Saturday, August 29, 2009

Update from the Delaware Art Museum

Theresa Handwerk,
Delaware Art Museum,
Education Department Intern,
Wilmington, Delaware

Summer is winding down, and schools and museums are getting ready for the academic year. At the Delaware Art Museum, one of my projects is wrapping up and my energies are being directed towards my other major project.

My project of researching stories from the turn of the last century is, comparatively speaking, nearing completion. I still have several to scan from books and microfilm, but I have standardized the process and completed the majority of the task. The main goal of the project was to collect the stories to have them on file for access by the docents (and curators, if needed). The next logical step of the project might be to read and summarize all of the works; however, while some of the stories are very brief, many are in book-length form. I broached this topic with my supervisor and she agreed that with a collection of stories that will ultimately number about 75, it would be a monumental task to read and summarize them all. For the time being, the project will stand as is, with each reader summarizing a work as they wish.

My other major project, the self-guided gallery brochure, is now in full swing. I have changed and redefined my theme several times - it's still in progress - based on what works are on permanent display and what speaks to me (and, hopefully by extension, the audience). Since I have been at the museum for several months, I am trying to take a longer, more realistic view of tasks and projects - what would be different if I were a museum employee instead of an intern? As I was becoming captivated by the research and creative thought process, it occurred to me to meet with my supervisor and pose the following question: If I were a paid employee, just how much time would I have to work on this type of project? She indicated that, if no deadline is required, progress is made during time available and a self-imposed deadline created. My next step with the brochure is to develop about a paragraph of information and questions for each work of art that will pique the visitor's interest and get them thinking about my chosen theme.

In the near future, I'm looking forward to interviewing school children about their experiences at the museum, as well as participating in as many of the cool events at the museum as possible. The Delaware Art Museum has a new special exhibit, Exposed!, which explores artistic appropriation and influence. We are also offering a number of films and even a Facebook Fan Night with live music. Come check us out!

A Lesson in Historic Preservation

Stephanie Lampkin
The Read House and Gardens
New Castle, DE

Maintaining a historic house takes a lot of time and money, both of which always seem to be in short supply. Restoration, repairs, and other construction work must occur regularly in order to keep the site intact. The last time construction occurred at the Read House was in the 1980s and it is due for repairs. For several years, the Read House staff have been planning a
nd now, thanks to a grant from Save America's Treasures, that construction is finally taking place!

Prior to the start of the construction work on the exterior of the house to repair the
masonry and 70+ windows, Michele asked me to gather information from images to determine the extent of some of the restoration work completed in the 1980s which would prove helpful for the current project. During the first week of construction, I also went around and photographed the architectural features of the interior and exterior of the house, which will be useful for the conservation easement.

I have also helped Michele to monitor the progress of the construction. As the painters stripped and washed the windows, dust and water began to make its way into the house. While most of the leakage was minor, it proves how important it is for staff members to monitor the construction work closely.

From the Collections Management point of view, objects in the Nursery, pictured left, and the Servant's Quarters, pictured right, had to be moved away from windows, and in some cases covered with sheets, so that they would not be damaged. More fragile objects have been packaged and moved to the attic or taken to the collections storage area in Wilmington. The ongoing construction, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, has also caused the museum to temporarily change its hours. Inviting visitors while the construction work was in progress was proving to be difficult. The noise from the work as well as the hazards of walking through both entrances became problematic. As a result, Michele made the decision to open the house for one tour at the end of the day. I was more than happy to act as the Read House tour guide during that period.

Watching this entire process has been exciting and very valuable. I cannot wait to see the house once the construction is completed!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Read House and Gardens

Stephanie Lampkin
The Read House and Gardens
New Castle, DE

The Read House and Gardens is only one of the institutions under the umbrella of the Delaware Historical Society. Located in historic New Castle, the Read House has been inhabited for over 170 years by three families; the Reads, the Coupers, and the Lairds. The first owner George Read II, who moved into the house in 1803 after it was completed, was the son of the powerful politician George Read. His father was one of the few men to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. George Read II always had aspirations to become as prestigious as his father. Though he never became as remarkable as his father, his house has become a treasure for the state of Delaware. The house, a 22 room mansion, was given to the Delaware Historical Society upon Lydia Laird's death in the 1970s and reflects the changing lifestyles and society throughout Delaware's history.

