Final Weeks at the Phillips

My last two weeks at the Phillips Collection were filled with plenty of exciting projects and meetings across several departments. While I was sad to leave the my internship at the Phillips last Friday, I left with the sense that I made some valuable contributions over the past ten weeks. I also left with the sense that the relationships that I built over the course of this summer will not fade quickly, and I look forward to returning to the Phillips as often as possible with friends and family to share all that the museum has to offer.

During my second to last week at the Phillips I got to work on some new and some familiar projects which showed me how various departments must work together in order to run a truly cohesive museum. On Monday I found myself working again with the Renoir and Friends checklist, this time editing it to fit the needs of those working with major gifts. I needed to cut down the checklist to show only works on loan from public institutions so that donors could offer to sponsor these works and receive recognition at the exhibition. This project taught me more about the work of development departments, but also how these departments rely on others, like curators and registrars, to carry out their projects.

Later in the week I got to take notes at the installations meeting for Renoir and Friends, where I watched curators, registrars, and preparators discuss the more technical and logistical challenges of hanging an exhibition. While I was fascinated by the installation process that was being discussed, I was also pleased to see how friendly everyone was with each other and how eager they all were to help solve each others’ problems and turn ideas into reality. Although the installation process is quite involved, I was glad to see the Phillips Collection staff handle it with grace and a little bit of humor to soften the atmosphere, reminding me once again that the Phillips Collection is really like a family.

That week I also helped my supervisor, Kathryn, more directly by proofreading for Phillips Music and creating event webpages for the UMD Center for Art and Knowledge. Having spent a great deal of time proofreading catalogues the week before, proofreading the Phillips Music Sunday Concert Series brochure felt like a breeze. In fact, I enjoyed the exercise since it taught me even more about the upcoming series and the history of music as an integral part of the Phillips Collection. As for the event pages, I was excited to once again use my new skill to create webpages, this time for the upcoming Conversations with Artists series which brings contemporary artists to speak at the Phillips Collection and work with art students at the University of Maryland. While I have been working in the Center all summer, I was excited to work more directly with one of their programs and learn more about the strong partnership between the museum and the university.

During my final week at the Phillips Collection I got to work on a few more projects for the registrar, learn more about some of the departments that I spent less time with this summer, and spend a little time wandering the galleries.

At the beginning of last week I was busy making “cheat sheets” for the Renoir and Friends exhibition for the registrar. These “cheat sheets” consisted simply of each picture, it’s title, and it’s lender so that the registrar can tape them to the walls and replace them with the actual works once they arrive at the Phillips Collection from their lenders. Later in the week I also helped the registrar fill in information for the exhibition’s VIP guest list (a list of lenders and people integral to the success of the exhibition who will be invited to the exhibition’s opening). The project involved some basic researching of various lending institutions as well as compiling information sent to the Phillips Collection from lending institutions. While I was rather excited to be working with these fancy ~VIPS~ I truly enjoyed completing projects for the registrar since I really got to see the exhibition come together. Now I can’t wait to return to the Phillips for Renoir and Friends this fall!

Last Thursday I got to have a couple of informational meetings with the conservation and education departments to learn more about their roles and how they cater specifically to the Phillips Collection. At the conservation department, I learned how conservators around the world are in constant conversation with one another to best preserve works of delicate materials that have been altered by time and environmental factors. I was interested to learn that everything a conservator does must be easy to undo (in case any mistakes should be made) and that the ultimate goal for ever conservator is that his or her treatments should last roughly 100 years. While these seemed like rather stressful standards to me, the conservators explained that this is just the norm, which is why above all else a conservator should be someone comfortable working with their own two hands. Over at the education department, I learned about the Phillips Collections’ partnerships with individual schools in the DC area and new outreach program with THEARC. I was excited to learn that the Phillips Collection works with more than school art programs as they work with individual teachers to help integrate art into various other subjects from math to history. Having heard a bit this summer about the Phillips’ connection to THEARC, I was interested to learn more about how the museum is building a satellite center in Anacostia to help bring artistic outreach beyond the museum’s Dupont Circle campus. Beyond learning about various aspects of the Phillips Collection, these meetings introduced me to other members of the Phillips family, ones just as kind and dedicated as those I had encountered throughout the summer.

On my last day, I got to help play around with the language for a blurb for Phillips Music and finish up my work with the registrar, but I also got to spend some one-on-one time with the museum’s galleries. Well, it wasn’t exactly one-on-one since the museum was packed with visitors and participants in the Asian American Literature Festival, but for me it made my wandering even more enjoyable to be sounded by art, artists, and art appreciators. After all, museums – and the Phillips in particular – are designed as hubs of learning and fascination, and they require captivated audiences to fulfill their missions. So, as I got one last look through the museum as an intern, I was happy not only to see some of my favorite works, but to see them being absorbed by so many visitors.

This may be cheesy, but I’m going to take this last paragraph to thank everyone at the Phillips Collection and the Woodys for making my summer internship experience possible. To any William & Mary students reading, if you are interested in museums you should seriously consider applying to this internship next year. The people are incredibly kind and willing to help you succeed, and spending your days in DC offers you new experiences and perspectives even when you least expect it. My experience with the Phillips Collection will never be forgotten, and with my new skills I feel prepared to take on the museum world after graduation.