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


Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

  • Mary Ethel McAuley, Women Working on the Strassebahn, Collection of Rebecca and Tasso Spanos


    Say Her Name: Year of the Woman at the UAG

    Author: Sylvia Rhor

    Director, University Art Gallery

    “I refuse to be one of the forgotten women!” Artist Lila Hetzel’s defiant words were published in an editorial letter to The Bulletin Index in 1938. Hetzel was writing in response to a critic’s assessment of the annual exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), in which the author omitted the many women included in the organization’s inaugural exhibition in 1910. Among the excluded was a young woman named Mary Ethel McAuley. McAuley, a Pittsburgh native, was not only one of the inaugural members of the AAP, she was also a reporter, author, illustrator, painter and teacher. McAuley’s name was regularly in newspapers and on exhibition rosters, yet, despite exhortations like Hetzel’s, she has been nearly forgotten today. The upcoming exhibition in the UAG, Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines sets out to find her again.

    Although she has been referred to as an “untrained” or “outsider” artist due to her seemingly simple visual style, the research for this exhibition has shown that McAuley was far from it: She was a trained artist, conversant in modernist styles of her time, and deeply embedded in art networks, here and abroad. The collaborative curatorial team for the show, which includes Emi Finkelstein and Ana Rodríguez, has discovered a wealth of new information about McAuley, her painting process and her career. McAuley studied with Scalp Level artist Martin B. Leisser at the Pittsburgh School of Design, and, as early as 1910, pursued further training in Europe. When in Pittsburgh, McAuley taught weekend drawing classes in a downtown studio and exhibited frequently between 1903 and 1921 in galleries, department stores and museums in Pittsburgh and New York. A prolific writer and illustrator, she contributed regular columns to the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch and illustrated popular books. McAuley was a modern woman, forging a career as a painter and writer, and travelling the world at a time when women of her background were often expected to marry and raise families.

    The set of paintings that form the core of Behind the German Lines, was created around 1919 to illustrate McAuley’s first-hand account of life in Germany during the First World War, while she was a correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. From ration lines for butter and beer to the building of the railway. McAuley’s paintings depict scenes that she witnessed as an American woman. She captures the nuances of quotidian life at that time, paying special attention to women in wartime. Her paintings depict German soldiers in uniform standing alongside chimney sweeps in town squares, women shoveling coal, mothers and children alone on the streets while fathers and brothers were on the front line. The exhibition includes objects from the collection of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, including German World War I helmets, to provide a context for McAuley´s work. 

    Examination of the paintings by conservator Rikke Foulke revealed more about McAuley’s unique painting process. The works were painted or mounted on materials such as artist’s portfolios and board, and McAuley seems to have used a red linen as a painting surface in other works, heavily building up the layers of paint on the canvas. Ultraviolet light inspection uncovered heavy overpainting in certain areas, raising questions about interventions at a later date.

    The ten paintings in the show – the only known extant works by McAuley – were loaned by collectors Rebecca and Tasso Spanos. Mr. Spanos purchased the works in the late 1960s from Harry Eichleay, a local art dealer, who, in turn, had seen McAuley’s works in a gallery window in New York City. Shortly after buying these paintings, Tasso Spanos contacted McAuley, who was living in Squirrel Hill at the time. Though he never had the chance to meet her (McAuley died in 1971), Spanos vowed to exhibit her works and bring more attention to an artist that he feels is on a par with other modernist artists of the early 20th century.

    The UAG has also partnered with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) on a companion exhibition: Three Artists (Three Women). This exhibition highlights the work of AAP artists Tina Brewer, Fran Gialamas, and Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer. The exhibition is conceived of as a dialogue – across generations and across media – with McAuley’s works. The artists in this show draw on personal and cultural symbolism to explore issues of migration, identity and history in their works. Together, the two exhibitions allow us to ponder how women artists across generations explore these topics. 


    Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines and Three Artists (Three Women) will be on view through March 28th. The opening reception for both exhibitions will take place on Thursday, February 13th from 5pm to 7pm. Related programming includes a gallery conversation on March 19th at 5pm, with AAP artists Gialamas, Brewer and Cuellar-Shaffer. We will also offer drop-in maker activities in the “Say Her Name” Feminist Maker Space + Reading Room in the gallery’s historic rotunda throughout March 2020.


