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


    Botanical dioramas, collaborative research, digital space

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Aisling and I continue to chip away at our Botany Hall project, and it seems high-time for a status update. Back in January, we held a colloquium in the History of Art and Architecture department to share our progress and experience with three undergraduate museum studies students, Leslie Rose, Eliza Wick, and Bridget Lynch, who worked on our project in the context of their academic internships last fall. They all posted here about the research projects that they designed and executed, which will be included in our digital exhibition, alongside the work of MLIS students Kate Madison and Emily Enterline. In the colloquium, we traced the development of our research questions, and the network of experts and archives that now form the foundation of our work. We got valuable feedback from HAA faculty and students, as well as from CMNH staff who joined us for the discussion. Our presentation from that day is attached here.

    This semester, we have continued to distill the key insights that we want to get across in our exhibition, and what tools we want to use at this stage in the process. We are pondering a digital tool that we could potentially use to create a first iteration of our exhibition, such as Wordpress or Tumblr, something that could be flexible as we add, edit, and test with users. We hope that a first iteration will help us determine the best structure for this online experience, which is one of the key questions for us this project. At the moment, we are creating content in the form of Word documents of text and images, and hand drawn maps of how the content will interconnect online. Our ultimate goal is to work with a web designer to create a customized, interactive, online experience, which will require grant funding, so at the moment whatever tools we use need to be extremely accessible and adaptable, and not get in the way of us trying to plan our digital curatorial argument. As far as our future visions go, however, we are inspired by the structure of things like this Oxford Museum exhibition about brains. It is both informative and manageable, both guided and open, and it makes digital space feel welcoming and flexible as opposed to limited and tricky.

    We are also very lucky to be participating in this year’s Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh workshop, Consuming Nature, which will mean visiting local collections and participating in discussions with a group of other Pitt scholars from a variety of fields who are interested in notions of landscape and relations between humans and nature. We are cooking up some other plans as well for applying to conferences and organizing workshops this coming summer and fall as ways to present the results of our research and continue investigating how Botany Hall works, and plan to have a first iteration of our exhibition available for online viewing in Fall 2017.

    • Visual Knowledge
    • Dioramas in Context
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Students with Teresa Duff looking out of the window in Kevin Clancy's installation

    Museum Education at the Mattress Factory

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2017

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

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

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

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

    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    • Hayley in her office
    • Gems in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
    • Scribe in Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt
    • Butterfly on a plant in Botany Hall
    Hayley in her office

    In my office in the Marketing Department.


    Seeing the Museum Through a Lens

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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


    The Many Hats at The Warhol

    Museum Studies Intern at The Andy Warhol Museum - Spring 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Free-Text Tags: 
    • Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé, c. 1610. Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center
    • Isabelle de Borchgrave's creation based on Rubens's Portrait
    • Fashion exhibition research
    Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé, c. 1610. Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center

    Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé, c. 1610. Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center.


    Museum Education Internship at the Frick Pittsburgh

    Museum Studies Intern at The Frick Pittsburgh - Spring 2017

    During the past 2017 Spring semester, I worked as an intern under the supervision of Amanda Dunyak Gillen, Director of Learning & Visitor Experience, at the Education Department of the Frick Pittsburgh. My main job responsibility was facilitating the museum’s public programs, including program planning, gallery talks, adult and family programs, special events, etc.

    The Frick Pittsburgh is known for its historical significance as it is infused with the history of the Frick family and the 19th century Pittsburgh. At first I was a bit intimidated by the unfamiliar historical materials I was about to confront, but as soon as I entered the department, I started to learn about the museum's mission beyond being a historical institution. Revolving around its own collection, the museum has hosted and will be hosting a variety of exhibitions and corresponding programs to enrich its visitor experience. Their current big project is a three-year series of fashion-focused exhibitions —Killer Heels (2016), Undressed (2017), and Isabelle de Borchgrave (2018). These fashion exhibitions are not only opening up the museum to a younger crowd, but they are also offering a new angle for looking at the museum’s collection and history. The Killer Heels exhibition, for example, drew the public’s attention to the collection of footwear of the Frick family, and some shoes were put on permanent display in the Frick’s visitor center in order to meet the continuous enthusiasm about the fashion aspect of the family.

    As an intern, I was lucky to have a lot of hands-on experience with museum programs. I assisted in running special events such as the annual Women’s History Program and the Easter family program. I was also a speaker for the Friday gallery talk program and presented on the museum’s collection of Claude Monet, which I further developed into a digital project for the visitor center interface.

