Academic Interns

    A typical day of research at my desk in The Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


    Making Egyptian History Accessible to the Public

    Museum Studies Intern at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Spring 2018

    A much-anticipated facelift is coming to the Walton Hall in The Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

    As an anthropology undergraduate student interested in archaeology, I was excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the redesign of this popular exhibit for my spring 2018 internship. The Carnegie Boat, one of four ancient Eygptian boats remaining in the world, will be the centerpiece of the redesign. Much of my time at the internship was spent scouring scholarly journals for information and research relating to the use of the boat in the funerary procession of Senwosret III, a pharaoh of Egypt.  

    Coming from the anthropological discipline which involves dense research full of niche terminology, I wanted it to be a focus of my work to make this information more accessible to a wider audience.

    My supervisor, Dr. Erin Peters, the Assistant Curator of Science and Research at the Museum, invited me to sit in on weekly meetings with other faculty on the Egypt on the Nile exhibition team. In these meetings I worked with Dr. Peters, Becca Shreckengast, the Director of Exhibition Experience, and Caroline Record, a Creative Technologist at the Innovation Studio, and we discussed ways of creating a more concise, accessible exhibition plan. These weekly meetings opened my eyes to the amount of work that goes into planning a new exhibit. I also saw how my research on the Carnegie Boat will be reaching a wider audience. Through these meetings, and based on audience evaluation surveys collected by last semester’s interns, it is clear that some sort of digital component will be incorporated into the new exhibit.

    Although it is still in the early stages of the planning of the exhibition, it has been very rewarding to see how my rough-cut, and research-dense information on the Boat will be transformed into a neatly packed, and engaging experience for visitors.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Version one of Mariko, Station 20


    Exploring Tōkaidō Road through Japanese Woodblock Prints

    Authors: Zoe Creamer and Alec Story

    Museum Studies Intern at Special Collections, University Library System - Spring 2018 and Special Topics: Museum Studies student - Spring 2018

    On March 31 2018, the Carnegie Museum of Art opened Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road to the public. It is the museum’s first exhibition of the Hōeidō edition of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō in 25 years. This frequently-requested series of Japanese prints was introduced with ample information and enthusiasm during an opening lecture given by University of Pittsburgh professor and Japan Studies Coordinator Brenda Jordan, titled “A City of Consumption: The Woodblock Print Industry in Edo, Japan.” In her lecture, Dr. Jordan discussed the collaborative process of woodblock printmaking, as well as the timeless nature of Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road series.

    Just like any other Japanese woodblock print series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō required the collaboration of several skilled craftsmen in order to create a finalized print. This process began with the designer of the original image, who is usually the most well-known of the collaborators, drawing the intended design onto paper. After the designer is the woodblock carver, whose role is to whittle the base of a wooden block according to the drawn image; and then the printer, who inks the woodblocks and presses the prints. Finally, there were others who financially supported and distributed the works. In Utagawa Hiroshige’s case, the finished works were sold along the Tōkaidō road to collectors and travelers alike, either as souvenirs or as fine art to be displayed in one’s home.

    The Hōeidō edition was so immensely popular in its time that while many contemporary series produced around 8,000 copies, Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō was printed a staggering 20,000 times. This popularity was largely due to the timeless aesthetic of landscape prints compared to contemporary prints of popular subjects, such as those depicting courtesans or actors.

    When entering into the Hiroshige exhibit itself, visitors are invited “to follow in the footsteps of a 19th century traveler” and “proceed from Edo to Kyoto.” On the gallery walls are the Tōkaidō road prints themselves, some of which are duplicates that might easily be overlooked. Though woodblock prints are usually all printed from the same blocks, each print is unique due to variations in color, brightness, and quality from one printing to the next. One such print, the 20th station of the Tōkaidō, Mariko, is riddled with differences between prints. Immediately apparent is the difference in color between the two on display, but upon closer inspection, there is a spelling mistake corrected in the later printings; 丸子(Maruko) became 鞠子 (Mariko). The subject of the 20th station print is a Mariko teahouse known for its tororo jiru, a yam paste, for which the establishment remains famous to this day. The teahouse, or ochaya, also offered female entertainers, known as geisha, who, according to Japanese folk music, made it a necessary stop for traveling men. Looking to the background of the print, there stands the “Fuji of Mariko,” which references an aspect of Japan’s shared cultural knowledge that Hiroshige did not hesitate to draw upon throughout many of his works.