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  • Andy Warhol, The Last Supper, 1986. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh


    The Furtive Faith of Andy Warhol

    Author: Paula Kane

    John and Lucine O’Brien Marous Chair of Catholic Studies, Department of Religious Studies

    In a year that honored Fred Rogers as an exemplar of Pittsburgh and progressive Presbyterianism, the current show at the Warhol Museum embraced a more complex native son and his oblique connection to Catholic traditions.

    For the last several years I have worked with the Andy Warhol Museum as an advisor to its current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Revelation. The show is the first to highlight the artist’s religious background and influences. It closes in Pittsburgh on February 16 and will travel to the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and then to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The five rooms of the exhibit are preceded by Sunset, an unusual Warhol film from 1967 as part of a commissioned project for the Vatican pavilion at the 1968 world’s fair in San Antonio. Although the project was never realized, Warhol’s 33-minute shot of a California sunset hints at his anxieties about death and disasters–themes that consumed him in the 1960s–, as well as the spiritual sublime. Sunsets may be passages into darkness, or gateways to the dawn. The show then opens with “Ruska Dolina: Church & Community,” depicting Warhol’s local religious influences. “Glory & Graces” connects the tradition of sacred icons of his Pittsburgh parish to his well-known secular icons, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. “The Catholic Body and The Renaissance Spirit: Inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci” consider the role of the body in Warhol’s art and his engagement with sacred Renaissance painting. The final segment, “Sacred & Secular: Reproductions and the Imitations of Christ,” matches artworks drawn from elite sources, such as Raphael Madonnas and da Vinci’s Last Supper, with mass-marketed items like Jesus night lights. 

    In addition to Warhol’s own works, a variety of items enhance the exhibition: drawings of angels by the artist’s mother, who lived with him in New York; Catholic kitsch garnered from city flea markets; photographs of Warhol with friends and the pope; newspaper ads and clippings that Warhol used in his silkscreens; line drawings of body parts. Since this exhibition is the first to highlight Warhol’s Byzantine Catholic roots, it offered an ideal opportunity to consider religion in the life of a modern artist. A conversational approach to this topic seemed more fruitful than a lecture, so I invited art historian Erika Doss from Notre Dame to join me at the museum a few weeks ago for the evening event, which we accompanied with projected images.

    What does revelation mean for a modern artist? For Christians, the word has its roots in the cryptic final book of the Christian Bible, where the end-time is vividly depicted. It speaks of a world undergoing a series of crises before being transformed by the victorious redemptive work of God. For Andy, did a sense of revelation play a part in his life and his art? What does he reveal to us, his viewers? Our conversation at the Warhol hoped to reveal at least two things: first, that in the art world, the religious identity of Warhol was more challenging than his gay identity. As performance artist and poet John Giorno recalled, it was far worse to be religious than gay. It was hard for modernists to accept that religion still mattered. Our second revelation, therefore: Warhol was both religious AND modern.

    Warhol was surrounded at The Factory, his studio from 1962 to 1984, by a cohort of “lost boys,” mostly lapsed ethnic Catholics from working-class families who were constant reminders of that shared religious heritage. Andy was religious, though in an idiosyncratic fashion. In Pittsburgh, his family had moved to Dawson Street in Oakland to live near their church. In Manhattan, Julia Warhol continued to attend a Byzantine rite church, while her son went to Mass at least weekly at various Catholic parishes, rarely taking the sacrament of communion. Andy often stayed at services only for ten minutes or so. We can only speculate about whether he feared the Church’s condemnations of homosexuality, or lacked a spiritual connection with the sacrament, or just liked to watch the congregations without being observed himself. He customarily carried a rosary and a missal with him, and his townhouse was full of devotional objects. He was proud of meeting Pope John Paul II in 1980.

