Academic Interns

  • Second floor room containing various collections at the University of Pittsburgh Library Archives and Special Collections

     

    Processing Pittsburgh's Past

    Jackie Bender, Museum Studies Intern at the University of Pittsburgh Library Archives and Special Collections – Spring 2022 

    The University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives and Special Collections works to preserve, catalogue, and in some cases digitize the physical history of Pittsburgh. They want to create a database available to those who need access to those records for scholarly purposes. Over the past semester I worked under David Grinnell, the Coordinator of Archives and Manuscripts at the Archives and Special Collections (ASC). My work as an intern varied greatly from project to project, allowing me to see and experience many aspects of the work required for working in the University of Pittsburgh’s archival system. 

    The most all-encompassing of these projects was the creation of a processing plan for the photographs of the IKM renovations of the Allegheny County Jail. This was a project that was required the creation of a finding aid that would help potential researchers find relevant information and materials. I was tasked with cataloging all the photographs that were given to the ASC, and separating them into three major groups: pre-renovation, during renovation, and post-renovation. Initially, I had to record the initial arrangement of the record, describe the conditions they were left in, and recommend any potential special considerations that needed to be considered for the catalogue. Also important was the research required to make a short historical overview of the collection that would help guide anyone that might want to do research into the jail. After this I created an arrangement for the materials that would simplify and adequately catalog the records.

    While this was one of the largest projects that I worked on over the semester, there were multiple smaller projects that I worked on that required different approaches. One task I assisted with was updating older collections or finding aids. This included the Pickard Collection, for which I was tasked with describing a small number of prints and lithographs that needed to be added to the existing collection holdings. Another project that needed to be updated was the finding aid for the Sala Udin and Tony Gaskew Cointelpro papers, which I reviewed and updated to current standards.  

    These are just three of the vast number of collections being preserved at Archives and Special Collections. There are many more records waiting to be used by future students and researchers. To anyone needing to do research into the city of Pittsburgh, they can plan a visit to the Archives and Special Collections and find more information at https://www.library.pitt.edu/asc-visit.   

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Staff of PGC and artists who created work for Gathered Locally, pose around the exhibition that displays the work of local Pittsburgh glass artists.

     

    Creating Community Through an Exhibition

    Dilann Harris, Museum Studies Intern at Pittsburgh Glass Center – Fall 2021 

    I received the opportunity to work alongside the Programming Director Valerie Bundy and Marketing Director Paige Ilkanhipour  at the Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) under the Museum Internship program through Pitt. When first walking into any work environment, nerves are always high; however, the work place I became a part of was tremendously welcoming. Staff were always saying hello to me, no matter if I was just walking by or having to ask them a question relating to their work. My supervisors, Valerie and Paige, and the staff made it clear that one of their main goals within the institution is to create an environment in which artists can come together and celebrate their art. This was made apparent when my very first project for Valerie and Paige was to work on PGC’s most recent exhibition Gathered Locally.  

    Gathered Locally displays a diverse range of glass works by local Pittsburgh glass artists and artists who have spent time at PGC to celebrate its 20 years. When I first met with Valerie and Paige to discuss the new gallery exhibition, they emphasized that they wished for the exhibition to demonstrate that, despite the challenges of the past few years, we are still able to come together as a community through our passions and shared moments. Gathered Locally represents the safe space that PGC has provided for a multitude of artists and its audience to express their creativity. 

    To make the vision of Gathered Locally come alive, I was assigned the task of obtaining the information about participating artists’ works; including the artwork titles, descriptions, and the artist’s personal story of PGC that makers wished to share. I was still connecting names to faces of employees who worked in the building, but now working on this project I was being introduced to artists that have had connections with PGC ranging from a year to over a decade. It was challenging to only meet these artists virtually on a computer screen, but still excited to help PGC tell their stories. With each artist I met, each one was welcoming and would go on and on about how great PGC has been to them and their time as an artist. 