    The gallery also includes many elements other than the prints themselves allowing visitors to interact with and appreciate the culture of Japan. A 19th century-style board game set in the middle of the gallery attracts the attention of wanderers from the path (such as ourselves). Players can roll a die and advance along spaces that represent stops along the Tōkaidō Road in the style of Monopoly. Some spaces even listed happenings, such as delays crossing a river, adding a fun interactive element to the show which no doubt will interest many younger visitors to the exhibition. In addition to the game are two carved woodblocks, akin to those used in the printmaking process, open for visitors to touch. This tactile element offers a tangible peek into the creation of a woodblock print, as well as making the exhibit more accessible for those who are not sighted.

    Japanese woodblock prints are among the most recognizable works of art, yet the history of this medium is not often told. Our experiences in talking with Akemi May, curator of the exhibition, and listening to Dr. Jordan’s lecture, educated us in the printmaking process as well as printmaking’s historical context, enabling us to appreciate these prints for far more than just their aesthetic qualities.

    We encourage everyone, young or old, to venture into the world of Japanese printmaking by exploring the exhibit before it closes on July 22!

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Proposed flyer for the LGBTQ Youth Prom


    LGBTQ Legacy at The Andy Warhol Museum

    Museum Studies Intern at The Andy Warhol Museum - Spring 2018

    Campbell’s Soup. Crazy Hair. Artistic Icon. These were the things I knew about Andy Warhol.

    However, before my Museum Studies internship at The Andy Warhol Museum, I didn’t know much about his role in gay culture. However, after working in the Education department with Shannon Thompson, I have a better understanding the importance and legacy of Warhol and his art.

    For my internship, I was tasked with helping the Prom Planning committee held every third Thursday. During these meetings, LGBTQ+ teens from all over Western Pennsylvania came to plan their alternative prom at their respective schools. At the first meeting that I was a part of, I kept seeing all different kinds of teens coming through the doors: individuals of all colors, sizes, labels, and orientations. I was in charge of facilitating the flyer subcommittee. In this subcommittee, I was able to have more intimate conversations with the teens and get to know them. After speaking with a student about what this Prom means to them, they said: “Prom is essential to any high school kid’s experience. For us, we can’t necessarily be ourselves at every school’s prom. This prom allows us to be ourselves and have the most fun we can.”

    There is no single reason why Andy Warhol is remains a cultural icon; there are many. For teens and adults living an LGBTQ+ life, he can resonate with many. During his lifetime, Warhol was a pioneer for gay rights in that he was an openly gay artist. He paved the way for future artists to do the same, and allowed LGBTQ+ people an outlet in the popular culture.

    Today, at The Andy Warhol Museum, they are using these messages and meanings around Warhol’s life to help LGBTQ+ teens in the Pittsburgh Area. With programs like the LGBTQ+ Prom, teens from across the Pittsburgh Area can look to this museum as a safe space to be themselves. I know Warhol would be proud if he saw what his legacy means to all these teens and to others across the globe.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Clay Image

    Kiyoshi Saitō: Clay Image, c. 1952 (detail)


    The Walls Have Eyes…or do they? Interning at Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (Hillman Library’s Special Collections) - Spring 2018

    In my adventures as an intern in Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department this spring of 2018, I’ve been taking inventory of the many oversized prints of the Walter and Martha Leuba collection. The thousands of prints in this collection are as varied as the origins of the artists who created them, spanning continents and centuries, but this collection is not yet available for patrons to browse. I am helping in the eventual digitizing of this content, which is now housed in various boxes and portfolios; the end goal is the creation of a searchable online catalogue. My personal interest lies in the prints by Japanese artists, which I devoted time to researching to improve upon existing database information. Most of these Japanese works were woodblock prints produced in the mid-twentieth century. This work pictured above, however, titled Clay Image, shows that woodblock printing isn’t a strictly old-fashioned medium; although it’s associated almost exclusively with ancient to 19th century East Asia, woodblock printmaking has continued into the present day.

    From a distance, this piece by Kiyoshi Saitō (1907-1997) looks like an abstract representation of people, but having looked through other instances of his work in Special Collections, I noticed this would not fit with Saitō’s style of Japanese traditional objects and landscapes rendered with a modern twist. I was perplexed as to why this piece was titled Clay Image, and initially decided that perhaps it was a two-dimensional representation of sculpture. When I came back to the print and looked closer, I realized that I had seen something like these “people” before. Suddenly I saw that these were not meant to be abstract people, but rather haniwa, which I had encountered in an Intro to Asian Art class a year ago here at Pitt. Haniwa means “clay circle” in Japanese, and as the name suggests, these objects are hollow figures made from terracotta clay buried in gravesites in Japan during the Yamato period, which was around the 3rd to 8th century C.E. These figures are thought to have served as a surrogate for live guardians to scare away malevolent spirits and tomb raiders. Haniwa are often very intricate and can take forms of warriors and priestesses as well as animals, such as horses.

