Woody Internship at the Getty: Blog 8

Further Forays into the Museum World

I wrote an earlier blog post entitled “Forays into Museum Exhibitions,” in which I talked about the Exhibit opening I worked and the curator tours I went on. Over the past few weeks I’ve also had the chance to visit various Museum departments and talk with curators and conservators, as well as work another Exhibit opening. The opening was for our new show, London Calling, which is showcasing six British Modernist artists. For this opening we had a DJ performing (of course he played The Clash’s London Calling) and a British cuisine inspired menu with the best item being fish and chips. While staff and press previews ran normally, a new element was added during the press preview. “Social Media Influencers” (read: popular Instagrammers) were invited to attend so that they could post photos and videos to various social media outlets to hopefully increase attendance to the exhibition, particularly from a younger audience. The event ran smoothly and the DJ added a really lively ambience to the experience, so it was definitely an exciting event to work.

I’ve been able to meet with one of our curators Bryan Keene, who works in the Manuscripts Division. Our first meeting we got coffee and talked about the work he does here: research, planning exhibits and writing the catalogs, digital archiving of the manuscripts, and docent lectures and tours. I also asked him about his exhibit that was open the first half of my summer here, Traversing the Globe Through Illuminated Manuscripts. I was curious how he came up with the concept, the process in choosing what materials to display, and his collaboration with different departments. Bryan was interested both in how Medieval Europe depicted other cultures and the cross-cultural dissemination of information and iconography, which formed the framework for this exhibit and guided his decision-making process in choosing what page of a book to display and what non-book artifacts to showcase. I was also very interested to hear about how he and his department work with the design team in coming up with the layouts for the exhibition and the publicity banners, the education and public programs department in helping them create programs that relate to the exhibit, as well as the conservation and preparations teams.

Bryan also offered to show me some manuscripts if I had time in my last few weeks. Well, of course I was dying to see some up close and personal, so I browsed the online collection and emailed him a few requests to view. I didn’t get a response for a few days and with my time here coming to a close I resigned myself to the fate of not getting to see them. By coincidence however, I ran into him in the elevator as he was going home early this week. Apologizing profusely for not getting back to me he suggested we meet the next morning. I was beyond pleased. I met him, and the graduate intern in the department, Alex, and we went to their storage room. Bryan first pulled a couple of cuttings that he’s studying for his dissertation, telling me about how he’s arguing that the three which have typically been attributed to the same artist are actually all different. He also pulled two Books of Hours that he will be displaying for his next exhibit, some cuttings of miniatures with incredibly detailed landscapes, and an Ethiopian Gospel that had been on display for the Global exhibit. He and Alex tossed ideas back and forth about the upcoming exhibit and what pieces they wanted to display, which was a fun observation of the process of creating an exhibit. Afterward, Bryan took me up to the current exhibition (designed by a different assistant curator), “Things Unseen: Vision, Belief, and Experience in Illuminated Manuscripts”, to give me some insights into its conception and development.

I also was able to visit one of the conservation labs, which was really fun. Danielle set up a meeting with paintings conservator Devi Ormund who showed me a large renaissance painting she was removing the varnish on. She using a UV light to see where the varnish was, which shows up green under the light. Devi also showed me some of the altar pieces that will be displayed for an upcoming exhibit called “Shimmer of Gold: Giovanni di Paolo in Renaissance Sienna,” and pieces from other museums that get work done because the Getty has resources unavailable to smaller museums. It was such a cool opportunity to “go behind the scenes” to see how paintings are preserved and cared for.