Undergraduate Work

    Tim filming the Titanic... After Dark Promotional Video

     

    Titanic: Dinosaur Edition

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2018

    During my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I assisted Tim, the museum’s Videographer, with filming a promotional video for the event Titanic… After Dark. Tim had cleverly storyboarded a video similar to the movie Titanic’s trailer, including iconic scenes from the movie–but with Rose and Jack being played by dinosaurs. We filmed at various locations in the museum, starting at the long benches in the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians. We used this area to recreate the iconic scene where Jack paints Rose wearing the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace. 

    From there we moved to the museum’s grand staircase to recreate the moment Jack goes to the first class club and sees Rose coming down the stairs. I helped to set up scenes, carry props, and assist the actors. I helped the actors adjust their dinosaur costumes, attaching the proper wigs and accessories to them for each scene. It was extremely difficult to get our “Heart of the Ocean” necklace to stay attached to the inflatable dinosaur costume, so I helped figure out the best way to keep it in place. I was even able to make suggestions for the best locations to recreate scenes from the movie.

    The museum frequently hosts After Dark event nights that have various themes, and are for visitors ages 21 and up. After Dark events occur at night from 6-10pm and are a unique experience where adults can visit the museum, as well as purchase cocktails. These nights spark a lot of public interest since they are a fun excuse for the attendees to dress up, see live music, fun demonstrations, and are centered around a unique theme. During my time working at CMNH, I assisted in creating social media content for the Zombies After Dark event, which was held in October 2018, as well as creating social media content for the Titanic… After Dark event in December of 2018.

    As a Museum Studies intern in the Marketing Department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, it was my job to help promote special events and exhibitions and to respond to event inquiries on social media. My work was overseen by Kathleen Sallada, Erin Southerland, and Tim Evans. Throughout my time at the museum, I was assigned a variety of tasks in order to assist the department in any way possible, but my favorite assignment was assisting Tim film the Titanic… After Dark video. When the final video was released on Facebook, it received a lot of positive attention from the public. I enjoyed being a part of creating such a great social media advertisement and seeing all that goes into video production. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • In this image, I am flipping through the only Jewish book in Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules (TC). To my right is TC (-1.4); the box where I uncovered this 67-year-old leather-bound text.

     

    Revelations in the Time Capsules

    Museum Studies Intern at the Andy Warhol Museum – Fall 2018

    This past semester, I had the opportunity to be a curatorial intern for José Carlos Díaz, the chief curator of the Andy Warhol Museum. Given my academic concentration on the intersection of art and religion, my job was to aid José in his preparation of Andy Warhol: Revelation (October 2019), an exhibition focusing on the Pop artist’s religious side. Contrary to many popular perceptions of Andy Warhol, he held very traditional Catholic beliefs, and his faith manifested itself throughout his art. My research for the exhibition led me through numerous scholarly texts and Warhol’s biographic accounts, but the most compelling source was undoubtedly the Time Capsules

    Starting in 1974 and ending at the artist’s death in 1987, Warhol compiled 610 Time Capsules by placing a mélange of items (from correspondence to food) into cardboard boxes and saving them in storage to be opened on a future date. Time Capsules is considered to be the world’s most expansive readymade artwork and all of its boxes have all ready been opened, stabilized, and cataloged in the Andy Warhol Museum’s Archives Study Center. I focused on Andy’s religious ephemera, evidence of his church attendance, and correspondence with his nephew Pauly Warhola – who received his uncle’s financial support for seminary. 

    Despite numerous dead ends and red herrings, I uncovered some important information that may be featured in the exhibition. Based on Andy’s daily diary entries, he said that he “went to church” sixty-one times over the roughly five hundred recorded weeks from November 1976 to February 1987. However, I found Mass programs in the Time Capsules from dates when Warhol omitted church attendance in his diary, which suggests that he was going to church more than he was willing to admit. By closely reading correspondence sent from Pauly Warhola to his grandmother Julia and uncle Andy, I also discovered key instances where Andy provided funds to support his nephew’s studies for the priesthood. 

    Andy was a notorious collector, especially of religious objects. Throughout the archives, one can examine Christian objects from kitschy collectibles to the Warhola family bible. There is even a Qur’an that Warhol picked up during his travels. Yet throughout Warhol’s entire collection, there were no traces of Judaica until I uncovered a Hebrew Bible in pictures (a Jewish book containing biblical stories with corresponding images) buried amidst the miscellany of Time Capsule (-1.4). This picture Bible, published in 1951 in Tel Aviv, Israel, was originally cataloged with the notation that it was a Christian object, but the miniature book does not include the New Testament. 

    After spending time in the Archives Study Center, I came to understand the intimate perspective that the material record can shed on the life of Andy Warhol. Despite the museum establishment over twenty-four years ago, there is still new information waiting to be uncovered about the secret side of the “Pope of Pop.”

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • 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

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  •  

    Archival Reflection at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh

    Museum Studies Intern at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh – Fall 2018

    For my Museum Studies Fall internship, I worked at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), where I mainly focused on a project revolving around the archiving and organizing of their past exhibition catalogues, some dating back as far as the early 1920s. Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, or AAP, is a member-based nonprofit that has been operating out of Pittsburgh since 1910, and has had well known artists, such as Andy Warhol and Mary Cassatt, call themselves members. The mission of the organization is to help artists gain attention to their work by putting together numerous exhibitions throughout the year, as well as through educational programs and creating a dialogue between the city of Pittsburgh and local arts. While my experience at AAP has given me a much more in depth understanding of arts nonprofits, my hopeful career path, than I had before starting the internship, one of the main takeaways I had from this internship was a broader understanding of the history of art in Pittsburgh.

    On one specific day, my supervisor, executive director Madeline Gent, asked me to go back to catalogues from the 1960s and 70s to find examples of well-known local artist Thaddeus Mosley’s work, who is currently a part of the 57th Carnegie International at the CMOA. I think this moment was when I really started thinking about how deep the Pittsburgh art community truly runs, and how unique it is to have artists that dedicate themselves to their city in the way that some local artists do. Seeing Mosley’s work showcased in AAP exhibitions from the 1960s made me develop a more personal relationship with the material that I was handling day-to-day, because of this restored admiration for the loyalty artists and community members have for our Rust Belt city. One of the reasons I fell in love with Pittsburgh was its rich history, and the role that the city’s inhabitants play in it. By working with and studying these catalogues, my understanding of Pittsburgh as being just a blue collar town transformed into  a much more complex appreciation of the multifaceted communities that make the city, and it’s art, what it is.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh by William Wall featured at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Studying the Anthropocene from Pittsburgh Landscapes.

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2018

    I discovered the history behind Pittsburgh’s great landscapes, most notably View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh by William Wall featured in the Carnegie Museum of Art. Scanning through various documents of the website Historic Pittsburgh, I found one from the Pittsburgh Fire Department from the Great Fire of Pittsburgh in 1845. This fire destroyed a third of the city, but ended up propelling the city to what it is today. The document included the events leading up to the cause of the fire and the properties involved. Each building had a story behind it from the saving of the First Presbyterian Church to the saving of the city documents in the city’s bank vault as the rest of the building was demolished.

    During my time as a research assistant for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) had myself dive deep into Pittsburgh’s environmental history. Albert Kollar, Collection Manager of Invertebrate Paleontology, originally wanted to extract information about Pittsburgh’s landscapes by using the paintings in the Carnegie Museum of Art. His original article made earlier this year is featured here. As he analyzed the painting’s visual content, he wanted someone to look into the historical evidence behind these paintings. This had myself sift through archives from the University of Pittsburgh and Historic Pittsburgh. 

    Finding the exact point of the fire and where it spread to, we confirmed that William Wall’s painting was fairly accurate in its depiction, even though it was done a year later. The weather in the painting was not accurate, but this was the time period where American paintings were to depict the United States’s beauty. We confirmed the weather by utilizing a list from the National Weather Service of how much monthly snowfall Pittsburgh gets from 1900 to now. This was originally to help with looking at issues regarding flood control, but it helped with the Great Fire as well.

    My experience as a research assistant for this project did help me with what I would like to do in the future. I found out that I am not a researcher, but rather someone who wants to use their creativity in order to provide a service to those around me. I am grateful for this experience to try new things before being pulled in one direction or another. Now, to the future!

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  •  

    The Creation of "Intimate Moments"

    Museum Studies intern at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Fall 2018

    For the past two months, I have been lucky enough to work alongside the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s REcollection Studio to curate and develop an exhibition using photographs from the Pittsburgh Photographic Library (PPL).

    This collection was gathered from a photography program initiated by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in the early 1950s, in an attempt to document the daily life of the American people. Lead by photographer Roy Stryker, the project consisted of a group of photographers given the task to shoot Pittsburgh as it was. This venture was one of the largest photographic documentation ventures ever undertaken in America at the time.

    The resulting Pittsburgh Photographic Library is a collection of over 11,000 black-and-white negatives rich with the History of Pittsburgh. The specific task given to me by my supervisor Brooke Sansosti, the Digitization and Special Projects Lead, was to develop an exhibition featuring photographer Esther Bubley, one of the few female photographers who took part in the initiative. My mission was to go through the collection and find a compelling theme within her photographs that would best showcase her work as a photographer.