    Saitō’s representation of haniwa contrasts strikingly with the landscapes that make up much of his body of work housed in Special Collections, and had there not been Japanese characters written onto the print, I may have almost mistaken this for a representation of African sculpture. It’s interesting and unusual to see such ancient objects as haniwa depicted over a millennium later, but with a printmaking technique that is reminiscent of a bygone era. Clay Image embodies a connection between the past and present that encapsulates Japanese culture in a way accessible to anyone from a modern audience who is informed in ancient history, to the student (such as myself) with an interest in Japanese art, as well as casual museum-goers, who would no doubt enjoy seeing this print on the wall of a museum or even decorating a home.

    This just goes to show that there is always something to take away from an introductory class—I never dreamed I would see haniwa again, let alone in a modern representation such as Clay Image. Haniwa were meant to act as guardians for the dead, but would you want these eyeless faces watching over you in your everyday life? These printed haniwa have been sitting in a drawer for so long that they would probably jump at the opportunity.

    Explore the exhibition here

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  • Dorothy Riggle and friends at WASP training in the 1940s.


    Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall: The Path to My Future from the Past

    Museum Studies Intern at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum - Spring 2018

    History has a way of being a very impersonal subject, concerned with dates and key figures. However, once I started interning at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, I began to understand how personal history can be, as I uncovered people’s stories and the lives they lived.

    Working at this museum, I was able to work on a variety of tasks. I helped prepare the museum for events, collected artifacts from donors, and catalogued artifacts into an updated system. The task that struck me the most was being able to analyze the artifacts that came in. Besides cataloguing them, I learned more importantly about the owner’s life and their experiences.

    One of the most interesting people I researched was a woman named Dorothy Riggle. She joined the military during WWII and decided to pursue a career in this sector. Unfortunately she suffered a nervous breakdown, due to stress and overwork, and was discharged. She spent the rest of her life trying to gain recognition for her struggles while highlighting the harassment she suffered while in the military. Reading over her countless letters to senators, congressmen, and even the U.S. Vice President, I was able to gain so much information about her life and her struggles. She kept such a vigorous record of her life, from her days at the university and into her elderly years, allowing me to examine every element of her life. When I was finished reading and looking at the artifacts, it almost felt as if she was a friend.

    After analyzing all of her artifacts, I wrote a biography on her life for the museum which they hope to post online. Riggle is a relatively unknown figure, yet her story is just as rich as any significant person’s in history. By interning at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, I was able to uncover a life that is pertinent to today’s fight for marginalized individuals. Her challenges in the military around gender discrimination and mental illness during the 1940s and 1950s are topics often left undiscussed, and I am proud that her story will be told one day.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • Artist William Accorsi exhibiting his toy sculptures at The Store.


    A Look into the Past: Research on Craft Artists from the 70s in Pittsburgh

    Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft – Spring 2018

    When I first heard about an opportunity interning at Contemporary Craft, I was super excited because I had volunteered there in the past (and knew this would be a great line to add to my resume).

    Contemporary Craft is a nonprofit gallery in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. Part gallery, part store, they also have workshops in the basement where community members are welcome to take classes or even rent out a space and make art. Once I met my supervisor, Stephanie Sun, I was given a quick tour and introduced to the scrapbooks.

    My purpose was to research the gallery’s founder, Betty Raphael, and the artists who had held exhibitions at her former art gallery also known as The Store for Arts and Crafts and People-Made Things. The story of this pioneering gallery is conveyed through scrapbooks Raphael made for a period of 7 years. I was given access to tell the story of The Store through the scrapbooks’ many artifacts -- newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, advertisements, and event flyers.

    Betty Raphael was a trailblazer. She introduced the city of Pittsburgh to modern art in the 1940s, and then again in the 1970s and early 1980s. At first some rejected her. But hundreds of artists have passed through her gallery, both amateur, local, and internationally recognized. Reading through the names of the artists she supported, certain ones stood out—such as Alexander Calder, Paul Klee, and Wendell Castle.

    Before taking on this internship and starting my research I was unaware of this amazing woman and the work she did for the crafts movement. It’s been an enormous pleasure to read about all of her achievements and learning about all the artists who have passed through The Store. I’ve been able to learn about artists I had never heard of before but who have made a name for themselves in their particular field and continue to make art.