    Although not “a religious artist,” Warhol was both religious AND modern.  He made hundreds of prints of religious subjects, but especially in the two years before his death, when he  repeatedly focused on da Vinci’s Last Supper, using a German engraving of the painting. Here, Warhol’s production of copies of copies of copies using modern photo or print technology and overlaying it with camouflage or pink paint recalls the role of sacred images and relics in Catholic culture: there, the power of the object is not diminished by copying, in contrast to Walter Benjamin’s famous claim that the aura of the original could not be replicated. In Catholic belief, the copied item (a vial of holy water from faraway Lourdes, for example, or a blessed holy card) still carries its sacrality, and the portability of holiness is an important aspect of devotional culture.

    The exhibition segments on the Last Supper and the Catholic body remind us of the important role of devotions in Catholic practice and of the incarnational core of Christian faith: material objects that can be touched, smelled, tasted, and admired visually are reminders of the presence of God, who took on human form. Andy grew up during the heyday of devotional Catholicism in the U.S.,  and appreciated its “thingness,” often for purposes of parody and satire, which led him suggest tantalizing connections between the Catholic subjects of the great Renaissance artists and the cheap mass-marketed religious items of the present.

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    Frontpage of “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr by Katie Loney


    Digital Exhibition Maps Agency and Identity through Furnishings

    Author: Katie Loney

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture and Graduate Student Assistant in Public History

    How can furniture help us understand the world and its connections? As the Graduate Student Assistant in Public History at Pitt’s World History Center, I have developed a digital exhibition that shares the 19th century furniture from India which I study as an art historian beyond my discipline. “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr traces the movements of a set of artistic furnishings produced by the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company in Ahmedabad, India to explore important questions about agency and identity. In the late nineteenth century, the American heiress, philanthropist, and suffragette Mary Garrett purchased this set for her Baltimore estate, later moving it to Bryn Mawr College’s Deanery with the help of the American designer Lockwood de Forest—one of the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company’s founders.

    Through virtual “galleries,” visitors are able to explore the transnational histories of these Indian furnishings, tracking their movements from Ahmedabad to de Forest’s New York showrooms, Garrett’s Baltimore mansion, and the Deanery, where Garrett lived with her partner, M. Carey Thomas, the then-president of Bryn Mawr College. Looking to period photographs, correspondence, inventory reports, and other archival materials, the digital exhibition reexamines the company’s artistic furnishings and their position within Orientalist interiors, which evoked an imaginary “East” for Western consumption. At each stage, issues of agency and exchange come to the fore by registering the company’s furnishings as objects of skilled craftsmanship, commodities, and exotic luxury furnishings. Taken together, these galleries illuminate the ways nineteenth-century Americans and Indians used luxury goods to navigate their identities and social relationships in an increasingly interconnected world characterized by colonialism and imperialism.

    Almost serendipitously, my project coincides with a new exhibition of de Forest’s work at Bryn Mawr College, “All-over Design:” Lockwood de Forest between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr, curated by Nina Blomfield (Ph.D. candidate at Bryn Mawr College). This led to a series of collaborative events at Pitt and Bryn Mawr college where we were able to discuss both our exhibitions with the public. At Pitt, we hosted a curatorial conversation in the India Nationality Room. We not only discussed our approaches to work of de Forest and the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company but were able to compare this de Forest’s design as a turn-of-the-century venture with the twenty-first century Indian Nationality Room modeled after the Buddhist Monastic University, Nalanda (active from ca. 500-1200 CE). This comparison raised questions about the global circulation of materials, goods, and aesthetics and how they are used in places deemed new and foreign. Comparing de Forest and the Indian Nationality Room also highlighted the processes of appropriation and inequity on which nineteenth-century Orientalist interiors relied and perpetuated, while illuminating the ways in which the Indian Nationality Room negotiates issues of identity formation for Indian communities in Pittsburgh.

    This event was followed by an object study session at Bryn Mawr College, where Nina and I led an interactive tour of her physical exhibition. Bryn Mawr Special collections provided us with hand lights and gloves to share with attendees, so everyone had the opportunity to engage with the objects visually and tactically. 

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    Fig1. Margarat Honda. Frog, 2019. Multimedia. Carnegie Museum of Art


    Belly Up: or, A Journey Through The History of Art In the Shape of a Frog

    Author: Christopher Nygren

    Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Director, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

    In September 2019, the Carnegie Museum of Art installed a new work in the Forum Gallery: Frog is a five-foot long sculpture of a frog that Margaret Honda created in collaboration with Hollywood propmakers (fig.1). 

    The scale of the work is jarring and the positioning of the frog, which lays on the ground belly up, is disarming. In the animal kingdom, the belly-up position is rarely a good sign. If you linger in the Forum Gallery for any length of time, you’ll inevitably hear visitors whispering to one another, “Is this frog dead?”

    Many other aspects of this frog are also subject to inquiry. If one looks at the sculpture long enough and compares it to photos of the European common frog (Rana temporaria), which is the species of frog closest to this sculpted invention, they will realize that there are a number of important divergences between Honda’s sculpture and real-world frog (the number of digits on the forelegs, for instance) (fig.2).

    These are not “errors”; rather, they are hold-overs from Honda’s font of inspiration for this curious and playful sculpture, which is a painting by the Renaissance painter Bramantino (1465-1530) held in the Ambrosiana collection in Milan (fig.3). 

    Like most pre-modern works of art, the museum has given the painting a descriptive title: The Madonna Enthroned with Saint Ambrose and Saint Michael. However, this overlooks the most surprising element of the painting, which is the gigantic frog that lays on back in the lower right-hand corner of the picture space (fig.4).

    As a specialist of Italian Renaissance art, I know much more about paintings like Bramantino’s than I do about contemporary sculpture. Even so, the Carnegie Museum of Art invited me to participate in a public conversation about Honda’s new work. This event was an experimental format that was dubbed “A Conversational Dissection,” and it brought me together in conversation with Jennifer Sheridan, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography at the CMOA. Each of us presented for about 10 minutes, and our mandate was simply to bring our expertise to bear on Honda’s sculpture in a way that might enrich our understanding of the sculpture. Dr. Sheridan gave a very informative and rollickingly entertaining introduction to the biology of frogs. She introduced the audience to, among other things, the idea of “snout-vent length” that biologist use to measure frogs. Biologists have aggregated millions of data points to produce charts that show the link between a frog’s weight and its snout-vent length. Dr. Sheridan was able to extrapolate from these charts that, if it were to exist in the real world, Honda’s frog would with more than 900 pounds. 

    My presentation focused on the depiction of frogs in the history of art (mostly Western). I had never given any thought to frogs in art prior to the invitation from the CMOA, but as soon as I began looking for frogs, I started to find them everywhere. Of course, the “Plague of Frogs” is one of the curses that Moses brought down on Egypt in an effort to free the Jewish people from their captivity under Pharaoh (Exodus 8:4-5), and therefore I was able to find many depictions of frogs in illuminated manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as this Old English Hexateuch from the 11th century or the Morgan Picture Bible (fig.5 and fig.6).

    I’m especially fond of the illustration of this scene in a Hebrew manuscript known as the Golden Haggadah, which is a fascinating book about which I’d encourage everyone to read more (fig.7).

    My presentation, though, focused mostly on the oddity of having a frog as an attribute of St. Michael. St. Michael is mentioned both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, it is said that he will defeat Satan. In the Renaissance, this was usually figured by having St. Michael defeat some sort of person/serpent hybrid, as can be seen in this painting by Carlo Crivelli (fig.8).

    Looking at Crivelli’s painting, one can certainly see some similarities with Bramantino’s frog. However, Crivelli’s demon is clearly humanoid. Exactly how Bramantino decided to swap out this satanic demon with a frog is unknown. But about 20 years before Bramantino painted his altarpiece, Hieronymus Bosch had begun to infuse frogs with demonic connotations, as one can see in his altarpiece of the Temptations of St. Anthony, in which the hermit saint is taken on a terrifying flight on the belly of a frog (fig.9 and fig.10).

    It is unlikely that Bramantino knew Bosch’s painting and the story of the Plague of the Frogs from Exodus already suggests that frogs might have already been thought of as a demonic sign. Thus, it seems like Bramatino was simply using this logical chain of inference as his point of departure: frogs are associated with the demonic and therefore it makes sense that St. Michael might be pictured with a frog. What he produced was an utterly unexpected image, and the history of that image now included Honda’s sculpture, which is an equally surprising and jarring image. Understanding how Margaret Honda found inspiration for her sculpture in the oddity of a Renaissance painting offers perspective on how creativity and inspiration operate: Honda’s frog is as Renaissance as it is modern, and in that it offers a beautiful commentary on a topic that is dear to our department, which is how works of art manage to occupy multiple and diverse temporalities.

