Columbus museum curators choose their favorites

Brooke Preston
1948 mobile television van

Not all museum pieces are created equal. While curators treasure every painting, display, artifact and dinosaur bone in their collections, some things can't help but stand out—often for their historical, artistic or scientific significance, but also for more personal reasons.We asked a handful of Central Ohio's museum leaders to highlight their favorites and share what makes them special. Here are their responses.

Warren Motts, founder and director, Motts Military Museum

“It is very hard to choose just one artifact, but I would have to say that the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry Flag is near and dear to my heart. I look at it and think ‘What if it could talk and tell its story?' It was found under the bodies at the Angle in Gettysburg after the famous battle of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. It is the only flag in existence today of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry.”

Steve McVoy, curator, Early Television Foundation and Museum

“My favorite item at the Early Television Museum is a1948 mobile television van. This van was sold to TV stations in the early days of TV after World War II. This is the only one that is still around and has all its original equipment. I can imagine engineers working to bring television images from parades, ball games and other events. Today remote telecasts are routine. Back then it must have been exciting for viewers to see these things.”

Carole Genshaft, curator-at-large, Columbus Museum of Art

“One of my favorites is ‘The Teachings' by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. It is what Aminah called rag paintings and incorporates a powerful drawing with masterful use of buttons and fabric scraps. Throughout her career, Aminah represented the strength, possibilities and accomplishments of women. In this portrait, the woman's large hands attest to her capabilities and the facial expression indicates the figure's spiritual depths.”

Dale Gnidovec, curator, Ohio State's Orton Geological Museum

“A few years ago, I got a call from a farmer in western Ohio saying he had found some dinosaur bones in his field. I said that that was unlikely, but he should bring in something to show me. I thought he would bring in some old horse or cow bones, but instead he brought inthis beautiful mastodon tooth. I ended up excavating that site, running it for five summers as an educational dig for teachers and kids, teaching them how to dig, how to identify bones and map them. That original tooth is one of my favorites; even now I take it to schools when I speak on the Ice Age.”

Caitlin McGurk, associate curator, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

“In our Treasures gallery, you can always find a beautiful charcoal and ink wash piece by the great Barbara Shermund. Barbara was one of the first female cartoonists to ever be hired by The New Yorker back in the 1920s, and her lively and clever feminist voice is still cutting-edge even today.”

Tyler Cann, curator of contemporary art, Columbus Museum of Art

“I can't really pick a ‘favorite' work in the Columbus Museum of Art, but I'm always pleased to see ‘Karnak' by Paul Feeley. It is a large outdoor sculpture by the museum entrance and was part of our major building and renovation project in 2015. It seems to move as you walk in and around it, and you often see children playing peekaboo inside. ‘Karnak' is a strong work of abstract sculpture, but it remains playful and joyful. I can't think of a better way to welcome our visitors.”

Eric Feingold, history curator, Ohio History Connection

“The day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, a pastor set upthis sign advertising weddings he would officiate at a park in Downtown Columbus. Though seemingly ordinary, this object speaks to a watershed moment in social justice history.”

Paul Sutter, chief scientist, COSI

“One of my favorite things at COSI is actually the Giant Lever in the Big Science Park. It's a simple—and striking—example of the power of scientific thinking, of how a simple concept can lead to surprising and counterintuitive results. Oh, and it's really fun to do, too.”