Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh is a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement.

Here, at the HAA Constellations blog, you can read about some of the outcomes of these partnerships. Learn more about Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh at https://haa.pitt.edu/ckp.

 

Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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

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

     

    A Multi-Dimensional World of Possibilities

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

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

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

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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Building Community in Homestead

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    From Pompeii to Pittsburgh: Marketing Centuries of History

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    From Behind-the-Scenes to The Scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Conserving Pittsburgh's Hidden Treasures

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

    Celebrating a Centennial: Shining Light on the Historic Hampton Hall

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

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

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

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

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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Mary Lou William’s AFM Local 471 membership card. These membership cards are some of the Local’s only surviving artifacts.
     

    Organizing the Difficult History of the American Federation of Musicians Local 60-471

    Char Pyle, Museum Studies Intern at the University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives and Special Collections – Fall 2021  

    This past semester, I worked under Coordinator of Archives and Manuscripts David Grinnell to reprocess the American Federation of Musicians Local 60-471 records collection, as well as help digitize transcriptions of the African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh Oral History Project interviews. The union has played an important role in the history of music in Pittsburgh, and I’m grateful that I was able to help make that history more easily accessed—especially important due to the themes of repression of information and accessibility within the union’s history, particularly surrounding the 1966 merging of the black and white locals (471 and 60, respectively).  

    The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) is a labor union representing musicians across the country. The Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union, Local 60-471 of the AFM, has a particularly storied history. Local 60 was formed in 1897, one year after the AFM was founded; in 1908, Local 471 was created for black musicians in Pittsburgh. The two locals merged in 1966 following an integration order from the AFM. While integration seemed like a positive step toward equality, it ultimately made it more difficult for black musicians to advocate for themselves and be heard. This interaction is noted at the beginning of one of the meetings between both locals while discussing the merger:    

    Before considering items, Pres. Davis asks: ‘How can we meet on common ground? What do we need? (to effect agreeable merger)’ Pres. Westray answers: ‘It revolves around representation.’ 

    This emphasis on representation is visible in Local 471’s proposals during the merger. They sought out guaranteed representation in elected office, as they knew they were unlikely to be perceived as equals by the majority-white membership base of the merged union. Since the merger, and still today, leadership of Local 60-471 is primarily white. Based on these minutes, it appears these suggestions were heavily contested and subsequently dismissed by members of Local 60. One of their arguments was that this was “a type of segregation in reverse.” 

    Sadly, records from Local 471 are sparse. There is significantly more material available for Local 60, including film reels, publications, meeting minutes, photographs, and various booklets. The merged local may have been viewed as simply a continuation of the white local, and artifacts related to Local 471 might simply have been devalued and destroyed. The effects of this lack of preservation were apparent almost immediately, as membership cards for many Local 471 members were lost in the merger. This led to a discontinuation of seniority benefits (even though the opposite was promised in the merger agreement), which caused many to cancel their memberships. Thankfully, there have been efforts to recover the history of Local 471 through the African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh Oral History Project, which includes interviews of former members giving their accounts of the union and the years surrounding it.  

    When so many former Local 471 members resigned, they lost the ability to play music in Pittsburgh without paying a fine, and the city missed out on countless performances and talented artists. This event greatly shaped the landscape of Pittsburgh music as a whole.  

    Going into this internship, I was mainly focused on learning the technical aspects of working in archives. I didn’t expect to become so invested in this story, but I’m grateful that I got to be a part of making it heard. This work has taught me about the importance of proper processing in order to make a collection available to researchers.  

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Early Conservation and It’s Lasting Effects

    Yara Makasakit, Museum Studies Intern at the University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives and Special Collections – Fall 2021 

    Though environmental conservation may seem like just another passing trend, the idea of protecting wildlife has been around for thousands of years. Many Indigenous cultures have held the natural world up with great respect and continue to advocate for its protection, like the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska. These groups paved the way for government bodies and everyday people to do the same. One man who devoted the entirety of his career to this effort was Jacob Bates Abbott. Abbott was an American artist, born in 1895, whose work focused on US wildlife and created art for publications such as magazines and books.    

    My internship at the University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives and Special Collections, supervised by the Coordinator of Archives and Manuscripts David Grinnell, was dedicated to the digitization of the Jacob Bates Abbott Collection. Before starting my work in the ASC, I did a bit of research and the information I found about Abbott was very minimal. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the work I was going to be doing. What I came to find out was that this lack of material downplays the significance of Abbott’s work. 

    Abbott had a longstanding relationship with the Pennsylvania Game News Magazine. This was a hunting publication with a heavy focus on conservation and safe hunting practices. He created the covers for the magazine’s monthly publications for about ten years and authored a few articles. Though Abbott’s paintings were not hyper-realistic, the observations he was constantly conducting shows in the detail of his work: the physical anatomy of the creatures, color patterns of the different animal’s fur and feathers, reflections in the water, and the surrounding greenery. He was able to accomplish this by carrying out his own research and studies of the natural world. Abbott’s field notes are filled with his sketches and notes of what he had seen in places such as Pennsylvania, California, New Hampshire, and more. Abbott was dedicated to observing the world as it was. It is incredibly apparent that Abbott cared a great deal for the work he was doing and found it to be important enough to commit most of his life and career to. 

