Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Inside the Archives: Files, Ledgers, and…Darkness?

Hi everyone! I am back to detail another week of working in the archives.

Last week I shared with you the agenda for the summer. Just to recap: I will be weeding out files and documents that Auburn Heights will then discard. I will be pulling out documents to scan, I will construct a temporary finding aid, and will analyze the files to find ways in which they are useful historically and for research purposes, amongst other things.

The process is in full swing! I have started the procedure of weeding out files. Even though various documents will be disposed, I still keep track of them. I developed a master file that includes all the files, ledgers, and document, plus their location within the room. I have another list that includes documents that I am pulling out for scanning, and yet another list that include files and documents that the repository will eventually discard.

So far, I have pulled out many ledgers, which will go out for scanning. The ledgers date from the 20th& 21stcentury, as early as the 1920s. It’s incredible to see documents that have such age and history on them. I have to be careful when handling these ledgers, both for my sake and for the ledgers’ sake. The ledgers are old and worn, the binding on some are starting to fall apart, the pages of others are brittle and fragile, and some are growing mold. So, care must be taken.

My experience thus far within the world of archives has been filled with discovery and adventure. I have stumbled upon a bird’s nest and have spotted a herring. This week proved no exception. However, this week was not as spectacular. For five minutes, I was thrown in complete darkness. I could not make heads or tails of anything and could not see my hands outstretched in front of me as I blindly made my way out of the room, searching for a source of light. The power had gone off! Luckily, it didn’t last long and I was able to get back to work! I’m all for adventures, but hopefully no more of ones where I’m plunged into absolute darkness!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Catalogs, Photographs and InDesign. Oh My!

I can’t believe my time at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts is almost half way over! After spending the first two weeks of my internship completely engrossed in the catalog for the DCCA’s first satellite show, Young Country, I thought that sending the raw materials to the publisher meant that our part was complete, but boy was I wrong! Once the designer was finished working his magic he sent the PDF back to us and everyone in the office got a copy and we all went over the catalog with a fine-toothed comb making sure that everything was perfect. I’ve learned about aspects of Adobe Reader that I never knew existed!

Now that the Young Country catalog has officially gone to press, my duties have shifted back to the everyday duties of a curatorial assistant. My big project has been to organize files on the DCCA server. There’s a lot of redundancy in the computer system, so it has been my responsibility to restore order and clear out duplicate files.

Another of my tasks related to the computer has been resizing installation shots of the exhibitions at the DCCA. One of our generous board members comes in at the beginning of every exhibition and takes photos of the work in the galleries. The shots he takes are beautiful, high resolution .tif images, which if I placed on our internal server would take up all the space we have, so it has been my job to resize the images and file them away in their respective artist’s files. While doing this, I noticed that not all of the installation shots from previous shows had not been resized before they were filed away, so I am now going through and resizing all the images from the past six years of installations. It's a daunting task, but something I enjoy doing.

Also during the past two weeks I have dusted off my InDesign skills and created Call For Entries for both the upcoming MFA Biennial and the 2013 Member’s Solo Shows. I have also been doing a lot of research on curatorial practices and theories as well as artists who use social media as a basis for their artwork. It’s really exciting to see first hand how popular culture affects the art scene. Next year the DCCA will be having an exhibition dedicated to social media’s influence on contemporary art.

DCCA Summer Art Camp 2011: Explore, Imagine, Create started this week and even though I’m not directly involved in that aspect of the museum, I cannot wait for the end of the week showcase where the children will present the projects they have been working on all week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Money, Money, Money, Monayyyyy, Money!

After a week-long hiatus and a trip back to my hometown in Wisconsin, I have returned to the NAA to continue my work. Unfortunately, however, this post will be mostly sans pictures as I have been spending much of my time working on collecting information for grant opportunities.

The Newark Arts Alliance, Inc. is funded partially by the Delaware Division of the Arts, sales from the member and exhibition gallery, membership dues, and donations. But a big part of their funding also comes from grants being that they are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. What this means is that every year, the Alliance must apply for grants to fund its programs such as Camp Imagine (an arts camp providing scholarships making participation virtually free for underprivileged youth), Art to Go (a program that brings art projects to at-risk youth in the community) and various other events such as Drum Circle and Poetry Readings.

