Academic Interns

    Visitor experience map of floor 1


    Interpreting Visitor Experiences at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Author: Caroline Fazzini

    Interpretation Intern - Museum Studies Internship Program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    While working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as an interpretation intern, I was challenged to think holistically about museum experiences while experience-mapping their permanent collection galleries. Working closely with staff from across the institution, I mapped the entire museum in terms of the visitor experience preferences met within each space. The product, two massive 7’ x 5’ color-coded floor plans, exposed the current unbalanced distribution of interpretive content. These maps will be used over the course of the next several years as the Museum reinstalls these spaces. Through my involvement with this project I gained a practical understanding of how to think about and plan balanced museum experiences. This shift in mindset caused me to think of interpretation in a far more comprehensive way. Specifically in terms of designing experiences that speak to diverse audiences as well as satisfy individual preferences.

    At the PMA, I also took part in conducting audience research for a digital interactive designed to make a Chinese temple ceiling from the 1400s more visible through the use of virtual reality. During testing, I assumed multiple roles including observational note taker and interviewer. From this, I gained experience not only developing research methodology and protocols, analyzing data, and communicating findings, but also dealing with real people as they actively engaged with an interpretive device in a museum context. Our results from testing will be used to improve the prototype’s functionality.

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    A memorandum of agreement between MGM and the Pittsburgh Pirates, found in the Branch Rickey Papers at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The letter discusses the use of Pirates gear and facilities in the film Angels in the Outfield.


    Celebrating Pittsburgh as the Hollywood of the East: A Fellowship at the Heinz History Center

    Author: Monica Marchese

    Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellowship at Senator John Heinz History Center - Summer 2017

    What word comes to mind when you think of Pittsburgh? Is it steel? Sports? Pierogies? Yinzers? This summer I had the unique opportunity to explore one of Pittsburgh’s lesser known exports – movies. In recent years, the city has become one of the biggest movie hubs in the east without even realizing it. Thanks to the government-sponsored Film Production Tax Credit Program in Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh’s unique personality, production companies have been flocking to the city in the past couple of years to film their next big hit. Our varied landscapes – from scenic rivers and bustling downtown streets to cozy neighborhoods with local flavor – make our city ideal for all types of projects. Not to mention the five-star casting companies, film crews, and more-than-willing extras available at directors’ disposal.

    As the University of Pittsburgh’s Milton Fine Fellow this summer at the Heinz History Center, I had the opportunity to work with curators Leslie Przybylek and Lauren Uhl on a project documenting the history of Pittsburgh’s film industry from the 1900s to the present. I jumped into this project in its very early stages. As a collecting initiative and eventual exhibition, this project required a two-pronged approach. My goals for the summer were to conduct preliminary research on which movies and individuals would best tell this story, and to locate artifacts and materials for the museum to either acquire or borrow in the future. I chose to focus my research film by film, creating thematic connections and logical arguments between each. In some cases, the intense study of a film proved very fruitful. In others, I found only dead-ends.

    My research led me to interviews and objects from films like Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), filmed all around Pittsburgh, and the animated feature film Big Hero 6 (2014), which used soft robotics technology from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute as the inspiration for the character Baymax. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet with Chris Atkeson, creator of the inflatable soft robotic arm and renowned professor at the Robotics Institute, in his laboratory. He showed us the original arm technology (pictured above) and encouraged us to “get into character” to understand the advantages and challenges of using inflatable robots. As I quickly found out, walking, gesturing, and holding objects proved exponentially more difficult when wearing an inflated Baymax suit (see above).

    Two of the most rewarding discoveries were related to the films Angels in the Outfield (1951) and Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). These two films could not be any more different. Angels, a film about a fictitious general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates who encounters angels (you guessed it) in the outfield, allowed me to explore the more secluded, archival side of research. I found original letters, scripts, and legal agreements from film production. This film was also important to my research because it immortalizes Forbes Field in a very unique way. In an official letter (pictured above) between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and the then Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Bill Meyer, it was agreed upon that MGM would have full use of the Forbes Field facilities, Pirates uniforms and equipment, and park staff while filming. So while the characters – and the World Series win at the end of the film – are imaginary, a large majority of the film is authentic and serves as an accurate portrayal of baseball life at Forbes Field.

    Perks, a coming-of-age film about a high school boy and his group of friends, allowed me to explore a different aspect of curation. I was able to get in contact with the novelist/screenplay writer/director/producer of the book and film, Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky, a native Pittsburgher who now lives in California, wrote Perks based on his own high school experiences growing up in Upper St. Clair. He was more than willing to speak with me on the phone about all things Perks and Pittsburgh, and even offered to help the museum acquire costumes, props, and scripts from the film.

    Working on this project has allowed me to meld my love of film, history, and Pittsburgh. I’ve had the chance to dig through archives and special collections, make important contacts within the film community, locate key artifacts, and develop thematic connections between films, people, and objects. I am honored to have had this unique opportunity at the Heinz History Center.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Architecture, Archives, and More: An Internship

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Spring 2017

    This spring I worked as an Intern for the Heinz Architectural Center on projects relating to the Hall of Architecture. As an intern, I undertook three major projects. The first project was the main reason the internship was offered, and paired well with my Intro to Visitor Evaluation class. In 2011, a design studio class at CMU had done a major project on the Hall of Architecture; gathering visitor preferences and responses to the Hall to design a better signage system. I took the data they collected that they had recorded and their design ideas and analyzed that data to make graphs to show the results. I also put together a report containing those results that could be used for future reference instead of having to go back through the project booklets and it presented to the Education Department. There is something inexplicably satisfying about recording data and compiling it into graphs. Or maybe it’s just me.

    For the second project that I undertook, I worked with the Carnegie Museum Database. I researched the casts in the Hall of Architecture and recorded the dates, names, locations, and architect/sculptures of the original buildings or objects that they were cast of or from. Some of the buildings that the Carnegie has fragments or capitals from are more interesting than the main monuments that are currently displayed, such as the Tower of the Winds, which is only represented with a capital fragment, but the building is so much more interesting. It was the first weather station ever built and the original is still considered so important that it was recently restored to its original condition at great expense.

    The third project that I undertook was the most time consuming and the hardest simply because of the volume of material that I had to sift through. The archival records relating to the acquisition of casts for the Hall of Architecture and Sculpture Hall had been recently digitized and were sorted in boxes based on subject, such as the sender or recipient. My job was to sort the records by cast. I also recorded any interesting stories that I came across, such as the drama between the Director and a women working at the Met over a miscommunication over her notes on the history of the casts, which she thought were going to be made a catalogue, but he didn’t want to give her credit for all of it, so she demanded her notes back. My favorite however, was the series of communications over the Lysicrates Monument. Andrew Carnegie wanted the monument to have one side restored, and one side as the monument currently was, but the cast makers said it was impossible, so he settled for the addition of a tripod, which the cast makers had to make only from references in historical documents.

    I also did additional research into some of the archival stories, such as the Allegheny Courthouse Controversy, for which I requested the National Register Nominations from the National Park Service.

    This internship was a wonderful opportunity that honed my research skills and taught me data analysis related skills. I am proud of what I accomplished.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    • Globe before repair
    • View of the Buhl Planetarium during construction
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    Globe before repair

    This globe is used to simulate an eclipse, but was falling apart. Now the outer layers of the globe have been repaired and the globe can be used for demonstrations leading up to the eclipse this summer.


    From Eclipses to Science Fairs: An Archival Internship at the Buhl Planetarium

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Science Center - Spring 2017 

    Climbing the ladder up into the dome of the planetarium, the last thing you would expect to find are boxes of old scripts, scrapbooks, photo albums, and films. But that is exactly what the Buhl Planetarium, now located in the Carnegie Science Center, found. The original Buhl Planetarium was constructed in 1937 and opened to the public in 1939, making it the fifth planetarium to open in the United States. When they moved to become a part of the Carnegie Science Center, many of these archives were thought to have been lost.

    Upon the discovery of these items, the planetarium sought an archival intern to organize and catalog the items, determine the best storage for documents, and figure out which footage formats can be preserved. However the position evolved into much more than that. The original expectations were to go through about half of the documents in storage, and set up a numerical inventory where files can easily be located, a plan for curation was also formed. The current end goal is to have an interactive, digital display on the history of the Buhl Planetarium available to the public. To organize the display, I have gone back through our inventory to pick photographs and newspaper clippings and travelled to the storage facilities in Etna to collect further documentation. I also had the opportunity to work on other projects such as repairing a globe and repairing the scrapbooks that had been found.

    Within the collections of the planetarium, anything and everything could be found about Pittsburgh in the 30s through 60s. The scrapbooks contained newspaper clippings on everything from school trips to visiting the planetarium, to the letters written by the planetarium director, to information about how to view an eclipse, to the various travelling exhibits held at the Buhl Planetarium. The planetarium hosted a variety of fairs and exhibits including a geography fair, science fair, travelling exhibit on aerial defense, and a miniature world’s fair with exhibits from the 1964 world’s fair in New York.