    Although there are only limited outside sources about Abbott himself, the entirety of his artistic career is now documented in his papers at the University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives & Special Collections, a collection which includes most of his original work. Through this experience I was able to see what truly goes into archival work and its significance. This collection is so important because it shows the ongoing history of the fight for conservation, particularly on the side of conservation awareness. Abbott was able to bring the United States wilderness to people’s homes, offices, and schools. This allowed the country, particularly Pennsylvania, to see the beauty of nature and to garner support for its care. The natural world continues to need people to defend, protect, and speak up for it.  

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • University Art Gallery Entrance, Women of Visions: Celebrating 40 Years Exhibit. Taken by Jamie Roncinske, December 1, 2021. 

     

    A Semester at the University Art Gallery

    Jamie Roncinske, Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery – Fall 2021 

    Museum experiences are different for everyone. That is part of what makes a museum such an important venue of culture: where you experience art and learn about others, as well as yourself. I had the opportunity to experience a museum in an entirely new way through my work as a Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery in the Fall of 2021.  

    My work at the University Art Gallery at the University of Pittsburgh opened the doors for me to learn about and participate in the vital work that goes into creating a valuable experience for museum visitors, focusing on the main exhibit of the semester; Women of Visions: Celebrating 40 Years. It also gave me the opportunity to experience many types of museum work that make a great exhibit possible. Under the guidance of Isaiah Bertagnolli, Graduate Assistant at the University Art Gallery, I aided in prepping gallery spaces for exhibits, sorting digital archives, welcoming and facilitating visitor experiences, as well as creating my own project in educational programming to foster meaningful interaction with the Women of Visions exhibit for students and visitors of all ages. My work at the University Art Gallery gave me a well-rounded experience of all the components that go on behind the scenes in creating and running an exhibit from beginning to end. I assisted in the preliminary work of painting walls and allocating gallery space for different works and was given a space in conversations with professionals about how these factors have power to change the tone and meaning of an exhibit.  

    As the exhibit opened and I moved into work as a gallery attendant, I was able to practice valuable advice given by Sylvia Rhor, University Art Gallery Director and Curator, about creating a welcoming and positive environment through interaction with museum visitors. Alongside my work in the gallery, I created three lesson plans for engagement with the Women of Visions exhibit to foster guided interaction with the exhibit as a whole as well as specific works. These lesson plans, based on educational programming research in museums, provide the framework for visitors of all ages to have guided engagement with the exhibit and gain experience deeply interacting with art in general, as well as highlighting the important and unique contributions of the artists’ collective, Women of Visions. My experience and interactions with museum spaces will forever be enriched by the knowledge I gained as an intern at the University Art Gallery, and I hope my work there has done the same for others. 

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • A look at the 8th edition of the Carnegie International, in 1904, and the most recent show, in 2018, shows some of the more easily visible changes the exhibit has undergone over its 125-year history.
     

    The Evolving Technology of Internationalism

    Bella Hanley, Museum Studies Intern for the 58th Carnegie International – Fall 2021 

    Now in the planning stages of its 58th iteration, the Carnegie International was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, shortly after its parent institution, the Carnegie Museum of Art, making it the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America. Though the show has aimed to display art from around the world (with the exceptions of three exhibits in the 40s centered on American painting), earlier curators and directors were limited in their interaction with artists outside of North America and Europe, both as a result of cultural norms and expectations of their times and technological and developmental constraints. In the past twenty years, the International has more truly embraced its name, enabled by an increasingly globalized world, inside and outside of art, to include in greater numbers artists from across Asia, South America, and Africa, along with those from historically marginalized backgrounds in the United States and abroad.  

    As a curatorial intern working alongside the team developing the upcoming show, which will open in September 2022, I have seen firsthand how the show relates to the concept of “international”, especially in times that make it both technologically easier and, with pandemic-related travel restrictions, more difficult. One of my tasks to assist the curatorial team, comprised of curator Sohrab Mohebbi, associate curator Ryan Inouye, and my advisor, curatorial assistant Talia Heiman, consisted of compiling information on artists from across five continents to share with the show’s curatorial council. The council members hail from Eastern Asia, Central America, East Africa, and North America, providing what Mohebbi describes as a “polyphony” of outlooks to ensure the show’s internationalism is genuine and respectful. Modern technology and the adaptations made in the past two years to make meeting with people you cannot physically be with have allowed for constant communication with this international team.  

    For other projects, such as compiling artists’ countries of origin in order to apply for relevant grants, or organizing projects suggested by international advisors to represent the artwork of specific regions, online file-sharing served as a major resource for the curatorial team. Unlike the early organizers of the International, I am able to access high-quality images of artworks through shared drives and servers, find artist information, bios, and CVs on their websites, and read proposals from curators thousands of miles away by opening my email. The ambitious scale of the Carnegie International (both in a geographic sense and in terms of the size of the exhibition) would surely be impossible without such digital tools. As an aspiring curator, having access to such a wealth of information and materials to work with has been a rich experience. As a student of art and history, seeing the International evolve as the world and the technology available to us inspires faith in a more globally inclusive and connected museum culture in the decades ahead. 

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

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