Academic Interns

    • The Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt
    • Implementation of Front-End Evaluations
    • Implementation of Front-End Evaluations
    The Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt

    The Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt

     

    Audience Evaluations at the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt

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

    As an undergraduate student who is double majoring in Anthropology and Art History with a Museum Studies minor, I was overwhelmed when offered the opportunity to work side-by-side with Dr. Erin Peters, assistant curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, during the initial stages of development for the institution’s new ancient Egyptian exhibit.

    I began my position as a curatorial intern by reading articles and reports as background information, which explained how audience evaluations are designed, implemented, and reported in a museum. After this initial research, I developed my own audience evaluations that I then conducted on visitors of the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt. Two evaluations resulted in the form of questionnaires. The first was a summative evaluation of the current exhibit, while the second utilized front-end methodology focusing on the ideas that have been formulated for the new exhibit. I spent approximately 24 hours and 55 minutes conducting these evaluations, receiving a total of 86 responses for the summative questionnaire and 83 responses for the front-end survey. I then analyzed the results and produced a report that will be included in the institution’s proposal for the new Egyptian exhibit, “Egypt on the Nile”. In this report, I drew conclusions about visitors’ responses and made suggestions regarding the modification, addition, or elimination of elements included in the current ideas for the new exhibit.

    Through my work with Dr. Peters, I learned valuable information about audience evaluation techniques and the process of designing new exhibits in museums. Additionally, the challenges that arose resulted in beneficial learning experiences. From the implementation of my evaluations, I learned about the different sampling techniques that can be utilized. After attempting to offer my questionnaire to every fourth group exiting the exhibit, I found that the varying amounts of time that participants took to complete the survey restricted me from doing so, as I only had one laptop on which the questions could be completed. Because of this difficulty, I decided to change my evaluation methods for the second questionnaire. I then had both a laptop and paper surveys available so that multiple participants were able to complete the questionnaire at one time. This allowed me to ask every group that exited the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt rather than waiting for every fourth group. These methods proved to be much more successful and brought an increased amount of consistency to the implementation of my evaluations.

    Because I hope to work at either an art or natural history museum in the future, possibly in exhibit design or educational programming, this position provided me with significant real-world experience in a museum setting. My internship allowed me to expand my understanding of museum evaluation techniques, technical writing and reporting, and the various roles that work together to create a new museum exhibit.

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    Curation, CollectiveAccess, and Colloquia at the University Art Gallery

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery - Fall 2016

    This fall, I was brought on as the academic intern to assist UAG Curator Isabelle Chartier with organizing and entering information into CollectiveAccess, our current database. Because the UAG has a massive collection of over 3000 objects, I was tasked with working with large groups of objects at a time, researching their origins and related entities while filling in discrepancies in data. For four days of the week I would come into the gallery, plop down at my work station, log in to my computer, and get cracking at the database. While working, I would cross-check with primary sources: files on the donors, artists, and objects themselves. My work station was a perpetual mess, a space that remained in constant flux. My first duty took me a good five weeks, and that was working on the Inuit Art Collection. A large collection with a long history, it was my first real job getting used to the database and familiarizing myself with all of its fields. I was even given the chance to curate a small exhibition of works from it, which was a crazy experience - and a very rewarding one! Working with and handling the objects was nerve-wracking and thrilling, and it was a job that, in hindsight, I'm more than glad that I got the chance to help with. I moved on then to helping set up the online exhibition for Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts. This exhibition, put on last fall by the talented students of the Museum Studies Seminar, gathered works from black artists working in Pittsburgh and paired them with art by black artists within our own collection. My job was to enter each object into Collective Access, as well as any information on the objects we had, and format the exhibition to look nice. I also worked with Isabelle to send out e-mails to the artists to ask for their rights to put their images on the site. The exhibition should soon be on the UAG website for everyone to see and enjoy, so stay tuned! My last, big project was working with the Ackerman Collection, a collection of mostly contemporary prints and drawings gifted to the University through a philanthropic foundation called the Ackerman Foundation. This foundation regulated the donation of artwork to universities by connecting schools with individual donors, and then facilitating shipping and correspondence between all involved parties. When the gift arrived at Pitt, however, it came riddled with problems - some pieces were missing, with new, unmentioned ones coming in their place, among other things. The administration had documented these discrepancies before, but many objects had never been formally accessioned, and with our numbering system, both Isabelle and I were anxious about installing any changes that could cause ripples in how other objects were documented. I worked for weeks at combing through files for discrepancies, charting the movements of each object and entering in what information I could find, and with Isabelle's help and input, we got the chance to formally accession all of the works that were held in question, effectively closing the book on one of the collection's mysteries - literally on my last day at work! This internship reads on paper as a desk job working with a database, which may seem a stale prospect, but it was anything but. Working with Isabelle and Paulina Pardo, the graduate TA, was an incredibly rewarding, fun, and lively experience. Each day, I got to learn something new about our collection, and spend ages wringing my hands at questions of how to document objects as carefully as possible. At the end of the semester, I was even invited to speak at the HAA department's weekly colloquium about my work, which was a great chance to tie up loose ends, and reflect upon all that I had gotten to do here. The job was great fun, my boss was incredible (and patiently responded to all of my questions!), and I know that I'll miss going into work again when the new semester starts. Luckily, I know that I'll have another year to see all that the UAG has to offer, and I'm sure that everyone there will continue to educate, engage, and surprise us for years to come.

