Newsletter 2022: Graduate Student Summer Professional Development Funding
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Thanks to a private contribution to the Graduate Program and supplementary funding from the Graduate School all MA students in the program have the opportunity to pursue funded summer professional development projects. These typically take the form of internships, independent research projects, and/or additional language study.
Yi-Lin Cheng, Internship at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
During the summer of 2021, I had an internship at the European print collection department at the Mead Art Museum. The goal of the internship project was to make the collection database accessible by inputting appropriate keywords. Among their extensive print collection, I chose to focus on the 18th-19th century satirical prints, such as works by James Gillray (1756 - 1815), George Cruikshank (1792-1878), Francisco Goya (1746 - 1828), and Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808 - 1879). To identify the suitable keywords for each print, I researched the cartoonists’ biographies, the historical contexts, and the visual audiences. In this challenging time, I was afforded a chance to work on-site. Having the opportunity to examine the prints in person was an invaluable experience for me since materiality is a crucial topic in my research.
Besides this main task, I also participated in the museum’s professional development workshops to gain more curatorial knowledge. One workshop that I found particularly beneficial is the label writing section. It addressed the challenge of making an inclusive description for a wide range of museum visitors. In addition, I contributed some writings about Hannah Humphrey (circa 1745-1818), a leading print publisher in London, and Bernard Leach’s pots at the Mead Museum for future research.
Jack Goode, Internship at the Atwood Museum, Chatham, MA and Latin Language Study
This past summer, I used the department's Summer Professional Development Grant to fund an internship with the Atwood Museum of the Chatham Historical Society in Chatham, Massachusetts. At the Atwood, I worked closely with the assistant director, John Tibbetts, museum administrator, Kristina Koskores, and a community volunteer, Janet Marjollet, to aid in the preparation for an exhibition next year: Weird, Wacky, and Wonderful. The exhibition delves into the museum's storerooms, prioritizing objects that have not been displayed in years, to find the most interesting and fascinating artifacts in the collection. I was responsible for researching the objects to provide context for them, many of which were donated with very little information. A large portion of the objects were accessioned in 1926, the year the museum opened. My research into the objects will serve as reference as the final roster for the exhibition is made and it will inform the wall text, educational guides, and other promotional materials for the exhibition. As a culmination to my work, I had the opportunity to write two short articles for the Atwood's monthly column in the Cape Cod Chronicle newspaper. While I have worked in a museum before, it had always been in an educational context. I had never had the chance to see the curatorial—or any other—side of the process, and this provided invaluable insight as I consider different career options after UMass. The practical knowledge of museum work that I gained at the Atwood (about curation, research, and the operations of a smaller institution) is something that only hands-on experience could have taught me, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see another side of the museum world. In addition to my work at the Atwood, I was able to attend an intensive Latin course through the University of Arizona, covering four semesters of content in just 10 weeks. With this intensive course, I will now satisfy the requirements that PhD programs ask of applicants as I begin to prepare applications for hopeful entry in fall 2022.
Cecily Hughes, Internship at the Smith College Museum of Art
Accessing the medieval world through hands-on study of its objects has always been a dream of mine, and it was one I was happily able to realize this summer. During my internship at the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA), I grasped the Middle Ages by their (sculptural) heart, under the exceptional supervision of the museum’s Curator of Painting & Sculpture, Danielle Carrabino. Together, we worked towards the SCMA’s Fall 2022 exhibition, Brought to Life: Polychrome Wooden Sculpture from Europe, 1300–1700. The show will feature notable examples from the Smith collection, as well as several works from other Five College Museums.
Danielle generously invited me to assist with many parts of the show’s curatorial process. On the pragmatic, administrative side, I went through the nuts and bolts of writing loan letters, working with an exhibition designer, and attending interdepartmental meetings to brainstorm exhibition programming and possible collaborations with the Smith Botanic Gardens (the show’s main attractions are, at their core, wood, after all). We began the research component of the show by casting a wide net to help identify possible themes around which to organize both the physical and conceptual layout of the exhibition. This work branched in many directions, oriented around both the physical and spiritual attributes of wood. Our themes came to include consideration of materials, techniques, and conservation as well as carved medieval figures of saints as earthly (wooden) intercessors between common people and the divine.
Seeking to learn more about historic perceptions of saints led me on a deep dive into primary medieval sources like The Golden Legend, where I learned about the lives of Saints Ursula, Fiacre, and Roch (a plague saint — very germaine for our times!) Further secondary source research into Ursula — princess, pilgrim, seafarer, leader of legions of women, and defacto feminist icon — proved especially fruitful. I discovered that Hildegard von Bingen, the fabulous medieval polymath and abbess, actually composed 13 chants to St. Ursula. Moreover, I was able to locate both the original neumed scores in the digitized Risenkodex manuscript as well as several contemporary transcriptions and recorded performances of those very chants. Most excitingly, the Director of Choirs at Smith is enthusiastic about collaborating with the SCMA, resulting in a recording or in-gallery performance of Hildegard’s chants by the Smith College Chamber Singers. Thus, visitors will be able to listen to them while looking at St. Ursula’s sculpture. This design strategy is meant to evoke the multi-sensory nature of medieval artworks and how people experienced them in churches and cathedrals, surrounded by music and incense, and illuminated by the shimmering light of candles. In all senses of the word, then, my internship can be described as wonderfully experiential!