Academic Interns

    Waiting for people to come and take the survey.

     

    Egypt on the Nile: The New Life of The Carnegie Boat

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Fall 2017

    Finally, working in Walton Hall in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, my childhood dream has come true! I would be administering audience evaluations during my curatorial internship.  As I asked people to participate in my survey about the funerary boat I heard many interesting stories. Explaining the new ideas being proposed to show the boat in a different light really excited the people I was talking with, which in turn excited me even more about the exhibit. Talking about the boat’s 'lives' for the new exhibit is already bringing a new life into this forgotten treasure. 

    Walton Hall is on the third floor of the museum. Across the hall is the Alcoa Hall of American Indians. Walton Hall is a hidden gem, hiding on the 3rd floor. When you walk in you are immersed into the ancient world. Immediately to your right is the Carnegie Boat. Making your way through the exhibit you see objects from the reign of Senwosret III to the mysterious reign of Akhenaten, and further on. Of course, we have examples one of the most popular type of objects of any Egyptian exhibit, mummies! There are cat mummies, mummies that were sold under false pretenses, an actual ancient burial and of course some beautiful sarcophagi finish out the mummy area. A number of people told me about how much they loved the diorama of the temple craftsmen. I have to admit, I love them too. It is great to see a recreation of life in action.

    Dr. Erin Peters and her team are planning a digital interpretation of the boat that will showcase its various lives. The lives of the boat would start from the cedars of Lebanon spanning until present times. The idea is to show the importance of the boat and what it meant to the ancient Egyptians that were building it and the use for it in their afterlife. The first five of these lives are proposed to be a more visual aspect of the boat, the last five are proposed to be auditory. Showing the lumber being cut and shipped, the building process, the idea of the use for it the real world, the use in the spiritual world and finally the rediscovery of the boat. I asked visitors how they would enjoy seeing these lives in a visual way, what lives they liked the best out of those five and which if any they felt like might not need to be there. I also asked participants which ways they learned the best (by watching, listening, or physically interacting.) Watching and interacting have been the top responses. Overall my goal was to see how people would react to the idea of a new exhibit that includes digital technology and hands-on interaction. I am pleased to say that people have found this concept very pleasing. They are excited to see the exhibit updated, they are excited to learn more about Ancient Egypt as a topic as whole, and they are excited to be able to get a better grasp of the boat even if it is still behind the glass.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

    Charles Dickens book

     

    Repairing, rehousing and rebuilding archives

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center) - Fall 2017

    This semester I was able to intern at the University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center on Thomas Blvd. I worked in the preservations department at the center. The main job for the interns in the preservations department is to repair and rehouse books and documents that are sent to us from the different libraries and collections that are housed in Pitt facilities. One of the first jobs I and other interns learned was how to disbound books. To disbound a book means to remove the pages from the bound volume, we would then clean the pages and remove leftover glue and string and recut the pages so they can be rebound at a later date.     

    One of the most important tasks I learned to do was build corrugated clamshells for books. A clamshell is a housing device built from cardboard like paper to be used as a shelter for books that have become fragile and need extra care. This task is something every intern learns and uses very often. In the preservations department, there is a whole wall filled with books that need rehousing and can be found at all levels of damage. The process of building a clamshell is the same for every book, the only unique part is the dimension needed for the clamshell. This can be tricky at times but once you do a few dozen of them, it becomes second nature. We house many different types of books in the preservation department, but one of the amazing parts of this internship is the chance to see something rare and unique. During the past month, I have been housing some very special books that are equally as beautiful in appearance as in words. The preservations department got a cart full of Charles Dickens novels. These books are from the 1840’s and in some cases are believed to be first editions! The outside covers of these books are gorgeous and ornate as well as having equally beautiful illustrations inside the books. Having the chance to see such unique books at the archives is a real treat and being able to work with people that have the same mindset as me when it comes to unique finds like this made this internship so much fun.     

