And Then the Curator Asks, “What’s a Tumblr?”

Posted on Tue, March 31, 2015

One subtheme of the Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extravehicular Activity exhibition is the connection between the photography of spacewalking and art. We even hosted a special event in February featuring the photographer Michael Soluri and spacewalker John Grunsfeld to talk about how those two expressive visual methods came together during the STS-125 servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. One other way our exhibition team suggested we bring photography and art together was through crowdsourcing using a new social media venue for the Museum, one I as the curator had never even touched despite being fairly active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And here we have the moment this curator met Tumblr. Our goal was to provide a platform for people to share their own creative expressions inspired by spacewalking. Whether you love or hate social media, Tumblr satisfies the allure of sharing previously private artistic musings in a very visual, blog format. We began our Tumblr project, Imagining Spacewalks, by compiling the photographs featured in the exhibition and are slowly offering them up as inspiration for anyone's creations. Almost two months into the process, we have some fantastic work featured already, but we certainly want to take it further by introducing more quotes, artifacts, and moments from the history of extra-vehicular activity that might just get more left-brained folks out there to participate. Let’s take a look at where we started and where we’re heading.

Images that show what we hoped would come from the Imagining Spacewalk project.

The three images above show what we hoped would come from this project, expressed in pairings in the exhibition of photographs and artwork from our collection inspired by images of life outside a spacecraft. For example, the famous Moonman photograph of Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 mission quite clearly inspired Robert Shore’s imaginative and very colorful take on it (Lunar Confrontation, Oil on Masonite, 1970) with Jules Verne reflected in the astronaut's visor. Recently contributed by artist Michael Kagen is Contact Light (Oil on Linen, 2014), a very modern but complementary addition. The first two are side by side in the exhibition, and the third is part of our Tumblr project.

Images from the tumblr project, imagining spacewalks.

Three images from the tumblr project.

Similarly, we have the first two of this set in the gallery near each other, showing the reality of Edward White’s first American spacewalk in June 1965 and Clayton Pond’s reimagining of that in Delineating the Constellations to Simplify Astronomy for the Average Man (Serigraph on Paper, 1980-81), complete with a pop-art space shuttle and an umbilical line connecting stars. Christine Reuter’s mixed media version of White’s spacewalk came to us on the Tumblr (titled Umbilical), and elegantly illuminates that gold umbilical line as it stretches out to the astronaut. Kagan and Reuter's two contributions to the Imagining Spacewalks Tumblr project are just two examples of some fine and valuable pieces shared with the Museum so far that celebrate the deeply visual nature of spacewalking, and illustrate how seeing people in space connects us so intimately with that world just over 200 humans have ever experienced. We hope that by adding more thoughts, artifacts, and artwork to this rather new experiment for the Museum, many of you might take to Tumblr and share your own artistic ponderings with us as we honor 50 years of going outside the spacecraft.