Woody Internship – Taft Museum of Art – Blog 2

Welcome back to Cincinnati and the Taft. Since I’ve already been here since the first week of June (time flies!), there’s quite a lot to write about. For this entry, I’ll be focusing on the research process for my internship project.

Snapshot of my workspace with the books I used to learn the basic Taft history.

Snapshot of my workspace with the books I used to learn the basic Taft history.

The first step after I arrived at the Taft was to get myself up to speed in the history of the museum. For this, I consulted two publications from the museum: The Taft Museum of Art: An Illustrated Guide and The Taft Museum: The History of the Collections and the Baum-Taft House. These books acted as a crash course in Taft history, and, from them, I constructed a rough timeline of the house to use as reference in my subsequent research.

The next step is very familiar to anyone who frequents the William & Mary Libraries site. I used the “advanced search” option to find any and all digital sources related to the past owners of the Baum-Longworth-Sinton-Taft House. From there, I put together an annotated bibliography of sources — primarily digitized periodicals — noting the information I found about these individuals. (Shoutout to Professor McCartney in the history department for teaching me how to write a good annotated bibliography!) This took over a week, but I promise, it hasn’t been dull —  historic periodicals produce some interesting stories. One of my favorite sources is an editorial in a nineteenth-century horticultural magazine in which the editors bitterly admit that okay, maybe Nicholas Longworth was right about strawberry cultivation, but that still doesn’t mean we like him because we think he’s being a bit extra.

I’ve also compiled a list of physical sources, primarily dissertations and archival materials, which I’ll have to visit certain sites to see. I’ll probably be making trips to several sites — the Public Library of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Historical Library & Archives among them — to check out primary and secondary sources I can’t access online.

In all this work compiling sources, I’ve started writing a document with the abridged versions of information I’ve found. This document contains most of the fun facts that my research has produced — did you know Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem praising Nicholas Longworth’s wine? — as well as other important information.

They told me to make a button. I made a button about mansplaining. Cutouts from a postcard of the painting 'A Woman with a Cittern and a Singing Couple at a Table,' Pieter de Hooch, from the Taft collection.

They told me to make a button. I made a button about mansplaining. Cutouts from a postcard of the painting ‘A Woman with a Cittern and a Singing Couple at a Table,’ Pieter de Hooch, from the Taft collection.

For the most part, my days are spent conducting independent research. I work in the Learning & Engagement Office, which is definitely the most fun department at the Taft (not that I’m biased or anything). For example, last Tuesday, we made buttons inspired by Pride Month and the Taft collection to prepare for a craft activity at House Party, and on Wednesday, we took a quick ice cream break to United Dairy Farmers across the river.

(Side note: did any other non-Ohioans know United Dairy Farmers is a thing? It’s an Ohio-only gas station and convenience store chain that also sells excellent ice cream. I highly recommend the chocolate fudge brownie flavor. However, I have to say, as gas-station-convenience-stores go, I still prefer Wawa.)

Chocolate fudge brownie ice cream from United Dairy Farmers. Yum.

Chocolate fudge brownie ice cream from United Dairy Farmers. Yum.

Otherwise, I’ve been hard at work, doing what I do best as a history major: reading old documents and fastidiously writing Chicago-style citations. This project is a fascinating marriage of my academic interest in historical research and my career interest in public history. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

 

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