As an intern my primary focus is Collections Managment, but I stressed to Michele Anstine, the Director, that I was open to exploring other aspects of the museum including education programming, development, etc. I also wanted to have an opportunity to work in the other institutions affiliated with the Delaware Historical Society such as the Research Library and Delaware History Museum. The very first week, I jumped right in and took a detailed inventory of all the objects in the Tap Room, shown on the right, in the basement. Armed with gloves, a flashlight, paper, and a pencil, I recorded all of the accession numbers on a variety of objects including antique guns, ceramic bowls and plates, whiskey bottles, and, glass jugs.

The Read House has recently instituted a formal cataloging system and collections policy, and I have worked closely with the Collections Manager, Jennifer Potts, who divides her time between all of the institutions. Since she is only at the Read House on Mondays, I have taken on the tasks of the Collections Manager throughout the rest of the week. When items need to be packaged and stored in the attic, cleaned, moved, added to the inventory, or if accession numbers need to be added, I do it! For the remainder of the internship, I will be tracking and taking inventory of all objects in the remaining rooms including the Kitchen.

I also had the opportunity to venture down to Wilmington and take a tour of the collections storage area. Jennifer showed me the HUGE collection of paintings, jewelry, weaponry, dinnerware, textiles, toys, and furniture and discussed how they should be properly packaged, stored, and maintained.

Even more exciting is the fact that the Read House is currently undergoing restoration work! Learning about the process of restoration (which starts with hiring a consultant, documenting damage, applying for funding, hiring a contractor) has been very helpful. It has been especially valuable to observe how the staff handles the collections pieces during this process. For more information, highlights, and interesting facts, you can subscribe to the Society's blog at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chester County Historical Society

Laura Olds Schmidt

Chester County Historical Society (CCHS)

225 North High Street, West Chester, PA 19380
Education Intern

I began my internship during Spring Break and will continue working both at the Chester County Historical Society and at home for CCHS throughout the summer and next school year. (I arranged an extended internship to avoid childcare during the summer when my children are out of school.)

I am interning in education, under Beth Twiss Houting, a UD Winterthur Program in American Material Culture alumna. I began my internship with lots of tours, beginning with the offices, permanent galleries, and temporary exhibits. (CCHS uses the term exhibit versus exhibition. I notice that this varies by institution.) The Society also has a library and photo archives at their site in West Chester and administers the County Archives with the County of Chester at a large government complex in West Chester. I had personal tours of each. I also followed a school program through the city of West Chester on a two-hour architecture and history walk. I reviewed all the education and public program offerings via brochures. Once I understood the Society, I began project work.

Because my schedule is sporadic, my projects are as well. Each time I’m on site, I learn about a new development that has occurred during my absence, and as a result, a new task for me to help out with. These projects range from setting up for events to transcribing oral histories taken during the recent Chester County Quilt Documentation Project. The Quilt Documentation Project resulted in CCHS’s book and exhibit, Layers. ( The exhibit consists of three separate installations of local quilts; the next installation opens August 1st. If you’re a quilt fan, visit now and again after Aug 1st to see an amazing variety of local quilts. For this exhibit, I researched and compiled an e-mail and mail list of quilt guilds, magazines, newsletters, and fabric stores for promoting the exhibit and associated lecture series. I modified existing flyers and composed cover letters that were then sent to this list of recipients.

In the late Spring, CCHS received funding for capital improvement, and a much-needed HVAC system was commissioned. This meant that their stored collection had to be packed and moved. I helped to pack objects. It was surprisingly fun. I wish that the public could see collections this way; it would make instant financial supporters out of them. I packed and inventoried fascinating objects like telegraph machines in all shapes and sizes, medical equipment that appeared more like torture devices, and even a hangman’s noose possibly used in the last hanging in Chester County (saw how powerful just the object itself can be in triggering emotion). I have never been interested in objects (people and education have always been my focus), but I had a great time working with the collection, and as a result better understand the attraction of things.

I have a long-term project as well. When I began early this spring, Beth, the Director of Education, discussed a wide variety of project ideas that are waiting to be executed. I was able to select the one that interested me the most. I selected researching the senior community in Chester and Delaware Counties. Once I understand the make-up of this audience and their needs, I will set goals for developing new programs or revamping existing ones and will research funding and write grant proposals to fund this expanded area of outreach for CCHS. Eventually, detailed program design and hopefully implementation will complete my project. This week, I created a survey for activity directors at retirement institutions and am working on creating a comprehensive contact list. I will administer my survey in a shortened form using Survey Monkey and will use a longer version to gather information by phone and mail.

That’s it for now. If you’re local, visit CCHS!



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Greetings from Philadelphia!

