Undergraduate Work

  • Entry to Copy + Paste.

     

    Copy + Paste: Evaluating Visitor Participation in the Hall of Architecture

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2018

    Before I began my internship with the Heinz Architectural Center, I knew very little about the Hall of Architecture. I had walked through it a dozen times without realizing what a marvel the collection was. In my time spent as an intern working on Copy + Paste: Hall of Architecture, I gained an in-depth understanding of this gallery as well as an inside look at the efforts being made to enhance visitor participation and education.

    My main responsibility was to digitalize the daily surveys obtained by gallery ambassadors who also directed the HACLabs. After attending a few of the weekly meetings with the education department, I was given the opportunity to create my own surveys to replace the versions they had been using. This was particularly exciting to me because my background in the sciences had prepared me for designing new methods of data collection for data analysis.

    The surveys I designed were intended to give us a better understanding of what visitors were getting out of the HACLabs. For example, we wanted to know if participating in a plaster casting workshop would help patrons understand how casts in the Hall of Architecture were made-- or if it missed the mark entirely. The questions I crafted were meant to collect this information as well as that of the visitor’s experience. I also created a visitor survey for the Plaster Re-Cast app, in order to gauge visitors’ opinions about it and understand how it can be improved.

    The data evaluation is ongoing, but I am happy to have had a part in it. This experience has given me the opportunity to use skills I have gained from my college courses, while also providing me with a new understanding of the efforts that go into shaping visitor experience in a museum.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Amanda working with students during Afterschool.

     

    Mattress Factory Afterschool: Techniques of Two Teaching Artists

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    In the Spring of 2018, I was a Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory in their Education Department. I helped with Afterschool, the museum’s art education program for third through fifth graders. During my internship, ten students were enrolled and many attended the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Among my various roles and responsibilities, I have observed two teaching artists and how they facilitate their curriculum. A local artist named Suzanne taught the first six-week session, and Jimmy, an Alaskan native, taught a twelve-week session. The respective learning themes for these sessions were nature/habitats, and memory. I have been able to watch students develop artistic and creative skills through the specific educational practices employed by the artists.

    As a Psychology Major at Pitt, I enjoyed observing the ways in which these two artists ran their respective curriculums, given the many connections to the discipline of developmental psychology. From a psychological perspective I attempted to observe and analyze the ways that each teacher connected to the students, challenged them, included others, and the balance of roles in joint activities. One basis for this is the Simple Interactions tool a project in the department of Applied Developmental Psychology at Pitt, which I had experience with as a research assistant. For my purposes in the intern role, it served me as a foundation or heuristic, rather than an in-depth psychology study.

    Turning to the artist teachers, Suzanne’s eclectic personality influenced her teaching style. Though sometimes the classroom seemed like disordered chaos, the projects made by students were fun and unique, dynamic and amalgamated. Suzanne asked them to make “cool trash”, for bird nests and different habitats. The class made trips to the National Aviary, and to various exhibits in the museum for project inspiration. Her practice was playful, and her spontaneity ensured that the students enjoyed what they were learning.

    Jimmy’s methodologies could not have been any more different from Suzanne’s. He preferred structure, and made students relate activities to the overarching theme of the session – memory. At first he facilitated activities to gauge the students’ skills and to see what would need to be worked on early in the session. The projects built upon one another in very structured ways, and he was able to spark curiosity in the students. Overall, his approach to the program relied on planning and sequence, which was beneficial for the students’ development.

    The diverse approaches that these two artists conducted their classrooms impacted the experiences of the students. A rational artist will connect differently to students than one who operates more spontaneously. But in both cases, their methodologies have had significant impacts on the development of students.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  •  

    Building Lifelong Ties to the Mattress Factory

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    Throughout my teenage years, I would often drive into Pittsburgh with friends to visit the Mattress Factory. I remember the first time I was there in 2011 and being immersed in the installations for the first time. A few years later, I decided to reach out to the Mattress Factory to volunteer. I was involved as a museum volunteer from my senior year of high school to freshman year of college. During the 2018 Spring semester, I had the opportunity to work with the Mattress Factory again, this time in the Development Department.

