One of the best and most unique features of the MANO internship program is its generous professional development funding.
In my previous blog post, I described my daily schedule and the kinds of learning that occur on the job and in the office. However, as my conversations grow more in-depth, diving into questions of best collections practices, curatorial methods, museum ethics, and exhibition design, I realize how beneficial connecting to others across the museum field and visiting a physical museum would be.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there are limited opportunities to attend in-person conferences or classes. As more of these events have transitioned to online platforms, I have enjoyed tuning into these programs from the comfort of my own desk. In fact, over the last year and a half, I have noticed how quickly free Zoom events and recorded webinars have become a staple of museum educational programming. Thus far this summer, I have attended four virtual events, a few highlights including a four-part conversation series called “Museums Interrupted,” a “History of Native American Boarding Schools” webinar, and a “Collections Care to Social Justice” panels. My favorite of the “Museums Interrupted” series was an event entitled, “Built on the Backs of Others,” which emphasized the importance of museums as sites for education and discussed ways we need to decolonize and deracialize these institutions. By listening to people talk across the museum field and across the world, from curators in Germany to directors in Nigeria, this webinar gave me the confidence to reach out to these professionals and continue the conversations started in this event. Through email exchanges and informational interviews, I learned more about their career paths, their curatorial interests, and asked for advice as a young professional. Through these events and conversations, I have ideas about how to better approach my summer projects and on-campus museum jobs in the fall.
Once museums reopened and became accessible to visit, my conversations with museum staff continued to grow my interest in this work. Over the past two months, HAF has made it possible for me to visit more than eight museums in the mid-Atlantic region. A few highlights thus far include the Penn Museum, the Mütter Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Department of the Interior Museum. When I was visiting these museums, it was so inspiring to be back in these galleries, breaking up my normal routine and commute, as I exposed myself to new ideas, media, and artists. I also took the time to intentionally read the exhibition labels as models for my own narrative description project—noticing how they described hard topics with concise, clear language while acknowledging the differences between observation and interpretation.
One of the best parts of my museum visits were talking to the security guards in the galleries. My favorite conversation was with a gallery guard in D.C. as we discussed her favorite piece in the exhibition. Through our thoughtful conversation, the painting was no longer a just painting to me but embodied multiple lived narratives, serving as a spark for important conversations and enriching my museum experience in a way I will be forever grateful for. Security gallery guards have so much knowledge about the art they protect and the audience that streams through the galleries. They are one of the few positions in museums that interact with the art daily on a deep, personal level, followed by collections archivists and conservators. I believe the gallery guards bring a much needed, valuable perspective to art and plentiful experience to back it up; they are truly the backbones of a museum. I appreciate how institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art have recognize them and create exhibitions that revolve around their ways of seeing art. While I went to the museum originally to see specific exhibitions, I left feeling inspired by the personal conversations and human connections I made. Though it has been a few weeks since I last visited a museum, these visits and interactions still have an impact on how I engage with art in the world and my internship projects today.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a MANO intern this summer and for HAF’s commitment to education and broadening professional networks. To future interns, I recommend exploring all the tools, connections, and resources this incredible organization gives you. Even without this generous funding, I was impressed by how many free events, virtual exhibitions, and online courses I found while researching opportunities. I have included some of my favorite resources below.
Agency: National Park Service
Location: Harpers Ferry Center for Media Services