Music to Munch

My fourth week at the Phillips Collection was full of a myriad of different projects for various departments ranging from the studious to the hilariously resourceful. This week I got to be a researcher, editor, packer, and explorer as I engaged with new facets of the museum and the city itself.

I started off the week focused on finishing the digital strategies profiles of over 40 art museums in the United States. By the time I finished proofreading my list of profiles, I was impressed with how much I had come to learn about museums’ digital initiatives in only a few short weeks. With my analyses clear and organized, I sent off the surprisingly long, though thorough, document to my supervisor to have on record as the Phillips continues developing its own unique digital strategy. While my digital strategy profiles are complete for now, I am sure that I will be returning to the topic of museum digital strategy in the weeks to come.

Completing my largest independent research project at the Phillips to date left me open to help out various departments with smaller tasks. One of these departments was the Phillips Music Department, which hosts the museum’s acclaimed Sunday Concert series. I was delighted to be able to help the department in a few small ways this week, from organizing audio files for the upcoming season to addressing and stuffing envelopes for Phillips Music donors. I loved seeing the highly personalized notes (often adorned with smiley faces) that the head of the music department left on each letter that I helped send off; it really reinforced the idea of the Phillips Collection being a family from its staff to its members.

On the subject of mail, one interesting task that I helped with this past week was sending out exhibition catalogues to individuals and institutions who loaned pieces for the recent George Condo: The Way I Think exhibition. Our simple morning task of sliding the hefty catalogues into FedEx boxes turned into an all-day affair after a director suggested we mail the catalogues from the post office to save money. Of course, this suggestion came after we had already neatly packed and labelled the eleven FedEx boxes and moved them to the deliveries office. Three of us ended up trudging down to the post office in the sweltering midday heat to re-package, re-address, and ship off the catalogues. While we were resourceful enough to bring our own packing tape to the post office, we had forgotten to bring scissors. So our creativity (and sanity?) was put to the test as we ended up using pen tips and half-opened paper clips to cut strips of packing tape in the middle of a fairly busy post office. We realized how silly (read: crazy) we must have looked, but were incredibly proud of ourselves once those packages were finally in the mail. Hey, sometimes the little victories are the most important.

Towards the end of the week I got a new, but brief, research project: looking up all of the Edvard Munch paintings residing in U.S. art museums. This research pertained to the Phillips Collection’s upcoming Nordic Impressions exhibition. Since domestic art loans tend to be easier and cheaper, one of our directors wanted to have a list of Munch paintings in the U.S. on file in case any backup options are needed for the exhibition. I was excited to perform this research since I knew that it would be quick, yet helpful for this important exhibition. I also felt comfortable searching U.S. art museums since I grew extremely familiar with many of their websites in my previous digital strategy research.

Another task from this week that made me feel useful and trusted was proofreading emails for the Director of Membership. While the task was straightforward and simple enough, I felt proud to have a hand in ensuring that the museum’s membership renewal letters get sent off without a hitch. Getting to help perfect these important messages really made me feel like a trusted member of the Phillips Collection family as I helped another department put its best foot forward for the museum.

I got to finish off the week by becoming a true explorer (tourist, if you will) of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Last Friday I finished my work by noon, and was permitted to leave early by my supervisor who was away for her brother’s wedding. I grabbed myself some lunch at the museum cafe and browsed the museum shop (who doesn’t love a good museum gift shop?) before heading out into Dupont for some nerdy adventuring. While I’ve grown up living in the D.C. area my whole life, I had hardly spent any time around Dupont Circle prior to my internship. With the day ahead of me (and three hours until the next bus home) I decided to soak up some sunshine as I walked from one famous bookstore to the next. My first stop was Kramerbooks, a magical bookstore that’s open from 7:30am – 1am almost every day and known for its notable book readings and signings (not to mention its adorable cafe). After browsing through Kramerbooks I wandered over to Second Story Books, a store renowned for its rare and used book collections (also featured on one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing).

I’m sure my twampy adventures in Dupont will continue along with new and exciting projects at the Phillips. Here’s hoping next week is just as fun, funny, and enlightening!