Monday, July 26, 2010

Anna - Biggs Museum of American Art

Greetings! I'm a PhD student in art history at the University of Delaware, working as an intern at the Biggs Museum of American Art this summer.

The museum is quite small, with only four full-time employees, so I am getting the full experience of working in a small museum by doing many different tasks. The museum's collection was the private collection of Sewell Biggs (you can read the story at and is housed in a handsome building in Dover, capital of Delaware. The museum has recently expanded to occupy all three floors of the building, so right now thing are in flux but everyone is excited about the expansion. Sewell Biggs' main focus as a collector was on American art and furniture from early colonial times to the early 20th century, with an exclusive interest in representational art. The permanent collection is exhibited on the second and third floors of the museum. We also have a rotating exhibition space on the first and second floors, which is currently housing the Award Winners exhibition (read about that at The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9-4:30, and Sunday 1:30-4:30. It's free, so please come by and visit!

I am currently working on writing a collections page for the museum's website. I plan on formatting it as a timeline, similar to the Metropolitan Museum's art history timeline, but focused solely on American art, and, for the 20th century, on art from the Delaware and Philadelphia region. I have also taken time from this project to help the rest of the staff paint one of the rooms we recently acquired so it can be used as a children's activity space and reception area. Other projects I have worked on include writing a grants database for the museum; writing a self-guided tour on fashion in the collection; learning how to correctly move furniture and paintings in the exhibition space with the curator, and setting up a multimedia exhibition space for the Award Winners show.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic summer!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Greetings from Dover!

Robin Valencia
Historical and Cultural Affairs
Department of State
Dover, DE

I’m currently interning at the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs for the Department of State, located in Dover, DE. This department houses collections from museums all over the state as well as objects that belong to the state directly. In my office there are two departments: collections and archaeology. Though we are technically separate, the camaraderie between the two sides is undeniable. Listening to the projects going on around the state and learning what they are discovering about Delaware history is truly fascinating. Just in case you were wondering, visitors are welcome to view and study the collections, but only by appointment.

My current project is to catalogue and photograph the artwork collections of Jack Lewis, Howard Schroeder, and Orville Houghton Peets. Mostly working in watercolors, they each represent a different style in depicting the Delaware landscape and its people. In addition to scenes of Delaware they also worked in other locations around the world and a small sampling of these works are present in the collections. For this summer, I hope to finish all three collections and maybe move on to others that need catalogued if there’s enough time at the end.

Now some of you may be wondering why I chose to work in Dover for the summer. Frankly, I had never visited Dover before my internship started. I’d always drive past it on Route 1 on the way to the beach. Many ask me, “What’s in Dover?” when I mention that I’m working there. My answer tends to be, “Not much, but there are some really cool museums!” In fact there are some neat museums including the Biggs Art Museum, the Johnson Victrola Museum, and the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB. There’s also the Delaware Visitor Center & Galleries located at the Public Archives. From my tours around Dover, I’ve discovered that it’s a neat little city that’s worth at least a visit.

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their internships!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alana Staiti - Chemical Heritage Foundation

This summer I'm interning in the Special Collections department at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia. The CHF is an organization that promotes research in and education about the history of chemistry. I'm particularly interested in learning about the CHF's relationships with other institutions, including cultural organizations, chemical companies, and academic institutions. I'll get back to that shortly, but first I should tell you about how I spend most of my time. I have been scanning and cataloging advertisements from the Dow Chemical Company from the 1920s through 2006. The company's archives were formally acquired by the CHF in 2008.

Some of you may have never heard of Dow, but you have certainly heard of their products. Dow is a huge multi-national company that was (is) responsible for making Saran Wrap, household cleaners, herbicides and pesticides (including DDT in the 40s and 50s), plastics, industrial chemicals, and aircraft equipment. The ads that I'm scanning are geared to ordinary consumers and the magazines they came from include The Saturday Evening Post, Time, Newsweek, Better Homes & Gardens, and the Country Gentleman. Judging from the above list of products, it's safe to say that Dow has pervasively influenced American consumer culture; at the very least, who hasn't heard of Saran Wrap?!

I really enjoy being able to read through all of the ads. The former environmental science student in me, however, struggles with the new-found knowledge that while Dow's old products may have helped shape an American consumer lifestyle, they also probably contributed to many forms of environmental degradation. I was especially stunned to learn that Dow pushed for DDT's use in mid-century agricultural magazines (of course, this was before people knew about DDT's negative effects on animals). I brought this up to my supervisor and asked whether the museum tries to negotiate these issues at all through exhibitions, programs, or lectures -- namely, the unintended consequences of chemistry broadly. She said that they would like to probe these issues, but it's difficult for the CHF to present controversial subjects because of its affiliations with certain chemical companies. Cataloging Dow's ads has helped me recognize the historical significance of this company; at the same time, it has led me to think about the broader political and environmental consequences related to a chemical company's long-lasting influence on American consumer culture.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rebecca Pineo
DE Dept. Health & Social Services Garden Project
New Castle, DE

As a Fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program for Public Horticulture, my internship experience is a bit atypical compared to other MSST students. The Longwood Graduate Program, which trains its students for management positions in public gardens, arboreta, and similar organizations, is focused strongly on experiential learning. Thus the yearly Professional Outreach Project, affectionately referred to as “POP.” It’s a summer-long effort in which all ten students (five first year students and five second year students) work together to complete a pro bono consulting project within the field of public horticulture.

Leadership positions are another mainstay of the Longwood Graduate Program, in which each student is assigned to manage various aspects or activities within the program. For my first year, I served as Assistant POP Leader. Now, in my second year, I have been promoted to POP Leader, charged with coordinating all aspects of the project. I’ll be organizing meeting logistics; managing the budget and timeline; ensuring good communication between students, our advisory committee, and all stakeholders; and, of course, informing people about our adventures both here and on our own Longwood Graduate Program blog.

The end of April marked the first stages of planning for this year’s Professional Outreach Project. The five rising second year students began by discussing topics we’d like to explore, narrowing it down to the big three: community outreach, urban greening, and volunteer programs. Then, we canvassed a few local institutions to see whether they might need assistance with a project in one of these areas.

After some thoughtful discussions, top-notch meetings, and tough decisions, we decided on our summer project. We’ll be developing landscape design concepts for a new 1-acre garden at the Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle, DE. A joint venture between the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the New Castle County Cooperative Extension, the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Services, and the Delaware Center for Horticulture, the new garden will incorporate principles of universal accessibility and sustainable agriculture. It is envisioned as a venue for horticultural therapy, art therapy, and community gardening, as well as a place for respite and reflection.

Sounds like a great project, right? We think so too. Stay tuned for more information, and I promise, no “POP” quizzes!

In early June, we met with two of the project masterminds--Faith Kuehn, Plant Industries Administrator for the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and Ray Majewski, Director of Therapy at Delaware Psychiatric Center. We also had a chance to chat with Bruce, head of greenhouse operations.

In addition to explaining the project, Ray and Faith gave us a tour of the future garden site.

As you can see, we have a blank slate to work with!