College presidents are expected to have diverse skills. Curating art exhibits isn’t one of them. So when Sharon Corwin, director and chief curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, asked President William D. Adams to curate the second installment of the museum’s Rediscoveries series, he was “surprised, not to say astonished,” he said at an art talk Feb. 29. “And it’s been a great experience.” 

Adams used photographs of Detroit in disrepair by Andrew Moore as the starting point. Recently given to the museum by Barbara and Ted Alfond, these images reminded him of others in the collection—by Robert Polidori of areas affected by Chernobyl.

Adams and Corwin spent an afternoon going through the permanent collection, which is now almost entirely in storage due to the expansion that’s underway. “We shopped around for images that we thought could carry and extend this particular resonance that I mentioned in a variety of different directions,” Adams said.

“They’re all not of the same particular frame and subject matter as the Polidoris and the Moores, but many of them deal with blighted urban environments and other effects of natural disasters.”

Ultimately Adams chose images to complement the Polidori and Moore photos. “Many of them deal with pretty tough subject matter, or severe subject matter,” he said. “But what I find so interesting about all of them is how beautiful they are.”

Rediscoveries 2: New Perspectives on the Permanent Collection is on view May 22–June 24, 2012.