Interning at the Burchfield Penney this summer has been such a great growing experience for me. When I met with Heather Gring during my spring break last year I was relieved by how approachable she was and surprised by how easy the application process was. At that point I had never worked in a museum before and I could not tell you the first thing about archiving. To be completely honest, I was a little afraid that I had just agreed to spend my summer sitting in a dusty closet in the basement of the Burchfield nPenney. However, Heather assured me that it would be a great fit for me and that I would quickly get the hang of the archival process. She could not have been more right. That May, I began my internship.
My tasks at the Burchfield Penney have ranged from spackling walls after an exhibition removal to transcribing Charles Burchfield’s journals to writing extensive finding aids that would eventually be published on the Center’s website. I began the latter about halfway through my summer by rehousing photocopies of the artist Harvey Breverman’s records into new folders, organizing them in chronological order, and pouring over photocopied letter after photocopied letter. As I went through these files, I found myself getting attached to Mr. Breverman. I saw his artwork, his handwritten notes, numerous letters of praise, and exhibition catalogue after exhibition catalogue. I was equally as intrigued by his awards as I was by his postcards. In my mind he became a real person, not just a name attached to a drawing. Getting to know Harvey reinforced what I love about art history – the project was fun to complete and very rewarding.
After rehousing all of the materials that Breverman donated to the Burchfield Penney, I catalogued them into the finding aid and completed the rest of the document. At the end of this process I was able to look at my shiny, new finding aid with an immense feeling of pride. This did not feel like a menial intern task. This was a project that I saw from the beginning to the end. It was something that mattered to me and to the museum. Throughout the rest of the summer, I found most of my tasks to be equally as fun and rewarding.
This internship was an invaluable experience for me. I have learned so much from Heather and the other archive interns about all aspects of working in a gallery. I found a sense of family in the archives thanks to the unique people that I worked with every week. And most of all, the experience reinforced why I became an Art History major in the first place. After completing the first internship of my college career, I can say with confidence that “going to work” will rarely have the same negative connotation that I have been led to believe.
Monica Marchese will be a sophomore at the University of Pittsburg in the Fall of 2014, studying Art History.