We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding three of our curatorial fellowships (Ben Anderson, Sarah Hafner, and Linda Leeuwrik) and to the Friends of the Library for funding the fourth (Jessica Sisk).
My goal for the summer has been to pull the college's collections of Islamic art into some sort of order, and to prepare an exhibition for Carpenter Library.
As with any exhibition, the intellectual challenge of this project lies in accommodating the arbitrary. It's never possible, whether at Bryn Mawr or the British Museum, to manufacture a complete image of a past era. Instead we're presented with fragments, and must find some way to weave them into a narrative that is both honest and compelling. Thus every well-conceived exhibit is simultaneously a critique and a defense of the practice of history.
My project is to prepare a descriptive online guide to the extensive collection of books on London held in the College’s Special Collections. Many of these books are only partially catalogued and thus difficult to find, which suggested the usefulness of a website introducing this rich resource to scholars and researchers interested in London’s multi-faceted and colorful history.
I began my work this summer with an exhaustive search of Tripod and Special Collections’ files to compile a comprehensive list of the London books. My next task has been to develop and define categories, under which the many books could be grouped, with these groupings to provide the basic organizational structure of the website. I have also begun the most pleasurable process of looking at the books themselves, thinking about which images to use for the website, which would best illustrate the collection’s highlights—always an exciting endeavor for an art historian—and researching the many different aspects of the collection in preparation for writing the introductory essays to the various sections of the website.
As the Friends of the Library graduate intern in Special Collections, I’ve been finishing the endeavor to piece together the various poetry drafts of the poet, translator, and classical scholar Richmond Lattimore, who taught Greek at Bryn Mawr until 1971 and who is perhaps best known for his translations of Homer.
Throughout the summer of 2007, I served as a curatorial fellow in the European Painting Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where I worked on the final stages of the Renoir Landscapes exhibition. I researched and wrote wall text and assisted with the layout of the show. Once the show opened I was tasked with giving gallery talks and museum lectures. I also gave interviews related to the exhibition on several local television stations, including Fox News, ABC Primetime, and Comcast Newsmakers.
I spent the fall 2007 semester at Bryn Mawr researching, cataloguing, and housing the Dr. Anthony R. Michaelis Collection, a collection of photographic equipment, optical devices, and other pre-cinematographic material acquired by the college in the 1970s. My work with the collection culminated in an exhibition entitled Educating the Eye: Nineteenth Century Optical Toys and Devices, which presented many of the objects in the Michaelis Collection for the first time. On display in the Kaiser Reading Room in Carpenter Library throughout the fall 2008 semester, the exhibition examined the ways in which these objects contributed to and were themselves produced by new types of visual experiences throughout the nineteenth century.
During the first semester of my internship, I continued work that I had begun as a Graduate Assistant in Bryn Mawr's Collections. I worked with a set of more than 700 "fictile ivories"—plaster casts made in the late nineteenth century from notable (and sometimes not so notable) carved ivory objects in European collections. I updated database material on these objects, and photographed each one. One of the most interesting parts of this project was finding the original ivories in order to update the database bibliographies—museum names have changed, objects in private collections have transferred hands, and some of the originals have been destroyed. So finding the originals was like a bit of detective work.
In the second semester of my internship, I worked at the American Philosophical Society, a block away from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Since my background includes extensive knowledge of French language and culture, my project at the APS involved preliminary research for a proposed upcoming exhibition on French natural history. I researched decorative arts objects related to natural history discoveries in the eras around the French Revolution and Napoleon. Although I had general knowledge related to these topics, I learned a tremendous amount about this period and about decorative arts, all of which turned out to be quite fascinating and renewed my appreciation for this culture and my love for the French language.
During my third year in the History of Art graduate program, I received the NEH Curatorial Fellowship to support my work on two exhibitions, one at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia and one at Bryn Mawr College. During the summer of 2009, I worked with ICA curator Jenelle Porter on Dance with Camera, which opened in September 2009. This exhibition brought together works of film, video, and photography that use dance as a means of exploring and extending the possibilities of capturing movement on camera. One of the featured works in the exhibition, Bruce Conner’s 1966 film BREAKAWAY, was the subject of my Master’s thesis, one reason I was initially drawn to the project. In my capacity as intern, I did in-depth research for the exhibition catalogue, compiled an extensive bibliography, worked with galleries and archives to collect images for the catalogue, and wrote promotional text for the exhibition programming, among other tasks.
For the second phase of my fellowship, I assisted Bryn Mawr’s curator Emily Croll in organizing an exhibition of works by the important American artist Red Grooms. This exhibition was entitled Old Masters and Modern Muses: Red Grooms's Portraits of Artists, and opened at Bryn Mawr College’s Canaday Library in March 2010. In conjunction with the exhibition, I helped organize a screening of Grooms’s early films at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, which involved working closely with Grooms, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, and a New York post-production lab to have the films transferred from 16mm to DVD. My essay "Celluloid Circus: Three 'Ruckus' Films by Red Grooms," appears in the Old Masters and Modern Muses exhibition catalogue.
I held the NEH Curatorial Internship during the academic year 2009–2010. The first half of it took place at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives, where I worked with the papers of the Education Department. I was responsible for processing about two dozen boxes of papers from the late 1970s to the end of the twentieth century. The project was divided into three stages. First, I prepared a full inventory of the material. The papers then had to be sorted in a meaningful way, keeping their original organization as far as possible, and intervening when necessary to make the records easier to access for researchers. The last phase involved the creation of an electronic finding aid, a guide to the collection that outlines its history and scope, describes the contents of each series of documents, and lists the folders into which the records are divided.
For the second half of the internship, I worked with a group of approximately 300 terracotta figurines in Bryn Mawr’s collections, mostly Greek and Roman products donated by alumnae and faculty members. Since they were acquired under differing circumstances, the information available on them varied widely in quantity and quality. A few pieces were published in journals or exhibition catalogues, while several others were discussed in senior theses or class papers. More often, however, all that was known about these artifacts was limited to the contents of the old catalog cards. The main goal of the project was to provide each object with a minimum of standardized information. Once the work had progressed, I also gathered details about the iconography and the possible function of the artifacts.