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  • Main Lobby of The Heinz History Center

     

    Heinz History Center- The Italian American Program (complete with outdoor bocce)

    Museum Studies Intern at the Senator John Heinz History Center - Fall 2016 

    This summer, I was able to complete an Internship at the Senator John Heinz History Center within their Italian American program. Here, I was able to meet with donors and handle collections. The biggest feeling of success was not only getting to work with other people who were as passionate about Italian American history as me, but also getting to work in the highly competitive field of museum curators and exhibitionists. As a Museum Studies Minor, this internship allowed me to use my knowledge of the Italian language to translate documents, and combine that with my love of history, and furthering education. Throughout the summer, I met with various donors and was able to hear their stories of their immigration, or of their parents and other families immigrations. I worked closely with a project that focused on a group called I Campagnoli, an Italian folk dance and singing group. From the members I received pamphlets and photos and other memorable items from their time together. From these items I started curating an online exhibition for the group, that I was unfortunately not able to complete due to time, but at least had the experience of working with digital media which to me is important as it seems many museums are taking this route for future exhibits since it eliminates the concern of accessibility and preservation. This site is still not complete as there are so many interviews to transcribe, and other collections to be archived and used. In addition to this online work, I was also able to see the side of collections and preservation, education, and many other elements of the museum. This is one of the benefits I felt I had in such a big museum- I was always working and getting an experience! By having this internship over the summer, I was fortunate enough to participate in their Bocce Event, which is an outdoor bocce competition with many teams competing with sponsoring companies. This by far was one of the more exciting experiences as I not only got to watch players compete, but there was live music and free food and drinks. I felt this is program showed me the effectiveness of fundraising for a museum and how events don't always have to be educational or history based. Although my internship here has ended, I’m still volunteering at events and promoting the Italian American website and exhibition. This past October I attended Italian American Heritage Day and was able to see the group I worked with, I Campagnoli, perform, and it felt like a great culmination to my internship. The Italian American Program Online Content can be found at this link: http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/collections/italian-american-program

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    Botany Hall: The Advantages and Disadvantages To Navigating A Self-Directed Research-Intensive Internship

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Fall 2016 

    As I applied to an academic internship over the previous summer, I was invited to collaborate in an ongoing research endeavor that was being led by two Ph.D. candidates in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, Colleen O’Reilly of the History of Art and Architecture department, and Aisling Quigley of the Information Sciences department. Their research was concerning Botany Hall of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and was conceived out of the realization that there is very little knowledge about the conception of the hall and its content available to museum visitors. With the pursuit of finding more knowledge about this mysterious hall that is tucked away on the second floor of the museum, in the spring of 2016 Colleen and Aisling began conducting research through many veins like provenance, history, and individuals who helped make the physical hall, as well as individuals in charge of curating and making decisions about it on behalf of the museum. The purpose of the research was to eventually create an online exhibition of Botany Hall that would be available to the public for educational and informational purposes.

    Colleen informed me at our first meeting of their current research and end goals. I was very intrigued, but expected that I would do basic internship tasks to aid their process and help nurse along their end goal of an online exhibition. To my surprise, Colleen told me that they wanted myself and two other undergraduate students to conduct our own research of our choosing that relates to Botany Hall. We would eventually contribute our own final product, of which the platform would also be up to our discretion, to be a subset of their final online exhibition.

