One of the most fascinating and instructive parts of my experience as a work-study student was simply the variety of tasks that I was involved with. This kept the experience fresh and was excited knowing that I would learn something different every day I was there. I first started working by transcribing the scans from Charles Burchfield’s journals and was stunned by both the scale of the project and the beauty of Burchfield’s writing. This was also a fantastic way to become acquainted with Burchfield himself and the history behind the man the museum is named after. Eventually I moved on to uploading the journals onto the museum website. Seeing these incredible resources being made more accessible to the public has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I look forward to other people enjoying reading the journals as much as I have.
I was also able to observe staff members while they made condition reports as well as helping to install several exhibitions. Handling the art allowed me to have a truly behind the scenes look at how exhibitions come together and how curators designs come together. On one occasion I was able to help artist Bob Booth install his exhibit, which included putting a layer or charcoal on the walls. Though these were not always glamorous days, opportunities like these that allowed me to not only get my hands dirty but also work with the artists themselves were some of my favorites. The exhibition Body Norms, which was curated by Heather Gring, also opened at that time and I was able to observe and learn from her as she made decisions about how the show should be set up. It was incredible to see the curatorial process up close and personal.
I am incredibly grateful I given the chance to work at the Burchfield and learn about how museums work first hand. As a hopeful future museum professional this experience has been invaluable and will give me so many skills necessary to be successful in the field. I was struck by how talented the staff is at using their diverse skills and their expertise in the field. More importantly, I have been able to work with many other work study students an interns as well as Burchfield Penney staff and be part of the creative process of the museum. I will never forget my experience at the Burchfield Penney an am excited to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary next year!
Emily Simms is a candidate for a Masters in Museum Studies at SUNY Buffalo State College. During the summer of 2015, she is an intern at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.