    Going through a collection this large wasn’t an easy, or timely, task, and at first, deciding on a theme seemed almost impossible with all the possibilities. Bubley shot all kinds of subjects during her time with the PPL, from families, to community events, to hospitals, to architecture, and much more.

    It wasn’t until I read more about her life, that I discovered exactly what I wanted people to take away from her work. In her biography, her niece, who now owns her estate collection, notes that Bubley was a “people photographer”, and had the uncanny ability to achieve intimacy with her subjects. Another author, Benjamin Ivry, mentioned that “in her quiet way, [she] was an empathetic witness to silent sufferings.” Even according to Stryker, head of the project, her subjects “didn’t realize she was there, she wasn’t invading them, she was sort of floating around. And all of the sudden they saw themselves, not unpleasantly, yet with her discernment… and they said ‘My God, its interesting.”

    After this, I knew right away that I wanted to showcase those “intimate moments”, as they are often overlooked, and aren’t what one would immediately think of when considering a large city’s historical documentation.

    Once figuring this out, I was able to view the collection in a new light. I understood just how rare and fleeting these moments actually are, proving her immense skill as a photographer. Bubley was able to capture these quiet moments, therefore capturing people in very vulnerable situations. She took ordinary people doing everyday things and raised it to the level of art.

    With this theme in mind, I was able to select 15 images from the collection that I believe best represent this theme. The REcollection Studio at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, works hard to digitize and catalog the PPL in order to make it available to the public through online resources. With their technology, I was able to scan the negatives with immense detail and transform them into files that can now be uploaded online, or in my case, printed to exhibit.

    From there, the next steps were simpler, creating wall texts and officially hanging the show in its home at Gallery @ Main, where it will run though the end of December 2018.

    Curating an exhibition, and trying to select only 15 photographs out of a collection of over 11,000 is no easy feat. There is no right way to fully express the body of work of a singular artist. But, I believe that this collection showcases a really interesting perspective of humanity, and captures quiet moments in our city’s history that can never be relived again.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Emily working on Lowy’s materials
     

    Bernard Lowy’s Mushroom Mystery

    Author: Emily Pelesky, Museum Studies Intern at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation – Fall 2018

    Fascinated by botany and the personal connections within the field, Rachel McMasters Millers Hunt amassed a unique collection of historical botanical writings and artwork. Seeking a home for this educationally and artistically valuable collection, the Hunts chose the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Mellon University) in 1961. The collection has grown and diversified with time and is still accessible to researchers, as well as producing publications and exhibitions.

    As an intern in the archival department of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, I had the unique task of caring for and re-foldering botanist Bernard Lowy’s papers. As an anthropology student, I am interested in the study of the human past. In particular, I am fascinated by humans’ relationships with their environment, which naturally includes the flora that surrounds them. When presented with some choices of botanists by my supervisors, Lowy’s Mayan research stuck out. In reading through Lowy’s documents, including personal notes and correspondence, I learned about his work in Guatemala with Mayan mushroom stones. These artifacts (dating from approximately 1500 B.C. to 900 A.D) are effigies of mushrooms carved from volcanic rock. With much of Mayan culture lost, Lowy and a network of other researchers with whom he corresponded closely, sought to understand the purpose of these artifacts. This involved intensive research including referring to Mayan codices and taking linguistic approaches. Lowy and his colleagues concluded that mushroom stones are evidence of an ancient cult surrounding hallucinogenic mushrooms. 

    In handling Bernard Lowy’s collection, I was able to watch this research play out across time and space. The development of these researchers’ conclusions was clear, and I felt their excitement as they relayed new information across the world. My internship at the Hunt Institute taught me the importance of archiving as a means of preserving the stories behind scientific discoveries that can get lost in favor of research conclusions. Not only are their conclusions important, but their processes, failures, and collaboration as well. This was one of Rachel Hunt’s principles in her collecting and I witnessed its continued realization in the Hunt archives. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Dawn Kriss displays the operation of multi-band imaging equipment to student Jon Kobert (pc: Alec Story)
     

    The Intersection of Science and Art: Multi-band Imaging and the Carnegie Boat

    Author: Alec Story, Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Fall 2018

    At the CMNH, not all is as it appears. Conservators are working with new methods of scientific imaging in order to recover pigments lost from objects within their ancient Egypt collection. 

    New scientific methods and technologies can lead to discoveries that completely challenge our assumptions and perceptions of historical artifacts and museum collections, including photographic processing method called multi-band imaging. 

    The setup for multi-band imaging is quite simple: all that is required is an object, a camera, filters, lighting, and a reflectance and color standard. Therefore, multi-band imaging is a technique that can be performed with relative ease, and theoretically, in any location. 