    Since January, I have been interning under the supervision of Caitlin Harpster and Nina Friedman. Along with preparing for the museum’s annual Urban Garden Party, and various day-to-day tasks helping the office move at a quicker pace, I have been working on boosting museum memberships among younger adults (ages 18 – 25). Many in that age group attend an academic institution that provides free admission; however, the Development department is interested in how to increase memberships for those still in school, working, or newly graduated.

    As part of the mission’s goal of creating a new young adult and young professionals’ membership, I have been doing research on other museums’ tactics to attract this age group. Many museums create events that allow for networking. I have also examined possible perks that can be attached to the membership. such as a free magazine subscription or free member tickets to certain events

    While the Development department has been my main focus during this internship, I have done other activities such as shadowing docent tours, observing staff meetings, archiving past development materials, and participating in events at the museum. A final project I helped with is collecting names of North Side residents to support the construction of an installation/public artwork titled Skyspace, by James Turrell. Turrell is a leading contemporary artist from the West Coast who the Mattress Factory has continuously supported, including several pieces in their permanent collection. To acquire another one of his pieces in Pittsburgh would give the city at a clear advantage and enhance the public profile of the Mattress Factory.

    The experiences and knowledge I have gained throughout my internship with the Mattress Factory has allowed me to grow professionally and deepen the long-time passion I have had for the museum.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • The work station in the Library and Archives includes with needle nose pliers, which help to remove the nails from the picture frames. The gloves protect from the dirt that has accrued over the years since the theater's closing. The deframed photographs are separated into two piles: those that are fused to the glass and those that are not.

     

    Identifying Movie Stars of Yesteryear: Historical Photos of Pittsburgh’s Nixon Theatre

    Museum Studies Intern at the Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History – Spring 2018

    When the Nixon Theatre, a “Gilded Age” theater in downtown Pittsburgh, closed in 1950, Katharine Hepburn requested some brackets from the building’s marble columns so that she could remember her fond times at the theater. The manager sent Hepburn the hooks she wanted, as indicated in a telegram that came to the Detre Library & Archive, at the Senator John Heinz History Center. It came with a collection of photographs of musical and comedy stars, c. 1900s-1950s. The photographs were contained in their original frames, which is why about half of the pictures have fused to the glass of the frames. Additionally, a collection of autographed photographs that used to hang in the front lobby of the Nixon, were donated to the Heinz History Center by the family of the last electrician who worked there.

    In my internship role, my job has been to not only remove the photographs from their frames, but to rehouse them into acid-free folders and boxes, as well as figure out who the celebrities in the photos are. At one time, these celebrities were well known to the public, and it was probably unimaginable that they would not be recognizable in the future. If today we had a Taylor Swift picture, it would not need a label to be identified. However, many of these pictures are not of people whose legacies hold up throughout time, like Katharine Hepburn’s. With a lack of identifying labels for celebrities in the photographs, the newspapers of Pittsburgh have been extremely helpful in identifying the years, productions, and people who graced the stage and screen of the Nixon Theatre.

    This project not only enabled me to learn the general aspects of archival processing, but it also has also made me privy to conversations about what purpose libraries and archives serve. The Senator John Heinz History Center and its Detre Library and Archives hold documents and photographs pertaining to the history of Western Pennsylvania and the lives of its residents. Because the Nixon Theatre was located in downtown Pittsburgh, the theater itself is a part of Western Pennsylvania history. Many of the actors and actresses in the pictures, however, were not from the area and only spent a few nights in Pittsburgh while performing. Due to this and the fact that the collection is mostly headshots, there were several debates among staff about how much research value the collection holds, and whether the material falls into the Library and Archives’ collecting scope (i.e. Western PA history and the lives of the residents). Sometimes, if a donation does not fall into the collecting scope, it will be referred to another repository with a mission that the documents are more aligned with.

