Academic Interns

  • Dinosaurs in Their Time - The exhibit that I worked on during my first several days as conservation intern

     

    Conservation: Preserving the Past for Future Generations

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2018

    For the last four months I have worked as a Conservation Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. During this time, I have been exposed to a wide range of practices common among natural history conservators that I can apply to my future career. While before the internship I maintained a keen interest in the field of conservation, working under head conservator Gretchen Anderson has given me a newfound appreciation of conservation work. I have learned that conservation encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and expects that the conservation team work closely with many other departments, including exhibits, collections, and curatorial.

    Over the course of the semester I had the opportunity to clean and preserve taxidermied specimens, package and send out loans, assist with scientific imaging, and create a housekeeping plan for the entirety of the museum of natural history. Interspersed between these hands-on activities were cross-departmental meetings, instructional readings, and even classes to further teach me about the science of conservation.

    The housekeeping plan was the most urgent and important task of the semester, requiring that I met with staff from each section of collections, maintenance, and facilities. All of these departments worked together to set a standard that would keep the museum clean and all collections safe. Without the dedicated work of a conservator, museum collections would not last nearly as long as is now allowed.

    I appreciate the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s willingness to teach and willingness to give true responsibility to their interns. I have learned more than I would have ever expected, and I am excited to one day establish myself in the conservation field.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Dinosaurs in Their Time - The exhibit that I worked on during my first several days as conservation intern

     

    Conservation: Preserving the Past for Future Generations

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History—Fall 2018

     

              For the last four months I have worked as a Conservation Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. During this time, I have been exposed to a wide range of practices common among natural history conservators that I can apply to my future career. While before the internship I maintained a keen interest in the field of conservation, working under head conservator Gretchen Anderson has given me a newfound appreciation of conservation work. I have learned that conservation encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and expects that the conservation team work closely with many other departments, including exhibits, collections, and curatorial.

              Over the course of the semester I had the opportunity to clean and preserve taxidermied specimens, package and send out loans, assist with scientific imaging, and create a housekeeping plan for the entirety of the museum of natural history. Interspersed between these hands-on activities were cross-departmental meetings, instructional readings, and even classes to further teach me about the science of conservation.

              The housekeeping plan was the most urgent and important task of the semester, requiring that I met with staff from each section of collections, maintenance, and facilities. All of these departments worked together to set a standard that would keep the museum clean and all collections safe. Without the dedicated work of a conservator, museum collections would not last nearly as long as is now allowed.

              I appreciate the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s willingness to teach and willingness to give true responsibility to their interns. I have learned more than I would have ever expected, and I am excited to one day establish myself in the conservation field.

               

     

  • Photograph of myself in front of a fossil diorama at the CMNH, a topic of discussion at a meeting.

     

    Ethics: How Museum Policies Are Made

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History—Fall 2018

    This semester I worked as the Ethics Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH). My experience opened my eyes to what goes into policy and decision making for a large institution. As an avid museum-goer my whole life, I never considered what goes into making exhibits and installations that the public gets to see. The work I completed over the course of this semester exposed me to the other side of museum work and gave me an appreciation for how museums function. 

    During my internship, I was responsible for researching Codes of Ethics from American Alliance of Museums accredited institutions and compiled all the information into recommendations for the CMNH’s Code of Ethics revision. This unique internship provided me with opportunities to grow as a researcher and allowed me to partake in meetings with various museum staff and faculty members. 

    During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend three meetings with senior museum staff. I met with the Director of the Museum, Director of Science and Research, and the Chairman of the Ethics committee, as well as two staff members who work in the collections department. My final meeting was with my mentor and the Chairman of the Ethics committee to present my findings. During these meetings, numerous museum issues and regulations were discussed, including whether or not fossils should be treated as minerals or human remains, and even how to display ivory in the animal dioramas. Through these conversations, I learned about the ethical considerations of curation and display in natural history museums. My internship experience gave me a new perspective as a museum-goer.  When I walk into museums now, I can no longer look at intricate animal dioramas or Native American artifacts passively. Now, I have an understanding of the ethical issues and procedures that go into displaying these objects.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Exploring the book, Building Stories, while sitting in the Special Collections Department reading room.