Natalie Baur
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA

I'm into my second week here at the Penn Museum, working as an intern in the Education department. I'm mostly helping out with a program called International Classroom (IC). The IC program brings together international speakers living in the area to talk to museum goers of all ages about everyday life and culture in their countries of origin. I think this is a great way to bring the Museum's archaeological and anthropological collections full-circle and relevant to our global world today. Working as an intern with IC has given me lots of ideas about developing creative ways to use any type of collection.

One of the perks of working with IC has been the amazing people I have gotten to meet and hear speak. On my first day I listened to two guest Native American speakers talk about their basket weaving traditions and their research projects at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Last week I met a speaker from Egypt who talked to a group of school kids about her life growing up in Egypt. The kids were really curious and thought it was so cool that she grew up right near the ancient pyramids. Later that week I sat in on a program given by a physical anthropologist for high school students. In his presentation, students helped him to solve the 3,000 year -old "murder" case of King Tut (who, by the way, was never murdered as far as physical anthropologists can tell with modern analysis). For kids to have the opportunity to see a talk by an anthropologist who was worked extensively in Egypt and with the traveling King Tut exhibit is amazing. Maybe they don't realize that they are so lucky today, but because the speakers are so engaging and interesting, I have a feeling the kids will remember something about what they heard for the rest of their lives.

Among other things, I've been working on developing some educational materials for kids and teachers for the Canaan and Ancient Israel gallery. I've also been working on developing a new map key for a textile representation of a world map that was done in 1991. Along with the key I am also developing a take-away brochure that explains how the world has changed since the textile map was made and it will also include some activities for kids.

Things are busy, but get more interesting every day. I have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people who are leaders in their fields of scholarship.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anna Rusk

Historic Indian Agency House, Portage, WI

It's been an exciting week at the Indian Agency House! Last Saturday was Flag Day, which meant that the place was overrun by Colonial Dames and local visitors who came to hear a talk about the history of the passenger pigeon. I was inside manning the gift shop, so I didn't see much of the goings-on, but I'm told it was quite a dramatic performance!

The last few days have been filled with meetings and other non-reading things, which has been nice. On Monday evening I accompanied my boss to the Portage Historical Society board meeting, at which I got a glimpse of how these things run - slowly, it seems, but it was interesting nonetheless. Tuesday was field trip day, down to the library at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. We were using their grant library to look for foundation money, since one of my potential projects is writing a grant letter or two. After a yummy lunch on State Street, it was back to Portage for a meeting about this weekend's event - a "Gals and Dolls" frontier living program. We're making corn husk dolls and churning butter with attendees, then having a tea party! Who knew the perks were so great at this place?!?!

The last item on the day's agenda was the Historic Preservation Commission meeting. The HPC is a branch of local government responsible for educating the city about its historic districts and the best practices associated with historic buildings. This was even more eye-opening than the Historical Society board meeting, since it's an official governmental organization. One of the major projects they're working on is changing a local ordinance regarding historic homes - they want to get buildings placed on the municipal register of historic places, and to be able to more effectively educate people about what they can and can't do to a house once it's on the register. This is really contentious in Portage, since people are afraid that if they live in a historic district, the government is going to tell them what to do. The Commission is trying to get the point across that you can voluntarily put your house on the register, and then the HPC can recommend that you not change it too much, but there's little regulation that would actually take place. It was fascinating to see how local government works, and the processes for getting even little things accomplished! Changing this ordinance seems to be about a balance between optimism and realism, as well as communicating effectively to the general public - not something that's easily done. One cool thing that came out of the meeting was the decision to put the Historic Indian Agency House on the register; it would be the first structure on the local register, so they're hoping the publicity will be good for the museum as well as the HPC.

The last meeting of the week was with a designer at a local greenhouse. The museum has had a plan in the works for an orchard/garden on the property, but it's been slow-going and has changed quite a bit over two years. Today we saw the finalized plans and got an idea of the time frame (and cost) for actually planting the trees and doing the landscaping. This has been a busy few days, but it's been really great to see all the various things that the director does. I like the idea of having a bunch of things going on at once - it keeps things interesting, even if it is a bit crazy!
Elizabeth Peebles
Cultural Resource Management and Protection Section
Fairfax County Park Authority (Virginia)