    I worked in the observatory where we keep telescopes, old and new. One of the photographs that I loved finding was of the lobby of the original Buhl Planetarium, and while this does not sound exciting, there is a telescope in that image. The same telescope that sat in the observatory with me. It was great to be able to find documentation on the age of this telescope that everyone at the Science Center just called ‘very old’.

    Working through the Carnegie Science Center has been a valuable experience. People do not immediately think ‘historical exhibit’ at a science center, so this project presented its own unique obstacles and rewards. The Science Center archives still have many steps to go, but now there is a plan in place to handle all of the historical documentation. It will be exciting to see where the Buhl Planetarium will go from here.

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    • cleaning nile crocodile
    • cleaning polar world diorama
    • R2 vacuuming marine life diorama
    • Cleaned marine life diorama
    cleaning nile crocodile

    My Best Friend is a Vacuum: A Tribute to R2D2, the Faithful HEPA-Vac

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

    This semester, I was lucky enough to be an intern with Gretchen Anderson, the conservator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I learned a lot. I cleaned a lot. And throughout all of this cleaning, I was always accompanied by R2-D2, the trusty HEPA vacuum. For most conservators, HEPA vacuums are the most efficient for the gentle cleaning of objects. For every diorama we were cleaning, R2-D2 was invariably by our side, waiting patiently to collect our dust.

    One of the first dioramas that I used R2-D2 on was the Nile Crocodiles in the Wildlife Halls. I never thought I would get up and personal with a Nile Crocodile and live to tell about it, but fortunately, these were dead. By wrapping a piece of vellux around R2-D2’s nozzle, we could gently suction away the dust and soot particles. This was a technique we used for most of the open-air dioramas.  

    During my internship, we also cleaned the Polar World exhibit. Bundled up in sweatshirts, we spent the week tidying up the various open-air dioramas in the exhibit. There was one minor issue, however; the artificial snow had trapped our number one enemy-dust-and was not relinquishing it without a fight. So we decided to vacuum up the snow and remove it completely, with plans to refresh the dioramas later. Shortly after we began vacuuming up the snow we realized that R2-D2 was getting clogged; poor R2 could not handle the dust and artificial snow together. So, we had to use a different bagless vacuum, one that happened to look like a jetpack. Each project had its own unique challenges, but the artificial snow was definitely one of the most testing obstructions we encountered to cleaning the dioramas.

    The most recent diorama I have been involved with is the Pennsylvania Marine Life diorama in Benedum Hall. For years, people have walked by and maybe some of them have noticed the fine layer of ocean silt that covered the exhibit. In reality, this fine layer of silt was actually the accumulation of about 30 years of dust. This was a diorama that Gretchen had been itching to get into since she first began working at the museum. After the glass was removed, we used brushes, air rockets, and of course, R2-D2, to clean the years of dust off of the objects. We also used facemasks to protect ourselves from breathing in the extremely small dust particles.

    These are just a couple of the projects I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in this semester. This internship has opened up the world of professional conservation to me, and I could not be for more thankful for my mentor, Gretchen, for giving me this opportunity. And also for R2, who always cleaned up my dust for me.  

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • The Hall of Valor at Soldier's and Sailor's Memorial Hall and Museum.


    Making History Personal at Soldier's and Sailor's

    Museum Studies Intern at the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Hall and Museum - Spring 2017

    For my internship, I worked as the curatorial and educational intern at Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Hall and Museum. Originally constructed by Civil War veterans in 1910, the building served as a gathering place to honor all veterans through the large auditorium and ballroom. Over time, it has developed more into a museum, while maintaining its status as a memorial. There are unique exhibits on the wars of America ranging from the Civil War to the recent War on Terror.

    Being a smaller museum, Soldier’s and Sailor’s allowed me work with the educational and curatorial departments. On the educational side, I helped prepare the materials needed to give the interactive tours to local schools. For the tours, each student is assigned a role and receives a customized dog tag. Most of the work during the internship was completed on the curatorial side of the museum. Donations of artifacts needed to be cataloged and photographed before entered into the computer records. This year, the museum received new PastPerfect software to catalog artifacts. I created a simple user guide for future interns and other museum staff.