     
    As the opening of Gathered Locally approached I helped organize the checklist so that when, artists dropped off their pieces at PGC they could be properly installed with accurate display labels and interpretative materials. Left in charge of collecting the artist's work, I was given the opportunity to finally connect names to faces. Whenever a new participating artist would come in to drop off their piece, artists would always say hello to almost everyone they bumped into at PGC and share with me their PGC story. Having collected all the pieces, Gathered Locally was able to come together and demonstrate that even through the past few years that have been anything but easy, the people and artists of Pittsburgh are able to come together and create a space in which their gift is shared with others. The atmosphere Pittsburgh Glass Center creates not only aids them in networking to create new connections within Pittsburgh but makes them be able to achieve producing an exhibition praising the diversity of artists that all share the same love of art and glass.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
  • Two concrete paths both equipped with railings, one on the right with six steps of stairs, one on the left with a ramp, to access a raised concrete platform with chairs, a grassy area, trees. The platform is surrounded by a red brick building, and the single door directly parallel to 43rd street is the entrance for Associated Artists of Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville gallery space.

    Two paths approaching the entrance to AAP's Lawrenceville gallery space located at 100 43rd Street.

     

    Accessibility at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh

    Mythri Sundar, Museum Studies Intern at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh — Fall 2021

    Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) works to connect visual artists with audiences and displays artists’ work in exhibitions throughout the year and at different locations. With galleries that are free and open to the public, AAP wants to welcome all community members into their spaces. To work toward this goal, my responsibilities as an intern were focused on these questions: What challenges may prevent people from engaging with the arts, and how can arts organizations be responsive and considerate of people’s needs? Under the guidance of Executive Director Madeline L. Gent, I had the opportunity to pursue projects in support of accessibility at AAP.

    To begin the process, I researched accessibility practices and looked into multiple Pittsburgh area museums to learn more about the information and accommodations they have available for guests to plan their visit. With these resources as a guide, I came up with a list of recommendations for AAP to strengthen navigation, enjoyment of exhibits, and access to supportive programs. These three areas also informed our creation of the “Visiting and Accessibility” webpage meant to communicate with visitors and encourage further discussion.

    As an organization focused on connecting artists and audiences, it is important for AAP to also translate the visual arts into non-visual mediums. We have begun working toward this through the use of image descriptions and alt text in AAP’s social media. Beyond digital spaces, the next goal will be to make AAP’s physical spaces also more accessible to blind and low vision guests. As AAP works on expanding gallery experiences, we will be installing a sign with information on AAP’s purpose and website domain (aapgh.org) where visitors can learn more about the organization and exhibits.

    Going forward, I hope that all visitors will feel empowered to share their experiences with AAP knowing that their feedback will have an impact in shaping the gallery culture. In addition, AAP is committed to equity and inclusion, so accommodations that consider safety, mobility, economic and other needs also have an important place in these discussions alongside broader diversity considerations.

    To plan a visit to Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, contact the organization, share feedback, or find links to additional resources, please search the website https://www.aapgh.org/accessibility.

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

    Advances in Object Analysis Within Museum Collections

    Brianna Stellini, Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2021 

    This semester I worked at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the Anthropology department under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Haney and Dr. Joshua Cannon. Our main goal of this semester was to develop knowledge and skills using Artec 3D Scanning devices and to apply the techniques we learned to aid in the scanning of various objects in the collection. These scans will be used in upcoming museum exhibitions. After we finished scanning what was needed for these projects, we moved on to thinking about the further application of 3D scanning within the realm of archeological study. Our focus was the use of 3D scanning when analyzing pottery and pottery sherds.  

    To do so, we conducted our own experiment. We purchased a bowl from a chain store that we knew would be a standardized form. We dropped the bowl so it would shatter and then chose a shard that had features of both the rim and base of the bowl which we decided would be the best suited for our purposes. We took scans of both the intact bowl and the sherd and used the scanner software to take profiles of both scans.  

    With this experiment, we intended to expand on current research already done on the topic of using 3D scanning on pottery and how scanning can improve the long-established archaeological practices of hand drawing pottery profiles. Scanning these types of objects can reveal details that may be otherwise invisible to the naked eye, making the use of scanning very important to further studies on ancient pottery. While I and the other interns in the program this semester were only the first to use the new scanning technology, future members of the program will be able to apply this extremely new technology to other types of objects within the Carnegie Museum’s vast collection and continue the work we started. 