This is only my second week with FCPA and it feels like I've been here much longer. I've been emersed in projects with new ones appearing on my desk almost daily - and yet I still don't have a computer user name or email, tech services seem a little slow here in Fairfax.
My task as a summer intern is to write nominations for county owned historic properties to be added to the county inventory of historic sites, assist in designing and editing interpretive panels, and create an interpretive trail guide for the archaeological trail at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly. I walked the Sully trail yesterday to take photos of the stone bridge, 3/4 foundation, tenant house foundation, and the Manassas Gap RR cut and this morning I woke up to find a tick behind my knee. Do we have workers comp as a UDel intern? I am wrapping up the nomination for the Ox Hill Battlefield Memorial Park and my next property to tackle is the Lewinsville House aka Meadowbrook but for the last twenty-five years historians have debated about when the current house was actually built.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hillary Mohaupt
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Evanston, IL
Glessner House Museum, Chicago, IL

After nearly two weeks of putzing around two smaller museums in Chicagoland, I was musing over what to blog about. That is, until I went on my second tour of the Glessner House today.

Last week, the ED of the Glessner House thought I should go on a tour of the 17,000 square foot historic home designed by great American architect H. H. Richardson in order to get a feel for the story of the place; this wek, I thought it would be a good idea to go on house tour again in order to get a better feel. I've spent the last two weeks in a former servant's bedroom, now an office, surveying forty websites for historic homes, in an effort to help the Glessner House revamp its own site. After two weeks in front of the computer, though, I was ready to stretch my legs and see if I'd learned anything. So, late by accident, I joined up with today's 3pm tour and soon the docent started deflecting questions my way, as though I should know when elite housing got central heating or what year the Glessners got married. The tour became a test of authenticity -- I was comparing the docent's knowledge and style to the first tour I took, and she was testing my grey edges. (It turned out she didn't even know I was an intern at GHM. Do I just LOOK like a historian?!?!)

That conundrum of authenticity has cropped up for me at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, too. The Mitchell is a collector's museum, so the collection is based on large donations from collectors and provenance isn't necessarily copacetic. My project for the moment is to write short panels that provide a story for each gallery of objects, organized by region. How to pick what stories to tell? Where to strike the balance between comfortable knowledge and new knowledge? Which stories are true, and which are myth?

Writing these gallery panels seems to me a lot like the storytelling at the GHM: mixing oral history, secondary sources, primary research. Everything history can be, in a public setting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Report from the Delaware Art Museum

Theresa Handwerk
Delaware Art Museum
Wilmington, Delaware
Education Department Intern

Hello All,

I am a master’s student in the art history program at UD, and am very pleased to be interning in the education department at the Delaware Art Museum, a small-to-medium sized museum founded in 1912 and located in the Brandywine Valley in Wilmington, Delaware. The museum exhibits the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside of England, but the balance of its holdings are American artworks. The Delaware Art Museum has important collections of works by Howard Pyle (a late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century illustrator) and John Sloan (an twentienth-century painter who focused on urban scenes), and American artworks dating from the Colonial era to the present day. In 2003, the museum closed for two years to undertake extensive renovations and an expansion.

The education department has also recently expanded, and today consists of the Director of Education, managers of Studio and Family programs, a group tour coordinator, and an Americorps Public Ally/Outreach Coordinator. I have been working as an assistant to everyone in the department since winter break, varying my hours depending on projects and my class schedule, and will continue to do so during the upcoming academic year.

My duties consist of two longer-term projects and a variety of additional tasks. One of my projects is to prepare docent materials which will be particularly significant for a major Howard Pyle exhibit that the museum is presenting in 2011. The museum holds the works of several other illustrators in addition to Pyle’s. These pictures, for which the museum has the full-sized painting or drawing, originally appeared in magazines or books alongside the stories which they illustrated. My task is to unearth all of the stories which the museum does not currently have on file, digitize them, and make them accessible to the docents and curators. This is a challenging and fascinating job during which I am finding archival materials on the internet and handling the actual documents in either the museum’s library or the library at the University of Delaware. It is extremely tempting to stop and read all of the tales!

Another project of mine is to create a museum-wide gallery brochure, geared towards adults, which encourages the visitor to think about and view selected works of art in new ways. This is an exciting undertaking for me as I am primarily interested in introducing art to or expanding the artistic knowledge of teenagers and adults. I have selected a theme – scenes of domestic interiors, a particular interest of mine – and am in the process of selecting artworks and conducting research in the museum’s archives about the paintings and their creators. The challenges include striking a tone which would be both edifying and understandable to most visitors, making the presentation exciting yet low-tech, and creating what is intended to be a lasting document for the museum’s use and something that the guests can take home with them.

