Academic Interns

    Jon working at the Community Plaza in July 2019

     

    Art for Us with Rivers of Steel

    Author: Jon Engel, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Summer 2019

    How can art serve the community it exists in? When it comes to securing grants, the visual arts often promise to act for the public good. What would it like for artists to act for that good more directly? This past summer, I worked with Rivers of Steel Arts (RoSA) to develop a new series of monthly events called Homestead First Fridays. Homestead – a majority Black neighborhood with a median household income of about $25,000 – is an area which the fine arts sector rarely touches, except to buy up its buildings for studios and galleries. As such, our goal with Homestead First Fridays was not just to facilitate art in Homestead, but for Homestead.

    This seems like a timely goal. Just this past summer, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust wrote that homeless people Downtown made the area less “safe” and demanded tighter policing on them. To him, the homeless and other “unchecked” elements undid the “reputation and achievements” that the arts brought to the city [1]. Intentionally or not, a clear statement was made. Art, we are to believe, is not “for” the homeless. If anything, it is “against” them. In the context of a gentrifying Pittsburgh and nationwide artwashing, this is a chilling idea. How, then, could Homestead First Fridays do something different?

    We came up with a guiding vision. Every First Fridays event must bring money into Homestead to benefit the neighborhood and/or must be accessible to and oriented towards the residents that live there. From this, First Fridays was born as an evening of indoor and outdoor cultural programming that RoSA developed alongside local businesses, community groups, and artists. Our style was makeshift and guerilla, aiming to bring the event “to the people.” Everything was built on the main street of Eighth Avenue. We transformed the street visually, postering windows, dispensing maps, and wrapping graffiti-style plastic signs around light poles at high traffic intersections. Bars and restaurants held live music outdoors while empty lots and unused storefronts were filled with pop-up art activities.

    To us, the heart of this was our Community Plaza, a lot we populated with tents of vendors, music, and free artmaking demos. This put money in the hands of our neighbors while also empowering Homestead residents to create. Here, art is not something “over there” done by “someone else.” Art is in everything that ordinary people do, from their industrial jobs to their weekend hobbies.

    We also mounted several pop-up exhibitions in nontraditional spaces, such as an abandoned CVS. All were free and featured local practicing artists. I curated a show using this model – Fresh Air: An Ecofuturist Art Show – in a recently closed lawyer’s office. The show was a commentary on local environmental issues and ecosystemic collapse, concerns deeply relevant to the industrially devastated Monongahela River area. With an open door, a DIY aesthetic, and unconventional and interactive pieces, Fresh Air tried to break from the traditional confines of fine art. It encouraged the audience to participate in art and political conversations that have normally excluded and ignored them. Ultimately, this was the goal of First Fridays as a whole.

    My work with Rivers of Steel provided me with formative experiences in event planning, organizational cooperation, and exhibit curation. More importantly, it was an attempt at art that serves its people. What I learned is this: to be radically accessible, art must be free, public, and locally created.

     

     

    [1]. Belko, Mark. “Peduto clashes with Cultural Trust over Downtown safety concerns.” 2 August, 2019. Accessed 28 October, 2019 from post-gazette.com.

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

    The bulk of my research over the past year for Andy Warhol: Revelation occurred in The Warhol’s Archives Study Center, which is the epicenter of primary source scholarship on Warhol. Almost all of my questions could be answered by the trove of archival objects or scholarly texts housed within their collection.

     

    Realizing Andy Warhol: Revelation

    Author: Kenneth Wahrenberger, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at The Andy Warhol Museum – Summer 2019

    After innumerable hours of planning, writing, and curating, Andy Warhol: Revelation will open October 20, 2019 at The Andy Warhol Museum. The show explores the Byzantine and Roman Catholic influences on Warhol’s artistic production from his earliest known works all the way to his Last Supper series completed at the end of his life. 

    In May of 2018, I had my first meeting with José Carlos Diaz, the chief curator of The Warhol and organizer of Andy Warhol: Revelation. At that time, José was working on the exhibition with Micol Forti, the director of the Contemporary Art Collection at the Vatican Museums. The exhibition was planned to open in conjunction with the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary in October 2019. In addition to its Pittsburgh premier, the show and will travel to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. 

    We worked in earnest throughout the late summer and fall of 2018, finding every possible text related to the artist’s clandestine religious practices and Byzantine Catholic upbringing. After developing a solid research base, we began sorting the exhibition checklist into sections and drafting preliminary floorplans (and looking back, they are astonishingly different than what they are today!).

    In January of this year, José and I began working on the Revelation exhibition catalogue, which ended up being a source of joy (and frustration) until the end of my Fine Foundation Fellowship in late August when the book went to print. The catalogue consists of two scholarly essays, one from Jose and one from Miranda Lash, curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum, a forward from The Warhol director Patrick Moore, section texts describing each part of the show, a selection of high quality plates of works in the show, and a comprehensive exhibition checklist. Suffice it to say, the 96-page catalogue required a remarkable amount of editing, fact checking, and drafting, which occupied my time for the last six months. 

    I was fortunate to work with a marvelous copy editor named Tom Fredrickson and a talented graphic design team from Glue + Paper Workshop. Of course, they were not Warhol scholars and could not help fact check many aspects of the text. I can remember spending weeks culling the exhibition checklist and working with the archival and collections teams to provide names, dates, mediums, dimensions, etc. to certain items in the show. One of the most extraordinary parts of Revelation is that it will exhibit rare and never-before-seen objects like icon panels from Warhol’s childhood church and the original source material for his Last Supper silkscreen series; however, these objects also present new issues of titling, dating, and artistic attribution, which are important to determine for a publication. While this was an complicated process for me, the team at The Warhol was extremely helpful and turned every challenge into a fruitful, educational experience.  

    At the end of the Fine Foundation Fellowship and my previous internship engagement at the Warhol, I have the experience of managing a book project from start to finish, along with heavy involvement in researching and curating a major exhibition with a brilliant curator. Although I am anxious for the public response after the show opens, I think people will be amazed or at the very least intrigued by this mysterious side of Andy Warhol. 

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    Westinghouse Auditorium entrance at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. George Westinghouse Museum Collection, c.1864-2007, MSS 920, Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center
     

    Uncharted Territory: Researching Pittsburgh’s Changing Image in Film

    Author: Zoe Creamer, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at the Senator Heinz History Center – Summer 2019

    How many movies can you name that were filmed in Pittsburgh? I could only think of a few (actually, just two: The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Dark Knight Rises) before starting my internship at the Heinz History Center, and now I’ve gotten to know several of them on a frame-by-frame basis. For a few years now, the Heinz History Center has been in the midst of a long-term collecting initiative regarding Pittsburgh film history, and guided by dedicated curators, Leslie Przybylek and Lauren Uhl, I quickly became invested in the project. 

    Some of the world’s first movie theaters were established in Pittsburgh, and several early film stars and directors came from the area. This includes Lois Weber, America’s first female film director, who was born in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Near the beginning of the summer, I attended the unveiling of the historic landmark plaque in front of the Allegheny Library to commemorate her birthplace. Pittsburgh’s vibrant film history continues its journey to this day: close to the end of my internship, I also had the exciting opportunity to visit the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an upcoming film produced by Netflix based on the August Wilson play of the same name. 

    Because of the many interesting possibilities in considering Pittsburgh’s history of film, I settled on two research areas: representations of Pittsburgh in movies, specifically since 1980, and the city’s early film industry. I began by watching about 30 films while compiling data on them to note common trends. For one part of my project, I focused on four contemporary movies filmed in and set in Pittsburgh to research their locations and differences in the portrayals of Pittsburgh. I used these data points to create a digital map prototype based on the four films. I mapped out Flashdance (1983), Striking Distance (1993), Dominick and Eugene (1988), and Fences (2016). Each of these films highlight different aspects of Pittsburgh’s image, and I wanted to track these changes while providing physical locations on a map that may serve as a future walking tour. 

    To obtain data points for my maps, I re-watched the films carefully to identify significant locations, such as local landmarks or areas of change. Some places were easily recognizable, such as Carnegie Music Hall in Flashdance, but others, such as a historic church in Dominick and Eugene, took some dedicated digging through archived newspapers and virtual exploration with Google Street View. Imagine my surprise when I confirmed that this church, once home of the Lithuanian parish of St. Casimir, had been turned into luxury condos that I’d passed by countless times before in South Side! Click here to open an interactive online map of Dominick and Eugene and explore the setting for yourself. 

    My second project centered around Westinghouse Electric’s  connection to early film history. In reading about early Pittsburgh film, I learned that the Westinghouse companies had made a series of 21 short films shot inside four factories around Pittsburgh. These were actuality films, movies lacking a central narrative that showed people in action as they would be if there were no camera recording their movements. The Westinghouse Works films were made for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 World’s Fair, held in St. Louis, Missouri. 

    Advanced for their time, these were among the first interior films ever made—early cameras required a great deal of light to reach a shutter speed capable of creating a “moving” picture, and the only way to do this was to film in natural light or gather bundles of hundreds of incandescent lamps indoors. The latter option was not desirable because of the amount of electricity needed to power many inefficient incandescent bulbs, but the Westinghouse films utilized a new light source. 

    Inventor and electrical engineer Peter Cooper Hewitt, with financing from George Westinghouse, invented a mercury vapor lamp which emitted abundant light and was much more efficient than the common incandescent lamps. The mercury vapor lamps gave off a strange bluish green light which made them undesirable for home use, but the color of the light was unimportant with black and white filming. Learning that it was these lights that made the films possible, I looked with renewed interest at photos of the Westinghouse exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair and realized that the lights pictured lighting the exhibits were mercury vapor lamps. Other photos depicted the aptly named Westinghouse Auditorium that the films were shown in. I found a scan of a daily program for the World’s Fair from the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis. As the Westinghouse Films have not received much scholarly attention, any seemingly small finds aids the understanding of Westinghouse’s connections and contributions to early film. 

    These projects helped me understand that museum research takes many forms. While I felt out of my element at first, I began to realize that curatorial research does not always have to result in securing a three-dimensional artifact for exhibition, as my projects focused on creating a digital resource and conducting archival research. I gained valuable knowledge regarding navigating careers in the museum field, and got an inside look at Pittsburgh film, both past and present. I am thankful for this opportunity and hope to see an exhibition on the Hollywood in Pittsburgh project in the near future so more Pittsburghers and visitors from around the world can learn about this intriguing subject.

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

    The recently remodeled Education Center served as my office for the summer.

     

    Using Storytelling to Create Meaningful Experiences for Visitors

    Mellon Museum Profession Fellow at The Frick Pittsburgh – Summer 2019

    As a native of Point Breeze, I was excited to return to the neighborhood when I received the news that I had been accepted as the A.W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Frick Pittsburgh. Growing up, I loved coming to the Frick to see the racecars in the Car and Carriage Museum (CCM), and my little brother has carried on the tradition. As I grew older, I remember touring Clayton (the Frick family home) and the art museum when my grandparents came to visit Pittsburgh. This summer, while working with the department of Learning & Visitor Experience (L&VE), I was able to see first-hand how the Frick interacts with public audiences through programming that connects to visitors of all ages and demographics. In my first few days, I went on a tour of Clayton, one of the first public CCM tours, and attended gallery talks, in order to familiarize myself with the mission of the L&VE department. Prior to the tour, I was told to listen how the docents employ storytelling to deepen the connection between an object or a space and the visitors.

    Within a week, I was acquainted with the site, the permanent collection, and this summer’s travelling exhibition, A Sporting Vision. I also conducted research for Coffee and Culture programs and contributed to docent training for A Sporting Vision. The most comprehensive segment of my internship came later in the summer, when I helped plan this year’s Wine Walk. I was present at all stages of the planning process, from helping decide the route and topics for each stop, to attending logistics meetings and doing research on the content of the program. For one stop, we decided that it would be interesting to hear about other buildings that Frick commissioned around Pittsburgh, all while standing in the shadow of Clayton.

    While researching Frick’s buildings I had to find useful facts to present, but also figure out a way to weave them into a cohesive narrative. I ultimately tied everything into a story about Frick showing his commitment to Pittsburgh by investing in the construction of prominent buildings that still stand today. I also used this information to create a piece on the StoryView app, which will also be displayed on iPads in the Grable Visitor Center and in the galleries. The emphasis on storytelling ultimate relates back to creating enriching educational experiences for visitors, a value that L&VE, as well as the rest of the Frick, hold deeply.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Presenting my research to the Education Department staff at the end of the semester

     

    Finding “Museum Joy” at the 57th Carnegie International

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    "The whole room is filled with joy!” was just one of thousands of comments made by visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 57th Carnegie International. As an intern at the museum this semester, I was tasked with reading and analyzing these comments as reported by Gallery Ambassadors, who were present in the museum’s galleries to provide clarification and conversation for museum visitors. Evaluating these comments gave me a better understanding of how visitors’ experiences reflected engagement with the artwork, education, and positive change.

    The artists whose work I focused on most closely were Alex da Corte, Art Labor, Jessi Reaves, Post Commodity, and Tacita Dean. Each of these exhibits provided museum visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in artwork: one visitor to Alex Da Corte’s Rubber Pencil Devil stated that they “like[d] it because you really get drawn into it,” and another expressed that “I needed to get lost in some art today, and this did that for me.” Other works, especially Art Labor’s, enabled visitors to learn something new: few visitors were familiar with Vietnamese coffee culture, and more than one visitor stated that they “had no idea Vietnam had such a huge coffee industry.” Visitors to Jessi Reaves’ works expressed joy at being able to touch and sit on the art, and many who experienced local jazz musicians interpreting Post Commodity’s work had not previously seen art and music combined. Finally, much of the artwork sparked emotion in visitors, with many feeling nostalgic from Alex da Corte’s references to Mr. Rogers and others recalling their own experiences in Vietnam after experiencing Art Labor’s Vietnamese hammock cafè. While certain visitor comments reflected frustration with the exhibition’s use of The Guide instead of wall labels, and others revealed hesitation to engage with contemporary art, the vast majority of visitors seemed to like this year’s International better than any other exhibition they had experienced previously. Above all, these visitor comments serve demonstrate that the Carnegie International succeeded in embodying curator Ingrid Schaffner’s vision of sparking “museum joy” in the exhibition’s visitors.

    Prior to completing this internship, I had considered pursuing a career in museum education. Now, I’m more confident that this is the right career path for me, and I have a better understanding of how art can be used to inspire education and engagement for a wide range of museum visitors.

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

    Annie Abernathy visiting Kahlil Robert Irving’s sculpture in Paintings Storage at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Visualizing Research at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    The visual is always an art historian’s first resource, and it is difficult to understand an artist’s practice without seeing their artwork firsthand. However, this semester, I researched thirty artists, basing much of my understanding on written source material alone. 

    In my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Art this spring, I conducted preliminary research for an upcoming exhibition concerning art and economic inequality. I had the privilege of working with Eric Crosby, Acting Co-Director and Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, and Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. In my research, I found many descriptions of artist’s work and photographs, but these can’t compare with seeing the work in person. With every review of an artist’s gallery show, I became frustrated that I didn’t have the same personal experience of the work. This pattern became especially disheartening with sculptures.

    Kahlil Robert Irving was a turning point in the semester. He is a sculptor who uses clay to think about black identity and the history of ceramics. He uses molds of nineteenth-century forms to reference European fetishization of porcelain. Next to these vases, he piles ceramic fast-food containers, soda bottles, and newspapers. In reading about his artistic practice, I felt that I needed to view one of his intricate sculptures in the round to get a sense of its layers of meaning. This time, I got lucky. The Carnegie Museum of Art had recently acquired a work by Kahlil Robert Irving, and I had the incredibly special opportunity to visit it as part of my research. 

    Rachel Delphia, the curator of Decorative Arts & Design, and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, one of the museum’s registrars, took me to see the sculpture in Painting Storage. In my research before this visit, I was able to get an overall sense of what his sculptures were like, but in person, I saw the fine cracks in the porcelain and the shimmer of the glaze. I was also able to gain a better understanding of his process of making these art pieces as Rachel Delphia explained to me the different firing temperatures of the clay and the technique that Irving used to transfer photographic elements onto the sculpture. 

    Because of this visit to storage, I was able to better describe Irving’s artistic practice. It also made me more aware of the challenging process of exhibition-making and research. Oftentimes, you don’t necessarily have access to a work of art when making curatorial decisions, so when you do, it makes you that much more aware of the physical and material demands of art. In storage, the objectness of the art is more clear, separated from its vulnerability and timelessness in a gallery space-- making visible the multiple iterations of art as it moves from space to space.

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

    United Steelworkers of America Patch from the Rivers of Steel Archives

     

    A Thing of Shreds and Patches: Exhibition Making at Rivers of Steel Arts

    Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel Arts – Spring 2019

    Rivers of Steel Arts (RoSA) is an organization which connects Pittsburgh communities to their cultural and economic heritage, wrought from the booming industrialization of the 19th century. Through a dedication to conserving and interpreting local history, RoSA fosters compelling opportunities for visitors to experience the area’s past steeped in the steel industry. Held in the Rivers of Steel Archives are a plethora of materials showcasing the history of the steel industry, its workers, founders, the labor movements, and the cultural history of Pittsburgh itself. 

    At the beginning of my internship, I was tasked with familiarizing myself with the objects held in the RoSA archives by my supervisor, Director and Chief Curator, Chris McGinnis. From there, I was to study these materials and formulate a narrative for a forthcoming exhibition display case to be shown in Fall 2019. My appreciation of the area’s cultural legacy was bolstered through my hands-on work done in the archives; it was amazing to work so closely, so personally, with the objects of local history – many of which held an amazing aesthetic value. Even the most seemingly mundane of objects were striking in their artistic, historical qualities. 

    After coming into contact with numerous objects from the Pittsburgh steel age, I decided to center my exhibition narrative around art in steel. Specifically, I titled it, Art and Design in the Steel Industry. The dramatic beauty of the mills and the intricate details given to materials such as pins, cups, and letters were not lost on me. These objects informed me of a larger artistic movement within the steel industry that is often unnoticed. The design of publications and documents often affirms this stance, with their futuristic, minimalistic, and geometric graphic compositions. 

    I greatly value the information I gleaned in the RoSA archives, and from the countless hours of object research guided by Archivist Melanie Root. I am thankful for my newfound appreciation for the artistic initiatives taken by the working, industrial class of the Pittsburgh area. These works of high aesthetic value and consideration further cement the steel industries’ transformative, dynamic nature. 

    In terms of my career, this internship has allowed me to directly pursue my museological interests and gain experience in the field itself. My involvement at RoSA has inspired my appreciation of esoteric art – I can more easily find beauty in the mundane and in the “untraditionally” artistic. I feel a renewed commitment to revealing the beauty of working class art and design to the rest of the world.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Cross-referencing Reflections of Greatness with object labels

     

    Egypt on the Nile: Conceptualizing a Database

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Spring 2019

    As an anthropology major, I never expected to find myself sitting at a desk in the Paleontology Department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH). It is rather curious that the offices of both the Anthropocene and Anthropology are housed alongside invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, but the dynamics of these interdepartmental relationship seems to bolster, rather than hinder, academic and research pursuits. 

    During my time at my borrowed paleontology desk, I undertook a database project in which I compiled object data into an accessible and adaptable spreadsheet. This Excel spreadsheet was then data merged with InDesign to create usable object cover sheets for refining the Egyptian collection in preparation for the new Egypt on the Nile exhibition. The commencement of my internship with Joint Assistant Curator of Science and Research Dr. Erin Peters began in early January at the Egypt on the Nile: Advisory Team Meeting, a two-day National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) workshop. I had the privilege of networking with museum professionals both internal and external to the CMNH. 

    The scope of my database actually changed over the course of the semester, beginning with a much more comprehensive list that included more detailed object data. This endeavor proved to be too great of an effort to finish in its entirety before the NEH submission deadline. Instead, Dr. Peters and I coordinated a scaled-down version of the spreadsheet with information most relevant to the immediate stage of exhibition planning.

    This change of course proved to be most significant in terms of personal development. I was struggling to conceptualize the scope of the project, and I felt despondent that the work I was doing was futile. I felt that I was recopying an already existing database, when in fact the database infrastructure for refining specific object data variables did not exist. Dr. Peters proved to be an invaluable resource throughout the semester. From disclosing the challenges of the museum profession to a naïve museum studies student to relating shared personal and professional life experiences, Dr. Peters not only revealed to me the realities of the museum profession, but she also reinvigorated my interest and passion in my internship project and my museum studies program. Although my acquaintance with Dr. Peters has been brief, I feel that I have learned invaluable lessons from my internship with her.

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

    Myself (at right) with Mellon Fellow and PhD student Emily Mazzola (at left) examining preliminary sketches and drafts of presidential china designs (specifically the Clinton/200th White House Anniversary china set) at the Detre Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center

     

    The Taste of the Nation: Lenox Chinaware

    Museum Studies Intern with the AW Mellon Fellowship research project – Spring 2019

    When local glassware and porcelain manufacturer Lenox Inc. closed its doors in 2002, the Senator John Heinz History Center received all their archival and design materials. Boxes filled with papers ranging from sketches to memos to product catalogues are now available at the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives. Lenox acquired the Bryce Brothers company in the 1965 and through this merger began creating both porcelain dinnerware and glass and stemware. The sketches of both glass and porcelain designs reveal much about the design process, as do the internal memos, but perhaps some of the most interesting pieces from the collection were the bits of local advertisement across their history that were saved in manila folders by the company. 

    How Lenox sought to reel in their Pittsburgh clientele and the ways in they marketed to the public are very telling of both their products and market audience. As Lenox had been given the opportunity to provide their services for several US Presidents and Vice Presidents from the early twentieth century to the present, the Mount Pleasant based company fancied itself an important player in international diplomacy, and would frequently use the opportunity to make the public aware of this through their marketing. As an intern through Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh aiding the creation of an online exhibition exploring Lenox’s presidential china and stemware, one of my tasks was to discover local press that mentioned their presidential contribution. In my research with digitized newspapers, I discovered an ad from a clipping within a Joseph Horne department store advertisement in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from May of 1925 that describes Lenox China as “one of the world’s finest achievements in Chinaware,” and President Woodrow Wilson’s selection of 17,000 pieces of Lenox China for his White House as a “fine tribute and an indication of the high standard of Lenox.” This advertisement was one of the first of many instances of their promotion of their relationship with the White House and other dignitaries. 

    Frequently seen alongside such self-descriptors as “fine,” “bone white,” and “hand-crafted,” Lenox prided itself on its “all-American” manufacturing and artisan-based design. Targeting upper and upper-middle class families in the Pittsburgh area, their advertisements emphasized this state relationship also through promoting their replications of presidential china that were reimagined and sold to the public. This way, the Pittsburgh family could partake in their own homes in the dining of the American political aristocracy. Lenox would frequently host elaborate production displays and demonstrations in Pittsburgh department stores to further engage with the public in their marketing attempts. The way in which brands utilize sociopolitical trends to market their products is a topic of great interest to me that I hope to explore while completing my Masters at the University of Brighton in the History of Design and Material Culture. My engagement with the Detre Archives encouraged that interest and helped me to gain experience utilizing archival materials to craft curatorial narratives in this subject area.

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

    Dinosaurs, Dead Fish, and a Paleontologist Named Pop

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Spring 2019

    Millions of years have passed since the age of the dinosaur, but their reputation as some of the world’s fiercest and most awesome creatures lives on. Preserving and uncovering the legacy of these and other extinct life forms is the primary job of paleontologists as they pull back the shroud of time on these extraordinary species and the long-lost worlds they inhabited. In the Section of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I was granted a hands-on opportunity to help preserve spectacular fossils and to further illuminate the history of scientific discovery.

    This semester, I worked under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Lamanna, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, and Linsly Church, Curatorial Assistant in Vertebrate Paleontology, with my work allocated into two main projects. The first involved scanning and transcribing decades-old curatorial documents, whereas the second entailed conducting conservation work on fossils. Although both tasks seemed straightforward at first, little did I know that, in the process of conducting them, I would delve into a captivating and sometimes bizarre world that included socks full of invertebrate fossils lost on a German mountainside and a 1940s scientist’s wife’s threat to cut off the cookie supply for the entirety of an expedition into the Montana badlands. These stories and many more come from my time spent in Vertebrate Paleontology.

    My first assignment was to scan, transcribe, and preserve archived correspondence dating from the 1930s to the early 1960s, a time when Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum was spearheaded by curator J. LeRoy (aka “Pop”) Kay. I would come to learn the significance of this period as I gradually read and transcribed hundreds of documents. Amazing stories would come from these documents, including the ones about “rocks” in socks and a cut in the cookie supply as mentioned before. Most importantly during the Pop Kay era, however, would be the renovation of the museum’s exhibition halls, making way for important expeditions and collections, such as the acquisition (in early 1941) of the original skeleton of the infamous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. 

    My second assignment taught me the valuable lesson of being able to adapt to constantly changing conditions. It began with the conservation of middle Eocene-aged (~50 million-year-old) fossil fishes from a paleontological site known as Monte Bolca in Italy. Under Church’s guidance, I learned how to clean, repair, and build storage mounts for fossils. What made the work interesting was that, although these fishes are tens of millions of years old, the job was never at a standstill. Over the course of my internship, I also learned about the materials used to make molds and casts of fossils, the difference between a genus and a species, and how to analyze bones recovered from the field in a laboratory environment. 

    As the semester came to a close, I began reflecting on my own connections to the legacy of dinosaurs. To paleontologists, evolutionary relationships, fascinating anatomy, and the geological history of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are what makes the study of these ancient beasts worthwhile. The endless stories from the Pop Kay era, the current Vertebrate Paleontology staff’s reminiscences of their equally tasking and rewarding expeditions, and a future career path are what dinosaurs have come to mean to me.

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

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