    Lastly, the final project that I am working on at the archives has to do with something a little louder and cumbersome. In my final month working in the department, I was assigned solely to work on housing for musical instruments that need to be preserved. In the deep recesses of the department, there is a shelf that has three different instruments on it, a guitar, a drum and a horn. Each instrument with its own unique shape must have its own custom case made by hand. Each instrument will be encased in a foam box then that foam case will be put into a custom fit corrugated clamshell that will be used for extra protection. Each foam case has to be cut out from a large foam sheet, which is no easy task. What makes this task even more interesting is that these instruments are from a famous local jazz band from Pittsburgh’s history! 

    Working at the Archives has been an amazing experience for me. Having the opportunity to work so closely with artifacts and books have helped me further decide on my future profession which will most certainly have to do with curating and similar work.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Political Interests of the Former Steel Industry

    Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area - Fall 2017

    My experience working with the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (RoS) has shown me new ways in which an organization focused on exhibitions and preservation connects with the history of the area it represents. Having been born and raised in Pittsburgh, I’ve enjoyed seeing its history up close and presented in unique ways.

    The project that I have been working on and will likely finish even after this semester is the creation of a new exhibition for the travelling ‘Steel Case’. The ‘Steel Case’ is currently exhibited at the ‘Indiana University of Pennsylvania’ and focuses on how the steel industry was presented in popular culture. My task was to design a new theme, pick a location for it to be presented, and create promotional material.

    The first portion of my time there, which ended up being a majority of my time, was going through the archives and learning what objects and exhibition materials RoS had with the goal of developing a focus for the ‘Steel Case’. This was definitely the hardest portion of the internship, but also the most fun. I went in with a rough theme already in mind, which was to look at some of the science that influenced the industry and how this was presented to industry heads and workers. Yet, as I spent more and more time within the archives I kept straying away from this idea while going off into tangents about labor strikes, propaganda, and many other parts of the 20th century steel industry. I eventually decided on a focus that highlighted the development of political ideals during the steel industry, specifically the rise of socialism and the associated propaganda that sought to weaken either capitalism or socialism. Some items included are articles about labor strikes, socialist newspapers and publications, memos to managers warning of the dangers of socialism to the labor environment, photos of leaders, awards from companies to its employees, illustrations of figureheads, and many more.

    Currently I am in the process of pulling these objects from the RoS archives and filling out the proper paperwork while creating some promotional material for the exhibition. I will likely continue the work into next year even after my graduation, as the process has taken much longer than expected and I would like to see the project come to completion. The subject matter is very unique and interesting, and I hope that the way in which I present the information to the public is succinct and eye-pleasing, yet capable of teaching the public about the 20th century politics that influenced the steel industry and America as a whole.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Shopping for furniture at Construction Junction for the Human Diorama in the new exhibition: We are Nature

     

    A Whale of a Tale: Archiving and Exhibition Design at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    Author: Eliza Wick

    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Summer 2017

    I came into my fellowship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with certain preconceptions. Namely, I had a preference and more experience with museums that may be more traditional, such as the Carnegie Museum of Art. But I was eager to see how a natural history museum differed from what I was used to. I also expected that I would be making decisions each day that would be effecting changes in the museum in a more direct way as well as contributing to the formation of future exhibits, however I quickly learned that that was a bit of a naïve and idealistic view of how a museum works. My work as an intern, while important, was more of an archival project in backtracking, documentation and organization of historical material and how that information related to current halls and future exhibitions.

    One thing that I quickly became aware of is how almost every museum has to operate from a perspective that is often overlooked: the museum as a financial entity. Despite being a non-profit, a museum still has to make enough money to do things like upkeep of permanent halls, creation of temporary exhibits, borrowing of traveling exhibits, paying employees, graphic design projects, and much more. Due to the fact that revenue is only generated really from grants, admission, and generous donations, creation and innovation must be brought down to reality and altered to fit the limited funds that most non-profits must face.

    With this in mind, many ideas have to be struck down to fit the reality of budget and time more so than I had naively expected. I thought that ideas could be implemented quickly and without limits; however I learned that museums by nature take time to implement new projects, ideas, halls, etc. Work must be reviewed by many people and departments because museum work stresses the collaborative and group effort.

    I remember someone describing the design and implementation of exhibitions as being for the long haul. Essentially you are hoping your ideas and efforts will come later in five years or so, resonating with a museum-goer deeply concerned for our natural world. Through particular implementation and design that you curated hopefully helps visitors become more interested in science or better understand a concept.

