NOTE: This was done just as my original website was lost in cyberspace in 2013.
One of the reasons I have been absent from additional blogging on our Legacy website has to do with my current project.
In January of this year old friends, Doug and Ellen Miller, asked if I would help them accession their collection(s).
I met them while I was at Baylor in the ‘80’s shortly after they opened UNIVEX in Waco. Their firm made a multitude of specialty binders, although they did make commercial 3-ring notebooks, they also produced large quantities of other kinds of high quality printed boxes for TV and movie series, instructional programming, etc. We became friends immediately as Doug was a true sportsman having been on the boards of Safari Club International and Ducks Unlimited as well as other state and local conservation organizations. They were also supportive of the Central Texas Regional Science Fair where I served as director. They also had their own museum, Wildlife World Museum in Monument, CO. They asked me to do a MAP (Museum Assessment Program as part of the offerings by the American Association of Museums). I was blown away and completely in awe of the quality of not just the taxidermy exhibited but also of the accompanying fine art that supplemented the interpretive presentations. They eventually closed the plant in Waco as well as the museum when Doug’s parents retired but we kept in touch and even talked about my assisting in putting together a traveling exhibit of some of their collection, especially the wood carvings.
Now you have to see the “carvings” in person to truly appreciate the art form that has evolved over the past half century. When I walked into their museum I thought I was looking at two Great Blue Herons taking off in flight that had been taxidermied (once live specimens that had been mounted in that position) with the top one being about nine feet from the floor BUT they were carved wood! Each feather intricately shaped and painted which created the ultimate and immediate appreciation for not only the birds but also for the artist.
The Millers have one of, if not the largest collections of wood carvings in private hands and have regularly shared their pieces with museums across the continent and as far away as Japan and as I learned wanted me to write a book about the “decoy” portion of their collection. I started taking individual photos of the entire assemblage including flat art, sculpture, mounted specimens and other objects the first part of February of this year. By the time I finished in July averaging about 10 hours/day 6 days a week I took almost 20,000 digital images of over 5,000 pieces (actually there were quite a few more as many were A's and B' and even C's, etc. as pairs or “rigs”;). I recorded as much information about each one as was available at the time and put a unique accession number on each item for inclusion into the computerized Past Perfect program.
We have recently met with a publisher and have a working title, From Decoys to Decoratives: The Development of America’s Original Art Form with a possible sub-title of, A Museum in a Book, as we will hopefully be able to include the entire collection on CD’s in the back. It has now taken on a greater scope with the first effort becoming two volumes and possibly two more in the works but more about that later.
I am now reading, researching and writing with a projected delivery of the first draft of volume one by December, 2014.