Davenport’s Putnam Museum Debuting The Colors Of Culture, New World Culture Gallery
After being closed for 14 months, the Putnam Museum’s Giant Screen Theater will begin reopening this weekend!
The museum’s theater will reopen Saturday, May 15, and the following weekend, the museum (1717 W. 12th St., Davenport) will open “The Colors of Culture” — an original Putnam exhibit, set to open May 22 in the new World
The World Culture Gallery (in the space of the former Asia Gallery near Unearthing Ancient Egypt) celebrates the diverse cultures of our community by featuring artifacts from the Putnam’s international collection. In its inaugural exhibit, visitors will learn about the symbolism of color in adornment, home and celebration. Additionally, curators worked with staff from World Relief Quad Cities to include artifacts loaned by the newest Quad Citians.
A Smithsonian Institution affiliate, the Putnam houses a collection entrusted to the museum by seven generations of Quad Citians, including
objects from the world travels of some of the museum’s founders such as the Putnam, Palmer, and Figge families.
“The Putnam strives to bring to life a sense of place, time and purpose to ignite human potential and inspire our diverse community to learn about and care for our world and all its people,” Putnam President/CEO Rachael Mullins said Tuesday.
“Our new World Culture Gallery showcases our historic international collection, as well as raises awareness of the rich cultural diversity now found right here in our own community,” she said.
Funded by Bechtel Trusts, Scott County Regional Authority, the Putnam Museum Guild and numerous private donors and trustees, the $300,000 project is the first of its scale since the museum’s opening of a Science Center in 2014.
The construction project expands access within the facility, connecting the former theater lobby to the Putnam’s 1960s structure that houses the museum’s historic collection and the existing entrance since the museum reopened last July (after being closed in mid-March 2020).
“The World Culture Gallery actually will connect the former theater lobby, now education annex, with the collections area in the traditional 1960s building of the facility,” Mullins said. “So it opens our newest facility into our oldest facility.”
“The gallery also provides a wonderful entrance into the very popular Unearthing Ancient Egypt exhibit, which features our Egyptian collection that’s very well-known, very popular, especially among our school groups,” she said. “So it’s a wonderful connection, I think, for our communities to make between cultures from around the world as well as this historic Egyptian collection.”
The World Culture Gallery will consist of an upper deck and lower deck, separated by steps and a ramp of about three feet, Mullins said. There will be a floor-to-ceiling, glass casement featuring the Putnam’s historic international collection of objects from around the world. Its inaugural exhibit will be “The Colors of Culture,” which will explore the meaning of color for people of different cultures.
“We’re partnering with World Relief Quad Cities to make sure that we’re also featuring some of the artifacts of our local refugee community as well,” Mullins said. “So it’s a tremendous opportunity to see a wide array of ancient as well as contemporary artifacts from around the world.”
“There will be objects that have never been seen before,” she said of the gallery. “We are a Smithsonian Institution affiliate at the Putnam, so we hold a collection of over 250,000 artifacts — the vast majority of which are in storage rather than on display. So we’ll have a constant rotation of objects.
“Many of these objects will be out for the first time and they represent some of the world travelers, from our founders as a museum — so from the Palmer and Figge collection will be represented,” Mullins said, including pieces from Asia and Africa. “The theme of world cultures and aligns with our mission, to ignite human potential, but also to inspire our diverse community to learn about and care for the world and all its
people,” she said. “And we think this gallery does just that.”
“We are helping educate Quad-Citians about where refugees have been coming from, where immigrants are coming from and not only celebrating the differences, but also how we are all alike,” World Relief director Laura Fontaine said Wednesday, noting she worked with eight or nine families to loan clothing and other items for the exhibit.
“One of the things that we received, it’s a handmade piggy bank from Mexico – it’s beautiful pottery and like, we use those piggy banks in America,” she said. “From the refugee community, I think it’s beneficial for them to know that they are in a welcoming community; they are in an area that respects their culture and wants them to be integrated in our community.
