2006 PFIG Recipient Julia Treschel
College of Arts & Sciences
2007 Graduation Year
Internship: Smithsonian Museum of American Art
Notes on the first week
It’s an exciting time to be working at the Smithsonian of American Art as they are preparing for the July 1 grand opening of a six-year renovation process! As I entered the building on my first day I was greeted with a countdown clock that read “28 days, 14 hours, 5 minutes, 15.6 seconds“ and kept counting down throughout the day. Needless to say the staff is ready for the building to reopen and the hype is contagious. There are 23 interns, each assigned to a different supervisor in various departments of the museum, and I am interning for the chief curator, Eleanor Harvey.
My first week was a combination of orientation activities with my fellow interns, shadowing Eleanor around the new building as she directs installations and answers a variety of questions and reading about her upcoming curatorial projects. My job this summer will involve tasks regarding the reopening and research for Eleanor’s catalogs and shows. It has been fascinating to walk around the museum this week and get an inside look at all the work that goes into preparing the institution for the public. There is so much thought put into what to display, the order of the galleries, the interaction between works of art, the actual placement of the art and the desired experience for the future visitors. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to see the museum take shape and really get to know the collection first-hand.
I have learned so much in my first week about different artists and artistic movements just from being in the museum and having the opportunity to hear members of the staff give tours and answer my many questions. Next week I will begin my research and I am excited to make a contribution to this institution of which I already feel very proud.
My internship is in full swing now as I’m entering the sixth week. Since my last entry I have been assigned my project for the summer — researching paintings in my supervisor’s upcoming exhibition. Specifically, I have two paintings on which I am focusing and I am using different resources to discover more information about them — the artists’ motivations, the reason for their commission, the historical context that influenced the works and the contemporary criticism when the works were displayed. For example, today I spent the day reading newspapers from the 1850s and 1860s finding information on William Blodgett, the man who commissioned the painting Aurora Borealis by Frederic Church in an attempt to discover his profession, his reasons for commissioning this particular subject, his political views and what other works he had in his collection. In addition to these projects I am spending part of each day walking around the museum enjoying this opportunity to really become familiar with the collection. Living in D.C. has been amazing and I’m so grateful for not only the experience of this internship but also that of living in a major U.S. city and taking advantage of all it has to offer. I only hope that I can do everything that I want to do in my last 3 weeks!
With my internship complete and my days in Washington, D.C., drawing to a close I can reflect on my time in the city and all that I’ve learned through my summer experience. Although my internship had its ups and downs I really value the experience of working in a professional environment and learning what it’s like working nine to five, socializing with co-workers, learning how to interact with a boss — all important skills that will help me be a little more prepared for life after my graduation at the end of this year. I’ve loved being in an art museum environment and I will definitely consider a career in this field as I think it would provide me with an opportunity to explore and cultivate many of my interests. Not only do I feel wiser about the working world but also about life in a city. I am proud that I have lived in, worked in, navigated and enjoyed a major U.S. city and I now have a new confidence to take with me wherever I might end up next June. Overall the summer was a great experience and I am so glad that I was able to spend it working an interesting job in such an interesting city!