    However, the Nixon Theatre Photographs were ultimately accepted into the collection. As I learned through my internship, while these celebrities from the past may not be memorable or recognizable to everyone, many of the photographs are one of a kind, and, therefore, hold quite a bit of artefactual value.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Nancy Mosser and I at the casting audition room in Mosser Casting studio

     

    Delving into the Pittsburgh Film Industry and History

    Museum Studies Intern at Senator John Heinz History Center - Spring 2018

    As a Museum Studies intern at Senator John Heinz History Center for Spring 2018, I have had the opportunity to work under curators Leslie Przybylek and Lauren Uhl, helping them document Pittsburgh’s significant ties to commercial film production. During my internship, I looked through newspaper articles about films I was interested in knowing more about. I also interviewed people in the industry and did research on the museum’s collection for an eventual exhibit on Pittsburgh’s role in film.

    I first researched Fences (2016), a film based on the play by Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson. The film follows the lives of the Maxon family in the 1950s Hill District neighborhood. One of the people that we interviewed was my cousin Greg Weimerskirch, an art director in the film industry locally. He showed us how he designs each environment for the camera. For Fences he had to recreate what the Hill District looked like in the 1950s, from the street signs to the kind of garbage truck used, to how the houses looked at that time. It was amazing to witness the level of detail that goes into being an art director and how Greg uses both digital and physical modeling to create an impression of setting in the film.

    Other films that I have examined closely in my internship were Striking Distance (1993), Sudden Death (1995), and Inspector Gadget (1999). I searched through newspapers to find articles on how each of the movies was received when it was in theatres, as well as production information pertaining to the who, when, where and how they were produced. I then searched for film crewmembers and technicians to contact who worked on these films.

    Some of my leads did not meet with success, but one lead for Sudden Death led me to interviewing Nancy Mosser, who runs the Mosser Casting studio in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh. Nancy casts extras and actors for films, television, and commercials. This is unique because most casting agencies only cast either extras or actors, not both. She got her start by working as a Production Assistant for Channel 11 news and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. She then struck out on her own to become a casting director. Nancy told us about the ease of casting today, compared to when she started out, thanks to the increased use of technology.

    Overall, this internship has blended my passios of Pittsburgh history and film. I have more understanding about what it takes to envision and work on a film. This was revealed to me by using digital archival material, tracking down and interviewing contacts, and critically thinking about the interconnection between people and movies and objects.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Every photo is measured, scanned, and described into the spreadsheet to be archived which will be digitized online for outreach to veteran’s relatives and public research.

     

    Rediscovering the Past Through the Former North Side McKeever Post 623

    Author: Geoffrey Mansfield

    Museum Studies Intern at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum - Spring 2018

    The closing of the Mckeever Post 623 on Western Avenue, North Side of Pittsburgh unfortunately resonates with the fate of other VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts in the region. Only open one day a week, its closing was heartfelt to the members. Originally established on February 3, 1921, as the 623rd such post in the country, it served veterans who recently returned from the First World War. In January 2014, the increasingly dilapidated building was purchased, at the same time as a trove of artifacts on the property was discovered, including uniforms, flags and photos.

    The Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum was contacted to gather information of its contents. Curator Michael Kraus took a trip to the former post to discover the past stories of the veterans who once frequented the establishment. What he found was three 4-by-4 poster boards containing over two-hundred photos. The boards were originally mounted to the outside of Lawrence's Barber Shop on the North Side. The photos were of the former members, all approximately World War Two era. The subjects of the photographs ranged from men standing in front of the baber shop ,to the battlefields of France, and everything in between. These photos were then donated to the Museum in 2014 to be used to retell the stories of the forgotten. The Museum created a plan to digitize an online archive of these materials for outreach to the relatives and the public in honor for those who served our nation.