    Towards the end of my internship I compiled all of my research into a SCALAR storybook. The SCALAR storybook is an interactive online book that anyone can look through and where people can read more about the artists who came through The Store and contributed to this incredible movement. With my portion of the research done, I happily pass the torch to the next person who will continue sharing the story of Betty.

    Explore Emily’s SCALAR storybook project here

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  • Volunteers and community members collaborating to bring representation to Wikipedia

    Volunteers and community members collaborating to bring representation to Wikipedia


    Collaboration is Critical: Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2018

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Spring 2018

    For five years, Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon events have been held all over the world by groups of independent volunteers and activists. However, despite being the largest general reference source on the Internet, Wikipedia still lacks gender diversity in editors and articles. The goal of the Art+Feminism campaign is simple: fix this problem by having more people of diverse gender identities contribute their voices to Wikipedia and by training them to create and edit articles on women, gender, feminism, and the arts. 

    This spring, I had the privilege of doing an internship working under Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant of Modern/Contemporary Art and Photography at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Part of my role was to help research and plan for Pittsburgh’s 2018 Edit-a-thon. On March 25, 2018, all of our hard work culminated in the event held in the Hall of Sculpture at the Carnegie Museum of Art. 

    Preparing thirty-four artist research folders for the event in the months leading up to it was intense. But this task was secondary to the energizing collaboration between local arts organizations, long-time Wikipedia editors, and, most importantly, the community. 

    In total, we had eighteen editors who collectively edited eighteen existing articles. In the process we added over 8,000 words, and created six entirely new Wikipedia articles. Some of this work involved fixing Deana Lawson’s article to save it from being deleted; expanding on articles for Betsy Damon, Machiko Hasegawa and Winifred Lutz; and creating entirely new entries for artists like Carol Ann Carter, Alisha Wormsley, and Jane Haskell. 

    These impressive numbers were as important as the individual stories and connections that were made along the way. Many of the editors became invested in the artists they wrote about and the articles they edited. Some editors came to the event with specific artists in mind that they wanted to work with, while others came to learn how to edit Wikipedia, in the process becoming experts on artists who they might never had heard of otherwise. One editor asked me for help in finding an artist that they might be able to connect with. I handed them one artist folder on a whim; and, coincidentally, the editor discovered a personal connection. Not only had the editor and the artist attended the same college at the same time, but they also had made similar artworks depicting the same exact spot from the North Side of Pittsburgh. 

    This coincidence proved to me that even if this event by itself made a relatively small addition to Wikipedia, putting any effort into sharing knowledge and creating spaces for underrepresented people can make a big impact on an individual level.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Amanda Bartko and Emma Vescio in Meg Webster’s new Solar Grow Room at the Mattress Factory


    The Sky's the Limit: Two Pitt Interns Discuss Art and Education at the Mattress Factory

    Authors: Emma Vescio and Amanda Bartko

    Museum Studies Interns at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    Emma Vescio:

    During the Spring 2018 semester, I am interning at Mattress Factory in the Development Department. Along with preparing for the annual Urban Garden Party, and various day-to-day tasks helping the office move at a quicker pace, I will be working on attracting younger adults (18-25) to purchasing museum memberships. Many people within that age group attend an academic institution that provides free admission; however, the Development team is interested in how to increase memberships for those out of school or graduated.

    Another project that I am helping with is the building the James Turrell’s “Skyspace”. Turrell is a leading contemporary artist, and having another one of his pieces in Pittsburgh would set the city at a clear advantage and make Mattress Factory even more distinctive. My task will be gathering names collected in a petition earlier this year to make this installation happen, I hope I can help the Development Department with this process, and I am excited to see the progression of my time there.

    Amanda Bartko:

    This term, I am going to be working in the Education Department at the Mattress Factory to assist with "INSTALL: Afternoons @ The Factory" – a twelve-week program for children in grades 3 through 5. There are nine students enrolled, many of whom come from a local elementary school, Allegheny Traditional Academy. A teaching artist supervises sessions with them and gives distinct lessons each week that corresponds to themes of habitats and the natural environment. At the end of six weeks, another artist will takeover and lead the classroom for the remaining term.

    I am most eager to observe differences between the two teaching artists. Because of my interest in and background with Psychology, I suspect that the artists’ methodologies will have meaningful impacts on the students in the classroom.