    Additionally, something I had not considered all the way through is how much a natural history museum differs from a more traditional art museum. A natural history museum requires much more preparation and planning of exhibitions in most cases than an art museum. There are factors like specimen acquisition, preservation, and preparation as well as thought mapping of how you want to educate the scientific topic in space.

    Natural history museums also make the majority of their own props, stands, cases, and anything else that will be going into the physical space. All of these considerations as well as protection of specimens and of the visitors means that much more time and energy must be put into the final product than an art museum where the pieces stand alone. In a way, the exhibition department in a natural history museum is like an artist and educator because they get to design and create the majority of the pieces in the exhibit. 

    There is also the fact that many exhibitions require that permanent changes are made to the physical building and like new walls made, old walls taken down, blocked exits, new walking patterns, etc. that become more costly and laborious.

    Understanding the museum budget, raising money, and how finances and time affect production allowed me to better understand the history of the institution and made my archiving process much more informed and tailored to a museum as opposed to another entity.

    I treasured my fellowship, most of all, because it satisfied my personal fascination and admiration for archival research. I also cherished the fact that I personally got to make choices that affected the organization and logic of their exhibition department archival system.

    While archival research and organization may not seem like a pressing issue, this information is actually essential for knowledge about past exhibitions and renovations, current halls, and for the production and planning of future exhibitions. For example, there was a traveling exhibition in the mid-2000s about a whale. The exhibition required that a life-size whale be installed from the ceiling. This required some significant changes to the rooms walls, ceilings, and general layout.

    It may not seem like a major issue in the moment, but it means that any blueprint of the area that was dated prior to this alteration would be significantly off in its measurements. And, because it is a traveling show, the whale was only temporary, but the alterations were permanent. Therefore, an updated blueprint needed to be made to avoid confusion in the future. This became especially significant after the dissolution of the exhibitions department and the later revival of it because there were many old blueprints that had dimensions that did not match the current features of the space. Being off by even an inch in one’s measurement of a room can be tragic for the installation of a future show because items might not fit. Hopefully this serves as a very tangible reason as to why archival upkeep, intelligence, and research is so important.

    What can be done to help archival get more attention and communicate its importance?

    I believe that keeping the relationship open between our History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh and the exhibitions department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History would be the best way to help further develop and explore these archives as well as be mutually beneficial to both institutions. It would be valuable work if a future intern would use my archives and/or guides to conduct research on the institution or exhibits, further develop the archives, or document the current halls and exhibits on display now as a proactive project for the future of the archives. I would love to stay in touch with any future students that might encounter these archives or the wonderful group of staff that make up the exhibitions department.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Cyd and Kendall standing outside of the original storefront of the 'The Store', which is now occupied by 'Otto’s Shoe Store'

     

    The Untold Stories of 'The Store,' Verona, PA

    Author: Kendall Dunn

    Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft - Fall 2017

    Through my fall internship at Contemporary Craft, I have been conducting research on the life of Betty Raphael, the woman who brought modern art and craft to Pittsburgh. Before Betty Raphael’s work led to the creation of what is now Contemporary Craft, located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, she opened the city’s first modern art gallery called 'Outlines Gallery.' She collected and displayed artworks by renowned modern artists Alexander Calder and Paul Klee, among others. After this stage in her life, she found a crafts store in Verona, PA, titled 'The Store for Arts, Crafts, and People-Made Things,' and reopened it under her management.

    To learn more about the physical landmark of the Store and Raphael’s legacy in the Verona community, a group of student interns and staff from the History of Art department ventured to Verona, PA, about thirty minutes from Pittsburgh. We drove up on the main street, Allegheny River Blvd, where the small town began. Our purpose was to find the original location of the ‘The Store’ and investigate its history as art historians. With the town being so incredibly small, we were able to track down the original location of 737 Allegheny River Boulevard in 1971, which is now occupied by the shoe store, 'Otto’s Shoes.' (In 1973, the Store would relocate to a bigger space, a few blocks down the street, at 719 Allegheny River Boulevard, now occupied by the fitness center 'No limits. Sport performance').