    My biggest project was designing public programs for the upcoming Undressed exhibition. The first phase of my work included conducting research on contemporary fashion exhibitions and their related programs, as well as learning about the Frick’s previous programs. Because of the increasing sensibility towards fashion in recent years, there were many institutions that have hosted fashion-focused exhibitions and programs, such as the MET, MOMA, as well as some smaller-scale, local museums, and therefore I was able to find many corresponding resources. But to narrow them down and extract applicable information based on the museum’s own specificities was much trickier. For each resource I found, I listed out their key features that can be potentially incorporated into our own space. This step was very helpful towards the second phase of my work, which was the actual programming. At first my development of ideas was not very constructive. However, in the meantime, I shadowed the Women’s History program, and during the process of planning and preparation, I learned about how much details to be put into program planning. Based on my previous experience on our Gallery Talk program, I proposed adult drop-in writing sessions in the galleries to inspire more interactive conversations on our collections. Some other examples of programs I proposed are: live art and fashion—lace-making; a family ball with the Beauty and the Beast; etc.

    I am very grateful for this internship through which I gained valuable hands-on experience on museum programming and many other practices. Most importantly, it helped me to find my passion on museum education, and I believe I will benefit from the knowledge and skills I learned from this internship in my future career.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Creation and Organization of an Archive

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

    In the undocumented archives of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Photography and Contemporary Art library, there was a book titled, simply, Holy Bible. Looking identical to the actual Holy Bible, this artist book by Oliver Chanaren and Adam Broomberg was almost put into the discard bin to be sold.  Luckily my supervisor and her associate realized it was a rare artist book, and we added it to the CMOA collection. For the remaining year I continued to expand this library collection with many interesting readings.

    Working under my supervisor Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant of Photography and Contemporary Art, I worked to help catalogue their collection of books onto the online archive LibraryThing, label each one, and arrange them in their back library room so their collection could be complete and comprehensive.

    The program LibraryThing is an online web storage space designed to catalogue and document library books in a specific collection, with several basic features and of course premium features for those that use it more extensively. A main issue with the program is that it finds books through only a few sources and only in a few ways. By typing in an ISBN number or title it will search through, Overcat, and the Library of Congress. Many books are not available in those databases for various reasons, and all of those books had to be benched to be looked at later and assigned call numbers through WorldCat and other libraries’ online catalogues.

    Beginning this project, I could see that it was clearly going to be large in scale. The creation of the library for this department was an interesting process as it essentially was creating my own library from scratch, and I was given certain agency in the arrangement and organization of it.  Looking back, I’ve logged over 2,000 books into their system, some even by hand when the online database was unable to register the titles or ISBN numbers of certain newer or older books. I started the semester working with another student who, while doing her own research, assisted me with some of the original logging, helping to lighten the workload.

    While spending the year cataloguing and shelving the museum’s library, I was also given the opportunity to help out in small ways in other parts of the museum. I was invited to the opening presentation of the new architectural exhibition at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester. I also was able to be a part of the Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh Wikipedia edit-a-thon, co-organised by Angela Washko, where I sent in a long list of artists in our collection that were women or members of the LGBTQIA+ community who didn’t have as big an online Wikipedia archive as many other white male artists.

    At the end of the year, looking back on my experience, I think I accomplished a great deal, especially after being given such a large task. Moving forward to the future of this collection, there are still many books to be labeled and shelved and the position is going to be taken over by another intern. I leave for them a proposal detailing what still needs to be done, the organizational aspects that I have created for the labeling and shelving, and a plan for the department that uses the library to keep their collection in usable order to prevent a collapse of the system in place.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Free-Text Tags: 

    Talking about "The Other": Resources for the CMNH

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

    This past spring, I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Erin Peters and the Department of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH). My job was to provide an outline for a potential curriculum to be used for docent training at the CMNH in talking about cultures which are considered “the other" particularly with Alcoa Hall, but also in general. The term “the other” or alterity in this context refers to cultures which vary greatly from western culture and as such are not well known among the average person in the United States and often the average person has grave misconceptions of these cultures. These facts make it difficult to discuss these cultures in a museum setting.

    In an attempt to tackle this task, I started by talking to professors in several departments at the University of Pittsburgh including anthropology, history of art and architecture, and religious studies to get their opinion on the subject as well as the current state of the cultural halls at the CMNH. I was also able to set up meetings with the director of the Department of Education at CMNH as well as the people in charge of training docents to get their opinions on the subject. I was even able to view the training videos that they use for training the docents at CMNH in the cultural halls.

    By combining the opinions of academics and museum professionals, I was able to get a good idea of where to start my own research. From there, I did a lot of research ranging from specific case studies of mostly representations of Native American groups in museums through to anthropological and historical theory. This took up the bulk of my internship by simply reading through the material and creating short summaries of each paper/book.

    At the end of my internship I created a short outline with all of the ‘big ideas’ of all of the readings for the CMNH as well as a set of summaries for the resources that I gathered. These will be presented to the Department of Education at the CMNH to help guide them as they are changing their docent curriculum.

    Overall, this internship was very research oriented and hands-off. I found that it helped me to better work independently and find better sources for research projects in museum studies research. In the future, I hope to use these skills to further my own research.

    • 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.


    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.

    Free-Text Tags: 
  • 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: