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About this Project

A "Capping" Experience

Photograph taken by Mickey Lanning of the front gate of the Elisabet Ney Museum grounds

Mickey Caitlin Lanning, a recent graduate of UT-Austin's School of Information Studies, worked with museum staff in the Spring semester of 2020 to design a digitization project as the "capstone" to her degree. Although this project started with the goal of digitizing correspondence from the museum's archives, it has grown to include sculptures and artifacts from the museum's collections. 

This site is a living document, and as the museum moves forward with improving digitization practices and curation, the information for these collections will be continually updated and described in the form of digital exhibitions.

We welcome your exploration and discoveries as you navigate through the site.

Special thanks to Elisabet Ney Museum staff:

Lindsay Barras, Museum Education Curator 

Oliver Franklin, Museum Site Coordinator/Lead Curator

Sarah Porter, Museum Educator

Marga Silvestre, VISTA Summer Associate and Volunteer

August Stromberger, Museum Educator

And:

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Museums and Cultural Programs Division

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin

Sursum! 

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, a majority of the portraits and personal memorabilia in the Elisabet Ney Museum form the Elisabet Ney Collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. Any reproduction rights and citations must indicate proper attribution. Please contact the Elisabet Ney Museum for details.

A Note From Mickey: 

"The ability for people from different cultures and backgrounds to infer their own personal meaning from the same story is, as museum professional Leslie Bedford describes it, “the special gift of narrative.” With a unique power for transporting people to a time or place unlike their own, stories have the capacity for carving out spaces for its audience to find themselves. Bedford writes that museums, in particular, are matchless in the endeavor for this kind of storytelling, as “once upon a time, some person or group believed there was a story worth telling, over and over, for generations to come.” 

In 1911, a group of Texas clubwomen decided that the story of their outlandish, generous, and visionary friend was worth telling, over and over, and today, generations later, I thank them. 

Stepping past the stone wall that encircled Formosa, I crossed the threshold between Victorian-era Texas and the German countryside. The cream-colored rocky path grinded below my feet as I made my way through the wild grasses, which had recently been reintroduced to the landscape to make it look as it did in 1892 - the year the studio was built. Somehow a small castle stood before me, composed of Texan rough-hewn limestone and mountain cedar. As I reached forward to open the front door, I hesitated - the golden metal doorknob, carved with intricate etchings, appeared as old as the structure itself. In a slow and cautious turning, the door clicked and lurched forward, pulling me along with it. 

Two sculptures, one a self-portrait and the other of her husband, immediately greeted and welcomed me into their home. The laminated exhibition guide invited me to drift from one gallery to the next, following the museum’s storyline of her beginnings, her middles, and her physical end. And although the sculptures dwelling in the galleries were captivating, including an intimate portrayal of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth that temporarily cemented me in place, the house itself guided me to the woman who created both the art and the studio-home. 

Great, tall windows covered the northernmost walls of the studio, lined with a dusty bronze, engraved with the portraits of local wildflowers and the leaves of post-oak trees, some of which had been on the property since before her occupancy. The architects had almost forgotten to include these windows during construction - but the sculptress, who erected a tent on the grounds to keep an eye on the team of men she never learned to trust, quickly corrected their mistake. She reminded them of her need to be “surrounded with as much beauty as possible” while working. 

As I walked up the uneven stairs toward the second floor, I noticed a modest circular window on the stone wall to my right - it appeared awkward and out of place, too low to see directly out of without stooping. After a moment’s pause, I understood, and sat down on the step of the stair below it. From there, I gazed out the window, as it overlooked the guest entrance to Formosa. I could almost feel her sitting there next to me, pleased that I’d found her favorite place to wait."

Thank you to the incredible staff at the Elisabet Ney Museum for allowing me to create a project for my favorite little castle in Austin.

- Mickey Lanning, April 2020