    As we scanned the outside of the building we saw the store owner looking at us curiously from inside.  We met the owner, Larry, and learned from him that he knew little about Betty Raphael, taking over this store front around ten years ago. Before he moved into the building, his friend, Gloria, housed her store there, and before that, the whole entire building was used as a theatre. Larry also disclosed information regarding his father’s involvement in the art world when he was younger. His father owned Geisler Brothers Art Dealer on 5627 Penn Avenue in East Liberty. His father was mainly in charge of making safety and instructional posters for the steel factories in Western Pennsylvania. Later on, he offered Larry the family business but Larry decided to pursue shoe sales.

    As another possible lead for information about Betty Raphael, Larry then directed us to Gloria, the owner of 'Gloria’s Fixations.' Gloria, too, did not know much history of the store front and did not have any knowledge regarding Betty Raphael. But, she did direct us to our next destination: The Verona Municipal Building which houses a special history room of Verona.

    The History Room contained information about the railroads, the community, various pictures, objects, newspapers, and other documents. We learned that the Social Women’s Club was a huge part of Verona’s community. Additionally, there were many scrapbooks that recorded the crafts and arts that occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s.

    While we did not discover any specific mentions of Betty Raphael, we did enjoy learning more about the history of Verona. Now, when I resume my work at Contemporary Craft, looking through the personal scrapbooks of Betty Raphael, the visit has made me curious even more curious about the owner of 'The Store.'

    Explore Kendall’s SCALAR storybook project here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Robert Sterns, “Verona Has a ‘Handy’ Approach to Art: The Sociable Workshop,” The Pittsburgh Press, March 4, 1973: 12. Betty Raphael’s Scrapbooks, Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

     

    Organizing the community through art and crafts

    Author: Cyd Johnson

    Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft - Fall 2017

    Before starting my internship at Contemporary Craft I first watched a documentary, Tracing Outlines, and was immediately enchanted with its founder, Betty Raphael. How could I have lived in Pittsburgh my whole life and not have known about this awesome woman who started a modern art gallery downtown in the 1940s? After watching the documentary on Outlines gallery, I was excited to learn that at my internship I would be flipping through her large leather-bound scrapbooks and learn about other, somehow even more inspiring projects.

    After Outlines Gallery closed in 1947, Betty Raphael got involved with the Riverview Community Action Corporation, a volunteer community service organization for the boroughs of Oakmont and Verona which provided used clothes to people in need, either giving the clothes away or selling them at bargain price, but needed storage rooms for all the clothes they were receiving. Raphael reached out to a small craft store in Verona that was preparing to shut its doors, called “the Store for arts and crafts and people-made things.”  She agreed to continue selling the works of local craftsmen in the Store if they could also use the space as storage for the clothing.  

    Shortly thereafter, a project grew out of the Store called the “Sociable Workshop.” The Store’s original director, Beth Cameron Walter, described it as a place “where professional artists and designers work with students, hobbyists, retirees and handicapped people in a non-profit program for the hand arts." They paid unemployed people to come to the workshop and take classes with professional designers and craftspeople. The objects made in the Sociable Workshop were sold in the Store, and two-thirds of the profits were given to their makers, while the other third went towards other community projects such as a bus that ran between the boroughs and helped transport people to/from the Workshop. (A bus system which, by the way, is still in place today).  

    The Sociable Workshop grew into a master-apprentice program, attracting nationally known craftspeople to come in and create easily reproducible designs for people with some technical skills, but who lacked creative ingenuity. The objects produced in the workshop began being noticed by retailers, first with a line of Santa Clauses sold in several New York department stores (including a window display at Cartier), and handmade objects being sold at Gimbels, a local department store. After seeing the displays, Park Smith called Betty Raphael and asked her to produce 800-1500 pillows/month for his stores. This led to the expansion of the Sociable Workshop into a new space, and the employment of nine weavers, four finishers, a manager and two assistants. Despite Betty Raphael pouring her own money into it, the Sociable Workshop was always in debt. While they received some federal funding as an anti-poverty program, it was never enough. Raphael, with the help of the Riverview Community Action Corporation, decided that they had enough support within the community to fund-raise this and other community outreach projects. They hosted a Bootstraps Twin-Boroughs party to fundraise. Objects from the Store were sold at the fundraiser, and all the volunteer groups put their best foot forward in attempts to raise the money the government refused to give them. In the words of Betty Raphael herself, "Who can say how far a community or city neighborhood could go today toward 'taking care of its own' if the government would help rather than hinder their efforts?" 

