Zimmerli Staff Continue Campus Offerings on Virtual Platforms During Pandemic Closures

Zimmerli Staff Continue Campus Offerings on Virtual Platforms During Pandemic Closures

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) — Throughout the fall 2020 semester, staff members at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers remained engaged with the university’s students by adapting longtime offerings that usually take place on campus into virtual formats, as the museum building remains closed to the public and in-person programs are suspended until further notice.

“Like so many cultural and academic institutions, we have transformed onsite programs into digital experiences,” stated Donna Gustafson, interim director and curator of American and Modern Art/Mellon Director of Academic Programs. “Working with partners from other university departments and virtual platforms, we began offering opportunities last summer and continued to add virtual events, programs, and workshops through the fall. We connected with many classes on campus for online visits to the museum and look forward to continuing to engage online with students in the spring semester.” 

For years the Zimmerli has collaborated with faculty and students on special topic exhibitions that enhance their academic endeavors. In December, the Zimmerli launched its first virtual exhibition following a semester of Zoom meetings rather than museum visits. Musings by Moonlight: The Moon from Japanese Art to Japonism, on Zimmerli at Home, was organized by Professor Haruko Wakabayashi, in Rutgers’ Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, students in her Fall 2020 course “From Text to Image in Japanese Art,” and Nicole Simpson, the museum’s assistant curator of prints & drawings. Students explored references to the moon throughout Japanese history as a symbol of love and longing, transience and ephemerality, and harvest and prosperity. They composed essays about 19 works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are housed in the Zimmerli’s renowned collections of Japanese prints (known as ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world”) and Japonism (European and American artworks inspired by the art of Japan).

Visitors to the site are able to explore such topics as: Nature: Western Escape or Japanese Tradition?; Shadow and Silhouette; Moon in Contemplation and Revelation; Familial Relationships and the Moon; The Music of the Moon; and Action and Transience Underneath the Moon.

Throughout the fall semester, Zimmerli curators continued to open the museum to students at Rutgers by meeting with them in their Zoom classrooms. Curatorial staff visited online meetings of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program Fall Colloquium: Christine Giviskos (prints, drawings, and European art), Donna Gustafson (American and modern art), Jane Sharp (Soviet Nonconformist art), Julia Tulovsky (Russian and Soviet Nonconformist art), and Nicole Simpson (prints and drawings), as well as graduate assistant Hannah Shaw and education department staff Claire D’Amato, Amanda Potter, and Carla Zurita. They spoke about portraits in the museum collection in relation to the colloquium’s topic, “Tell Us Who You Are: Storytelling and Identity.”

Other classes that staff visited virtually include:


* “The Books That Make Us” Byrne Seminar with Marija Dalbello, exploring technical aspects of printing books, as well as relationships between text and image, from the beginning of printing in Europe to the present day;

* “Chemistry of Art” in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology with Geeta Govindarajoo, discussing printmaking (selections are available on eMuseum) and the technical development of photography;

* “Spanish Art from El Greco to Goya” in the Department of Art History with Catherine Puglisi, reviewing Francisco Goya’s work as a printmaker; and

* “Seminar in Photography” and “Advanced Photography” at Mason Gross School of the Arts with Miranda Lichtenstein, examining installation photos of and individual artwork from the museum’s past photography exhibitions.

The museum’s education department engaged virtually with Rutgers audiences on campus, in their homes, and abroad. Staff members led virtual tours of the collection and special exhibitions over Zoom for a variety of university courses, the annual Graduate Student Welcome Reception, Student Affairs staff, and 4-H Visual Arts (a statewide youth program through Rutgers Cooperative Extension), as well as for the ROSE program and Rutgers English Language Institute, both of which serve international students in China. They also developed original content for a public program presented by the Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance Offices and as part of the University Libraries Professional Development Day.

In addition, the department adapted two of its longtime popular programs for Zoom: Art After Hours and Study All Night. In collaboration with Rutgers Global, the Zimmerli launched Art Before/After Hours in October. Rather than the in-person, open house event offered only in the evening, programming took place during two different live streams: one in the morning and another in the evening, making it more accessible across time zones. In addition, recordings of all programs are available on demand on the museum’s Zimmerli at Home platform. Study All Night – when the museum previously remained open 24+ hours straight as a study space during reading days for final exams – returned in December as an online meeting space for Rutgers students. In addition to a live streaming session of movement exercises, on demand offerings included a playlist, study break art activities, snack ideas, a virtual study hall in the galleries, and an introduction to staff members’ furry work-from-home colleagues.

The Zimmerli Art Museum remains closed to the public and in-person programs are suspended until further notice. In the meantime, Zimmerli at Home invites the public to experience an array of virtual programs – wherever you are, whenever you want. News regarding operations and information about contacting staff members are posted on the museum’s home page. For Rutgers updates, please visit Universitywide COVID-19 Information.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.


The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, among others. Additional support comes from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, as well as donors, members, and friends of the museum.

originally published: 01/25/2021

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