Serving as Collections Intern at Old North — guest post by Jessica Nelson

Jessica Nelson wrote this piece for the Old North Foundation’s website, and Old North’s Director of Education Erin Wederbrook Yuskaitis, also from the Tufts program, suggested we share it here. Thanks, Jessica (and Erin)!

 

After almost 300 years of existence, an institution is bound to accumulate an interesting collection of objects. And having interned over the summer with the Old North Foundation, I can certainly confirm that this is a fact. I was brought in to be the first Collections Intern to work with the site, and as such had the opportunity to scour the site’s attic, basement, and many rooms. My responsibility was to document the works of art found within Old North’s campus. Although Old North is not what one would call a collecting institution, it is an historical site that has over time accumulated, often through generous donations from parishioners, a number of interesting and some valuable art pieces. One of the best ways to honor these donations and other acquisitions is through careful preservation.

Even though Old North’s art is not currently shown to the public in a crafted exhibition, it is visible throughout the Foundation and Church offices as well as in parts of the church itself. So as a student learning about the museum field, I was able to apply some of the museum world’s techniques when documenting the artworks at Old North. What exactly does that entail though? Well, I began by numbering the objects and creating condition reports for each one. These reports allowed me to describe the art piece detailing its materials and what it looks like as well as identifying if there is any damage to the piece. Creating these reports helps an institution keep track of the object and monitor how it holds up over time. After making condition reports for every object, I then took pictures of the objects as well. Attaching pictures to the condition reports is another means of recording an object’s condition and can help people who may work with these objects in the future more easily identify them.

 

The Foundation then ordered special archival papers and pens so that I could physically attach the identifying number I had given each object to the object in question. It is important to use archival quality goods as this helps ensure the marking materials won’t damage the art piece over time. I also had the opportunity to conduct some early research on the objects and how they came to Old North. Although many of the art pieces’ stories have been somewhat lost over time, there were a few active members of the church who were quite helpful in recovering their histories. All in all, the project went quite well, and hopefully the work I completed with the help of the Old North Foundation staff will serve as a good base for any future artwork they receive and help insure that all of their art is well preserved for future generations.

Tonight — Snapshots Opening Reception!

Don’t forget that tonight is the opening reception for the Museum Studies curated exhibition Snapshots: 15 Takes on an Exhibition. 

You’ve been reading their blog entries about their progress, now see for yourself what they’ve put together. Join them tonight from 5:30-8 at the Tufts University Art Gallery, 40 Talbot Ave, Medford MA 02155.

Congratulations, students!

 

The Importance of Collections Access on the Web

by guest columnist Elyse Werling

Students in this year’s Exhibition Planning class were given a challenge: choose an image that inspires you from the photographs in Historic New England’s exhibition, “The Camera’s Coast,” and use it as a jumping-off point for a full-blown exhibition plan. Snapshots: 15 Takes on an Exhibition is to take place at the Tufts University Koppleman Gallery May 6-18, 2014. Opening reception Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 5:30-8pm. See the Facebook page here.

As a museum professional, you must be conscious of protecting your collection yet at the same time must facilitate access to the collection. For many, the question of whether to provide online collections access poses both risks and benefits. I have often heard that museums that post online access spur greater interest in their collections which in turn generates more visitors. I myself have often debated the risks and benefits to posting collections on line and until this point have been on the fence about it.

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Snapshots: 15 Takes on an Exhibition: “Bull” Halsey

by guest columnist Brian Miskell

Students in this year’s Exhibition Planning class were given a challenge: choose an image that inspires you from the photographs in Historic New England’s exhibition, “The Camera’s Coast,” and use it as a jumping-off point for a full-blown exhibition plan. Snapshots: 15 Takes on an Exhibition is to take place at the Tufts University Koppleman Gallery May 6-18, 2014. Opening reception Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 5:30-8pm. See the Facebook page here.

My exhibition plan focuses on the career of Fleet Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, US Navy (Retired). My photograph is of the first ship he served on fresh out of the Naval Academy, USS Missouri (BB-11).

I was recently reading Halsey’s autobiography, Admiral Halsey’s Story, which he wrote after World War II. From October 18, 1942 until July 15, 1944, Halsey served as Commander, South Pacific Area. While reading this section of his book, I saw a passage describing how Eleanor Roosevelt was to visit his area. Reading this, I recalled seeing a photograph that included someone I believed at the time could have been Eleanor Roosevelt among a large group photos that my grandfather had kept from his time serving in the 13th Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II. After reading about the visit, I retrieved the collection of photos, went through them, and found two photos that included both Halsey and Mrs. Roosevelt. The activity taking place in one of the photos is actually described in Halsey’s book, “At one hospital, I arranged for her to pin the Navy Cross and two Purple Hearts on my ‘one-man army,’ Lieutenant Miller of the Strong.”

While I am not sure where my grandfather obtained the prints, I’m assuming they were stock photos he acquired as he wasn’t in the area at the time.

While I am not sure where my grandfather obtained the prints, I’m assuming they were stock photos he acquired as he wasn’t in the area at the time.

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My Journey on the Piscataqua

by guest columnist Amanda Breen

Students in this year’s Exhibition Planning class were given a challenge: choose an image that inspires you from the photographs in Historic New England’s exhibition, “The Camera’s Coast,” and use it as a jumping-off point for a full-blown exhibition plan. Snapshots: 15 Takes on an Exhibition is to take place at the Tufts University Koppleman Gallery May 6-18, 2014. Opening reception Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 5:30-8pm. See the Facebook page here.

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My experience sailing on the Piscataqua, a traditional reproduction of the flat-bottom gundalow barges that were once prevalent along the local waterways of the Piscataqua River Region, sparked my interest in the photograph Fanny M., which was the last gundalow to operate commercially in the area. The gundalow, not especially handsome, was a practical working vessel perfectly adapted to the environment. One or two farmers could construct the utilitarian design of the gundalow over the course of the winter season. Uncaulked and unpainted, the vessels were given little care, yet the communities were entirely dependent on these vessels to transport necessary goods throughout the Piscataqua River region up until the twentieth century.

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