Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Titanic Science

When launched in 1912, he was the grandest, most luxurious moving object ever built, and few stories in history have captured the world’s imagination like hers.

The saga of the RMS Ti­tanic actually began five years earlier, in 1907, at a dinner party at Downshire House, the residence of Lord James Pirrie in the fashionable Belgravia section of London. A guest of Lord Pirrie, a partner in the Belfast, Ireland, firm of Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding, was J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line. The two discussed ways they might work together to respond to increasing competition on the North Atlantic shipping route. Their conversation was prompted by the success of the White Star Line’s rival, the Cunard Line, which had just introduced the Lusitania and the Mauretania, two luxury leviathans that attracted throngs of passengers. Ismay and Lord Pirrie agreed that Harland and Wolff – which had built the first vessels for the White Star Line as early as 1869 – would build three super ocean liners, the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Gigantic (renamed the Britannic). They envisioned these ships to be floating palaces that would cater to upper class travelers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ismay and Lord Pirrie wasted little time. Ismay inaugurated negotiations with the New York Harbor Board to construct piers large enough to accommodate the ships, while Lord Pirrie ordered the reconfiguration of the construction yard at Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding, converting three slip into two enor­mous slips. The firm selected Alexander M. Carlisle to serve as principal designer of both the Olympic and the Titanic.

Upon her completion, the RMS Titanic measured just shy of nine hundred feet in length and had a gross tonnage of forty­-five thousand tons. In keeping with a White Star Llne tradition, she was never formally christened. It had taken two years to construct the Titanic’s hull, from the laying of the keel in March 1909 to her launch on May 31, 1911. Nearly another year passed before she emerged from the fitting-out basin with the most opulent appointments of any vessel ever built. She was outfitted with the best money could – and did – buy from carpeting, lighting fixtures, and furnishings to china, silver, and glassware. The Titanic offered passengers some of the most elaborate accommodations available. To keep them occupied during the ocean voyages, the hip had an indoor swimming pool, a squash court, a gymnasium, even a Turkish bath. In addition to her formal dining room, the Titanic boasted the Verandah, a restaurant offering personal service where patrons could select from a special a-la-carte menu.

The RMS Titanic roared out of Southampton, England, at noon on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, making brief stops at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland . As the great ship teamed toward North America – its destination New York – ­skies were clear and the sea calm . For four days, the crossing proved uneventful.

But on Sunday, April 14, at 11:40 p.m., the unthinkable had occurred.

The RMS Titanic, largely characterized as “unsinkable” by newspaper reporter who followed her progress, collided with a giant iceberg, which separated her hull plates. It was only a matter of time before she would lip into the icy black water. In little more than two hours, at 2:15 a.m. on Monday, the weight of the bow section became so heavy that the hull fractured and the stern section separated. The water-filled bow sank below the water’s surface, while the stern quickly took on water and joined it on a plunge of two and a half miles to the ocean floor. More than fifteen hundred individuals lost their lives. The location of the wreck would remain unknown for nearly three-quarters of a century, until discovered, nearly one thousand miles northeast of New York, in 1985.

“Titanic Science: The Real Artifacts, The True Stories,” currently on view at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, through April 30, 2005, chronicles the story of the team hip’s ill-fated maiden voyage, an episode that has intrigued generations. The exhibition enables visitors to experience real-world science, and participate in observation, critical thinking, and hands-on experimentation as they become explorers of the wreck.

“Titanic Science” includes demonstrations of the scientific principles behind the steamer’s sinking; explanations of the physics of the hull stress and break-up; materials science addressing the suspected failure of the steel rivets securing the hull plates; and engaging stories of the disaster and the people involved, including the “unsinkable” Molly Brown. An interactive portion of the exhibit allows visitors to imagine themselves as an officer of the Titanic with just thirty-seven seconds to maneuver his forty-five thousand ton ship away from a collision, and a walk through a giant “rusticle,” an icicle made of rust, that dramatically illustrates the natural cycle on underwater corrosion and bacterial decay.

In addition to several models and equipment used in scientific discoveries and studies of the wreck, the exhibit showcases artifacts and objects retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean’s floor, including a tip basin, dining cups, floor tile, a glass vase bearing the logo of the White Star Line, a leather satchel, a paint brush, a gold pen, a champagne bottle, a silver chocolate pot, and a section of the hull.

“Titanic Science: The Real Artifacts, The True Stories,” is complemented by Ghosts of the Abyss, an hour-long film being shown daily throughout the exhibit’s run, in the center’s Ran­gos Omnimax Theater.

For more information, write: Carnegie Science Center, 1 Al­legheny Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212; telephone (412) 237-3400; or visit the Carnegie Science Center website. Admission is charged.


Inspiring Impressionism

Inspired by the vast, twisted forest of Fontainebleau outside of Paris, and the nearby village of Barbizon, French painters in the mid-nineteenth century captured the rural scene with bucolic and dramatic landscapes that appealed to the romantic spirit. Revelations in the natural sciences prompted artists to consider man’s role in nature and ponder the ramifications of urbanizations and deforestation. Adopting a philosophy that man cannot be separated from nature, Barbizon school artists created paintings that drew the viewer into the depiction, not as a bystander, but as an active participant. Inspired by Barbizon painters, American artists began to paint landscapes, including many New England views, that depicted changing seasons and transient skies,capturing the light, the mood, and the mystery of nature.