    Aside from the regular duties of the internship, I spent time working with the Joseph A. Dugan, Jr. Hall of Valor. Started in 1963, The Hall of Valor honors Pennsylvanian veterans who have earned a Silver Star or higher in combat. A plaque with information on the actions of each veteran is added to the Hall, where it is hung for 2 years before being digitized. Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor have their plaques permanently installed into the Hall. Each year about fifteen members are inducted into the Hall of Valor. The 2017 inductees have brought the grand total to over 700 veterans. Technical Sergeant William Fahrenhold was one of the members inducted in the 2017 class. Among the objects donated by his family was the wartime diary T/SGT Fahrenhold kept while he was a bomber crewman in World War II. I worked on transcribing the diary to create a copy that can be accessed and viewed in the future without risking the integrity of the original diary. The internship at Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Hall and Museum has been very helpful with my career goals. I intend to work in the museum field specializing in American military history. Working alongside the curator, Michael Kraus, has expanded my knowledge thanks to his renowned status as a Civil War historian.


    Curatorial Internship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Rooms

    Museum Studies Intern at the Nationality Rooms - Spring 2017

    I never anticipated how the Nationality Room’s curatorial internship would evolve. I always had desired to participate in an organization that I could contribute something more than just adding to an email list. I was challenged in this internship, but the experience I gained is invaluable. The final products of my internship will feed into the fall semester’s Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar, acknowledging the importance of my work created additional pressure and motivation to approach every task with care and consideration. Archival and curatorial tasks are not simple on their own. A combination of the two requires a balance of organizational and creative skills. My day-to-day tasks provided me the opportunity to operate within a position that I could wear many hats, and identify what kind of work would be the most fulfilling for me in the future.

    Some of the hats fit, and others did not. The archivist’s is one that I have had in my repertoire for years now, but I was surprised to find that the curator’s did not fit. Gathering and creating the framework for an exhibition appeals to many, but I realized my organizational skills are better suited to other sectors within the field of art history. When I wore the liaison’s hat, I became aware of the power of a well-formulated email.  It was empowering to work as a registrar, to see the physical products of my efforts in the form of 463 conditions reports and three ordered storage facilities. Amidst changing roles and encountering different obstacles along the way, I realized where I belong within an institution, academic, cultural, or otherwise.

    One of those obstacles for instance is a limitation of space. I became highly aware that no matter the location, a lack of storage space is an issue that permeates through all institutions. Contending with space requires innovative methods and high levels of planning, how to utilize the smallest of areas as if it was Mary Poppins’ handbag. There is still so much that I can learn and bring to another multi-faceted position in the future. The Nationality Rooms may not be a grand institution outside of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, but the 30 classrooms depict the ethnic groups that helped build the city of Pittsburgh. They provide visitors with an undeniable sense of pride, and facilitate conversations about the importance strong local communities and cultural acceptance. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to partake in this internship, and I look forward to seeing the students’ exhibition in the fall.

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  • Students with Teresa Duff looking out of the window in Kevin Clancy's installation

    Museum Education at the Mattress Factory

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2017

    As a child, I spent my third Sundays of each month at the art gallery participating in educational art activities. Some of my fondest memories were attempting to create oil pastel versions of Emily Carr’s paintings and participating in scavenger hunts that helped me get acquainted with new exhibitions. Little did I know at the time I would eventually be learning how to create similar experiences for others.

    Since January, I’ve been interning in the Education department at the Mattress Factory. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to interact with teaching artists, museum educators, and different departments within the museum. The main focus of the internship has been being a teaching assistant in an after school program.INSTALL: Afternoons @ the Factory, the after school program at the Mattress Factory is a program where different artists come in for either six or twelve weeks and teach third to fifth graders about an art practice of their choosing. While I’ve been with the after school program, I’ve worked with two different teaching artists—Teresa Duff and Hudson Rush. The first topic that was explored was motion. During the exploration of motion, I assisted students with understanding different forces through building kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder and a Rube Goldberg machine. The second topic was photography, which was a very different experience. While working with the students, I’ve learned how to effectively create inspiring learning environments, how to help facilitate a good environment for teamwork, and create dialogue between pieces of artwork and the students.

    Even though the after school program has been my main focus, I have also shadowed tours, helped create examples and prep materials for events and outreach, created educational art activities for families, and documented events the museum has held. While creating examples for different events, I was able to apply the skills I have gained in my formal education as an artist along with the skills I have gained at the internship in education. I could tailor examples to different age groups through the knowledge I’ve gained while at the Mattress Factory.