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  • Anna Schanne standing next to the Anthropocene Living Room sign displayed in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History exhibition


    Visitor engagement and curating the Anthropocene

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2019


    Natural History museums provide a space of learning and inspiration for visitors to better understand the natural world around them -- past and present. This Fall semester, I interned with Dr. Nicole Heller at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with their Anthropocene Living Room exhibition. The Anthropocene is a proposed new epoch in our planet’s history, defined by humans’ rapid transformation of the biology, land, water and air everywhere on Earth. The opportunity to assist in curation of the anthropocene themed gallery truly changed my view of natural history, focusing my attention on the modern relevance Natural History museums have on visitors. 

    My favorite part of the Anthropocene Living Room is its approach at including contemporary research and showcasing visitors that nature is dynamic, not something we can simply put in a display case. Science Today is the portion of the exhibit that artfully exhibits seven fresh articles about nature in the present and human involvement, however connected. Part of the curation process is to find new articles and prepare them for display. This is where I come in. During this internship, I curated 9 articles over the course of two Science Today rotations.

    It is not surprising that a Geology major like myself would greatly enjoy nature articles, but natural history museums need to present themselves in a way that is appealing and welcoming to anyone and everyone. 

    I created a survey using Qualtrics program to understand the overall visitor sentiment towards the exhibit, as well as the idea of the “anthropocene” in general. I later compared the results of over fifty completed surveys to a different, but related survey from the previous year. My results provided insight into how visitors interact and learn from an exhibit. This also helped me to see the bigger picture of how small tasks like visitor observations and survey collection can give significant insight into what works and what does not when wanting to excite and educate visitors.

    An additional aspect of my internship was to record visitor observations and make comparisons to evaluate what features and topics draw in a visitor to engage with a space. The result of this project is a series of data that can now go towards creating a map of visitor dwell time throughout the museum. This can later be used for new exhibit placement to reach maximum efficiency and pleasure for visitors.

  • Olivia and fellow intern help Curator David Oresick frame a photo


    Behind the Scenes of a Photo Gallery

    Museum Studies Intern at Silver Eye Center for Photography – Fall 2019 

    When I began my internship at Silver Eye Center for Photography, I was pleasantly surprised by just how hands-on my position would be. Just a few weeks after it started, we began preparing for an upcoming exhibition with an Indonesian artist, Leonard Suryajaya. Suryajaya’s artistic vision for the gallery included hanging over 4,000 small prints each covered with 30 tiny mirrors and the application of specially designed wallpaper transformed the walls to complement the thirteen large framed color prints. This exhibition installation was very challenging, but it was so validating to be able to point to exactly where I contributed and to see just how much we could transform the space. I was very excited to be immediately learning new, practical art-handling skills that are essential to museum work. Over the semester, my internship proved more and more helpful and challenging in this aspect. 

    Installing this exhibition encompassed only a fraction of the skills we honed this semester. My very first day my fellow interns and I were tasked with taking apart the last exhibition’s framed works and wrapping them to be packaged and sent back to their respective artists.  

    The first few weeks of my internship were spent getting us familiar with the Silver Eye Lab. As a Studio Arts major, I was very interested in the fact that Silver Eye has its own space for practicing artists in partnership with the gallery. With the help of Lab Manager Sean Stewart, I learned how to print photographs on different media, develop film, edit film, create and assemble mattes and frames, and package artwork for shipping. Because the staff of the center includes only three people, it was not long before the other interns and I were trusted to complete these tasks independently.  

    Now that the semester is coming to an end, I find myself thinking back on just how much I have learned. The guidance of my supervisor, Assistant Curator and Communications Coordinator Kate Kelley, has been invaluable in teaching us exhibition development, marketing strategies, and curatorial writing along with the skills we were taught by Sean Stewart in the lab. Because of the very small staff at Silver Eye, I felt very lucky to be able to foster wonderful relationships with the staff and other interns, as well as get real hands-on experience with everything that happens at a photo gallery behind the scenes. 