    In scouring these news articles and advertisements beautifully arranged in her aging and delicate scrapbooks, a single quote from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette art critic, Donald Miller, properly summarized my findings: "No one has ever worked harder or more cleverly to promote crafts in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania than Betty Raphael. She deserves more success."  This got me thinking -if Betty Raphael couldn’t sustain this project, can anyone? And, are there any arts organizations, today, that are actively thinking about community outreach in such a powerful way? I figured talking with my co-workers at Contemporary Craft would be a good place to start, since it is Betty Raphael’s remaining legacy.

    The outreach coordinator informed me of programs they do a few times a year, as well as many connections they have in education with schools and museums. Contemporary Craft maintains their status as a non-profit, offering a free gallery space and  programs that work in schools and with the women’s shelter in Pittsburgh. I understand that Betty Raphael struggled to secure funding in the 1970s, and I can’t imagine that getting government funding for a project of the magnitude of the Sociable Workshop would be any easier in 2017…

    Is it still possible? I am now determined to find out. 

    Explore Cyd’s SCALAR storybook project here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

    The front of Benjamin Franklin House. It is a Georgian period exterior (from the 1730s). The house is Grade I listed, the same as Buckingham Palace, meaning that nothing can be changed on the interior or exterior of it.

     

    Digging Up Bones and Revolutionary History at the Benjamin Franklin House

    Author: Darcy Foster

    Summer Study Abroad scholarship 2017 - Women’s International Club Scholarship (London, England)

    Few people know that Benjamin Franklin lived in London for nearly 20 years before the American Revolution. My good fortune was to intern for six weeks at the lodger house in central London where he lived. The Benjamin Franklin House is the world's only remaining Franklin residence and was converted into a museum, in 2006, on the 300th anniversary of his birth.

    Being a relatively small museum with only four staff members including the director, I was given a wider range of work experiences than is possible at a larger site. The house itself was the artifact; the staff created an actress-led tour to help visitors imagine how the rooms were used. This tour consisted of interactive projections with the actress tour guide and audio recordings that included excerpts from some of Franklin’s letters. 

    My role was selling tickets and introducing the tour to visitors by discussing the history of the house and Benjamin Franklin’s role as a lobbyist in London in the 1750s-1770s. I also helped with education days for nearby schools and researched school outreach programs. In conducting research for these programs, I was able to illuminate Ben Franklin’s role in the politics at the time of the revolution, noting his activities with Boston Tea Party by searching through an online archive of his letters, managed by Yale University.

    The House’s social media presence is already pretty strong, but they needed help programming tweets for the future. So, thinking of ways that their social media could reach a wider audience, I started using the hashtag #MuseumMondays. Now some of their tweets are linked to other museums, giving the House the opportunity for more exposure.

    This internship culminated in an article I wrote for the newsletter discussing a discovery around the anatomist Thomas Hewson, who lived in the house with Franklin (Hewson had married the landlady’s daughter). Museum staff discovered that Hewson ran an anatomy school out of the house, when they were digging a hole to check the foundation and found hundreds of human and animal bones buried in what would have been the garden at that time. The bones were excavated and dated back to the late 1700s when Franklin lived at the house. Staff believe that Hewson had buried the bones in the garden to avoid raising suspicion as he was probably illegally obtaining his cadavers from grave robbers. In the article I wrote about the anatomy school itself and how it changed hands throughout the years. The anatomists running the facility would often catch diseases from the cadavers, and pass away. 

    This internship abroad was a phenomenal experience. Working with native Londoners was a rich cultural experience, and working in a small museum exposed me to the full spectrum of museum services.  As a result, I hope to pursue a career as a curator, and seeing how a small museum like the Benjamin Franklin House operates will be extremely beneficial in the future. 