So basically, what this means is that I, as an intern, am charged with the task of researching various funders for grants so that the Alliance can keep paying the bills and rent every month!

What I have found is this wonderful opportunity through the Delaware Valley Grantmakers. Through its common application form, the DVG allows non-profit orgs to apply for various grants from different funders without having to deal with the hassle of figuring out the requirements for each specific grant. It really streamlines the process and although I still have to make sure they accept the general cover letter and various attachments, for the most part, it makes my job much easier. I have already identified 4 funders who provide grants for which we are eligible. My next task is researching the ins and outs of applying for grants so that I can write something cogent and persuasive to each of the funders.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I'd like to include some pictures from the Garden Tour 2011 which was held on June 11. We sold over 70 tickets and it was a hit!! Check it out:

This is a bench artfully created as a seat for Garden Tour participants to take a relaxing break from their stroll

Lori, one of the gardeners, poses for a candid shot in her garden.

There were even art and plant sales at the Garden Tour! People could purchase plants and art to decorate their own homes.
One of the ponds full of carp on the Garden Tour. So relaxing to sit next to the running water!!

Next, we have a Members Only Exhibit coming up next week. Starting this weekend, members of the Newark Arts Alliance can drop off art pieces and they will be juried into the show for next week. On July 8th, there will be a reception with all of the artists/members whose work will be displayed.

Call me crazy, but working here at the Alliance has really inspired me. I plan to submit a piece of my own this weekend and see if it's accepted into the show. I won't be bitter if it's not, there is some serious competition around this place and some really talented artists. Tune back next week to find out if they choose my work and a preview of the rest of the show!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meeting of Minds

Hi all, it’s Retz again.

While I have been mostly in the archives at the mill, I did resurface from beneath the piles of files. During the week, I had a meeting with the director concerning what to do with the files. The meeting took place at the mansion in Auburn Heights. The grounds there are beautiful and breathtaking. Auburn Heights has the largest collection of operating steam cars and there’s even a steam train on the site!

After the meeting, we decided that for the duration of the summer, after the appraisal process, I will double check records recommended for disposal, so records that important records are not accidentally discarded. Working with the Historic Site Manager, I will help determine the importance of the collection, its long-term value for research and historical purpose. In essence, this means determining which records will interest the present and the future generation.

Auburn Heights plans send out to scan older records, ledgers, and documents in a more delicate state that they will keep in the collection, after I have prepped them for scanning. Scanning the documents will provide longevity to the collection and will open up the material to a wider audience. After the documents come back from scanning, I will check the files back in. I will also construct a temporary finding aid for the collection. This finding aid will help locate files and folders quickly until the records are stored in a permanent location.

Back at the mill site, I always encounter something interesting. Last week, I discovered a bird’s nest inside the archives. This week I spotted a herring. The mill is located next to a creek and one day I saw the awesome creature gliding above the water, with its huge wings spanned out. Wonder what I’ll discover next week!

Monday, June 20, 2011

So Much History, So Little Time

After a couple weeks at my internship at the New Castle Historical Society I seem to have a handle on the layout of town and at least a basic knowledge of all the history that New Castle has to offer.

Last week I had the opportunity to accompany Bruce Dalleo, Education Coordinator at the NCHS, as she gave a presentation to a group of students about reinterpretation regarding the Society's museums. Reinterpretation is important because it has to do with how to tell all the different stories embodied in one building. Buildings, like people, can change enormously over time, and house museums particularly have the job of telling all those different stories through different exhibits and tours.

For example, regarding the Amstel House: does the historical society tell the story of Dr. John Finney who built the house, Nicholas Van Dyke (Sr.) who became Governor of Delaware and lived in the house, or Van Dyke's daughter Ann who lived here with her husband Kensey Johns after Governor Van Dyke moved out? And that only covers the period from 1738 when the building was constructed until around 1790 when Ann and Kensey Johns moved into their new home in town. What about the time between 1790 and 1929 when the building was opened as a historic house? It seems to become more complicated the more you think about it!