    Through both a presentation given by conservator Dawn Kriss and hands-on work at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, we learned about the diversity of wavelengths within the electromagnetic spectrum and their varied uses in artifact imaging and analysis. Of particular interest to Dawn Kriss was visible-induced infrared luminescence (VIL), which displays a black-and-white image of an object. The clear contrast of black-and-white VIL images were - ironically enough - useful for discovering a very colorful pigment: Egyptian Blue. 

    Egyptian Blue, as well as other pigments, tend to fade with time or become completely invisible to the human eye, but luckily even trace amounts of pigment can be detected with multi-band imaging. In the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Dawn gave a demonstration of how VIL photographs would be taken of one of the museum’s own artifacts, the Egyptian funerary boat, also known more commonly as the Carnegie Boat. 

    As art history students, it was absolutely fascinating to experience the way in which human understanding of artifacts improves as new technologies are introduced to archaeological and museum practice. We look forward to hearing about the results of the analytical imaging at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and what it can tell us about the Carnegie Boat and ancient Egyptian civilization.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Illustration in the exhibition Paddington Comes to America at the Eric Carle Museum

     

    Embodying Empathy: Summer Internship at the Eric Carle Museum

    Author: Annie Abernathy, intern at the Eric Carle Museum – Summer 2018

    This summer I worked as an intern in the Collections department at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. I worked closely with the Carle’s extensive collection of over 5,000 pieces of Eric Carle’s work and 6,000 works made by other notable illustrators. I grew up reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, so this experience was deeply meaningful as an opportunity to develop my career and to relive some of my most cherished childhood memories.

    On my first day at the museum in early June, I accompanied two of the museum’s registrars to return some of Carle’s art work to his studio in nearby Northampton that had recently returned from a touring exhibition in Japan. Seeing his workspace and drawers of colorful tissue paper ignited a joy that lasted the rest of the summer working at the Carle.

    As an intern in the Collections department, I worked closely with the registrars of the museum to organize and consolidate the museum’s vault, whether this meant rehousing illustrations or rearranging whole shelves of boxes. I wrapped a hand-painted chess set with care. I returned works to their proper storage from the recent Caldecott Award exhibition. I handled original illustrations from books I memorized as a child– Shrek by William Steig, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

    More important than any famed artwork were the people who make up the Eric Carle museum. Beyond learning best practices in art handling and collections stewardship, I learned how to embody the deep empathy and inclusion cultivated by children’s books as a museum professional. Treating every object and visitor with the utmost care and respect creates a welcoming environment. At the Carle children yell and play in the galleries, breaking down the idea of the museum as a place of restraint, decorum, and quiet contemplation in order to celelbrate illustration art,  a medium that has historically been treated as lesser than fine art. 

    Making the museum a warmer and more welcoming space for all visitors is essential. Inclusivity and kindness are steps against centuries of institutional cultural appropriation, inequality, and elitism.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Xander describing his exhibition

     

    Politics, Propaganda, And The Steel Industry

    Author: Xander Schempf, Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Fall 2017

    Spending over six months working with Rivers of Steel Arts taught me more about the history of Pittsburgh and its role in the development of the United States than being born and raised here. As part of my internship, I had the opportunity to develop a new exhibition for the traveling “Steel Case” – a mobile display case that functions as a miniature gallery on wheels. In preparation for the exhibition, I began by sifting through Rivers of Steel Arts’ vast archive to create a list of possible themes. None of them were quite right, so I always ended up scrapping them for something else. Eventually, I stumbled upon some old magazines created to spread information about union rights. Searching for related materials led me to an array of interesting artifacts and documents that taught me a lot about the WWII era, a moment in US history that until now, I did not know very much about. 

    With the guidance of Director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Ron Baraff, and the Chief Curator, Chris McGinnis, I developed a Steel Case exhibition that examines the political propaganda produced before, during, and after WWII in response to the rise of the steel industry in the United States. The rise of the steel industry ushered in new political ideas, my case considers how the political climate of the period was shaped by two major competing ideologies. There were left-wing groups who sought to attract steel industry workers to the socialist ideology, and in response, there were large corporations who quelled and attempted to maintain the existing capitalist working state. Themes such as the “common man” and the “greater good” were staples for each side in discrediting the other and strengthening their own views. Yet, hidden beneath corporate language was a continued effort to quell movements that threatened their status. The objects on view are only a small selection of the materials that can tell this story, but the ones I have selected seek to illuminate the progression of these interactions from unions, the industry, and popular culture, exploring how their influence made its way throughout many facets of twentieth-century America.

    The exhibition is on display at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland through April 30, 2019.  

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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