    After visiting the hall and considering what knowledge could be emphasized to museum visitors, I decided to do my research from an art historical and visual studies angle. I found the dioramas that made up the hall to be extremely interesting, yet contradictory. I was confused why there was an artistic painting in the background of each diorama. Why was art in a science museum? The time spent on my internship each week was rather autonomous and up to my discretion. The only requirements I received were that I must work on my internship for 10 hours per week, that I should keep a journal of my progress, and that I would also meet with Colleen weekly to discuss my progress and findings. The only person I reported to was Colleen and Aisling, as they dealt with the relationship with the university and museum. Other than that, my research and final product were up to me and therefore, my weekly schedule of what I needed to accomplish was the same, along with what type of final product I would want to contribute.

    Throughout the semester I would conduct research by finding primary sources related to the museum and the hall as well as secondary sources that related to the display style and related topics in visual studies. I would also visit exhibitions like the botanical show in the Hunt library at CMU, make appointments to see various Carnegie archives, and explore other areas of the Carnegie museums to research. Over the course of the semester, I felt a lot of feelings of being overwhelmed or alone on my research due to the nature of the internship. The autonomy can be very exciting as it is based on self-inquiry, yet it can also be extremely overwhelming when you have little direction on your process and end-product. Meeting weekly with Colleen was very helpful, but it would have been nice to be able to meet with the two other undergraduates working on their own research and projects on Botany Hall more often. Unfortunately scheduling became a major issue since we did not have specific time, we all met together during the week and our busy school and work schedules made it almost impossible to find time to collaborate and inform one and other along the way.

    Throughout the semester my topic also evolved many times as I found more information or realized I wanted to focus more on another element. My plan for an end-product changed many times from originally wanting to do a formal essay to the more visual and interactive media of a Prezi presentation. My final Prezi presentation discusses the oddity and general disinterest revolving the artistic qualities of the dioramas, specifically the idealistic background painting and why there is art in a science museum? I later go on to discuss problems of trustworthiness with subjective images such as art paintings that are used for the education of science. After arguing for why we can trust these images, I ultimately prove why those same artistic qualities are the what make the diorama so effective as an educational tool. Furthermore, I explain how art through different mediums and media can be advantageous for communicating educational material, specifically scientific information in this example.

    Overall, this internship was extremely helpful in strengthening my confidence in my research and preparation and time management abilities. It also gave me a taste of what it takes to do research at a higher level of education, which is something I found useful as I am interested in graduate school. Not only did I enjoy the material I researched, but it also inspired me to further this research. With an interest in focusing more on visual knowledge through the study of botanical illustrations, I applied to the London Field Studies Program in 2017, to which I found out I was accepted! If it were not for this internship, I would have never had the chance to do so much independent research on my own and strengthen the necessary skills, but I especially would not have been introduced to a topic that I find so fascinating.

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Academic Interns
    • Dioramas in Context
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Gallery Ambassador at CMOA

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Fall 2016

    For my internship, I worked as a gallery ambassador for Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA). To Organize Delirium is an art exhibit which includes Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica's original artworks as well as reconstructions. The exhibit contains participatory, wearable, and sensorial art. It will be exhibited in CMOA from October 1, 2016–January 2, 2017; The Art Institute of Chicago from February 19–May 7, 2017; and the Whitney Museum of American Art from July 14–October 1, 2017. As part of my internship responsibilities, I facilitated visitor experience by engaging in conversations with a diverse range of individuals. My primary concern was to educate the public about the life and artwork of Oiticica. I also indicated to visitors which artworks are interactive and which are not, ensured that artworks were not damaged, and directed visitors to act appropriately within the galleries. As a result of my internship, I gained valuable communication and teaching skills. I also learned how to better interact with and educate visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Fortunately, I will continue my work as a gallery ambassador beyond the end of my internship. In addition to the shifts I spent inside the museum, I was inspired to write a short piece of criticism on the ways by which museums address sensitive topics. In curating Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, CMOA had to determine the most appropriate ways to address Oiticica’s drug addiction. In To Organize Delirium, the curators chose to exhibit CC5 Hendrixwar. CC5 in an immersive and sensory artwork which includes projections of Jimi Hendrix’s face marked with lines of cocaine. Oiticica uses cocaine as an artistic medium to enclose, emphasize, and obliterate Hendrix’s face on his War Heroes album. Topics deemed controversial by mainstream society, such as drug use, raise questions about a museum’s responsibility to its public. Museum staff must navigate between personal ethics and professional responsibilities as an educational institution. Curators must choose between portraying the facts of an artist’s life without adopting a stance, expressing explicit disapproval of high risk activities, or eliminating all references to controversial topics. I grapple further with this dilemma in my criticism. Colleen O’Reilly, Alex Taylor, and Kirk Savage were crucial in helping me in the beginning stages of this project, and I hope to expand it into an honors thesis with the assistance of Professor Josten.

