Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh is a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement.

Here, at the HAA Constellations blog, you can read about some of the outcomes of these partnerships. Learn more about Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh at https://haa.pitt.edu/ckp.

 

Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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

     

    Revelations in the Time Capsules

    Museum Studies Intern at the Andy Warhol Museum – Fall 2018

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

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

    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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh by William Wall featured at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Studying the Anthropocene from Pittsburgh Landscapes.

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  •  

    The Creation of "Intimate Moments"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

    Keynote and Response

     

    Motivating Monuments, Reflections on the 2018 Graduate Symposium

    Author: Sarah Conell, HAA graduate student

    The first weekend of November, the History of Art and Architecture Department (HAA) graduate students hosted our bi-annual symposium entitled Motivating Monuments: Defining Collective Identities in Public Spaces. We were honored to have as our keynote Jacqueline Jung, associate professor at Yale University. Her talk, “From Cathedral to Monument: Abundant Histories at Reims & Naumburg,” was delivered at the CMOA Theatre, and unfolded the biographies and stakes of two architectural examples in relation to local and global communities. A rich discussion unfolded, thanks in large part to the keynote respondent and HAA professor, Kirk Savage. This valuable conversation kicked off an inspiring event, including the impressive work of ten graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who traveled nationally and internationally to participate. Together, we had the opportunity to reflect on some of Pittsburgh’s own local monuments, including a tour and discussion of the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. 

    When we began to develop the idea of this symposium, we found it useful to organize thematically around the moments of creation, modification, and destruction of works in public spaces. What emerged when organizing the sessions, however, were richly engaging approaches to temporalities, the built environment, and the body. These groupings are a product of our broader Constellations model in HAA. The faculty respondents to each of the sections (Christopher Nygren, Jennifer Josten, and Shirin Fozi respectively) teased out the rich connections within these themes and brought together, into fresh and timely dialogue, the presenters’ topics that spanned time periods and geographies. 

    The event was a rewarding success as a product of year-long planning and organizing. With a delegation structure, a website hosted on university servers, and new relationships with local vendors, we have established a transparent foundation for future organizers, building on the pioneering work for the Debating Visual Knowledge symposium of 2014. We have reworked the website begun that year, to be more useful for future graduate student organizers of varying levels of proficiency in website design and management. We have worked with local Pittsburgh printmakers to strengthen artistically minded bonds in our own city. By refocusing and clarifying the procedural and planning knowledge, which is passed down through graduate student generations, we hope our efforts this year will continue to bear fruit as future symposia continue to shape the University of Pittsburgh as a fertile institution for current, diverse, and gainful conversation–an international hub for scholars. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Visitas guiadas en español en la UAG

     

    Cruzando las fronteras del lenguaje en la Galería de Arte de la Universidad

    *You can read this text in English below the Spanish version 

    Autora: Adriana Miramontes, estudiante de doctorado en HAA

    ¿Cómo puede la Galería de Arte de la Universidad (UAG) relacionarse con más audiencias e incrementar su presencia y visibilidad en la universidad y en la comunidad? Este semestre de otoño y como parte de una iniciativa de alcance y de programas educativos, más de 110 estudiantes del Departamento de Lingüísticas y Literaturas Hispanas de Pitt visitaron la Galería de Arte de la universidad. De estos estudiantes, el noventa y dos por ciento declaró en encuestas que esta había sido su primera visita. Uno de estos estudiantes escribió: “fue una experiencia que probablemente yo no hubiera recibido si no estuviera en esta clase. Fui sacado de mi zona de confort.”

    Los estudiantes registrados en Español Intermedio 3, Español Intermedio 4 y Conversación participaron en visitas guiadas en la galería de arte y las exhibiciones Desempacado: exposición de ex-alumnos del 50 aniversario Esto no es lo ideal: mitos de género y su transformación. Todas las visitas guiadas fueron llevadas a cabo en español e incluyeron un breve recorrido del claustro y un análisis más profundo del arte contemporáneo y de las exposiciones temporales. Además de incluir la discusión de temas vigentes relacionados con el cuerpo, la cultura popular, el tiempo, la identidad de género y violencia de género, el objetivo de estos recorridos es crear espacios alternativos en donde se pueda practicar la diferencia y donde la diversidad pueda ser celebrada. Como mujer mexicana que aspira a ser profesora en los Estados Unidos, afirmar el valor de la diferencia cultural en las aulas en un asunto de gran importancia para mí.    

    En los trece años que llevo estudiando y trabajando en los Estados Unidos esta es la primera vez que interactúo con estudiantes con conversaciones en español dentro de un espacio académico. Antes de mudarme a Pittsburgh yo vivía en Texas en donde el español es comúnmente hablado y es un factor importante de la vida local cultural; sin embargo, aquí en Pensilvania, en donde la población Hispana o Latina es mucho menor, el comunicarse en español ya no es parte de mi vida diaria. [1] Regularmente mis conversaciones en español ocurren únicamente con mis colegas del Departamento de Historia del Arte y Arquitectura. Esto es especialmente cierto ahora, en esta época en la que los mexicanos somos frecuentemente difamados por el presidente Trump. En el clima político presente, debo admitir que ha sido tanto desafiante como intimidante el expresar mi lengua y cultura. En este contexto, la galería y las visitas guiadas me han provisto del valor y el espacio necesarios para interactuar en mi idioma natal con gente que proviene de una gran variedad de ambientes y de diferentes disciplinas académicas dentro de la universidad. La UAG me ha proporcionado un “espacio seguro” en donde puedo interactuar con otros y orgullosamente presentar mi idioma. Por consiguiente, mis interacciones con estudiantes del Departamento de Lingüísticas y Literaturas Hispanas han sido no solamente revitalizantes e instructivas, sino también personalmente gratificantes.   

    En estas visitas guiadas de 50 minutos los estudiantes participan en conversaciones, contestan preguntas y completan una hoja de trabajo sobre las obras en exposición. Asimismo, al hablar, leer, y escribir en español practican sus habilidades y conocimientos. Mientras que las dinámicas de aprendizaje se vuelven más interactivas con el estudio basado en objetos y fuera del salón de clase tradicional, los estudiantes han manifestado su entusiasmo acerca de sus visitas a la galería. Así se expresó un estudiante al respecto: “aprendí mucho sobre el arte y algunas ideas artísticas. Mejoró mi habilidad de interpretar el arte. [La visita guiada] mejoró mi habilidad de escuchar, [era] más complicado escuchar a alguien que nunca antes había conocido. [Yo] tenía que pensar en español ideas complicadas sobre el arte.”

    Con la variedad de temas desafiantes presentados en la Galería de Arte de la Universidad, las visitas guiadas en español, y las estrategias de aprendizaje basadas en objetos, la diversidad y el entendimiento están siendo promovidos y practicados. Debido al continuo llamamiento al cierre de fronteras entre Estados Unidos y México por parte de la administración, creop que ahora más que nunca la necesidad de que otras culturas y lenguajes permanezcan activos y presentes en nuestras comunidades es crucial. La oportunidad de poderse comunicar en un idioma extranjero no es solamente una habilidad necesaria en el contexto de un mundo globalizado, sino una habilidad que creo es esencial para combatir el racismo. Estas visitas son un importante primer paso, pero es necesario hacer mucho más aquí en el campus. En nuestros esfuerzos por alcanzar una audiencia más grande y crear una universidad y una comunidad más diversa y compasiva, nos seguimos preguntando, ¿qué más se puede hacer para promover un campus inclusivo y una mayor pluralidad de voces, culturas, e idiomas en nuestra sociedad?

    [1] “Fast Facts: Pittsburgh Campus,” Office of Institutional Research, University of Pittsburgh, consultado 28 de November 2018, https://ir.pitt.edu/facts-publications/fast-facts/

     

    Crossing the borders of language at the UAG

    Author: Adriana Miramontes, HAA graduate student

    How can the University Art Gallery (UAG) reach different audiences and increase its presence and visibility on campus and in the community? As part of an outreach initiative and education programming this Fall semester more than 110 students from the Department of Linguistics and Literatures at Pitt visited the University Art Gallery. Of these students, ninety-two per cent declared in survey forms that it was their first visit. As one student wrote: “It was a new experience that I probably wouldn’t have received if I wasn’t in the class. I was taken out of my comfort zone.”

    The students enrolled in Intermediate Spanish 3, Intermediate Spanish 4, and Conversation were introduced to the art gallery and to the exhibits Unboxed: 50thAnniversary Alumni Exhibition and This is Not Ideal: Gender Myths and their Transformation. All the different tours were conducted in Spanish and they included a brief tour of the cloister and a more in-depth discussion of contemporary art and the temporary exhibits on view. The tours have been highly interactive, prompting questions, discussion, and close looking. In addition to discussing relevant topics related to the body, popular culture, time, gender identity, and gender violence, the goal of these tours is to create additional spaces where difference can be experienced and diversity is celebrated. As a Mexican woman who aspires to be a professor in the United States, asserting the value of cultural difference in our classrooms is a matter of great personal significance for me.

    In the thirteen years I have been studying and working in the United States this is the first time that I engage with students in Spanish conversations within an academic space. Before moving to Pittsburgh I lived in Texas where Spanish is often spoken and is an important part of local culture; but here in Pennsylvania, where the Hispanic or Latino population is much smaller, speaking Spanish is no longer a part of my daily life. [1] Regularly my conversations in Spanish occur only with my colleagues in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. This is especially true now when Mexicans are frequently maligned by President Trump. In this political climate, I must admit, it has been both challenging and frightening to embrace my language and culture. Against this backdrop, the gallery tours have given me the necessary courage and space to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines across the university in my first language. The UAG itself has provided me with a “safe space” where I can interact with others and proudly embrace my language. Thus, my interactions with the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures have been not only refreshing and instructive but also personally rewarding.

    In these 50-minute tours the students engage in conversation, answer questions, and complete a worksheet on the artworks exhibited. Their speaking, reading, and writing abilities are all practiced in these sessions. The tour dynamics are more interactive than the traditional classroom, offering object-based study and as a result the students often express their enthusiasm for visiting the gallery. As one student commented, “I learned a lot about art and some artistic ideas. It improved my ability to interpret art. [The tour] improved my listening ability, [it was] more difficult to listen to someone I’ve never met before. [I] had to think about complicated art ideas in Spanish.”

    Through the challenging topics presented by the University Art Gallery, the Spanish tours, and object-based learning strategies, diversity and understanding are being encouraged and practiced. Due to the the current administration’s continued call for the closure of the US-Mexican borders, now more than ever, it seems, the need for other cultures and languages to remain active and present in our communities cannot be overemphasized. The opportunity to communicate in a foreign language is not only a necessary skill in the context of a globalizing world, but one I believe is increasingly crucial for combating racism. These tours represent an important first step, but there is still more that can be done here on campus. In our efforts to reach larger audiences and continue creating a more diverse and compassionate university and community, we continue to ask ourselves how we can foster a more inclusive campus that promotes a plurality of voices, cultures, and languages in our society?

    [1] “Fast Facts: Pittsburgh Campus,” Office of Institutional Research, University of Pittsburgh, accessed November 28, 2018, https://ir.pitt.edu/facts-publications/fast-facts/

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    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

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

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Gallery discussion: Art History in the #MeToo Era

     

    From #MeToo to What Now?: Coping with Sexualized Violence in Art History

    Author: Nicole Scalissi, HAA graduate student

    In mounting This is Not Ideal: Gender Myths and Their Transformation the curatorial team wisely produced a slate of public programming to create space for community processing, discussion, dissent, and response to the challenging and often difficult content in the exhibition. The first of these events was an open discussion for us—students, instructors, curators, artists, and members of the public—to talk about what it means to engage with artworks that show gender-based and sexualized violence in the era of #MeToo.

    In 2017, #MeToo became a viral hash-tag following high-profile and celebrity disclosures of sexual abuse, and spawned a public referendum on sexualized violence. Me Too was originally founded by Tarana Burke and had been helping survivors, especially women and girls of color, find pathways to healing since 2006. Our open discussion was intended to be a space for offering up questions and sharing knowledge about how can we rethink how we (or do we) include—in our galleries, research, and classrooms—artworks that directly engage with gender-based and/or sexualized violence in the Me Too moment? With contributions from Sylvia Rhor, Curator and University Art Gallery Director, and artist Sarika Goulatia, the discussion was provoked by the sophisticated curation process of the Museum Studies students who produced This is Not Ideal, and it’s a big question that some museums, artists, and universities are only starting to grapple with publically. 

    On the one hand, that seems like an over-due question: isn’t it about time? On the other hand, this is a profoundly difficult question to take on for people who curate, teach, or learn about art history: throughout time, and especially in the Western tradition, the history of art is full of images of naked women and scenes of their victimization—sexual and/or otherwise. Women’s bodies have been pressed into service not just in but asnational histories and identities, myths and cautionary tales. Thinly veiled as “allegory,” women’s bodies have been made vulnerable, exposed, restrained, and consumed as art history. So, how then, are we as students and instructors, curators and artists, to deal with a culture of images that so often takes the female body not as subject but as object—i.e. not as people but as things—as a material, form, or concept to be mined and manhandled, gazed upon and fetishized? If we understand #MeToo or #TimesUp to be a reckoning, a cultural point-of-no-return where survivors, especially women—anatomically and not, cis-gendered and otherwise—can speak up and be believed, then what do we do with works of art that illustrate or are the real world product of actual gender-based violence or oppression?

    We panelists got the conversation started with our own research and concerns. As the historian on the panel, I wanted to get a few things to the surface and sketch out the recent national dialogue surrounding sexualized violence, especially as it has intersected with the universities and art world since over the past 5 years: 

    • controversial changes to Title IX under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (more ‘protections’ for those accused of sexual assault, closeddoor adjudication processes) [1]
    • remember Emma Sulkowicz, who carried a 50lb mattress around Columbia University campus for their 2014 senior year in artistic dissent of how CU (mis)handled their rape case? [2]
    • a listing of men’s names, including artist Chuck Close, who have been publically shamed and/or fired—or should be—for sexual misconduct [3]
    • and on the day after the portentous midterm elections and just days after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in the US Senate (that the nominee to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her), it was right to note the ways in which we have recently witnessed what are perhaps the highest stakes for this nation’s understanding of sexualized violence and its ability, or inability, to believe its bravest survivors. [4]

    Sylvia and Sarika shared with us how presenting Prosecuterix, an interactive exhibition based on real disclosures of sexualized violence, in a university setting impacted upon their work as curator, artist, and as citizens. Sylvia showed us how wading into the difficult territory of public display and sexualized violence produced new questions, ethical considerations, and the building of empathy and support networks, and how that experience shaped how she imagines an audience and her work most broadly as both a educator and curator. For example, how to envision and install an exhibition that allows for varying levels of engagement with problematic content, or how to loop in the Title IX office to support viewers and student curators at different levels in the exhibition process. Even still, the question arose again of how to handle problematic or potentially triggering images in the classroom.

    The discussion was built and shaped by members of HAA at all levels, undergraduate students in HAA and/or Museum Studies, graduate students, and faculty—including the Chair of the department. Undergraduate students who co-curated This is Not Ideal shared the debates they had in selecting objects and writing wall captions, and making decisions about which images would represent the exhibition to the public—issues that emerged from close—and sustained looking in this current social context. Most important, they provided feedback to the instructors in the room about what they felt would help them grapple with such images in the classroom, including what has worked and how they felt they could be better supported. (For this, we are grateful.)

    As new ideas emerged, so too did new questions: if content warnings are utilized on the walls of the UAG to support a diverse audience in navigating the difficulty in This is Not Ideal, might we also use these at the start of lectures, on a syllabus? How specific a warning? How to do we prepare as a learning community to handle unforeseen, unwarned triggers that emerge in a class? How can we help our students beyond the “warning,” how can we direct them toward survivor resources, and build a community of support that outlasts the class? How can we as a university community embed this in our culture, not just in specific lectures that engage with this content? 

    Maybe it is not just warnings and support, but enriching our content. For example, if we teach Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus (1875), or any of the thousands of female nudes in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, then perhaps we must also teach The Guerrilla Girls Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met Museum? (1989)—and also that the Met does not own it or any work by the Guerrilla Girls.[5] If we teach the paintings of Chuck Close or Pablo Picasso, ought we also teach about the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct made against them, and the art made in response such as Emma Sulkowicz’s nude performances in front of their paintings at the Met and MoMA? 

    Sylvia and Ellen Larson, Curatorial Assistant at the UAG, convened a panel surrounding a knotty and difficult question, one that is perhaps not answerable in one, final way. A way to begin answering it, however, and to continue the reckoning #MeToo set into motion is something like this discussion: it is navigating this terrain together, responding to the question with more questions, drawing on ideas from other fields, and dialoguing as a community across and through different roles at the university. 

     

    [1] See Megan Cerullo, “Betsy DeVos Proposes Sexual Misconduct Rules that Would Protect Alleged Offenders,” Los Angeles Times (August 29, 2018), https://www.latimes.com/ny-news-betsy-devos-sexual-misconduct-rules-20180829-story.html

    [2] Note: Sulkowicz has used gender-neutral pronouns publically since 2017. See Soraya Nadia McDonald, “It’s Hard to Ignore a Woman Toting A Mattress Everywhere She Goes, Which is Why Emma Sulkowicz ss Still Doing it,” The Washington Post (October 29, 2014)https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/29/its-hard-to-ignore-a-woman-toting-a-mattress-everywhere-she-goes-which-is-why-emma-sulkowicz-is-still-doing-it/?utm_term=.3b684c7e19fb

    [3] Claire Voon and Jillian Steinhauer, “For More Women Allege Sexual Misconduct by Chuck Close,” Hyperallergic (January 16, 2018), https://hyperallergic.com/420538/four-more-women-allege-sexual-misconduct-by-chuck-close/

    [4] See published transcript, “Christine Blasey Ford’s Opening Statement for Senate Hearing,” npr.org [National Public Radio] (September 26, 2018), https://www.npr.org/2018/09/26/651941113/read-christine-blasey-fords-opening-statement-for-senate-hearing

    [5] As the Guerrilla Girls pointed out in the artwork—which surely seemed overdue in 1989, too—“Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections [of the Metropolitan Museum] are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

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    If you feel you are a survivor of sexual harassment or assault, the University of Pittsburgh has support resources, some of which can be obtained anonymously. For more information and to report, see the Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) https://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/share/

     

     

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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