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
  • A stanced sherd of pottery placed between to miniature bean bags to hold it vertically rather then laying down. Artec Scanner also included in photo next to plate that the sherd is located on.

    This is a stanced sherd of pottery and the Artec Scanner used to make the 3D scans.

     

    A Multi-Dimensional World of Possibilities

    Helena Hyziak, Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Fall 2021

    While normal museum work takes place in back rooms, working to create the perfect in person exhibition context to display historical objects, this semester I worked to show history in a different setting. The digital world is becoming a very important aspect of museum practices, with online catalogs increasingly taking the place of printed books. Websites make it possible to show people all over the world objects from museum collections. This digital turn was fundamental to my internship this semester, as it sought to create a digital exhibition to show pieces from the Egyptology collection to a global audience. 

    The internship was under the direction of Dr. Lisa Haney at the Carnegie Natural History Museum’s Anthropology Department with Dr. Joshua Cannon from the University of Pittsburgh’s Honors College. We worked with different artifacts within the Egyptology Department as well as other pieces from various departments for extra practice. We used 3D scanning technology to make models of artifacts that could be viewed digitally. While the majority of museums only use two dimensional images of pieces, we wanted to allow museum enthusiasts to be able to have a 360° view of artifacts and experience them in their full three-dimensionality. 

    3D scanning is a fairly new technology that can lead to several different avenues for museums and in field work. Scanning different sherds of pottery allowed us to have a better view of the details printed on the surface. One piece we scanned displayed lines carved into it; although once scanned and with color added to the 3D image, it allowed us to see that there was a bit of yellow paint mostly chipped off, something that was not seen by the naked eye. So, 3D scanning technology allows us to create fully digital copies of artifacts and pinpoint parts that may be of more interest or need to be seen in higher detail. Those that continue in this program will be able to expand on these ideas of 3D scanning’s world of possibilities both within museum exhibitions and data collection as well as possibilities for field use.

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

    Building Community in Homestead

    Mariette Williams, Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel – Fall 2021 

    This past Fall I had the opportunity to internship with Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Working within this organization provides a unique perspective that brings together art and history, forming key relationships with established Homestead businesses as well as the surrounding community they continue to serve. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, I spent much of this internship helping develop a trial run of the Live Friday event, previously known as Last Friday’s. This event was put on in conjunction with many of the businesses along Eighth Avenue that could accommodate local musicians for three Friday nights throughout the Autumn season, October 8, November 5, and November 19. 

    The goal of these events is to draw more business to the businesses within Homestead, while simultaneously creating an atmosphere the residents of Homestead would feel comfortable having within their neighborhood. In the pandemic context, it was crucial that these venues could support the general safety precautions needed for an event of this size. After these trials, this program is set to move forward in the spring, with the changing of the weather leading way to more foot traffic and flow between businesses and more time to prepare the businesses along Eighth Avenue. The goal of attending these events in regards to this internship was to gather data among the crowds at different venues, such as surveying the neighborhoods and demographic profiles of audiences that attended certain venues throughout the night.  

    In addition to attending these events, I worked in conjunction with the Rivers of Steel team to promote this event in any way we could, specifically to the local Homestead community. To do this, I attended one of the Monthly Concert in the Park series, put on by the Homestead Borough, along with my colleague and a local artist, Katie Holmes, on September 26, where she, along with help from local children at the event, made homemade paper. It also served as a helpful networking tool for Rivers of Steel to connect with the leaders of the local Homestead community, outside of the Eighth Avenue stretch. Continuing to preserve the rich history of Homestead as a community while helping support the continued growth of the area.  

    With this internship being centered around community outreach and public image, I was able to connect many of the topics covered within my Introduction to Public History course, which I was also taking this past semester. The class was primarily centered around how public figures are idolized, or represented, to the general public in a respectful yet accurate light. By combining the ever-changing landscape of contemporary art, Rivers of Steel works to educate the public in a respectful yet accurate tone.  Examples include major strides in legal graffiti artwork spaces that celebrate this art form that is historically viewed as vandalism, with the historic landscape of Carrie Furnace as well as the streets of Homestead.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • A glimpse of body casts on display in the Pompeii exhibit and the Carnegie Science Center, titled Man on Elbow.

