Wood and (tea) leaves

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Sherry Harlacher, Denison Museum’s new director.

When the Denison Museum opens its doors on Friday, September 16, for the first exhibition of the year, it’ll be pretty hard to miss the canoe. It’s been hauled out after 40 years in storage, carefully cleaned with Q-tips, and hoisted onto a custom-built stand. There are plenty of things to know about the green and yellow boat: It was used by the Kuna people of Panama in the mid-20th century before Clyde Keeler ’25 purchased it and donated it to Denison; it bears a large crack that the Kunas tried to repair with a patch to no avail; and it even has a sail. But the reason the canoe is in this exhibition at this time is because it is made from wood—a hollowed out tree that still bears the scrape marks from the tools used by the Kuna people who made it.

“Knock on Wood, Five Years and Counting,” is part exhibition, part celebration of the Museum’s fifth anniversary, and the pieces that Curator of Collections Anna Cannizzo has chosen for display include Burmese nesting boxes and tables, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, and Buddhist prayer beads. In addition to “Knock on Wood,” museum-goers also will have the chance to visit a second exhibition, “Turning Leaves: Tea through Time and Around the World,” which highlights tea culture from Southeast Asia, Burma, Tibet, and Japan, and even references the “Mad Tea Party” from Alice in Wonderland. (And yes, there will be tea for drinking, too.)

The Museum’s opening reception also will mark the public debut of the Museum’s new director, Sherry Harlacher, whose Denison career officially began in July. Harlacher came to Granville from McNeese State University in Louisiana, where she was an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Arts. It’s that classroom experience that Harlacher hopes to infuse into the Museum’s role on campus as she makes plans for more individual student and class interactions with the Museum’s acquisitions. She’s been doing a lot of studying herself as she works to familiarize herself with the Museum’s collections, including its extensive Burmese art collection (a fascinating study for her as an expert in Asian art).

For now, though, the lessons begin tomorrow, Sept. 16, from 5-7 in the Denison Museum. Stop by, have some tea, and chat with Museum staff. But please, don’t try to sit in that canoe.

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