    Categories: 
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  •  

    Summer Internship at the Kluge-Ruhe

    Author: Imani Williford

    Summer Curatorial Research Project in Indigenous Arts at the University of Virginia

    As a part of The Leadership Alliance’s Undergraduate Summer Research program, I had the opportunity to participate in the Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative Internship Program for eight weeks in order to study Indigenous art and increase my curatorial experience. Under the tutelage of Dr. Henry Skerritt, curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection and Dr. Adriana Greci Green, Curator of the Indigenous Arts of the Americas at the Fralin Museum of Art at University of Virginia, me and four other students curated a full scale exhibition of Aboriginal Art at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.

    I worked with four out of the 26 pieces that the Kluge-Ruhe had recently acquired as a gift from Stephen and Agatha Luczo. Despite having no experience with Aboriginal Art, my prior knowledge from HAA courses and undergraduate research, made me well aware of the history of how museums and the disciple of History of Art treat’s Art by marginalized groups. The three main questions guiding my curatorial process were: What is Aboriginal Art? How do I approach it? And what did I want my audience to learn? The answers to my questions came after six weeks of research.

    I determined that Aboriginal Art is a presence of each artist’s respective homeland and their active engagement with memories of sites they left behind. While my approach was to rooted in the idea that despite displacement, colonization and the western hierarchy of art, Aboriginal Art should be approached as being active in time, by understanding and paying attention to the artistic technique and subject matter of the artists and Art. After grasping my understanding and approach to Aboriginal Art, I wanted my audience to learn that Aboriginal art is not a record of the past but a living expression that constantly participates with time by upholding and utilizing the power of experience from of time.

    Over the course of the program I was able to answer these questions through: conducting independent research, collaborating with my fellow undergraduate colleagues to create panels, labels, and titles and mock exhibitions, conducting field work by taking field trips to Virginia area museums, giving tours and talks to visitors and contributing an essay based on the artists and works that I studied over the course of the program which was included in a published exhibition catalog. Additionally, before the opening of the exhibit, some of my colleagues and I were interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Company’s Brooke Wylie, to talk about the works in the exhibit and our experience as curators. After six and a half weeks of preparation the exhibition, Song’s Of A Secret Country, opened at the Kluge-Ruhe.

    The program fully concluded about a week after our exhibition with The Leadership Alliance’s annual summer undergraduate research conference in Harford, Connecticut, at the Connecticut Convention Center. At the conference my colleagues and I individually presented our findings and curatorial process to fellow undergraduate researchers, professors, mentors, Leadership Alliance alumni, and faculty of participating Leadership Alliance schools. Overall the experience of curating an exhibition and presenting at a conference provided a deeply rewarding experience that has broadened and bolstered my future plans for continuing my studies in the History of Art.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
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    An ancient camel’s nametag and a small knife, both forged from meteorites. (National Museum of Natural History)

     

    Summer at the Smithsonian: Adventure Behind (Almost) Every Door

    Author: Natalie Gomez

    Intern and Docent Programs Intern at the National Portrait Gallery

    They told me I was the Intern and Docent Programs intern, so I cracked my knuckles with a sigh on my first day as I sat at the computer, ready to answer emails nonstop for the next eight weeks.  It would soon dawn on me that it was those very emails that would allow me to taste any and every part of life at the Smithsonian I desired.

    I published my own blog post and helped kick start an interview series on the National Portrait Gallery website, met with world-renowned geologists and rare book librarians to learn about (and even touch!) their work, received personal tours from nationally revered curators at the National Portrait Gallery, crept through the secret and dusty back hallways of the National Museum of Natural History, and all because I asked. The Smithsonian is a place of wonder, of curiosity, and of great (if not infinite) knowledge, all shrouded by a visitor-imposed sense of mystery and foreboding. My time with the Smithsonian led me to realize that the promise and mission upon which we were founded, “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” makes our vast collections and almost inconceivable collective knowledge accessible to those who have the courage to seek it.

    Though I was given permission to create projects with any of our staff at the National Portrait Gallery (an extremely historic building that itself merits a blog post), I was assigned two main tasks for the summer. My first task was to edit and reinvent the Docent Manual. It acts as a guide for each incoming volunteer tour giver (a surprisingly prestigious and competitive position, filled with everyone from art teachers to engineers to former covert government agents). My second and perhaps most important task was to create a sense of community between interns and plan programs for us to attend. This ranged from deciding on (or organizing) lectures by professionals across the Smithsonian to planning sightseeing tours in the Capitol or lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian’s award-winning cafeteria. Almost every day of each week held plans for exciting, Smithsonian-unique experiences, all no more than a metro stop or a fifteen-minute walk away.

