Museum Mishap: Working to Uphold Museum Reputation and Secure Financial Future During Difficult Times

Photograhph of myself inside one of the Mattress Factory's most well known installations, Reptitive Visionby Yayoi Kusama


Museum Mishap: Working to Uphold Museum Reputation and Secure Financial Future During Difficult Times

Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory – Fall 2018

During the Fall semster of my junior year at the University Of Pittsburgh, I was able to intern in the development department of the Mattress Factory (MF) as a part of my museum studies minor requirement.

During the first weeks of my internship, news broke about an alleged sexual misconduct scandal at the museum. As a new, eager intern ready to delve into the world of non-profits and contemporary art, I was utterly shocked. Mostly because the people I had been introduced to were caring, responsible, hardworking professionals that wanted nothing but the best for the museum.

In my personal opinion, you learn the most about a person, or in this case an organization, by watching how they carry themselves during difficult times. During my time at the Mattress Factory, I not only learned the behind the scenes functioning of a popular museum, but I also witnessed all of the MF employees handle negative press with grace and the upmost respect. My coworkers worked hard to reach out and retain members, while being as forthright and sincere as possible. Not only did this show me how to me a good museum worker, but how to be a good professional in general.

Overall, I gained a lot from this internship. I honestly hadn’t learned much about contemporary art during my time at Pitt, so it was interesting being able to work at the Mattress Factory and be exposed to it on a daily basis. The contemporary art that the museum offered was quite a stretch from the history paintings I was used to learning and teaching about during my teaching assistantship for the HAA department at Pitt.

During my time at the MF I also got to learn the ins and outs of the installation process of the museum’s artworks. Some of the most popular installations at the museum are part of their permanent collection, such as Reptitive Vision by Yayoi Kusama that I am pictured in above and the Winifred Lutz Garden that I got the opporturtuntity to kick off the grant writing process for by writing a letter of inquiry (LOI) to a grant giving foundation. The LOI I wrote asked for funding for a renovation of the garden so that its educational purposes can be restored and museum vistors can appreciate it in all its glory hopefully by the fall of 2019. 

Along with researching foundations for grant writing, I also had the opportunity to research dozens of individuals and corporations and reach out to them about becoming museum sponsors, as well as completing some clerical work such as donation requests, mailing, and filing.

I am grateful for this experience as a student who isn’t quite sure what career path they want to pursue. Interning at the Mattress Factory showed me part of what it takes to work at a nonprofit, which is definitely something I could see myself doing one day. Even if I go down another career path, the lessons I learned from my peers at the Mattress Factory will be applicable in all walks of life.

Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh