Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

The Sid Winter Count

Historically, some indigenous communities shared their history through oral tradition. But sometimes, they used other tools to help them remember their long and complex histories. Among Northern Plains Indians, one of those tools was a winter count, which helped keep track of the passage of years. In this case, the year was not measured from January through December, but rather from first snowfall to the following year’s snowfall. Different groups from the Northern Plains region sometimes referred to this entire year as a winter.

At the end of the year, elders in the various communities would meet to discuss the things that happened since the first snowfall. Among those events they chose one particular incident to serve as a historical reminder for the whole year. The year would then be forever named after that chosen event. It was then the responsibility of one person in that community, known as the keeper, to design a symbol, or pictograph, onto a buffalo hide, which included the pictographs of each year, like a calendar. That hide was known as the winter count. The winter count served as a mnemonic device to help the storyteller tell their communities history to others.

Lone Dog Winter Count, National Museum of the American Indian, Cultural Resource Center, Catalog 21.8701

Here at the Sid, we’ve had several major events that have occurred over the past year, making it difficult to select just one to represent 2017.

The Sid, along with many partners around the city of Fort Worth, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail with our exhibit Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail. Starting down in South Texas and moving north all the way up to the railheads of Kansas, the Chisholm Trail helped facilitate the greatest migration of livestock in world history. Predating the arrival of the train and discovery of oil, the Chisholm Trail era was an indispensable, early chapter in Fort Worth’s history. Being a waypoint along the trail spurred the city’s early growth and helped define its Western heritage, which even today differentiates Fort Worth from any other city.

Kansas Pacific Railway Company | The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas | 1873 | Map | The Rees-Jones Collection

Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail was part of our Guests of Honor focus exhibition series, which assemble a small selection from the permanent collection with loaned works from other collections. We had the opportunity to put Remington in the spotlight with another 2017 Guest of Honor exhibit, Frederic Remington: Altered States. This small focus exhibit features artworks with alterations made either by the artist, or by others, and explores the ways in which scholarship and scientific conservation methods have contributed to the discovery of those alterations.

It was not uncommon for Remington to alter his work, finding ways to improve upon his compositions. However, others took advantage of the marketability of Remington’s work, resulting in some fraudulent practices. For example, the exhibit features a black & white oil by Remington that was later painted over in color, likely to increase the work’s market value. Through scholarship and a quick visit to a conservation lab, a section of the color painting was then removed to reveal the original painting underneath, which serves now as a demonstration of how original works of art can be compromised by those with fraudulent intentions.

Frederic Remington | He Rushed The Pony Right to the Barricade | c. 1900 | Oil on canvas, b & w | 27 1/8 inches x 40 1/8 inches

Beyond exhibits, the staff here at The Sid have experienced some major events, including a field trip with our docent volunteers down to Orange, Texas to visit the Stark Museum of Art, where we toured a fabulous exhibit about the imagery found in fine art and film that branded the visual representation of the American West.

Sid Richardson Museum staff & docents at the Stark Museum of Art.

Another big staff event this year includes the welcoming of our new Director of School & Family Programs, Shelby Orr. Starting in August, Shelby quickly settled into her new role, adapting her talents as a former elementary art school teacher as she welcomed to The Sid students from schools all over FWISD. We’re looking forward to all of the great educational programs Shelby has planned for our children, teen, and family visitors.

Shelby Orr, Director of School & Family Programs, demonstrating how to create a landscape painting to a group of 3rd grade students.

Finally, a major achievement for the museum and foundation is the certification as a Blue Zones Project approved worksite. What began as a New York Times bestseller by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner has evolved into a global movement that’s inspiring people to live longer, more active lives with lower rates of chronic disease. Fort Worth is the first city in Texas to implement the Blue Zones Project. In order to qualify as a blue Zones approved worksite, we had to meet a long list of criteria, including creating an employee garden, which has provided not only some beautiful greenery to the office, but also some fresh herbs to add to our daily lunches.