     

    Building Stories

    Museum Studies Intern at Special Collections Department, Hillman Library – Fall 2018

    During my internship at the Special Collections Department of Hillman Library, I worked with a recent acquisition called Building Stories that helped me rediscover my love of books. Building Stories is not a typical book—packaged in a board game-style box and bound in various forms such as comic strips, a Little Golden Book, and full-page illustrations. The plot of the book does not have a singular storyline, instead, it depends on the way the reader begins each section, meaning that everyone reads the book differently and has a unique experience. Not only does the reader build a story, but the story itself is about a building and its tenants: the landlady on the ground floor, the main character on the first floor, a couple on the second floor, and an anthropomorphized bee. 

    Interning at the Special Collections Department of Hillman Library aided in my discovery of the incredible materials they have. On most days, I shelved and pulled books, conducted research for several projects, and compiled lists of the materials visiting classes used so both the Department and the students can refer to them again. 

    These tasks allowed me to interact with intriguing texts and learn about new literary genres.. For example, when a class focusing on science fiction came for a browsing session, I composed a list of all the books and pulp magazines they used. Before their visit I had heard of pulp magazines but had never directly interacted with them. Working with this collection, I learned how imaginative and interesting pulp magazines covers and stories are. Interning reminded me of the joys of discovery libraries offer. When I was in high school, I used to love libraries and books. I finished a novel every other day and was constantly looking for new reading material. Once I began college, I no longer felt like I had the time to read books for pleasure. Working with the materials in the Special Collections Department, reminded me of the vibrant creativity that goes into developing books, magazines, and other forms of literature. I am grateful I had the opportunity to intern there because exploring their extraordinary resources renewed my appreciation for books and libraries. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Digitizing Nan Goldin's memoir of Greer Lankton, A Rebel Whose Dolls Embodied Her Dreams

     

    Experiencing the Different Levels of the Greer Lankton Archive

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory – Fall 2018

    In 1996, just weeks before her passing, transgender artist Greer Lankton presented a monumental exhibition of her work at the Mattress Factory (MF) in the Northside. The centerpiece of the show was Lankton’s first large-scale installation piece, It’s all about ME, Not You. While looking through the Greer Lankton Archive this semester, I came across the original correspondences between the curator of the 1996 show, the director of the MF, and Lankton, organizing a trip for Lankton to come to Pittsburgh to see the museum and plan out the installation. 

    This fall, I was tasked with processing Lankton’s archival material, starting with organizing numerous boxes of magazine and newspaper clippings, personal letters, contracts, photographs, and exhibition materials. I quickly noticed that Lankton kept anything mentioning her or her work, whether it was a short sentence in a magazine promoting a group show, or a full-page advertisement for a solo exhibition. In a sense, Lankton archived her own life and work by saving such a vast range of materials. Looking through her papers, I witnessed Lankton’s professional successes as well as the personal struggles she faced. Her work portrays these challenges, but reading striking first-hand accounts written by Lankton and those closest to her was even more powerful.

    One of the most notable things I read was a binder of daily journal entries written by Lankton’s father, Bill. The entries were written while Lankton’s parents were spending more time with her to offer support during her recovery. Bill Lankton writes about mundane activities, like accompanying Greer to McDonald’s, where they seemed to go at least twice a week, to more exciting activities, such as their trip to Pittsburgh to visit the MF. The journal concludes with entries from the days after Greer’s passing, when her parents and family friends collected her things from her apartment in Chicago, forming the basis of the MF’s archive. In the same way Greer compiled her personal archive, her parents picked up where she left off. Bill Lankton describes rifling through boxes of exhibition pamphlets and promotional materials, just as I did this semester.