     

    From Pompeii to Pittsburgh: Marketing Centuries of History

    Museum Studies Marketing Intern at the Carnegie Science Center - Fall 2021 

    The traveling exhibit What Natured Destroyed, It Also Preserved -POMPEII: The Exhibition arrived at the Carnegie Science Center at almost the exact same time that I did. I joined the marketing department as their intern under the direction of the Senior Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Connie George. 

     

    Over the course of my time with the marketing team I gained experience completing tasks I anticipated in areas like social media. Prior to the opening of POMPEII: The Exhibition I was able to practice writing in the style the Carnegie Science Center specifically uses across their social channels while creating content for the films The Rocky Mountain Express: The Ultimate Steam Powered Adventure and Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation, both of which were new to the Rangos Giant Cinema. Creating content for these films gave me exposure to how the marketing team organizes all of the social posts across all platforms for all of its offers. 

     

    Arguably the most valuable lessons I have taken from my time in the marketing department were those that I had never considered before, the promotional decisions that I learnt about first- hand and in the moment. 
     

    As a typical museum patron prior to this position, I never gave much thought as to how an exhibit came to its final form. Like most other people my best guess would have looked something like contracts being exchanged, a few weeks of setting up, and a marketing plan that might include radio ads, a billboard, and some promoted social media posts. 
     

    In actuality, I saw the months of pre-planning and negotiations with the company that owns the  POMPEII: The Exhibition artifacts and rights that had already been done prior to the start date of my internship. I was able to see the thousands of rows on an excel sheet that laid out exactly how the posts and advertisement buys fit into the year long marketing plan for the entire museum. I watched as all of the promotional opportunities large and small around the Carnegie Science Center facility flipped to be Pompeii themed almost overnight. Everyone’s email signatures were followed by a small image promoting the exhibit, every employee in the building pinned on a button with the official artwork, and all signage around the building were all dedicated to the new exhibition. 

     

    On October 2nd, 2021 POMPEII: The Exhibition opened to the public, and the looks on the first faces through the door made me truly understand why so much attention was paid to those tiny details.  

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

    From Behind-the-Scenes to The Scene

    Kaitlin Lloyd, Museum Studies Intern at the Frick Pittsburgh – Fall 2021  

    There’s an expression that ‘the calm comes before the storm,’ but I would like to propose that it is changed to ‘the calm comes after the storm.’ When I started my internship at the Frick Pittsburgh with the curatorial team, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew a little about the projects I was going to be working on, but I did not know the exact tasks I would be involved in.  

    One of the bigger projects that I worked on was the updating and creation of several finding aids. Initially, I worked on one for the curatorial planning files. While completing this task, I went through many file folders and was able to learn about the Frick family, their other properties, and some of the people around them. I created, and worked on, another finding aid of the institutional archive; files about the institution itself, such as aspects of security, conducted lectures, and past press releases.  

    It was particularly interesting to look at the information about the Dictaphone that was purchased in January 1975, it really put things into historical perspective. Needless to say, I saw no evidence of a Dictaphone remaining in use among the museum’s staff today! I even worked on an inventory of the collection of periodicals, so that the curatorial team could donate the periodicals that are digitized online to free up limited storage space at the museum.  

    While these finding aids and volumes of information were important to work on, and I could see the significance of what I was doing, the most rewarding part of my internship was contributing to the deinstallation and construction of exhibitions. As an intern, I was unable to touch any of the artworks themselves due to exhibition contracts; however, I was able to watch every step of the process and contribute in other ways.  

    In the first couple weeks of my internship, Bouke de Vries: War and Pieces was being deinstalled and I was able to observe several days of the process. I assisted in removing the platform in which the art piece was displayed and was taught the methodology of moving pieces in a museum context. For Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, I assisted with the placement of wall labels, measured for spacing, and installed a wall vetrine.  

    I also helped with the behind the scenes and conceptual planning for future exhibitions. I began writing initial text for Romare Bearden, a 2023 exhibition and created a resource bibliography to aid future researchers. The team furthering this work, and continuing to educate interns like myself, are Dawn Brean, Chief Curator & Director of Collections, and the rest of the collections and curatorial team, from the curators to the art handlers, and I would like to thank them for the experience. 