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  • Joanna Harlacher and Dr. Chase Mendenhall, Assistant Curator, Birds with the Guerilla Girl’s Posters Featured in the Carnegie Museum of Art


    Women Behaving Badly (in Science)

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2019

    This semester, I had the opportunity to intern as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as a research assistant for an upcoming exhibition on gender in the natural world. I was charged with the task of finding novel objects that could be featured in the exhibition. Working with my mentor, Chase Mendenhall, I was able to identify several pieces that I deemed related to the exhibition theme. This opportunity was beneficial as I was able to witness the process of exhibition development. I also gained knowledge about the cultural sector and positions in the museum field. Because of this invaluable experience, In the future, I would like to pursue a career in curation.

    Many parts of the exhibit will include feminist critiques of the ways science ignored and excluded many people and ideas on the basis of their gender. When researching, I was inspired by the artist collective the Guerrilla Girl’s revolutionary approach to revealing inequalities, specifically inside the museum, including the posters on view in the Carnegie Museum of Art. Dr. Mendenhall and I wondered what might happen if the Guerilla Girls moved into natural history spaces to highlight gender biases. It occurred to me that we could highlight female scientists in this same style. Specifically, I want to highlight women who are “behaving badly” in scientific fields. Through this internship, I proposed to dedicate space in the exhibit to feature women how had faced forms of gendered backlash in the sciences which could include important scientists such as Joan Roughgarden, Lynn Margulis, and Jane Goodall. Joan Roughgarden is an American ecologist and evolutionary biologist who has critiqued Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Lynn Margulis was a biologist whose serial endosymbiotic theory (SET) of eukaryotic cell development revolutionized modern understandings of the origin of life. Jane Goodall is a primatologist and anthropologist who has made great strides towards understanding the social relationships of chimpanzees and discovered that chimpanzees can make and use tools. Naming these women and showcasing their important contributions would help correct the common histories which leave them out. 

    Aside from this initiative, I developed several other exhibition concepts and objects related to the overarching theme. This internship has helped me to grow not only academically, but personally as I gained new insight on relevant issues. I am enthusiastic about the future development of this project and I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Mendenhall.

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  • Myself examining a personal letter of Dr. Haas prior to translating it from German to English at the archives of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation


    The Search for a Missing Dialogue: The Life of Botanist Dr. Theodor Philipp Haas

    Museum Studies Intern at Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation – Fall 2019

    Botany can pertain to more than the study of plants — researching botany can provide a lesson in history and geography but also an intimate insight onto how one looks at the world. The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation houses boxes of letters written to and from Dr. Theodor Philipp Haas, personal photographs, and unpublished research. Haas was a well-respected botanist in Munich whose many accomplishments in botany were distinguished by his travels and remarkable experience as a Jewish scientist escaping the rise of the Nazi Regime. As an intern, my role was to translate and research as well as provide contextual footnotes in order to fill gaps in the personal history contained in Haas’s archives. Working with these documents required reading in both German and French. Some of the German documents are handwritten in Sütterlin, a form of traditional German handwriting that has not been traditionally taught since the second half of the nineteenth century. During my internship, I applied my knowledge of languages and my ability to read Sütterlin while also diving into botany, a topic previously foreign to me.

    Though imprisoned in the Dachau Concentration Camp, Haas was released after six weeks because of the visa he obtained before his imprisonment. Haas was placed on the List of Displaced German Scholars, a list composed of prominent scholars who were threatened by the Nazi regime in 1933. The list aimed to help scholars leave Europe and continue their work in a country not threatened by the Nazi Party. Haas left for the United States and ultimately received a position at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, becoming a well-known figure in botany.

    This was just one aspect of Haas’s life that I learned about in my internship. His notes and letters provide a raw account of his story and trips he made while fleeing Germany through Asia — specifically Kobe, Japan, which was not a common port to the United States from Western Europe — before entering through San Francisco. His documents provide an intimate glimpse into a man’s life and love for plants that often were a lifeline for Haas to find hope and meaning despite all the pain and loss he endured. Through his descriptions of the plants he studied and his travels, it became clear that botany was his way to identify with the changing world around him and remain true to his past and identity.

