Undergraduate Work

  • 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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    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
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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

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    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

    Categories: 
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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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    Photography: Bryan Conley, Carnegie Museum of Art
     

    Finding Detail in Dimension

    Author: Erin Patrick, Inside the Carnegie International 57th edition, 2018 Student - Fall 2018

    Artist Rachel Rose challenged students to explore the theme of “Depth and Durability” at a recent Tam O’Shanter Drawing Session hosted by the Carnegie Museum of Art, asking everyone to participate in an interval drawing exercise. We began with Rose sharing her struggles as a young artist attending Yale University, and the influence of professor Robert Reed, who inspired the session’s theme. Rose put forward the idea that art can be done in any time frame and with layers of depth. Her idea was a session based off an exercise routine with varying time constraints and focuses.

    After Rose’s introduction, the group moved to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Minerals where we were each given the opportunity to select a gem and draw it repeatedly for different intervals of time. Rose started with short intervals, increasing to ten minutes, and then back down to thirty seconds.  The process required a great deal of focus yet let us expand and express our relationship with the objects. Although slightly anxiety provoking, the task proved to be a great exercise in mental endurance and flexibility. How can you complete a drawing of a three-dimensional object in thirty seconds?   How does your interpretation of an object change between thirty seconds versus ten minutes?  Rachel’s process made us think through the dimensions of the object, which was reflected in the evolution of our drawings. Students’ works varied in texture, shape, size, and value throughout the process. 

    After the session, Rose allowed time for debriefing. We were encouraged to share our art and discuss how the time intervals affected our expression. The Tam O’Shanter session was a challenge in the best way possible:  we were allowed to let our creative process free, just as Rose has in her upcoming work in the Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • A 1908 Overland model on display at The Car and Carriage Museum

     

    Driving the Disenfranchised

    Author: Meghan Lees, HAA1030 Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar student – Fall 2018

    Organized by one of our partners, The Frick Pittsburgh, Driving the Disenfranchised: The Automobile’s Role in Women’s Suffrage explores how the automobile served not only as a turning point for modern life, but also as an iconic symbol for female suffragists during the Progressive Era. Through the installation of a range of women’s fashion and vintage vehicles, many in the trademark yellow of the suffrage movement, the exhibition sends the visitor on a journey through the early twentieth century activism. The creation of the automobile allowed women a form of escape from the confines of the home. It was a symbol of individual mobility and social change. Vehicles were used in activist rallies and decorated in the suffragist’s message for independence and equality.

    This history closely connects with the ideas raised by our exhibition This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation, opening at the University Art Gallery on 26 October. But one way that these exhibitions differ is in their overall tone. Since it commemorates the journey of activism towards giving citizens the right to vote regardless of sex from the first Women’s Rights Convention in July 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, The Frick Pittsburgh’s exhibit has an appropriately upbeat tone. It is conveys a feeling of pride in documenting the work of these early-twentieth century activists, and shows how a technological innovation, such as an automobile, can produce profound psychological changes in society. This is not Ideal, on the other hand, is less straightforwardly positive. With the title – This is not Ideal – we are taking a stand on issues of gender. The viewer is not meant to look fondly on the narratives told by many of the works we have selected from the UAG collection. Our exhibition asks the visitor to reflect not just on the changing nature of gender myths, but also on the progress that remains to be made.

    The Frick Pittsburgh’s Driving the Disenfranchised: The Automobile’s Role in Women’s Suffrage is currently being held at the Car and Carriage Museum and will continue to be displayed through October 21. This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation opens October 25.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
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