    Along with supporting the permanent installation of It’s all about ME, Not You, one of the goals of the Greer Lankton Archive, is to make the material more readily available to researchers and scholars through digitization. Once I organized a portion of the archive, I scanned everything and uploaded the files into Collective Access, the MF’s collections database. My time at the MF taught me the value of committing to a process, even though I was not sure what the outcome would be. Through this project, I also gained a new sense of respect for Greer Lankton, her parents, and her art. Seeing all of Lankton’s life—from school reports from when she was still known as “Greg,” to the aftermath of her death through Bill Lankton’s journal entries—allowed me the opportunity to consider her legacy and what it means to document someone’s life.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Tim filming the Titanic... After Dark Promotional Video

     

    Titanic: Dinosaur Edition

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2018

    During one of my days working as an intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I assisted Tim, the museum’s Videographer, with filming a promotional video for one of the event’s: Titanic… After Dark. Tim had cleverly storyboarded a video that would be similar to the actual Titanic trailer, as well as include iconic scenes from the movie but with Rose and Jack being played by dinosaur versions of themselves. We filmed at various locations in the museum, starting at one of the long benches in the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians. We used this area to recreate the scene where Jack paints Rose, who is wearing the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace. We then moved to the museum’s grand staircase to recreate the scene where Jack goes to the first class club and sees Rose coming down the stairs. I helped to set up scenes, carry props, and assist the actors. I helped the actors by adjusting their dinosaur costumes, and attaching the proper wigs and accessories to them for the various scenes. It was extremely difficult to get our “Heart of the Ocean” necklace to stay attached to an inflatable dinosaur costume, so I helped figure out the best way to keep it in place. I was even able to make suggestions for the best locations to recreate scenes from the movie.

    The museum frequently hosts After Dark event nights that have various themes, and are for those 21 and up. After Dark events occur at night from 6-10pm and are a unique experience where adults can visit the museum, as well as purchase cocktails. These nights spark a lot of public interest since they are a fun excuse for the attendees to dress up, include live music, fun demonstrations, and are centered around the event’s unique theme. During my time working at the museum, I assisted in creating social media content for the Zombies After Dark event, which was held in October 2018, as well as creating social media content for the Titanic… After Dark event which will be held later in December of 2018.

    As a Museum Studies intern in the Marketing Department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, it was my job to help promote special events and exhibitions that the museum hosts, as well as respond to inquiries on social media about them. My work was overseen by those in the Marketing Department; Kathleen Sallada, Erin Southerland, and Tim Evans. 

    Throughout my time at the museum, I was assigned a variety of tasks in order to assist the department in any way possible. My favorite of these tasks was when I assisted Tim with filming this promotional Titanic… After Dark video. It was a really great experience for me, because I have never worked with filming promotional advertisements before this, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an awesome learning experience to see all that goes into the creation of scripted videos. When the final video was released on Facebook, it received a lot of positive attention from the public. I enjoyed being a part of creating such a great social media advertisement and seeing all that goes into video production. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • In this image, I am flipping through the only Jewish book in Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules (TC). To my right is TC (-1.4); the box where I uncovered this 67-year-old leather-bound text.

     

    Revelations in the Time Capsules

    Museum Studies Intern at the Andy Warhol Museum – Fall 2018

    This past semester, I had the opportunity to be a curatorial intern for José Carlos Díaz, the chief curator of the Andy Warhol Museum. Given my academic concentration on the intersection of art and religion, my job was to aid José in his preparation of Andy Warhol: Revelation (October 2019), an exhibition focusing on the Pop artist’s religious side. Contrary to many popular perceptions of Andy Warhol, he held very traditional Catholic beliefs, and his faith manifested itself throughout his art. My research for the exhibition led me through numerous scholarly texts and Warhol’s biographic accounts, but the most compelling source was undoubtedly the Time Capsules

    Starting in 1974 and ending at the artist’s death in 1987, Warhol compiled 610 Time Capsules by placing a mélange of items (from correspondence to food) into cardboard boxes and saving them in storage to be opened on a future date. Time Capsules is considered to be the world’s most expansive readymade artwork and all of its boxes have all ready been opened, stabilized, and cataloged in the Andy Warhol Museum’s Archives Study Center. I focused on Andy’s religious ephemera, evidence of his church attendance, and correspondence with his nephew Pauly Warhola – who received his uncle’s financial support for seminary. 