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

    Conserving Pittsburgh's Hidden Treasures

    Rebecca Fitzharris, Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2021 

    Walking down any street in Pittsburgh you can see trash cans scattered along the sidewalks. People discard materials into these cans every day without a second thought. However, would these materials, regarded as ‘trash’ to us, be perceived in the same way a hundred or so years from now? During my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), I was given the task of rehousing the organic archaeological material from the excavations for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) headquarters in 1982. 

    This excavation, which was conducted by the late Dr. Verna Cowin, entailed the discovery of thousands of artifacts that were discarded into wells and privies during the 19th century. From broken leather shoes to scraps of food (animal bones, peach pits, fruit skins), many artifacts that I handled, if not all, would have been regarded as mere trash back in 19th century Pittsburgh. 

    Throughout my internship, which was overseen by Amy L. Covell-Murthy, Archaeology Collection Manager of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I made archival storage supports for these artifacts, which were comprised of mostly metal, wood, paper, and leather. I also formulated a plan for the organization of the material into a compactor storage unit and facilitate its entry into the CMNH's database. This internship allowed me to understand the importance of conserving artifacts, and how to maintain each artifact according to its individuality. 

    At first glance, these objects may not register to people as typical artifacts that one sees in museums like ancient sculptures or mummified human remains, but nonetheless, they tell equally rich stories. If you were to look more closely at such materials, we are able to see how Pittsburghers in the past lived, and even what they wore, ate and drank.  

    When I was conducting this work, I kept being reminded of something my one professor said once: "We [archaeologists] are the garbagemen of the past." Though he said this to be funny, I believe this to truly be the case for archaeologists. So, next time you go to throw away a crumbled-up piece of paper, a half-finished soda can, or a broken pencil, remember you might be leaving behind something that will one day be a glimpse into the past. 

     

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

    University of Pittsburgh undergraduate intern Jennifer Kandray (senior architecture studies major) atop Hampton Hall’s roof garden.

     

    Celebrating a Centennial: Shining Light on the Historic Hampton Hall

    Jennifer Kandray, Museum Studies Intern at Hampton Hall – Fall 2021

    As the Hampton Hall Condominiums in North Oakland approaches its centennial anniversary marking the breaking of ground for the rich structure, architect David (Chip) Schwing wanted to commemorate the authenticity of the building by doing something special. As a recent arrival to the building, Schwing was instantly drawn to the building’s architecture and history. Built in 1928 by Herman Kamin, Hampton Hall was designed by architect H.G. Hodgkins to offer exquisite apartment style housing to the upper classes of Oakland. Since its completion, Hampton Hall has undergone modern renovation while careful planning has allowed for the building to retain its historic features. While the staff entrances to the units are less commonly used by the now condominium owners, the structure has not lost any of its charm.

    Within the internship position working with Hampton Hall, I exposed myself to many learning opportunities ranging from photography to a new style of writing. While these tasks were a bit daunting at first, seeing the finished product through the completion of the Historic Research Survey Form opens my eyes to see just how much I have learned and grown in the past semester, making me realize that I have added to the long history of Hampton Hall.

    When I first saw Hampton Hall, its historical significance was obvious. From the techniques used while laying the brick at the construction of the structure to the tiles that add color to the façade of the exterior, there are few buildings that replicate the extraordinary details of Hampton Hall. Past the bears guarding through the statement doors on the inside, the original elevator gates still operate, and the leaded stained-glass and wall lamps provide light to see the dark tiles on the floor. To the observant viewer, the light occasionally gives the opportunity to see a woodland creature or flower carved into the tile itself, shining light onto the small details of only the lobby. Learning the biographical details of the building’s architect and builder alongside the history of Hampton Hall made me realize how much work had been put into the intricate design of this building.

    Reconstructing the building’s history of renovations through newspaper sources makes me sure that the building will continue to evolve – but the opportunity to work with current residents committed to preserving its historical features confirms that the future of Hampton Hall is in good hands.

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

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