I am encountering the same issues as I work on this project. For a tour that will cover nearly 200 years of history and possibly 60 to 70 sites, I am finding that researching all of the history of these buildings and the individuals that lived in them is perhaps the easiest part, it is the logistics of organizing the tour that may be the most difficult.

And some of the logistics I am thinking about off the top of my head include:

* Determining a walking route that flows both historically and physically (After all, you don't want people criss-crossing back and forth all over town!)

* Choosing which buildings and which stories you want to tell, because you can't tell them all, and there are SO many interesting ones! (While I may find everything interesting, I have to make sure that the tour is long enough for people to learn important things about New Castle, it can't be so long enough that they lose interest.)

* Balancing the types of information you want to include. (For example these tours are meant to appeal to everybody in some capacity, thus you have to make sure you strike the right balance between architecture history, history of the town, the stories of individuals, and between the secondary narrative and primary source excerpts)

These are all things I am trying to keep in mind as I work on writing my tour.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts

Hi everyone! I'm Laura and my summer home away from home will be at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA). My internship at the DCCA will allow me to see what goes on behind the scenes at an art gallery. There is a lot of preparation that goes on before an exhibition can go up in one of the seven galleries housed at the DCCA. So far my job has consisted of contacting artists, helping to create informational materials that are on display during the exhibitions, and researching various topics related to upcoming or potential exhibitions.

The highlights of my first week evolved around Wilmington’s Art on the Town, held on the first Friday of every month. During Art on the Town the galleries at the DCCA are open late and many of the exhibiting artists attend and give gallery talks in which they discuss their current work. Another feature of Art on the Town are the open studios at the DCCA. It was great to get to see not just the works in the galleries but also explore the work and practices of the artist’s who keep studios at the DCCA.

During my second week at the DCCA I sat in on a staff meeting, which was great because I was able to hear everyone talk about their responsibilities and what was coming up in their respective areas. I have also been doing a lot of work centering around an upcoming satellite show the DCCA is organizing called Young Country. Young Country, an exhibition devoted to rural themes in contemporary American art, will open at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts on July 6, 2011 and will run until July 28, 2011. For this show I have been helping Maiza Hixson, Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art, at the DCCA prepare the exhibition catalogue for publication. It has been a really eye-opening experience seeing what goes into putting together an exhibition, from initially contacting artists to hanging the final show.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Bird's Nest

Hello everyone, Retz here!

I cannot believe that summer is already underway. I am excited to have started my internship at the Auburn Heights Preserve. At Auburn Heights, I am primarily working in the National Vulcanized Fibre mill (NVF) and am currently sifting through their records.

NVF was the product of the Marshall family and stayed under the direct operation of the Marshall family until 1953. The company created vulcanized fibre, a laminated plastic made of paper. By 2007, the company filed for bankruptcy and closed for good. Now under the management of the Delaware State Parks, the site is slated to become a museum where the paper making process and the story of NVF will be highlighted. My job is to explore the treasure trove of material and help Auburn Heights tell the story of the mill from the archival material left behind.

After completing my first week, working with archival material in an unprocessed state and in an old building is proving to be quite an adventure. In a world of cabinets, drawers, files, and folders, who knew I would discover an actual bird’s nest. Unfortunately or fortunately, no birds accompanied the nest. It is amazing what one can find in the world of archives. The mill is not a glamorous place and there is the occasional fly, wasp, and stinkbug, however a treasure waits in the telling the story of the mill. Like the literal bird’s nest I discovered, the NVF mill is my nest for the summer.

Bird's Nest

NVF Mill

The Archives

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Current Summer Home: The Amstel House

Happy June Everyone!

This is Jesse at the New Castle Historical Society, and like Amy I am also finishing up my first week of my GIDAC internship here in New Castle. And what a busy week it has been!