“It’s a good partnership with the Putnam as well – Rachael is amazing,” Fontaine said. “It’s really beneficial for both groups.”
She is very impressed with the awesome breadth of the museum international collection. “The Putnam has done a great job of considering diversity, equity, and inclusion through their new exhibits.”
Fontaine hopes people learn how the bright colors of refugees’ clothes and purses help define their culture and personality, including from Burma, Congo and Burundi.
“We all express ourselves in some way, and I think fashion and bright colors tell the story for people,” she said. “Especially, when you’re
coming from an authoritarian country, being able to wear your bright colors out, it’s showing you do have that freedom and now you’re in a democracy.”
The new Putnam flooring, lighting, and ceiling updates all extend from the new World Culture Gallery through to the existing “Unearthing Ancient Egypt” exhibit.
“Especially for our young people growing up, now they’re part of a global economy. They’ll be part of a global workforce and this entire idea of multiculturalism and global awareness is a part of the Putman’s impact in our community,” Mullins said.
“So in addition to examining our local community and the incredible diversity and international community here in the Quad-Cities region is also understanding the world, to encourage our community to understand and really care about our world and different cultures.”
It complements the overhaul being designed for the permanent “River, Prairie & People” exhibit on the Q-C region, to be done by summer 2022.
“There’s definitely is a synchronicity in the gallery with our regional history update underway,” the museum CEO said. “Really what’s occurred since the exhibit was built in 1985, certainly, the more diverse community, the international community that’s come to the Quad-Cities region in that time and our refugee resettlement — we’ve really become a cosmopolitan international community over the past 35 years since that exhibit was built.
“So yeah, there’s a wonderful connection between the international community here in the Quad-Cities and now the wonderful historic artifacts around the world that will be featured in the World Culture Gallery,” Mullins said. To see a collection of images from the new exhibit, click HERE.
Putnam is opening up its theater this weekend, with a spectacular 40-minute documentary, “Into America’s Wild,” that was supposed to open in March 2020, but is finally getting its debut Saturday.
The Putnam theater will show the 2020 doc only on Saturdays at first, including 11:30 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. May 15. Other Saturday films include “Jerusalem,” “Titans of the Ice Age,” “Mummies,” and “Back From the Brink.”
“The World Culture Gallery will open to the public on Saturday May 22nd and we’ll be offering tours, but also a variety of films from our international collection during that weekend as well,”
Rachael Mullins said. “It’s so wonderful that we’re really reopening the Putnam.
“We’ve had the traditional museum open since last summer, but now we will have 100 percent the full extent of the Putnam facility, open for our community again by the end of the month.”
While the Putnam main entrance (in the Figge wing) is right off the parking lot, there will be a welcome center in the former Grand Lobby where patrons can still purchase movie tickets, she said.
There will be social distancing in the 264-seat theater, with patrons only every other row and then distancing within the rows, Mullins said. “So depending on the grouping’s size, we’re hoping that we can get to at least 40% or so on the
theater capacity.” All Putnam visitors must still wear masks, including moviegoers, who will be allowed to remove them while seated, she said. The museum also will bring back its big Pollinator Palooza on Saturday, May 29, with the Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener program, which also had to be canceled in
2020. That will include activities inside and outside the Putnam, Mullins said.
On May 29th, the Giant Screen Theater will be featuring the documentary “Flight of the Butterflies” as part of the Pollinator Palooza.
Movie tickets are $9 for adults, youth tickets $8, and senior/military/college student tickets are $8. Movie tickets are $5 with the purchase of general admission, and members can save $1 on tickets.
The World Culture Gallery exhibit admission is included in the price of general admission — $9 for adults, $8 for youth (ages 3-18), seniors, college students and military. Through the Putnam’s new “Museums for All” program, admission is $1 per person for households (up to 2 adults and 3 children) with the presentation of an EBT card. Admission is free for members.
For more information, visit www.putnam.org/Exhibits/Featured/Colors-Of-Culture.
For groups, or to plan your visit, call 563-324-1933. For movie times, visit www.putnam.org/Movies/Showtimes.