    During my Spring 2018 internship I accepted the challenge of this task as a semester project at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. The task proved to be extensive and time-consuming, though it brought me a sense of pride. Every one of the 245 photos had to be digitally scanned, front and back, and names of the soldiers written in cursive handwriting had to be deciphered.

    I created a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel that tracked every attribute of the photos with fifteen columns including any individual’s name, measurements, condition, and descriptions. During the process, I started to research the names written on the back, finding more about the individuals that I was documenting. Their stories slowly emerged, building a larger narrative of their overseas war campaigns.

    One example was the Murphy brothers: eight men had joined the armed forces and served in World War II during the call of duty. Unfortunately, Tom Murphy paid the ultimate sacrifice, as he was killed during the Battle of the Bulge. The attached gold star on the front of the photo confirmed this. Photos of four other Murphy brothers also emerged through the archival process, including Dan Murphy, a Hall of Valor Inductee at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum.

    This project granted me the opportunity to retell the forgotten stories of World War II veterans and the Northside Post 623 as a way of honoring their service. The assembly of this data, along with the scanning process through digitization, will allow for outreach helping relatives reconnect with their loved ones from the past. It also serves as a form of research for the public. The photos help historians represent forgotten stories by recovering a visual aspect to the documentation of veterans who served our country, and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us, those like Tom Murphy.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    A typical day of research at my desk in The Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

     

    Making Egyptian History Accessible to the Public

    Museum Studies Intern at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Spring 2018

    A much-anticipated facelift is coming to the Walton Hall in The Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

    As an anthropology undergraduate student interested in archaeology, I was excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the redesign of this popular exhibit for my spring 2018 internship. The Carnegie Boat, one of four ancient Eygptian boats remaining in the world, will be the centerpiece of the redesign. Much of my time at the internship was spent scouring scholarly journals for information and research relating to the use of the boat in the funerary procession of Senwosret III, a pharaoh of Egypt.  

    Coming from the anthropological discipline which involves dense research full of niche terminology, I wanted it to be a focus of my work to make this information more accessible to a wider audience.

    My supervisor, Dr. Erin Peters, the Assistant Curator of Science and Research at the Museum, invited me to sit in on weekly meetings with other faculty on the Egypt on the Nile exhibition team. In these meetings I worked with Dr. Peters, Becca Shreckengast, the Director of Exhibition Experience, and Caroline Record, a Creative Technologist at the Innovation Studio, and we discussed ways of creating a more concise, accessible exhibition plan. These weekly meetings opened my eyes to the amount of work that goes into planning a new exhibit. I also saw how my research on the Carnegie Boat will be reaching a wider audience. Through these meetings, and based on audience evaluation surveys collected by last semester’s interns, it is clear that some sort of digital component will be incorporated into the new exhibit.

    Although it is still in the early stages of the planning of the exhibition, it has been very rewarding to see how my rough-cut, and research-dense information on the Boat will be transformed into a neatly packed, and engaging experience for visitors.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Version one of Mariko, Station 20

     

    Exploring Tōkaidō Road through Japanese Woodblock Prints

    Authors: Zoe Creamer and Alec Story

    Museum Studies Intern at Special Collections, University Library System - Spring 2018 and Special Topics: Museum Studies student - Spring 2018

    On March 31 2018, the Carnegie Museum of Art opened Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road to the public. It is the museum’s first exhibition of the Hōeidō edition of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō in 25 years. This frequently-requested series of Japanese prints was introduced with ample information and enthusiasm during an opening lecture given by University of Pittsburgh professor and Japan Studies Coordinator Brenda Jordan, titled “A City of Consumption: The Woodblock Print Industry in Edo, Japan.” In her lecture, Dr. Jordan discussed the collaborative process of woodblock printmaking, as well as the timeless nature of Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road series.