    The experiences I’ve had as a Museum Education intern at the Mattress Factory have been life-changing. With the help of everyone in the Education department, I’ve gained direction in where I’m headed professionally and academically. I’m grateful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had at the Mattress Factory to help me pursue my passion for art and museum education.

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    • Hayley in her office
    • Gems in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
    • Scribe in Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt
    • Butterfly on a plant in Botany Hall
    Hayley in her office

    In my office in the Marketing Department.


    Seeing the Museum Through a Lens

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

    Ever since I was a child, I remember visiting the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and leaving in awe for many obvious reasons. The infamous dinosaurs stretching across their entire hall, the Egyptian mummies with their colorful designs, and even the underrated bliss of being able to run down the cool, marble steps of the Grand Staircase, all left me with feelings of curiosity. It wasn’t until I became a marketing intern, that I began to see things a little differently. I still tried to keep the raw innocence of stepping into a museum and expecting things larger than life, but now I see the importance of each piece archived in all of its detail.

    Before starting my internship in the Marketing Department, I admittedly knew little of Natural History and the modern issues that arose with such non-profit management. But it is inherent to learn more about a subject the more you read and write about it and that’s what I was assigned to do in my first few weeks. I stumbled upon pronouncing dinosaur names such as ‘Pterosaur’ but soon became confident in my ability to write about them after some research. I learned which scientists faces went with the names I was emailing and I read articles about the museum’s ideas for innovation.

    My position included editing and writing content, producing photographs for social media, organizing archives, content analysis, answering visitor emails, and even the occasional daily office work, often stereotyped as the intern’s only position. I was truly lucky enough to be treated as another member of the marketing team, regardless of my age or the limits of my experience.

    One of the most significant projects I was chosen to work on was organizing and archiving all of the Marketing Department’s photos. It was my assignment to research sites that would allow an online space with easy access for all of our department’s employees to use. After much consideration, we chose a program that would eventually take me a couple months to complete the uploading. It was a long tedious assignment, but it allowed me to see every photo taken for the museum, past, present, and even my own; that was a surreal moment for me.

    It is common in the office to hear the word, ‘interactive’ suggested for different marketing campaigns and exhibition descriptions, and eventually this word would make its way into the way we used images. It was an amazing upgrade from the normal Windows filing system, and I quickly learned that progression was a huge factor in the museum community and something prominent in every department. Many people may associate Natural History as stagnant and unchangeable, but I have learned that we can use the informative, unique history to explain and educate individuals on a way to enhance the future. Whether it be through the use of photographs, blog posts, or educational programs offered to visitors, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has provided a positive perspective on the way that I now view museum management. In the future, I hope to explore more learning opportunities with museums and other non-profit organizations. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has continued to leave me with curiosity in all of its endeavors.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • The Andy Warhol Museum, front facade, 1994, photo by Paul Rocheleau


    The Many Hats at The Warhol

    Museum Studies Intern at The Andy Warhol Museum - Spring 2017

    This semester I was the communications intern at The Andy Warhol Museum. I put my skills to the test in tasks that involved things such as editing, research, and marketing. The Warhol gave me the chance to work on a wide variety of projects, ranging from smaller tasks to multi-stage projects.

    One of these multi-stage projects I helped a lot with was a survey revamp. The museum wanted to update their exit surveys to try to get more responses. There is currently one iPad setup for surveys near the information desk. My first task was to try to get the survey working on a second iPad. After careful research and testing, it was determined that the current iPad would not be able to run the survey software because of the age of the hardware. Since the current equipment was not up to the task, my second objective was to create a budget for the new equipment, researching tablets and software that would be the best fit for an unassisted exit survey. While researching, I contacted the Carnegie Museum of Art employee who is dealing with the surveys at their museum to compare notes.

    Other things I helped with in the communications department included social media and website analytics, using sites such as iQ Media and Sprout Social. I researched press to reach out to for upcoming exhibitions such as Farshad Moshiri: Go West, and thought of strategies of how to market the exhibitions to those specific members of the press. Also, I edited and contributed ideas to a new marketing style guide. On top of all my work for the communication department, I was able to use my skill set to assist the publication department.

    The publication department had me assisting with an upcoming book The Warhol is writing. For this project I did copy editing for multiple parts of the book, and worked on some of the bibliography. On top of that, I also edited book related materials using inDesign.

    It was really interesting to see how different departments work and interact with each other within the museum, and across other Carnegie Museums. A lot of the departments work with each other frequently, and the communication between the departments was strong.

    I really enjoyed my time at the Warhol, my coworkers were passionate about art and the museum’s mission, and they created a great working environment.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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