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    Changing Roles of the Botany Hall Dioramas Video - Final Blog Post

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Fall 2016

    It has been enlightening and eyeopening semester while working on the Botany Hall internship. Not only have I gain a great deal of knowledge about Botany and the hall and the workings of the museum, but it has allowed my to realize the amount of work and drive that is required for an internship that is largely independent work. My project is a short documentary about the changing context of dioramas, specifically those of Botany Hall, in museum context. Here is an exerpt from the intro to my script:

    "First constructed in the late 1920’s with its last exhibit being installed in 1973, Botany Hall depicts the astonishing diversity of plant life. The hall emphasizes four different biomes found in the continental United States: a Florida everglade, a Mt. Rainier alpine meadow, an Arizona desert, and Pennsylvania landscapes that include Presque Isle during the summer, a Warren County bog in the fall, and the Allegheny Natural Forest in the spring. Additional exhibitions in Botany Hall feature plants that have been used for food, as medicine, or in industry. Among these are a diorama depicting a western Pennsylvania herb garden and exhibitions of plant fibers, edible fruits and nuts and poisonous plants. Each diorama contains hundreds of specific species based on fieldwork research.

    Dioramas differ from art and other historical objects in museums due to their blend of unique scientific and artistic input. The early dioramas of Botany hall are the production of a specific impression that the artists, Ottmar Von Feuhrer, and Hanna Von Feuhrer wanted to create. Ottmar was primarily responsible for the backgrounds and overall design while Hanna and a large group of primarily women, made the individual specimens. Their work was based on scientific field expeditions that gathered specimens. From these collections, reproductions were made of wax and paper. Everything from the time of day, season, to exact plants is specifically and deliberately chosen to recreate a snapshot of a location in time and nature that is normally in constant fluctuation. The dioramas come together to form one entity that surrounds viewers in carefully recreated nature.

    But now museums all over the world are facing a new challenge. These dioramas seem very far removed from modern methods of display that use digital technology. Museums are a timeless entity, protectors of the past and history for future generations, but now that technology has become such a staple in people’s lives, how do dioramas compete with it? Prior to the 21st century, the dioramas were an engaging museum attraction. However in recent years the dioramas have received less attention and since the 70s no major changes have been made to the hall. Should Botany Hall’s representation of nature be adapted to fit the current context of the world? We turn to current Carnegie Museum employees to learn their thoughts"

    Getting permission and the chance to film the museum and its employees was a great opportunity that allowed me to work on my filmmaking skills and I gained a valuable insight into the world of diorama making and their current context in the Carnegie Museum. It was at times difficult to figure out what to do about the technical logistic issues such as permission to film the museum and its employees but luckily I had a great internship mentor in Colleen and she was always so helpful when it came to dealing with issues that neither of us new about. From flipping through old archives in the museum annex to constantly rewriting a script to finally filming the museum, it was a wonderful opportunity that allowed me to learn by my own mistakes as well as giving me insight into the professional realm of the museum world and the documentary filmmaking world.

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    Display and Design in Special Collections

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System - Fall 2016

    As a Special Collections Department exhibit design intern during the Fall 2016 semester, I was given a unique look at one of the lesser-known aspects of scholarly research. My responsibilities were primarily related to the curation of the exhibition, James Boswell, Biographer and Diarist, as well as the documentation that accompanied it, which is a critical but often overlooked aspect of curation. In addition to preparing the books for installation, I was responsible for formatting and printing the labels, compiling the exhibit catalogue, and preparing a Libguide, which will be accessible at https://pitt.libguides.com/boswell2016 upon its publication. Both the catalogue and the Libguide required research on my part, but are essential to the use of the Smith-Boswell collection by scholars in the future. Additionally, I helped out with any other odd-jobs that came up, such as re-shelving books, reading through various materials to determine their usefulness, and office tasks such as copying and organizing. Through this array of activities, I was able to gain a new respect and awareness for the level of detail that is required in a museum or archival setting, as well as an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes tasks that librarians and museum staff undertake in order to best serve the community.