    Just like any other Japanese woodblock print series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō required the collaboration of several skilled craftsmen in order to create a finalized print. This process began with the designer of the original image, who is usually the most well-known of the collaborators, drawing the intended design onto paper. After the designer is the woodblock carver, whose role is to whittle the base of a wooden block according to the drawn image; and then the printer, who inks the woodblocks and presses the prints. Finally, there were others who financially supported and distributed the works. In Utagawa Hiroshige’s case, the finished works were sold along the Tōkaidō road to collectors and travelers alike, either as souvenirs or as fine art to be displayed in one’s home.

    The Hōeidō edition was so immensely popular in its time that while many contemporary series produced around 8,000 copies, Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō was printed a staggering 20,000 times. This popularity was largely due to the timeless aesthetic of landscape prints compared to contemporary prints of popular subjects, such as those depicting courtesans or actors.

    When entering into the Hiroshige exhibit itself, visitors are invited “to follow in the footsteps of a 19th century traveler” and “proceed from Edo to Kyoto.” On the gallery walls are the Tōkaidō road prints themselves, some of which are duplicates that might easily be overlooked. Though woodblock prints are usually all printed from the same blocks, each print is unique due to variations in color, brightness, and quality from one printing to the next. One such print, the 20th station of the Tōkaidō, Mariko, is riddled with differences between prints. Immediately apparent is the difference in color between the two on display, but upon closer inspection, there is a spelling mistake corrected in the later printings; 丸子(Maruko) became 鞠子 (Mariko). The subject of the 20th station print is a Mariko teahouse known for its tororo jiru, a yam paste, for which the establishment remains famous to this day. The teahouse, or ochaya, also offered female entertainers, known as geisha, who, according to Japanese folk music, made it a necessary stop for traveling men. Looking to the background of the print, there stands the “Fuji of Mariko,” which references an aspect of Japan’s shared cultural knowledge that Hiroshige did not hesitate to draw upon throughout many of his works.

    The gallery also includes many elements other than the prints themselves allowing visitors to interact with and appreciate the culture of Japan. A 19th century-style board game set in the middle of the gallery attracts the attention of wanderers from the path (such as ourselves). Players can roll a die and advance along spaces that represent stops along the Tōkaidō Road in the style of Monopoly. Some spaces even listed happenings, such as delays crossing a river, adding a fun interactive element to the show which no doubt will interest many younger visitors to the exhibition. In addition to the game are two carved woodblocks, akin to those used in the printmaking process, open for visitors to touch. This tactile element offers a tangible peek into the creation of a woodblock print, as well as making the exhibit more accessible for those who are not sighted.

    Japanese woodblock prints are among the most recognizable works of art, yet the history of this medium is not often told. Our experiences in talking with Akemi May, curator of the exhibition, and listening to Dr. Jordan’s lecture, educated us in the printmaking process as well as printmaking’s historical context, enabling us to appreciate these prints for far more than just their aesthetic qualities.

    We encourage everyone, young or old, to venture into the world of Japanese printmaking by exploring the exhibit before it closes on July 22!

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Proposed flyer for the LGBTQ Youth Prom

     

    LGBTQ Legacy at The Andy Warhol Museum

    Museum Studies Intern at The Andy Warhol Museum - Spring 2018

    Campbell’s Soup. Crazy Hair. Artistic Icon. These were the things I knew about Andy Warhol.

    However, before my Museum Studies internship at The Andy Warhol Museum, I didn’t know much about his role in gay culture. However, after working in the Education department with Shannon Thompson, I have a better understanding the importance and legacy of Warhol and his art.

    For my internship, I was tasked with helping the Prom Planning committee held every third Thursday. During these meetings, LGBTQ+ teens from all over Western Pennsylvania came to plan their alternative prom at their respective schools. At the first meeting that I was a part of, I kept seeing all different kinds of teens coming through the doors: individuals of all colors, sizes, labels, and orientations. I was in charge of facilitating the flyer subcommittee. In this subcommittee, I was able to have more intimate conversations with the teens and get to know them. After speaking with a student about what this Prom means to them, they said: “Prom is essential to any high school kid’s experience. For us, we can’t necessarily be ourselves at every school’s prom. This prom allows us to be ourselves and have the most fun we can.”

