Curation, CollectiveAccess, and Colloquia at the University Art Gallery

 

Curation, CollectiveAccess, and Colloquia at the University Art Gallery

Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery - Fall 2016

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

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