Around The Rooms in ~70~ Days

Continuing my research into the museum world with Mr. Michael Walter and others in Washington, D.C.

 

Around The Rooms in ~70~ Days

Annette Yauger - Museum Studies Intern at The Nationality Rooms - Spring 2020

Chancellor John Bowman, the 10th Chancellor of the University in 1927, developed the Nationality Rooms in a moment of turmoil. He had planned for a massive campus building to be constructed, and it was going well until the Great Depression hit. After a devastating loss of income, construction on the Cathedral of Learning came to a halt. People from a variety of ethnic groups from the Pittsburgh area donated money to the university for their educational endeavors. In honor of the ethnic communities that donated money to the university, Bowman dedicated a classroom in this new building to some of the area’s major ethnic groups. These are educational spaces, but decorated and designed in a style inspired by the traditional décor and architecture of the donors’ country or region. Almost 100 years later, these 31 rooms remain a unifying space for those in the community, as well as visitors. Each is filled with donated objects, a surprise to many visitors.

During my internship, I photographed, processed, and accessioned a massive donation of items from West Africa. These items ranged from small leather wallets and wooden busts of people to a large container of margarine. While going through and researching the items was the most fun, writing condition reports was the most educational part of my internship. I was able to see how the items needed to be taken care of, and, in turn, learned more about them and collections management.

            I worked together with Mr. Michael Walter, The Nationality Rooms Tour Coordinator, to mount an exhibition in January. This exhibition was already planned, requiring last-minute research and installation. Later, I assisted Mr. Walter in the development of an exhibition showcasing items of varying size by researching specific objects in the collections and finding narratives between them. While looking at a few of the items he wanted to use, we noticed that nature and natural elements were a common theme. Nature: Large and Small came together in the form of a PowerPoint, due to COVID-19 cutting the semester short. I used photographs taken of different items, netsukes and gold weights for example and was able to discuss their similarities and differences through a lens focused on size and natural elements. For example, also included in the exhibition was a Romanian wool shepherd’s coat with floral embroidery, and very small Turkish slippers, also embroidered with flowers. I compared the detailed photographs of the embroidered flowers on each garment and discussed the unique styles while focusing on the purpose of the items – whether that purpose be keeping warm or being stylish. This exhibition may not have been “mounted” in the way that I expected, but it provided a valuable and unique learning experience that I will be sure not to forget.

 

Categories: 
  • Visual Knowledge
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Spaces