Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week #11: November 21, 2011 - November 27, 2011

This was a short week because the museum is closed Wednesday - Friday for Thanksgiving!

On Tuesday, I got to meet some new interns that usually work different days than me, which was a nice chance of scenery!  The new intern, Nick, and I discussed some of our shared frustrations with the unorganized state of the museum and worked on a few tasks together.  We spent another while looking for any indication that the previously discussed wedding dress ever existed and came up with nothing.  Chris thinks that this woman may have the wrong museum!

Today, we had a field trip come through the museum, which was cool! I got to help check them in and it was nice to see the more operational side of the museum.  A funny side note about the field trip though... The museum is constructed of mostly glass, which is cleaned on a regular basis.  One of the kids walked right into one of the glass walls and got a bloody nose!  Whooops!

I also talked to Chris about a new project I will be starting after Thanksgiving and will continue to work on next semester.  He has put together a 2-year plan for getting the Collections Department organized and I am going to start on that! I'm excited because I love organizing, am already familiar with the programs used and enjoy the museum aspect of the job.  I also like going in each day knowing what I will be working on!

Still loving my internship!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week #10: November 14, 2011 - November 20, 2011

This week was a little less history-oriented than I had hoped, but I got to see more of the details and smaller tasks that need to be done for a museum to run smoothly.

On Thursday, I spent all day looking for a wedding dress from the 1800s.  A woman's great great grandma had donated her wedding dress for an exhibit the museum did in 1995 called "Threads of Tradition."  There were about 10 dresses in the exhibit and this woman wanted to see her great great grandma's dress to show her daughter.  Unfortunately, in the move from the old building, the dress was misplaced.  In addition, Chris and the other museum staff were not working for NHM back in 1995 so no one remembers anything about the dress.  The old staff was very unorganized.  I looked through donor files, exhibit files, and more and more files from the years 1994-1997 hoping to find any record that this dress existed!  I cross referenced files with PastPerfect, and still nothing!  I finally went down to the basement to look through boxes.  I found one box full of the OTHER dresses that were in the exhibit.  I looked through them and they were all accounted.  There was one un-numbered dress.  We aren't sure if this is the dress we're looking for, but at least I came up with something.  While the hunt was frustrating, I got to see a lot about what the artifact donation process is like, from donor to exhibit to storage.  

On Friday, I did less museum-y things and helped Chris install exhibit lighting.  I did get to learn about how certain artifacts can only be exposed to certain kind of light, though.  Even with the smaller, menial tasks I have to do as an intern, I learn about the little details.  I know that lighting matters, and that shelves have to be lined, and how things are organized.  I'm slowly getting a handle on the whole process and it's exciting!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week #9: November 6, 2011 - November 13, 2011

          This week was exciting, busy, i-was-randomly-assigned-tasks kinda of week!  I couldn't blame Chris though, because the museum finally opened!! Not that I could tell, necessarily, because I was locked away working on exhibits and artifacts, but from what I heard, for a Tuesday (which is apparently the least popular day to go to museums), we did pretty well!  
          On Tuesday, I did a lot of cleaning and assembling of the exhibit hall.  Since the museum is a non-profit, funded entirely by the generosity of America's greek population, the National Hellenic Museum seems to be perpetually low on cash.  Because of this, the permanent exhibit has a certain theme to it... that I will call "unfinished." Apparently, this is done on purpose to show the museum-goers how the museum went from a small organization to a huge, nationally recognized facility.  It looks pretty awesome, actually, not messy or anything, just very organic and rough around the edges.  I helped assemble the exhibits and made sure they were dust free.
          On Thursday, I did some more assembly and cleaning but mostly worked on my normal task of cataloging the Alex's Candy Shop exhibition items. I finally finished, too! It felt good to know that I started a finished a huge project and that without me, that project would still be unfinished.  So I made an impact... Which feels nice.  I talked to Chris about what I might be doing now that I finished with the Candy Shop and he said he has a two-year plan of getting the whole Collections department organized.  I LOVE organizing and am very good at it, and told him so... which he said was great and that he'd definitely utilize my skills.
          I'm liking my internship more and more! I'm seriously considering pursuing a degree in Museum Sciences after i graduate at some point.  I enjoy the tasks and especially the people I work with.  Yay enriching experiences!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week #8: October 30, 2011 – November 5, 2011