    I was drawn to this internship because it is inherently interdisciplinary. I will be able to learn by shadowing gallery tours, or when interacting with staff from various departments; but I am looking forward to the possibility of making connections across disciplines of art, education and Psychology.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Photography set up for documenting works on paper from UAG collection


    Documentation, Databases, and Attention to Detail

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery - Spring 2017

    In Spring 2017 I interned at The University of Pittsburgh’s University Art Gallery. As part of my work tasks, I worked with the CollectiveAccess database, updating object records and selecting works on paper from the collection to photograph for documentation.
    During the semester, I photographed hundreds of works on paper for several weeks, and imported nearly one hundred photographs into the database website. I archived other photo files to be easily accessible for future use. From the UAG’s extensive art collection, we prioritized documentation and photographs of Andrey Avinoff’s (1884-1949) watercolor sketches of the Nationality Rooms. Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar students used these sketches and images in the UAG exhibition, Narratives of the Nationality Rooms: Immigration and Identity in Pittsburgh

    Working alongside UAG curator, Isabelle Chartier, I found this work extremely rewarding and informative. Before this internship I had never had the opportunity to handle artwork so extensively. I value this new art handling experience while also being able to improve my skills in photography and photo editing. I enjoyed learning the gallery’s organizational systems, where I honed the attention-to-detail required to maintain accuracy within the database, object records, condition reports, storage locations, object IDs, and file naming. 
    For the internship I had to improve my time management and communication skills in order to successfully complete my work within the designated time frames. The skills that I gained while working on this project will benefit me both academically and professionally. I am thankful that I was able to complete an internship that provided hands-on experience in a gallery setting. 

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    Promotional Poster from the opening of "The River Ran Red".


    Experiencing Domike

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

    Coming into the university archives, I knew two things about Steffi Domike. I knew that she was a filmmaker and I knew that she was a women’s labor activist. But that’s barely scratching the surface when it comes to the career of Steffi Domike. My first real exposure to the material came from reading the entire finding guide. As I went through the finding guide, I made a list of boxes and folders with titles that intrigued me. That list guided me through the actual collection for the first time. Each box or folder revealed a new aspect of Domike’s career.  Her collection is housed in two sections, the first portion being in the labor section of the archive stacks. The materials I read were pretty much what I expected; pamphlets, buttons, flyers for various events, photographs, and newspaper articles. What surprised me about Domike’s interest in labor activities in the 19th century. However, I had only gone through a small portion of the collection so I put my curiosity aside. I moved on to the other section of her collection and read syllabi for her classes, personal art projects, and various proposals and summaries for her films. The materials from Life Without Father really caught my interest and I read everything from that particular film project. By the end of that first week, my understanding of Steffi Domike had changed dramatically. She was no longer simply a labor activist and filmmaker; she was a professor, creator, and researcher. She is this renaissance woman who kept her overall goal of advancing labor and women’s rights at the front of her work.

    The second week of the internship a box of new materials appeared on my desk and I was tasked with housing its contents within the permanent collection. I wanted to do the collection justice and find the best home for each of the new materials. I began by reading every piece of material completely. Once I had finished reading and making notes on everything in the box, I began making connections between the new material and the themes and elements of the collection. Events and themes began to come to the forefront: the Battle of Homestead, the Patriot Act, the decline of the steel industry, and non-profit finances. While reading the materials about the Battle of Homestead, which is the subject of Domike’s River Ran Red, I realized how old and embedded the labor movement was in the fabric of Pittsburgh steel. Until this point, almost of the materials I had read were from the 1970s and 1980s, which is what I had been expecting. I gained a completely new perspective on her work while working with anything dealing with River Ran Red or the Battle of Homestead Centennial materials. I became almost obsessed with the event and took on a small rehousing project for her binders of images from the film. In my mind the scope of Domike’s career had drastically changed. I had been under the impression that Steffi Domike became a creator because she desired justice for her own career within the steel industry, but in reality Domike desired justice for all those who had been wronged by the steel industry.

    As this experience comes to an end and I spend my final hours working with Domike, I have a deep sense of accomplishment for each of the materials that I’ve been able to place into the collection. I believe that I’ve done the everything within my ability to put these materials in effective places within the collection. But in truth, I’ve learned much more than practical archival skills this semester. I’ve learned to always approach a new experience with an open mind rather than letting my expectation cloud the experience. Domike and her career taught me that at times expectations can potentially be the downfall of a great learning experience. Academically, I’ve chosen to focus on history that is much older and broad in scope than Domike. I concentrated on Ancient Civilizations in my history studies and so Domike’s career is much too modern for my liking, but by no means does that diminish that value of Domike to me personally. Quite frankly, I’ve become quite fond of Domike over the past last few months and I’ll miss her presence in my daily life.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here


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