo and affirm an earlier statement by the Comparative American Studies Department, East Asian Studies Department, International Student Resource Center, and Multicultural Resource Center, and another statement by the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity Commission.

We encourage Oberlin students and others to use the resources available in these earlier statements for both education and action, and to reach out to us for support.

March 29, 2021

Message on Racial Justice

The Allen Memorial Art Museum stands in solidarity with communities of color in affirming a belief in justice and equality for all, and in condemning racial injustice. Oberlin College President Ambar has recently announced an initiative to address these issues, and the museum staff look forward to partnering in this with her, with our colleagues, and with our broader community.

I had the honor of spending time with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and Lonnie Bunch, then the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and now secretary of the Smithsonian, during Oberlin College’s 2017 commencement. At that time, each received honorary degrees, and Walker delivered the address, marking the AMAM’s centennial. Their powerful public statements in recent days on the killing of George Floyd, and of many others, are uplifting calls to action, and for change.

In the museum world, our work is accomplished with and through art. Art has the power to demonstrate, to communicate, to educate, to help, and to heal in difficult and painful situations. The staff and I look forward to welcoming you back to the museum, a site where we can collectively reflect upon and engage in conversations about societal challenges, including racial injustice and inequality, and together work to effect that needed change.

June 4, 2020


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