            This week, I did a little bit of everything!  The big gala to commemorate the museum’s opening is on Saturday and boy, oh boy, is everyone stressed.  The museum opens on Tuesday and there are still construction workers around! 
            On Tuesday, I mostly still worked on cataloguing the Candy Shop collections.  I’m up to 2011.7.225!  But I’m also noticing I did all the easily categorized items first, so now all the items I’m working on take a longer time to catalogue, especially when trying to find the appropriate Lexicon classification.  It looks like Chris has another intern working on the same project last week, as well, and I can tell we have different ways of doing things because I spent a good amount of time cleaning up after this intern.  There were a lot of misspellings in the records and he spelled “Permanent Exhibit” like “Perminent Exibit.”  Hmmmmm…
            In addition to working on my normal project, I also helped Chris and Bethany (the curator) set up the exhibits.  I did a lot of cleaning, which wasn’t the most fun project, but I’m an intern and it’s part of the gig, right?  The exhibit it coming together nicely.  Since the museum is just opening, and is kind of under a 2-year plan to become fully functional, the exhibit purposely looks like it’s under construction, to show the public how the museum came together.  Remember, NHM used to be a tiny cultural center that occupied a single floor in an office building.  It has a LOT of work to do in the next few years, but the building and collections are seriously impressive. 
            I’m also getting to know the other staff a little better.  The museum staff is very small and most of it has been hired in the last 2 or 3 months.  Toula and Stephanie are the higher-ups who work in the administrative offices.  Then there is Naomi, who is the membership coordinator.  Hannah, who is really awesome, is the office assistant and does a little bit of everything.  Elise is the education coordinator, and once the museum opens, will be in charge of coordinating educational activities for children and adults.  Bethany is the curator and then Chris is the Collections Manager/Registrar.  Everyone is incredibly nice, but stressed, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.  Chris, Hannah & I have become a little group.  We eat lunch together and joke around and stuff, which makes me feel appreciated and part of the small staff.  It’s really nice!
            I’m anxious to get back to work next week to see how the Gala went.  750 people RSVP’d and it’s taking place at a huge venue in Millennium Park, so it should be quite the production!

Week #7: October 23, 2011 – October 29, 2011

            So I’ve been working on the Candy Shop project for a few weeks now and I thought I’d go into more detail about the cataloguing process!
            As I said before, when I get an item, the first thing I do is assign it a number.  This is the number that tells us when we got the item and can used to look up where an item is in the museum, what it looks like or any other basic information about it. 
            After I give it a number, I assign it a Lexicon.  This is pretty much just placing it in a generalized category, and then a sub-category, to make it easier to search for.  For example, today, I was entering some dishes into the system.  It’s Lexicon term was “Food Service” and then further categorized as an “Ice Cream Dish.”  All these terms are provided for me, and it can take a long time to find the right category for an item!  The plate was relatively easy to categorize, but later today I was trying to do the same thing for a clock and I finally found it under the “Science and Technology” lexicon!  But I’m getting a better sense for how the categorization system thinks.  It’s important to get the lexicon as accurate as possible because this system is the same across all museums and is what other museums use when they are searching for items.
            Then, I weight and record the dimensions of the object.  After that, I record the condition of the item (Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Unstable) and then provide search terms that object could be looked for under.  The dish, for example, would show up if you searched for any of the following terms in our database: Alex’s Candy Shop, Ice Cream, Serving Utensil, Ice Cream, Dish.  After the classification terminology is indicated, I have to give a description of the item.  This is my favorite part.  Chris has done most of the research behind the items, historically, but I get to look at the object and describe its every detail.  This can be a short process or a long one, depending on the item.  The dish doesn’t take long to describe, but something like the original deed for the store or an intricately decorated serving platter can take longer.  Chris always says, “Describe it like you were describing it to someone who has never seen it before,” so the descriptions are always very detailed. 
            And actually, I changed my mind.  This next part is my favorite. After all the information is entered in to the computer, I get to photograph each object from all of its angles, making sure to get all the important details.  The camera I use is very fancy and complex! 
            I’m really liking this project!

Week #6: October 16, 2011 – October 22, 2011

          I was not able to go to my internship this week because I was home for a wedding!  Whooops! The National Hellenic Museum is an incredibly relaxed place to work and they were very understanding, which is nice!

Week #5: October 9, 2011 – October 15, 2011

            This week was GREAT! I got started on a project I will be working on for the majority of the rest of the semester.  Today Chris introduced me to the program PastPerfect and gave me a quick little tutorial.  PastPerfect is the program that the museum uses to keep track of their artifacts, archives and library collections.  It also is where information about artifact loans, grants etc are kept. 
            The project I will now be working on is the Alex’s Candy Shop exhibit.  The Rassogianis family came to Greece in the late 19th century and went on to run two successful candy shops in the Chicago area.  John Rassogianis invented and patented a Two-in-One Automatic Ice Cream Freezer that was used in the shops.  This past year, Pauline Franks, one of John Rassogianis’s relatives, donated 100’s of artifacts from the candy shops.  The objects range from the furniture used in the stores, to tiny out-dated kitchen appliances I don’t even recognize.  When the museum opens to the public in November, Chris will have set up an exhibit about the Rassogianis family, but first, all the objects need to be researched and catalogued.  That will be my job! 
            When I first start working with an object, I give it an accession number.  All the items in the Candy Shop collection start with 2011.7 and then each object is given a number after that, 2011.7.25, for example.  That number tells us that this collection was the seventh one given to the museum in 2011 and that this is the 25th object in the collection.  Pretty cool, right?!  There are SO many items to be catalogued, and right now I’m a little overwhelmed, but excited to do some real museum work.