    There is no single reason why Andy Warhol is remains a cultural icon; there are many. For teens and adults living an LGBTQ+ life, he can resonate with many. During his lifetime, Warhol was a pioneer for gay rights in that he was an openly gay artist. He paved the way for future artists to do the same, and allowed LGBTQ+ people an outlet in the popular culture.

    Today, at The Andy Warhol Museum, they are using these messages and meanings around Warhol’s life to help LGBTQ+ teens in the Pittsburgh Area. With programs like the LGBTQ+ Prom, teens from across the Pittsburgh Area can look to this museum as a safe space to be themselves. I know Warhol would be proud if he saw what his legacy means to all these teens and to others across the globe.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Clay Image

    Kiyoshi Saitō: Clay Image, c. 1952 (detail)

     

    The Walls Have Eyes…or do they? Interning at Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (Hillman Library’s Special Collections) - Spring 2018

    In my adventures as an intern in Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department this spring of 2018, I’ve been taking inventory of the many oversized prints of the Walter and Martha Leuba collection. The thousands of prints in this collection are as varied as the origins of the artists who created them, spanning continents and centuries, but this collection is not yet available for patrons to browse. I am helping in the eventual digitizing of this content, which is now housed in various boxes and portfolios; the end goal is the creation of a searchable online catalogue. My personal interest lies in the prints by Japanese artists, which I devoted time to researching to improve upon existing database information. Most of these Japanese works were woodblock prints produced in the mid-twentieth century. This work pictured above, however, titled Clay Image, shows that woodblock printing isn’t a strictly old-fashioned medium; although it’s associated almost exclusively with ancient to 19th century East Asia, woodblock printmaking has continued into the present day.

    From a distance, this piece by Kiyoshi Saitō (1907-1997) looks like an abstract representation of people, but having looked through other instances of his work in Special Collections, I noticed this would not fit with Saitō’s style of Japanese traditional objects and landscapes rendered with a modern twist. I was perplexed as to why this piece was titled Clay Image, and initially decided that perhaps it was a two-dimensional representation of sculpture. When I came back to the print and looked closer, I realized that I had seen something like these “people” before. Suddenly I saw that these were not meant to be abstract people, but rather haniwa, which I had encountered in an Intro to Asian Art class a year ago here at Pitt. Haniwa means “clay circle” in Japanese, and as the name suggests, these objects are hollow figures made from terracotta clay buried in gravesites in Japan during the Yamato period, which was around the 3rd to 8th century C.E. These figures are thought to have served as a surrogate for live guardians to scare away malevolent spirits and tomb raiders. Haniwa are often very intricate and can take forms of warriors and priestesses as well as animals, such as horses.

    Saitō’s representation of haniwa contrasts strikingly with the landscapes that make up much of his body of work housed in Special Collections, and had there not been Japanese characters written onto the print, I may have almost mistaken this for a representation of African sculpture. It’s interesting and unusual to see such ancient objects as haniwa depicted over a millennium later, but with a printmaking technique that is reminiscent of a bygone era. Clay Image embodies a connection between the past and present that encapsulates Japanese culture in a way accessible to anyone from a modern audience who is informed in ancient history, to the student (such as myself) with an interest in Japanese art, as well as casual museum-goers, who would no doubt enjoy seeing this print on the wall of a museum or even decorating a home.

    This just goes to show that there is always something to take away from an introductory class—I never dreamed I would see haniwa again, let alone in a modern representation such as Clay Image. Haniwa were meant to act as guardians for the dead, but would you want these eyeless faces watching over you in your everyday life? These printed haniwa have been sitting in a drawer for so long that they would probably jump at the opportunity.

    Explore the exhibition here

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