The Williams College Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the fruits of an ongoing archeological dig executed over the past thirty years by art history students and faculty, under the leadership of Whitney S. Stoddard ’35, Professor of Art History Emeritus. For the past three decades, members of the Williams community have traveled to the south of France to experience art history hands-on at the Psalmodi excavation site. From these ruins, the site of a medieval monastery, the team has unearthed an impressive array of building remnants that have revealed much about the structural history of the former Gothic church.
The exhibition, entitled “The Dig – Thirty Years of Excavations at Psalmodi, France,” is comprised of photographs and architectural drawings of the site. Information intensive and Williams-centric, the exhibit aims to provide a profile of the Psalmodi excavation project, as well as explanations of the architectural and historical significance of the teams findings.
The mostly black and white photographs are scrupulously organized and annotated. Arranged in groups including Carolingian architecture, Gothic architecture, Romanesque architecture, coins, burial practices and stained glass, the exhibit draws upon the expansive array of artifacts found on the site. Much effort is taken to interpret the photographed artifacts and each grouping is accompanied by a drawing of the site depicting where these particular objects were found.
Unfortunately for the viewer of average height, the accompanying site drawings are hung a foot or more overhead – far too high to discern much of anything from the detailed line drawings. In addition to the photographs and architectural drawings, an automated slide projector displays additional photos and drawings of the site in a continuous loop.
Conceptually, “The Dig” is a shift from the WCMA’s usual fare. This exhibition is not about the art physically on display. Indeed, the photographs and drawings vary in both quality and condition. Rather than traditional artists’ works, this exhibit highlights the work accomplished through thirty years of dedicated labor in applied art history.
The Dig – Thirty Years of Excavations at Psalmodi, France, will be on display until Dec.12