Owned But Not Accounted For

 

Owned But Not Accounted For

Curatorial Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Spring 2020

 

The Carnegie Museum of Art has about 600 unaccessioned works of video in physical format in its collection. This means that the museum has these things physically in storage but was unsure if they had ownership rights to the works. Many of these unaccessioned items were compilation tapes or copies of artist’s works that contained several copies of copies. The goal of the project and my job was to go through a spreadsheet that itemized every physical piece of film media, whether it was a CD, hard drive, VHS, etc., and compile enough information to be able to make a recommendation for every video.

I had never heard the word “nebulous” as frequently as I did while working on this project for the Carnegie Museum of Art. There was no single satisfactory conclusion that was meant to be reached, and many films had been unaccessioned for 25 years or more, which meant very little documentation to work with. I worked with curators, database directors, collection managers, and registrars. The information that I needed to compile was found in the museum’s internal database, a filing cabinet in the offices of the museum, and archives in the basement of the museum. Once I compiled as much information as I could find from these sources it was up to the curators and registrars to make final decisions.

The most important thing I learned at the Carnegie Museum of Art had nothing to do with the media I was working with. Instead, it was being able to see and hear how museum professionals communicate face-to-face. My previous two internships have been at small galleries where communication was near constant. At the Carnegie Museum of Art my office was in a small library on the second floor of the museum on almost the opposite end of the building as the main offices. Clear and concise communication was key because you didn’t know the next time you would see somebody face-to-face.

The films and videos ultimately took a back seat to the experience of working in as complex an institution as the Carnegie Museum of Art. Learning how decisions get made in a world-class art museum and the extent of the information needed to make even minor decisions taught me how much respect has to be had for everything and everyone in the Carnegie Museum of Art.

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