    Despite numerous dead ends and red herrings, I uncovered some important information that may be featured in the exhibition. Based on Andy’s daily diary entries, he said that he “went to church” sixty-one times over the roughly five hundred recorded weeks from November 1976 to February 1987. However, I found Mass programs in the Time Capsules from dates when Warhol omitted church attendance in his diary, which suggests that he was going to church more than he was willing to admit. By closely reading correspondence sent from Pauly Warhola to his grandmother Julia and uncle Andy, I also discovered key instances where Andy provided funds to support his nephew’s studies for the priesthood. 

    Andy was a notorious collector, especially of religious objects. Throughout the archives, one can examine Christian objects from kitschy collectibles to the Warhola family bible. There is even a Qur’an that Warhol picked up during his travels. Yet throughout Warhol’s entire collection, there were no traces of Judaica until I uncovered a Hebrew Bible in pictures (a Jewish book containing biblical stories with corresponding images) buried amidst the miscellany of Time Capsule (-1.4). This picture Bible, published in 1951 in Tel Aviv, Israel, was originally cataloged with the notation that it was a Christian object, but the miniature book does not include the New Testament. 

    After spending time in the Archives Study Center, I came to understand the intimate perspective that the material record can shed on the life of Andy Warhol. Despite the museum establishment over twenty-four years ago, there is still new information waiting to be uncovered about the secret side of the “Pope of Pop.”

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Kirk Steiff Illustration of Colonial Cobbler

     

    Finding Guide Foibles at Detre Library and Archives

    Museum Studies Intern at the Senator John Heinz History Center (Detre Library and Archives) – Fall 2018

    For my internship, I worked with PhD student Emily Mazzola as my supervisor. We researched the Presidential Plates made by Lenox that were hosted by the Detre Library and Archives.

    While doing any kind of research with archival materials, it’s easier to find what you are looking for by searching the finding guide provided. However, finding guides are created by the person cataloguing the materials and won’t necessarily align with what you’re trying to look for.  To work with the collection more effectively, you have to get creative with keywords to better search for what you need.  Sometimes there are human errors in the creation of the finding guide. 

    One type of human error is the ‘funny typo’. While researching Lenox’s Presidential Plates at the Detre Library and Archives. My supervisor, Emily Mazzola, asked me to look for anything relating to the US government in the finding guide. I saw an entry for “Space Village Dinnerware- concept drawings 1994 ” and put it on our shared list of folders we wanted to eventually look at. I remember feeling excited to see what weird scifi plates Lenox had made and wanted to know who had commissioned them. Could it be NASA? Imagine my surprise when we requested the box and as I’m going through the folders, it says: “Spice Village Dinnerware - concept drawings 1994.”  Inside the folder was mock-up drawings for Colonial Williamsburg that featured a cobbler, stein maker, and colonial soldier. 

    Another possible human error is a 'close typo'. While looking through a box for folders we had pre-selected to look at, we found a folder labeled with the word 'Presidential' right behind a pretty fruitful folder. Inside this folder had nothing to do with any Presidents or Presidential plates. We looked up the folder in the finding guide and found that the label was "Residential Silver Plaques and Rim correspondence 1982" and it was related to Parson's Design School.

    If you do any kind of archival research or library research, it’s important to keep in mind key words and human error. Finding guides are not always made with your research topic in mind. Sometimes what you are looking for is mislabeled or not labeled at all.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Photograhph of myself inside one of the Mattress Factory's most well known installations, Reptitive Visionby Yayoi Kusama

     

    Museum Mishap: Working to Uphold Museum Reputation and Secure Financial Future During Difficult Times

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory – Fall 2018

    During the Fall semster of my junior year at the University Of Pittsburgh, I was able to intern in the development department of the Mattress Factory (MF) as a part of my museum studies minor requirement.

    During the first weeks of my internship, news broke about an alleged sexual misconduct scandal at the museum. As a new, eager intern ready to delve into the world of non-profits and contemporary art, I was utterly shocked. Mostly because the people I had been introduced to were caring, responsible, hardworking professionals that wanted nothing but the best for the museum.

    In my personal opinion, you learn the most about a person, or in this case an organization, by watching how they carry themselves during difficult times. During my time at the Mattress Factory, I not only learned the behind the scenes functioning of a popular museum, but I also witnessed all of the MF employees handle negative press with grace and the upmost respect. My coworkers worked hard to reach out and retain members, while being as forthright and sincere as possible. Not only did this show me how to me a good museum worker, but how to be a good professional in general.

    Overall, I gained a lot from this internship. I honestly hadn’t learned much about contemporary art during my time at Pitt, so it was interesting being able to work at the Mattress Factory and be exposed to it on a daily basis. The contemporary art that the museum offered was quite a stretch from the history paintings I was used to learning and teaching about during my teaching assistantship for the HAA department at Pitt.

    During my time at the MF I also got to learn the ins and outs of the installation process of the museum’s artworks. Some of the most popular installations at the museum are part of their permanent collection, such as Reptitive Vision by Yayoi Kusama that I am pictured in above and the Winifred Lutz Garden that I got the opporturtuntity to kick off the grant writing process for by writing a letter of inquiry (LOI) to a grant giving foundation. The LOI I wrote asked for funding for a renovation of the garden so that its educational purposes can be restored and museum vistors can appreciate it in all its glory hopefully by the fall of 2019. 

    Along with researching foundations for grant writing, I also had the opportunity to research dozens of individuals and corporations and reach out to them about becoming museum sponsors, as well as completing some clerical work such as donation requests, mailing, and filing.

    I am grateful for this experience as a student who isn’t quite sure what career path they want to pursue. Interning at the Mattress Factory showed me part of what it takes to work at a nonprofit, which is definitely something I could see myself doing one day. Even if I go down another career path, the lessons I learned from my peers at the Mattress Factory will be applicable in all walks of life.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Archival Reflection at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh

    Museum Studies Intern at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh – Fall 2018

    For my Museum Studies Fall internship, I worked at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), where I mainly focused on a project revolving around the archiving and organizing of their past exhibition catalogues, some dating back as far as the early 1920s. Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, or AAP, is a member-based nonprofit that has been operating out of Pittsburgh since 1910, and has had well known artists, such as Andy Warhol and Mary Cassatt, call themselves members. The mission of the organization is to help artists gain attention to their work by putting together numerous exhibitions throughout the year, as well as through educational programs and creating a dialogue between the city of Pittsburgh and local arts. While my experience at AAP has given me a much more in depth understanding of arts nonprofits, my hopeful career path, than I had before starting the internship, one of the main takeaways I had from this internship was a broader understanding of the history of art in Pittsburgh.

    On one specific day, my supervisor, executive director Madeline Gent, asked me to go back to catalogues from the 1960s and 70s to find examples of well-known local artist Thaddeus Mosley’s work, who is currently a part of the 57th Carnegie International at the CMOA. I think this moment was when I really started thinking about how deep the Pittsburgh art community truly runs, and how unique it is to have artists that dedicate themselves to their city in the way that some local artists do. Seeing Mosley’s work showcased in AAP exhibitions from the 1960s made me develop a more personal relationship with the material that I was handling day-to-day, because of this restored admiration for the loyalty artists and community members have for our Rust Belt city. One of the reasons I fell in love with Pittsburgh was its rich history, and the role that the city’s inhabitants play in it. By working with and studying these catalogues, my understanding of Pittsburgh as being just a blue collar town transformed into  a much more complex appreciation of the multifaceted communities that make the city, and it’s art, what it is.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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