The Portal: A Step into the Past

Enter the Portal

image of a lobby with four doors and a small bench in the foreground

Click “present” once you’ve entered the portal and explore the rooms in 3-D! To navigate the exhibition in chronological order, use the left or right arrows at the bottom of the screen. (If these arrows disappear at any point, refresh the page and they will reappear.) To navigate more freely, click on areas of text or images to zoom in (clicking on the floating blue orbs will take you into new “rooms”). At any time, you can return to the main room by clicking the house icon on the right side of the screen or take one step back by clicking on the upward arrow (if you do not see these icons automatically, wave your mouse around the right side of your screen and it will appear). For navigation screenshots, see here.

The Center for Design and Material Culture invites you to visit The Portal: A Step into the Past. This juried online exhibition features student-designed historic interiors from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The exhibition was juried by artists and designers Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg, and the Director and Chief Curator of the Chipstone Foundation, Jonathan Prown. The online exhibit showcases the possibilities of combining the thoughtful analysis of material culture and design styles with the diverse artistic and technical skills students studying interior architecture require for their future careers. Featuring eleven student designers from the Design Studies program at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, The Portal opens doors onto the past and invites visitors to imagine what it would look like to step into different historic moments. All of the rooms featured in The Portal were created as part of Professor Sarah Anne Carter’s 2020 historic interiors course. The online exhibition was created by Maia Grosser with help from Katherine Terrance.


photograph of a man and woman (Shana McCaw & Brent Budsberg) wearing various shades of blue before a brick wall.Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg are a collaborative team with a twenty-year history working in sculpture, performance, photography, and film. Their work explores history as a malleable medium that has – and continues to be – molded to fit the perceptions of the storyteller. Scale models of rural architectural forms are a recurring subject in their work, and through these, they examine the psychology of place, ancestral memory, and the passage of time. More recently, McCaw and Budsberg have also been performing for the camera, using photography and video to document the labors of two pioneer-era homesteaders. They are also co-founders of Current Projects, a design and fabrication studio that draws influence from the tools and techniques of the past while maintaining a conceptual perspective that is informed by their work as artists.

headshot of a man (Jonathan Prown) speaking in front of a projector screen.Jonathan Prown is Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Chipstone Foundation, an organization devoted to advancing the field of Decorative Arts and Material Culture studies through publications, progressive museum installations, web and teaching initiatives. It also is a leader in developing ideational Think Tanks for museums, foundations, historic houses, and universities. Prown established an institutional partnership with Milwaukee Art Museum in 1999 centered around the progressive interpretation and display of long-term and changing installations in the American Collections Galleries. Areas of interest for Chipstone include early American furniture, British ceramics, contemporary craft related to historical making, and African American material culture. He has also partnered with Dr. Ann Smart Martin, Chipstone Professor of American Decorative Arts, and other scholars at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to support and implement material culture and decorative arts educational programming.

graphic logo for the exhibition that includes a swirling blue door and the title "The Portal: A Step into the Past"

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Online exhibition supported by the Ruth Davis Design Gallery, the Design Studies department at the School of Human Ecology, and the Anonymous Fund. Launched in Summer 2021. Online exhibition experience designed by SoHE Interior Architecture students Maia Grosser and Katherine Terrance.