The Sid Herb Garden


As you can see, a lot can happen in one year. If you could only pick one personal event to serve as a historical reminder for the whole year, what you would choose to add to your winter count?

Orange You Glad It’s Western Art

Last week we took a group of our docent volunteers on a journey down to Orange, Texas. About a 6 hour drive from Fort Worth, Orange is a town nestled into southeast Texas, not far from the Louisiana border. Although Orange is small, it packs a lot of punch when it comes to its cultural attractions.

Sid Richardson Museum staff & docents at the Stark Museum of Art

The impetus for our trip was to visit the Stark Museum of Art, which houses one of the finest collections of art of the American West and Southwest. In addition to their fabulous permanent collection, the museum is currently the site for the traveling exhibit, Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900 – 1950. The exhibition explores paintings and imagery of the American West as presented by Western artists like Frederic Remington, as well as members of the Taos Society of Artists and the California-based artist Maynard Dixon, and through films of the era.

Dr. Sarah Boehme, curator, welcomes our group to the Stark Museum of Art

Dr. Boehme guides our group through the exhibit, “Branding the American West.”

Near the Stark Museum of Art is the W.H. Stark House, a house museum and childhood home of H.J. Lutcher Stark, whose vision and collection grew into what is now the art museum. Like Sid Richardson, Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda, established a foundation to serve and enrich the lives in Southeast Texas through arts and education.

Another wonderful legacy of the Stark family is the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. Lutcher Stark created this beautiful oasis on some of his private land located along a bayou. Stark opened his private gardens to the public, and its beauty has touched the lives of many visitors since major restoration efforts in 2002.

Despite the brevity of the trip, the impressions of our experience in Orange are long-lasting. Should you find yourself in the far southeast reaches of the Lone Star state, take some time to visit these gems of Orange, Texas. You will not be disappointed!

Whoa, We’re Halfway There

This fall, the Sid Richardson Museum embarked on a new class of docents. Having started our extensive docent training in September, I’m happy to report that we’re halfway through our course! What have we learned so far?


Our new docent class leading mini tours on the first day of training!

Eleven future docents were introduced to the museum collection & staff, and jumped right in to their new role by sharing what they learned about Sid Richardson through various pieces in the museum collection.

The docent class had the great fortunate to learn about the artwork and time period represented in our collection through various prestigious visiting speakers. Dr. Brian Dippie, one of the preeminent scholars on Charles Russell and author of the Sid Richardson Museum collection book, traveled across the border to speak with us all the way from Canada. Likewise, Peter Hassrick, editor of the recently published Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, sojourned from his post as Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming to speak with our docents about the iconic Western artist. Most recently, we learned more about the era of transformation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Dr. Mark Thistlethwaite, the Kay and Velma Kimbell Chair of Art History at Texas Christian University, who helped us situate Remington & Russell within the broader context of American art history.


Dr. Brian Dippie discussing Charles Russell with our new docent class.

Dr. Brian Dippie discussing Charles Russell with our new docent class.

In addition to scholarship, we’ve been learning all different tools of the trade like conversational interpretation, or how to talk with visitors about the artworks on display. We also had a fun “speed dating” class in which our docents had a chance to do each of the studio activities that are offered to our student visitor during their school tours at the Sid. We have some talented artists in our midst!

Kenny Haussenteuffel guiding our docents on best practices for working with ELL students.

Kenny Haussenteuffel guiding our docents on best practices for working with ELL students.

This week, we stepped into the shoes of English Language Learners, as Kenny Hassenteuffel, a former dual language school teacher, led a discussion of artworks from our collection in Spanish. Through this exercise, Mr. Hassenteuffel was able to demonstrate ways in which we can help create meaningful museum experiences for our ELL visitors. And we learned a little Spanish along the way!

Although we’ve covered quite a lot of material, we still have 7 more weeks of training to go. Our docents will learn things like cultural awareness in art museums, child development, tour themes, and how to craft a tour. Each new docent will end their training with a practice tour presentation. We can’t wait to let them shine!