A Missing Text Panel Resurfaces for a Happy Reunion

Debbie Brehm, granddaughter of woodcarver Moisés Aragón, with a text panel that honored Aragón in a 1999 museum exhibition
Debbie Brehm, granddaughter of woodcarver Moisés Aragón, with a text panel that honored Aragón in a 1999 museum exhibition

A few weeks ago Debbie Brehm, granddaughter of woodcarver Moisés Aragón, stopped by the Museum on a special mission. Back in 1999, the Museum borrowed a chair made by her grandfather for the exhibition Sin Nombre:  Hispana and Hispano Artists of the New Deal Era. When the exhibit closed, the text panel that talked about Aragón and his work was destined to go home to his family with the chair, but the panel wasn't available when the chair was picked up.

Almost all the small text panels and labels we create for exhibits are discarded or recycled in some way after the exhibit is over. It would be very rare to re-use them, and they would take up too much space to store. When Debbie came to the Museum this October, 16 years after Sin Nombre closed, she knew it wasn't likely she would still be able to get this text panel, but she thought it was worth a try, so she asked our fabulous desk staff. They knew it was a long shot, too, but they alerted Chris Vitagliano in Museum Administration, and she passed the request on the Curator Nicolasa Chavez and Archivist Caroline Dechert, and the search was on.

Debbie Brehm chats with Chris Vitagliano

It just happened that for some reason some of the panels from Sin Nombre had been kept. They had been tucked in an odd corner of a collections storage room for fourteen years, sharing two boxes with a  variety of other plaques and awards from our Hispanic Heritage Wing. Two years ago, when the storage room was being reconfigured, the boxes were found and brought to the archives. The archives were in a temporary storage location then, so the boxes lingered again until the move to a new archives storage area, where they've been waiting for processing over the past few months.

The chances of the panels still being here 16 years after the exhibit were slim to none, but they were here after all. The Museum's Collections Committee considered and approved a proposal to present this panel to Debbie, and on Friday, November 4, she came to pick it up. This little panel served the Museum well, but its usefulness here was over. For the family of the artist, though, it is still an important memorial of their beloved relative, and a reminder that his work earned recognition and honor in an important exhibition.

Debbie Brehm with MOIFA StaffWe love all our visitors, but this was our favorite Friday visit. Here is Ms. Brehm holding her text panel, with Museum staff members (left to right) Nicolasa Chavez, Caroline Dechert, and Chris Vitagliano.