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    Looking Behind the Glass: Rediscovering the Women of Botany Hall

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Fall 2016 

    This semester I had a research internship with the department to work with a group of undergraduate students on the dioramas of CMNH’s Botany Hall. With graduate student Colleen O’Reilly as my mentor, I was given the opportunity to create my own independent project on the topic of my choice. My primary focus was the role women played in the creation of the dioramas from past and present. This subject interested me most because it was a point where botany, museum studies, and gender studies intersected. The section of Botany in the Natural History museum was dominated by women compared to the other departments. The broader thoughts that challenged me throughout this project were about the museum’s accessibility to women during the different stages of botanical dioramas; was Botany Hall a space which simply allowed women to flourish, one that confined them to a subject that was considered “appropriate”, or one that was passed off as “women’s work”? I wanted to take a different approach to presenting this research so I worked with an online program called Scalar. Scalar is a platform that creates a digital book that allows readers to navigate their own path through the narratives that I present. The pictures and documents found in the museum’s archives were vital in the understanding and creation of this project and I felt that I needed a platform that showcased that. Though I ran into just as many technical challenges as I did with my actual research, it was really rewarding to watch it all come together

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Current Projects
    • Academic Interns
    • Dioramas in Context
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Battle of Fort Ligonier Reenactment

     

    Learning Through History

    Museum Studies Intern at Fort Ligonier Museum - Fall 2016

    Over the summer I had the pleasure on interning in the Collections Department at Fort Ligonier Museum in Ligonier, PA. During my time at the museum I was able to work in many different capacities to help out their small staff of eight, full-time people. For the first two weeks of my internship I learned the background of Fort Ligonier in relation to the French and Indian War, how the museum and fort are run today, as well as getting acclimated to using PastPerfect, their museum cataloging software. However, over Memorial Day weekend the museum was hit with some strong weather conditions and after that my internship was a string of duties and tasks that varied from day to day. Some of these included taking inventory of artwork and collections, packaging and moving collections to a satellite storage facility, accessioning and photographing new collection items, assisting and leading schools tours, and facilitating large site events such as reenactments. While this is just a few of the many opportunities that I had this summer and many of them are unrelated to making one cohesive takeaway, I learned more this summer than I could have if I had stuck to my original purpose at the museum. I learned about handling and accessioning hundreds of years old artifacts and how to interpret their context within history and the museum and how to translate that message to visitors of all ages. I learned how important it is to work independently while also taking into consideration how to best help others. But above all else the most valuable thing I learned through my time at Fort Ligonier is that you never know what is going to happen at the end of the day and when working in a museum you always have to look for new and innovative ways of presenting information as hurtles come up.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
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    Soldiers & Sailors Internship

    Museum Studies Intern at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum - Fall 2016

    My museum internship for the Fall of 2016 was completed at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. Originally constructed in 1910 as a Civil War Veteran memorial, the institute is now a museum, dedicated to telling the story of the American soldier from all branches of services and eras. During my stay, I was a combined educational and curatorial intern working directly with staff member from these departments on a variety of tasks such as cataloging items donated by patrons from across the country, assisting the in preparation of educational tours, building and organizing a new shelving system, giving/brainstorming critical exhibition feedback, and my main project: initiating the reorganization of the museum’s library materials. After the museum librarian retired several years ago, all of the primary and secondary source material in the book collection was transferred from the third floor library, to a storage area on the ground floor. My task was to begin sorting through the materials where a previous volunteer had left off the in the summer of 2016. I categorized each book in the room according to subject matter: Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, General U.S. History etc., and using excel, created a record catalog of every item in the Civil War collection. This catalog tracked keywords of the book, object location, title, author, date, ISBN (international standard book number), and publisher. Items were arranged alphabetically by title, and into X sections: War of the Rebellion set, General History, Battle/Campaigns, Confederate Histories, Union Histories, Navy, Personal Memoirs/Diaries/Letters, Bibliographies, Regiment Units (by state), and a Pictorial History. For future work being done on the collection, I devised a series of documents including a task list, Reading Room Policy, design layouts, and notes for those who work on it after me. As the museum continues to work on getting museum grants, this catalog may be transferred over to PastPerfect software, where it will be more easily utilized and managed by staff. Overall the internship opportunity has helped me in developing my career based goals in archival type museum work, and the collaboration process both personally and professionally.

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