In the late nineteenth century, impressionist painters, consumed by modern life, searched for nature in everyday depictions of cities, markets, harbors, neighborhoods, and parks. They focused on the quality of light and they worked with a bright palette, using short, thick strokes of pure color. In the post-Civil War years, American artists sailed to France, where they were influenced by the impressionists. They ultimately imported the impressionistic style to the United States, where they employed it in a modified, less dramatic form.

Forty-four lush landscape paintings drawn from the Worces­ter (Massachusetts) Art Museum comprise a major exhibition currently on view at the Allentown Art Museum. “Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings” traces the changing tradition of the Barbizon and impressionist movements as their popularity rose in France and eventually influenced American art. Paintings by French and American luminaries, including Camille Corot, Claude Monet, George Inness, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, and John Henry Twachtman, are presented in a rich and scintillating display.

“Paths to Impressionism” is the first exhibition to bring the Worcester Art Museum’s French and American paintings col­lections together. Several of the works have not been exhibited for generations while some are being shown for the very first time. Many of the pieces have required extensive conservation prior to their exhibition.

“Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings” continues through Sunday, February 13, 2005.

For additional information about this and current exhibi­tions, write: Allentown Art Museum, 31 North Fifth St., Allentown, PA 18101; telephone (610) 432-4333; or visit the Allentown Art Museum website. There is an ad­mission fee.


A Bicentennial

Seventy-one individuals – of whom only Charles Willson Peale, his son Rembrandt Peale, and William Rush were artists – banded together to found, in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). The principal organizers were members of the legal and business professions, much to the chagrin of the elder Peale. The founding of the Pennsylvania Academy was inspired by the organization of the New York Academy of the Fine Arts, established by a group of prominent merchants three years earlier.

On June 13, 1805, Charles Willson Peale wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “we hope to begin a building for the reception of casts and statues, also for a display of paintings, by the exhibition of which a revenue may be had to defray the expense of a keeper who shall be capable to give instructions to the Pupils.” Peale wrote to architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe the following week to advise him nearly twenty-five hundred dollars had been raised for the Pennsylvania Academy. At a meeting held the same day, June 21, organizers elected George Clymer the institution’s first president and selected twelve directors.

The board undertook its responsibilities enthusiastically and swiftly. At their first meeting, held July 1, directors unanimously elected Pennsylvania native Ben­jamin West, president of the Royal Academy in London, the Academy’s first honorary member. Their motive was carefully calculated; they had hoped to enlist West’s support, hoping he would endow Philadelphia with several of his works that would form the foundation of the Academy’s collection. The board also authorized the purchase of antique casts in Paris for the anticipated drawing classes, and commissioned John Dorsey, an amateur architect and board member, to design a suitable building for the exhibition of paintings and sculpture. By December 26, organizers met at the State House (now Independence Hall) to sign an application for incorporation in which they cited, “THE OBJECT of this association is to promote the cultivation of the FINE ARTS in the United States of America, by introducing correct and elegant copies from works of the first masters in sculpture and painting and by thus facilitating the access to such standards, and also by occasionally conferring moderate but honorable premiums and otherwise assisting the studies and exciting the efforts of the artist gradually to unfold, enlighten and invigorate the talents of our countrymen.”

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will celebrate its bicentennial in 2005 with a yearlong series of exhibitions, events, and family activities. Opening on Tuesday, January 11, is “In Full View: American Painting and Sculpture (1720-2005),” the most extensive exhibition of the institution’s collection ever presented. The exhibition takes the viewer on a journey through the history of American art by showcasing paintings and sculpture from every era, from its origins in the late eighteenth century through the present. “In Full View” reveals PAFA’s pivotal role in fine art exhibition and education. Nearly every major American artist has studied, taught, or exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy. The Academy’s ornate 1876 landmark building, at Broad and Cherry Streets – itself a masterpiece – designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt, will house a chronological display of paintings from 1720 to 1945. Later paintings and sculpture will be shown in the contemporary gallery spaces in the Academy’s new Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, also opening to the public on January 11.

“In Full View” will feature The Artist in His Museum (1822) by Charles Willson Peale, Mount Washington from Lake Sebago, Maine, (1867) by Jasper Cropsey, and Fox Hunt (1893) by Winslow Homer. Works by artists who studied or taught at PAFA include Nicodemus (1899) by graduate Henry Ossawa Tanner, New England Woman (1895) by alumna Cecilia Beaux, The Cello Player by (1896) by instructor Thomas Eakins, Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree (1906) by alumnus Maxfield Parrish, and The Soda Fountain (1915) by graduate William Glackens. Several works in the exhibition will depict significant individuals and events in American history, such as Benjamin Franklin (1767) by David Martin, Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (1771-1772) by Edward Hicks, and John Brown Going to His Hanging (1942) by Horace Pippin.

“In Full View: American Painting and Sculpture (1720-2005)” will continue through April 10, 2005.

The cornerstone of the bicentennial celebration will be the grand public opening of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, an eleven-­story structure that more than doubles PAFA’s current exhibition space. Named in honor of the late Philadelphia philanthropist, the building will also house six floors of studios for both students and faculty. The building creates a campus atmosphere for the Pennsylvania Academy, bringing the museum and the school together for the first time in more than forty years. The two buildings will be linked by an underground concourse and gallery, in which examples of PAFA’s highly regarded and rarely seen collection of American works on paper will be displayed.

For information about various bicentennial exhibitions and events, write: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; telephone (215) 972-7600; or visit the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts website. Admission is charged.