    Working directly with the material I am translating in the archives, and closely with the documents I have received access from the Arolsen Archives in Germany as well as multiple archives and academic institutions Haas was affiliated with in Munich, I am able to help fill in missing pieces in his life trajectory, and help the public better understand Haas not as a botanist but as a human being.

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  • In the stacks of the Detre Library and Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center

    Uncovering the History of the Local Art and Music Scene

    Museum Studies Intern at the Senator John Heinz History Center – Fall 2019

    As an intern at the Detre Library and Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, I had the rewarding opportunity this semester to contribute to preserving the history of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. The Detre Library and Archives has an expansive number of collections from families, businesses, artists, and events from throughout Pittsburgh’s History. My job as an intern was to process a handful of collections. This included organizing and researching the materials in the collections, as well as creating finding aids and catalogue entries for them. Most of the collections I processed involved cultural spaces in Pittsburgh, such as live music venues and art galleries. I felt that my research revealed a lot to me about Pittsburgh’s history and culture, and I found a new appreciation of my community because of my work. 

    Delving into aspects of Pittsburgh’s history that I did not know much about was one of my favorite parts of this internship. Two of the collections I processed had material on the Pittsburgh music scene from the 1970s to 2000. Through one collection on a Pittsburgh-based band called The Damaged Pies, I was surprised to find how many unique opportunities there were for local musicians in Pittsburgh during that time. Through another collection, on a live music venue and bar called The Decade, I was introduced to the unique history of live music venues in Pittsburgh and the local and national acts they attracted. I found these materials really intriguing, and I had the opportunity to write a blog post about these collections for the History Center’s website. 

    The collection I am currently processing is on the Skinny Building, a 5’6 wide building in Downtown Pittsburgh that was used as an art gallery from 2001 to 2007. In organizing the collection, I was drawn into the material on local artists at the time, and their exhibitions at the Skinny Building. This collection, as well as those involving the music scene, gave me a new appreciation for the relationship between artists and the community in Pittsburgh. I’m grateful I had the opportunity study these materials this semester, and I hope that my work can allow others to understand and admire more aspects of their community as well. 

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    Artist biographies I wrote for the 107th Annual catalogue.

    Exhibitions and Archives: My Time Working with Associated Artists of Pittsburgh

    Museum Studies Intern at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh - Fall 2019

    In the fall of 2019, I had the opportunity to intern with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), an organization that has been bringing together artists of the Pittsburgh area for over 100 years. Through the years the AAP has supported and showcased the work of hundreds of distinguished artists including Andy Warhol and Mary Cassatt. As an intern with the AAP I got to research some of these artists in the organization’s archives, as well as assist in the set-up of their most recent exhibition, the 107th Annual, one of the longest running annual exhibitions in the world

    With the upcoming 107th annual happening, many of my duties had to do with exhibition planning. A lot goes into the set-up of this exhibition, which I got to see and experience firsthand. I assisted with membership and PR duties, as well as with the exhibition catalogue. Every year, the organization creates a catalogue to celebrate and record the exhibition and awards, as well as to pay tribute to past members. For this catalogue, I had the opportunity to research and memorialize members of the organization who had passed in the last year by writing brief biographies of them. These were printed in the catalogue and will be read by hundreds who will attend the show. Creating something that would be read by that many people was so exciting and rewarding.

    I had another opportunity to share my work with the public when the AAP was contacted by the Daedalus Foundation. They were asking for information about the abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell and his time in Pittsburgh. Motherwell juried the annual exhibition in 1950 so any information the AAP had on him was stored in the archives of the Heinz History Center or the Carnegie Museum of Art. It was my job to go and visit these places, and search through the 100+ years worth of monthly meeting notes, exhibition catalogs, and scrapbooks for anything I could find on Motherwell. I found quotes in newspaper articles from Motherwell, records of the luncheons members had before the exhibition, mail correspondence between Motherwell and other members, and more. It was great to be able to help out the Daedalus Foundation, and I got to learn about Motherwell and conducting archival research along the way.

    My internship with AAP has been so enlightening. I gained valuable experience in helping set-up an exhibit, conducting archival research, and in helping with the office duties in an artist’s organization.

    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh