Undergraduate Work

  • Digitizing Nan Goldin's memoir of Greer Lankton, A Rebel Whose Dolls Embodied Her Dreams

     

    Experiencing the Different Levels of the Greer Lankton Archive

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory – Fall 2018

    In 1996, just weeks before her passing, transgender artist Greer Lankton presented a monumental exhibition of her work at the Mattress Factory (MF) in the Northside. The centerpiece of the show was Lankton’s first large-scale installation piece, It’s all about ME, Not You. While looking through the Greer Lankton Archive this semester, I came across the original correspondences between the curator of the 1996 show, the director of the MF, and Lankton, organizing a trip for Lankton to come to Pittsburgh to see the museum and plan out the installation. 

    This fall, I was tasked with processing Lankton’s archival material, starting with organizing numerous boxes of magazine and newspaper clippings, personal letters, contracts, photographs, and exhibition materials. I quickly noticed that Lankton kept anything mentioning her or her work, whether it was a short sentence in a magazine promoting a group show, or a full-page advertisement for a solo exhibition. In a sense, Lankton archived her own life and work by saving such a vast range of materials. Looking through her papers, I witnessed Lankton’s professional successes as well as the personal struggles she faced. Her work portrays these challenges, but reading striking first-hand accounts written by Lankton and those closest to her was even more powerful.

    One of the most notable things I read was a binder of daily journal entries written by Lankton’s father, Bill. The entries were written while Lankton’s parents were spending more time with her to offer support during her recovery. Bill Lankton writes about mundane activities, like accompanying Greer to McDonald’s, where they seemed to go at least twice a week, to more exciting activities, such as their trip to Pittsburgh to visit the MF. The journal concludes with entries from the days after Greer’s passing, when her parents and family friends collected her things from her apartment in Chicago, forming the basis of the MF’s archive. In the same way Greer compiled her personal archive, her parents picked up where she left off. Bill Lankton describes rifling through boxes of exhibition pamphlets and promotional materials, just as I did this semester.

    Along with supporting the permanent installation of It’s all about ME, Not You, one of the goals of the Greer Lankton Archive, is to make the material more readily available to researchers and scholars through digitization. Once I organized a portion of the archive, I scanned everything and uploaded the files into Collective Access, the MF’s collections database. My time at the MF taught me the value of committing to a process, even though I was not sure what the outcome would be. Through this project, I also gained a new sense of respect for Greer Lankton, her parents, and her art. Seeing all of Lankton’s life—from school reports from when she was still known as “Greg,” to the aftermath of her death through Bill Lankton’s journal entries—allowed me the opportunity to consider her legacy and what it means to document someone’s life.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • A little known artwork by Sol LeWitt in the underground T Station at Wood Street in Pittsburgh, PA

     

    Pittsburgh’s Sol LeWitt

    Museum Studies Intern at the Office of Public Art - Fall 2018

    One of the best and most valuable opportunities I had during my internship was the chance to interview Carol R. Brown, the former President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Carol R. Brown was a member of the committee that commissioned a piece by Sol LeWitt in the Wood Street T Station titled Thirteen Geometric Figures. Brown and I discussed the selection process of artists for public art commissions and spoke about several of the other pieces of artwork around Pittsburgh. I was particularly excited for this interview because of Brown’s former position in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and her accomplishments for the arts in the city.

    Brown was responsible for raising fund for the project in the private sector. The Port Authority was responsible for the construction costs and the committee would secure the private funds necessary to match the Port Authority funds. Brown met with Jack Heinz, the head of the Heinz Endowment and the Heinz Corporation at the time. Heinz loved the arts and ended up talking to Brown for two hours and ultimately gave the committee the quarter of a million they needed.  During the installation process, LeWitt worked with the architects to ensure that the connection between his artwork and the light rail station was seamless.

    Interning for the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council has opened my eyes to the vast amount of artwork around downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. My main responsibility this semester was visiting ten different public art sites in these specific areas and writing about them for the Art Places section of the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council website. Rachel Klipa, Program Manager for the Office of Public Art, was my mentor and the person to whom I reported. Once my submissions were submitted to her, Rachel would edit and then approve my writings once they were revised. Some of the Art Places Profiles I produced include the Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park, To Pittsburgh by Jenny Holzer in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and the Edward Manning Bigelow statue in front of Phipps Conservatory.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Chain Reaction Contraption Competition

    Museum Studies Intern at Carnegie Science Center - Fall 2018

     “The beak of a giant squid-like creature has been found on the bottom of the fjord. The only conclusion we can come to is that we have found the remains of the monster that inspired the Viking legends, the only thing that frightened them. We have found proof... of the LEGEND OF THE KRAKEN!”. And with that an eager audience watched and listened as Oleg and Grigorg, two holographic Vikings brought back to life using the most advanced technology, recounted their final efforts to defeat the legendary beast. Through a roundabout chain of events including a faulty catapult launch, misfired cannon, disruption of the god Thor and a treacherous lightning storm, the Kraken met his demise. 

    Spectators proceeded to watch as the Vikings set a recreation of their complicated story into action. Using only gravity and a plastic boulder, a machine consisting of over 20 intricately constructed steps was set into motion. After months of planning and preparation, the student team from Seneca Valley High School was presenting their original Chain Reaction Contraption to a panel of judges. The creativity in both their design and presentation did not go unnoticed as they earn themselves an award for the most creative contraption. 

    The Chain Reaction Contraption Contest is an annual competition held at Carnegie Science Center. Nearly 50 teams of high school students learned about design, problem solving and teamwork as they built contraptions to complete a specific task in no fewer than 20 steps. This year, students were challenged to create contraptions that would ‘tie a knot’. Teams have the opportunity to exhibit their creative side as they decided how to interpret the given challenge. As an intern in the Marketing Department at Carnegie Science Center, my semester of work culminated in the opportunity to manage the media surrounding this year’s competition, a highlight of my internship experience. From writing the media advisory to creating content for social media throughout the day of the competition and adding my contributions to the Science Center’s photo archive I was given the opportunity to showcase all of the skills I had garnered through the semester. 

    In a city known for science and innovation, Carnegie Science Center has worked hard to establish themselves as trusted voice of science and technology. I was honored to be a part of assisting the Science Center in maintaining this role within the community. Throughout my internship I gained an understanding of the breadth of tasks the Marketing Department undertakes as I managed large data sets of sponsor deliverables, collected and analyzed visitor information, directly engaged with the public to enhance community relations and much more. The opportunities the Science Center provided me as an intern were invaluable. 

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Tim filming the Titanic... After Dark Promotional Video

     

    Titanic: Dinosaur Edition

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

    During my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I assisted Tim, the museum’s Videographer, with filming a promotional video for the event Titanic… After Dark. Tim had cleverly storyboarded a video similar to the movie Titanic’s trailer, including iconic scenes from the movie–but with Rose and Jack being played by dinosaurs. We filmed at various locations in the museum, starting at the long benches in the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians. We used this area to recreate the iconic scene where Jack paints Rose wearing the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace. 

    From there we moved to the museum’s grand staircase to recreate the moment Jack goes to the first class club and sees Rose coming down the stairs. I helped to set up scenes, carry props, and assist the actors. I helped the actors adjust their dinosaur costumes, attaching the proper wigs and accessories to them for each scene. It was extremely difficult to get our “Heart of the Ocean” necklace to stay attached to the inflatable dinosaur costume, so I helped figure out the best way to keep it in place. I was even able to make suggestions for the best locations to recreate scenes from the movie.

    The museum frequently hosts After Dark event nights that have various themes, and are for visitors ages 21 and up. After Dark events occur at night from 6-10pm and are a unique experience where adults can visit the museum, as well as purchase cocktails. These nights spark a lot of public interest since they are a fun excuse for the attendees to dress up, see live music, fun demonstrations, and are centered around a unique theme. During my time working at CMNH, I assisted in creating social media content for the Zombies After Dark event, which was held in October 2018, as well as creating social media content for the Titanic… After Dark event in December of 2018.

    As a Museum Studies intern in the Marketing Department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, it was my job to help promote special events and exhibitions and to respond to event inquiries on social media. My work was overseen by Kathleen Sallada, Erin Southerland, and Tim Evans. Throughout my time at the museum, I was assigned a variety of tasks in order to assist the department in any way possible, but my favorite assignment was assisting Tim film the Titanic… After Dark video. When the final video was released on Facebook, it received a lot of positive attention from the public. I enjoyed being a part of creating such a great social media advertisement and seeing all that goes into video production. 

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • 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
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    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
    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

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