    Though the “fieldtrips” were frequent and extensive, the Smithsonian encouraged staff to remember who we were: young adults itching to be invited into any and every locked laboratory and Staff Only entrance to see that which we once thought unseeable. And the invitations were there, some hidden a bit more obscurely than others. Whether it took researching museum calendars or twenty minutes of deep breathing before writing an email to a complete stranger for permission to shadow them, the Smithsonian left no question unanswered and no query within reason unfulfilled. Though some of the world’s brightest, wisest, and most published have offices behind our locked doors, those doors will open with enthusiasm and graciousness for inquisitive minds who have a bit of courage, a bunch of persistence, and a big interest in increasing (and diffusing) knowledge of their own.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  •  

    The Andy Warhol Museum: The Legacy of an Icon

    Author: Leslie Rose

    Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellowship at The Andy Warhol Museum - Summer 2017

    Recently, I have heard one of the truest statements that I will probably ever come to understand: “Once you’ve got The Warhol bug, you’ve got it for life.” This “bug” is much more than just an admiration for the iconic artist. It’s appreciation for all that he and his legacy, The Andy Warhol Museum, represents.

    Until my fellowship with The Warhol, I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of such an institution. I respected and enjoyed Warhol’s work as much as any other artist, but this museum is far more than a single artist museum. As the University of Pittsburgh’s Fine Foundation Fellow for the summer, I had the opportunity to work with the Warhol’s chief curator, Jose Diaz, and Milton Fine curator, Jessica Beck. My experiences in this internship opened my eyes to the necessity of The Andy Warhol Museum and institutions like it. In almost every possible way, from its programs and publications to its exhibitions and staff, The Warhol provides an inclusive environment and enriching content that generates a dialogue amongst the people of the Pittsburgh community and thousands of visitors from around the world. The museum brings together people from all walks of life, something that I believe people need in today’s divisive social and political atmosphere. It is not just me taking notice.

    One way The Andy Warhol Museum promotes inclusivity is through their staff. The Warhol received recognition by Ithaka S+R as one of eight institutions in the country striving to make the museum world more open to marginalized groups. I participated in Ithaka S+R’s research interviews and when learning of the other museum in that list, Brooklyn Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Detroit Institute of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Spelman College Museum (Atlanta), and the Studio Museum in Harlem, I was elated that the Warhol ranked among them. It thrilled me that I was a part of an institution that made diversity a priority. As faces and voices of the institution, a diverse staff means numerous perspectives are being explored and welcomed.

    Through my fellowship, I was able to assist the curatorial team on their upcoming exhibitions. With each project, I learned more of what it truly means to carry on Warhol’s legacy. This legacy means more than finding artists who similarly practiced art, but it is Warhol’s mindset—critiquing and questioning today’s culture head on. The 2017 Spring show, Firelei Baez: Bloodlines featured the works of contemporary Dominican artist Firelei Baez, who’s work tackled past and present understandings of race, power and beauty. In the fall of this year, The Warhol will open Farhad Moshiri: Go West, which will showcase the works of Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri. Throughout my internship, my primary focus was Go West and I helped to create an exhibition catalogue and didactic wall labels. Moshiri’s work explores Iranian traditions, the appeal and influence of Western culture, and how people have come to define their own cultural identities. In the wake of recent, caustic, political rhetoric, aimed to make people’s differences seem like dangers, the museum finds that Moshiri’s work highlights the commonalities between the East and West. Addressing complex current issues of identity, race, power, The Warhol aims to bridge gaps, acknowledge, and celebrate people’s differences through exhibitions and events such as these.

    My time at The Andy Warhol Museum has taught me more than I can imagine— Andy Warhol’s life and work, working with contemporary artists, planning an exhibition, and how a museum of this size operates on a day to day basis. It was the museum’s mission, continuing Warhol’s legacy and making it accessible to all people, that has made the greatest impact on me and is something that I will carry with me.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

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