The Director of Education, my internship supervisor, has been amazing at providing me with a variety of tasks within the department. I’ve assisted with the organization of and introduced a lecture by an author on a book tour, supervised a gallery talk, presented a film, administered surveys to visitors (both via self-completing surveys and sit-down interviews), documented results of surveys, ran an art project for six-year-olds at a community center, and helped create databases and mass mailing packets for group tour marketing. I have taken advantage of opportunities to participate in meetings with staff and with a regional educators' forum, and to sit down for informational interviews with the executive director as well as members of other departments. I have also attended lectures and workshops at the museum. In the future I will be surveying school kids in regards to their experiences with an ongoing local school/museum partnership and continuing to help out at community days and various museum events.

My internship at the Delaware Art Museum, my first at a museum, has proven to be even more valuable than I would have imagined possible. It is eye-opening to participate in a corporate culture so different from what I have previously experienced. For example, I have been observing with interest the synergy amongst the various departments as they work together on the same projects and within the museum’s budget. In addition, the meetings I have attended on allow me a peek into both the long- and short-term planning of the museum. At least equal to the educational gains from my internship are the personal benefits. The Delaware Art Museum is a wonderful environment, and not only because everyone I have encountered is helpful, friendly and willing to teach. Even after eight months I am still amazed that I get to spend so much time in the incredibly beautiful, stimulating atmosphere that is the museum. The possibility that I might some day work for an institution whose mission I believe in so strongly is astounding to me.

I am looking forward to the coming months and will blog as new developments occur.

Smithsonian Ramblings

Matt Small
National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

Hey all. I'm here in Washington, DC reporting from the National Museum of American History. I'm working as a curatorial intern in the numismatic department. That's coins for those who weren't aware. I would just call it the coin department and save a lot of trouble, but what are you gonna do.

It's pretty exciting around here right now. My department is opening a new exhibit called "Stories on Money" that will be opening this Friday. It's showcasing American coinage, how it has evolved, and how it tells a historical narrative. Not just American money though; there are some older coins from the classical period as well. Never thought I'd learn so much about currency in so short a period. We have a reception tonight with the principal donors and staff who helped get it off the ground. It's been a great couple of days; I was kind of thrown into the chaos with little instruction. So far I've helped edit labels (thank you Museums and Modern Technology for giving me rudimentary Photoshop skills), help with certain installation procedures, and generally doing whatever I can to help make the exhibit a success.

Today was crazy on the National Mall, though, with the shooting incident at the Holocaust Museum, which is right down the street from us. Lots of sirens and backed up traffic, plus a few worried visitors running around. For the most part, it did not affect us directly, although the whole DC and even nationwide museum community will feel the effects of this for awhile, I'd say.

Well, I'm off for now! I'll let you guys know how the exhibit opening goes. I hope all is going well with everyone. Let's hear those internship stories!
Anna Rusk
Historic Indian Agency House, Portage, WI

I'm in the second week of my internship at the Historic Indian Agency House in Portage, Wisconsin. It's a small house museum, preserved and still owned by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, that tells the story of early nineteenth century Portage. The house was built in 1832 for John Kinzie, the first Indian Agent at Fort Winnebago. It was subsequently used as a tavern, a boardinghouse, a brothel, a trading post, and finally a farmhouse before the Colonial Dames bought, restored, and opened the house as a museum in the 1930s. The house is furnished with objects pre-1832 so it looks much like John's wife described it in "Wau-Bun," her published account of their life here at Portage.
I'm interning under the executive director (the only employee besides tour guides), doing two main projects and basically learning how small museums work. My main project is developing a pre-visit packet for teachers to use when they bring their classes on field trips to the museum - most schools in the area take a trip here when they study Wisconsin history in fourth grade. The other project I'm working on is a Hands-On History program day for kids, focusing on Early American and Native American pottery. In addition, I'll be doing a little work on grant-finding and maybe writing, and giving tours of the house.
So far this has entailed reading a lot of local history to see how our story can fit in with the larger picture, and figuring out how a field trip to the museum can support Wisconsin's social studies curriculum requirements. This week we're preparing for Saturday's annual Flag Day event, the major celebration for the Colonial Dames. I also gave my first tours last weekend, after observing other guides for a few days and developing my script.
I'm really excited to be getting experience in different aspects of the museum and learning how it's run from all angles. I'll keep you updated as the summer progresses!

Internship Positions

If your organization offers an internship program, please contact our Internship Coordinator, Pauline Eversmann, at 302-753-1096. You may also send information on internship openings to: Museum Studies Program, University of Delaware, 201 Kirkbride Hall, Newark DE 19716.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer of 2009

We have many graduate students in the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware doing their internships this summer. On this blogspace, they will be able to share their experiences with us.