NCHS has preserved New Castle's history for over 75 years and was established in 1934 to save the Amstel House, which is the current business office for the Society. The Society currently operates three historic buildings available for guided tours for both individuals and groups: the Amstel House (1730), the Dutch House (possibly late 17th century) and the Old Library Museum where new exhibits are housed. If you are interested, follow the NCHS on Facebook!!

New Castle, the colonial capital of the first state is quite honestly an adorable town located right on the Delaware River. Designated a National Historic District, the 135 acre district is made up of 572 historic sites, including over 500 historic buildings!!

As an intern for the GIDAC program, my project is to research, write, and hopefully, if time permits, to record an audio walking tour of the town for the historical society under the direction of Executive Director Mike Connolly. While I had a vague notion of the history of New Castle, I quickly learned that what I knew barely scratched the surface. As such, this past week has mainly entailed lots of reading and walking around town to become acclimated to this beautiful town and its complicated history.

So stay tuned for updates, and if you are looking for something to do this weekend, consider stopping by Historic New Castle for Separation Day this Saturday, Delaware's 235th "birthday" to celebrate Delaware's separation from England and Pennsylvania and the formation of the State of Delaware. There will be parades, all-day music, vendors, activites, and most importantly Fireworks!! at 9:30pm.

Here are some photos from my strolls around town.....

The Amstel House

Kensey Johns House
The Academy
Delaware Wharf
Stay tuned....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Odds, Ends, and Introductions to the Newark Arts Alliance

Hello all!

Amy here, writing to you from the Newark Arts Alliance. I am just finishing up my first week here at the NAA and I wanted to share some pictures from my first week and information about events we have coming up.

Before I give you a recap of what I've been doing this first week, I wanted to mention that the Newark Arts Alliance keeps its website quite up to date and all event details and information about the organization can be found there. Check it out!

The Alliance is supported by members as well as grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts. They house two different galleries, the contents of which, are shuffled monthly to incorporate new displays and artworks submitted by artists. In the first gallery (the one you walk into immediately upon entering), all of the art is for sale, and all of the artwork is submitted by members only. The second gallery houses jurored displays usually following a certain theme. Currently, the theme is "The Child in Art," juried by artist Debbie Hegedus. Here are a few select pieces which have been photographed for your viewing pleasure:

The Children Green and Golden by Jen Mrozek

Her Kind also by Jen Mrozek (this is by far my favorite piece in the show)

Boy Sleeping -- and embroidered piece by Karen Schueler

Two Creations by Rowena Macleod

The photos really do not do justice to the fine textual details of these works and their various media. Stop by 276 Main Street (we're the place with the murals lining the doorways) to see the awesome originals!

On June 3rd, we had a reception for the artists--of which I was privileged to be a part--and I was afforded the chance to meet and discuss the art with the artists. Although most of my job here at the Alliance is to research grants and help to set up various organizational systems so that other people's jobs are easier, much of what I do deals with artists and the public. During the Artists' Reception, I even received some tips and encouragement from them about pursuing my own photography. Here are a couple shots that I took at the reception (they give you a good idea of what the Alliance looks like from the inside!):

Having a spirited discussion over art!

Artist Karen Berstler's daugher (also the subject of her current work in "The Child in Art") admiring artist Karin Lang's boxes

Karin Lang's boxes, entitled, Boxed Memories of our Childhood, contain real pieces of ephemera from her and her brother's childhood in Germany. On the left is her brother's box, and below is her own.

As you can see, there are many exciting things happening around here! This weekend will be the Garden Tour around Newark--you can find information about it here. Like us on Facebook!

My continuing work this summer will be mostly in organization, general operation, and grant writing. And, I suppose I titled this post "Odds, Ends, and Introductions" because it has a lot of introductory info but also touches on the tidbits of different jobs I hold under the umbrella term of "intern." Executive Director Terry Foreman has really helped bring me into the fold of the plethora of events and activities happening daily so I feel that in the future I will have many more varied things to blog about. Last, I have began to research and collect information on possible grants, so stay tuned for more updates each week!


(Photos of artwork are courtesy of the Newark Arts Alliance and I, myself, took all the other shots! Good as the photography might should really come in and see the art for yourself... : ) )