Speaker: Victoria Munro
Situated on what was once fertile farmland, Clear Comfort, now known as the Alice Austen House, offers a remarkable vantage point where three hundred years of inhabitants witnessed the transformation of New York City. After a series of renovations in the late nineteenth century, the home was transformed from a modest Dutch farmhouse to a Victorian Gothic Cottage.
In a reflection of Victorian middleclass values regarding the importance of home and family, the Austen’s lavished love and attention on Clear Comfort. Alice’s deep-rooted attachment to her home and its grounds shaped her experiences, becoming her first studio space, darkroom, and muse.
Austen’s photographs represent street and private life through the lens of a lesbian woman whose life spanned from 1866 to 1952. Austen was a rebel who broke away from the constraints of her Victorian environment and forged an independent life that broke boundaries of acceptable female behavior and social rules.
Today the galleries utilize Austen’s photographs rather than constructed scenes to tell the story of life lived in the home and explore the influences that helped create the themes presented in her work. This paper will investigate the direct connections between the artists’ works and environment and explore ideas of creative placemaking for museum interpretation and programming in contemporary exhibitions, park interpretation and education programs.
Victoria Munro is the Executive Director of the Alice Austen House, a nationally designated site of LGBTQ+ history and the only museum in America to represent the work of one women photographer, Alice Austen. Victoria is an Art and Art History Educator, Maker and Photographic Curator. Victoria consults and speaks on LGBTQ+ curriculum development, historical and current LGBTQ+ interpretations in public and private institutions. Victoria is the Board President of the Museums Council of New York City and serves on the Executive Board of Historic Artists Homes and Studios.