Monday, 1 June 2015

DINOSAURS, EXHIBITION DEVELOPMENT, AND A NOD TO TORONTO'S DAZZLING PAST

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN

BY: MADELEINE ADAMSON

Ever wondered what a day in the life of an interpretive planner is like? Feeling alone in your struggle to marry museum theory and practice in your internship? Curious about what an internship in a performing arts centre might entail? Look no further than today’s edition of Internship Check-In! This curious blogger asked MMSt students Jenny Ford, Zoé Delguste-Cincotta and Sarah Anderson a few questions about their exciting summer placements.

What’s a typical day like for you?

As the Interpretive Planning intern at the Royal Ontario Museum, Jenny Ford is helping to develop content and interpretive elements for the ROM’s permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions—a wide-ranging challenge that calls for her to be nimble on her feet as she jumps from one topic to another. “I like that my days are never typical. I can be immersed in dinosaurs in the morning and end with Chinese art in the afternoon,” says Jenny.

Jenny usually starts off her day working on pressing projects like copyediting exhibit text, or vetting exhibition content with curators and other stakeholders. In the afternoon, she jumps into her bigger projects—planning and attending meetings with curators and designers, or busily developing gallery content or an interpretive plan.

The ROM's new Beta Lab spokesperson? Photo courtesy of Jenny Ford. 

Jenny is also in charge of obtaining public input on exhibition concepts and interpretive elements in the ROM’s new Beta Lab, an “idea incubator” in which visitors are invited to meet ROM staff and help them generate ideas for a 21st-century museum. Throughout the day, she is prepping Beta Lab tests or facilitating these tests on the floor. “No day is ever typical,” stresses Jenny. “But that’s how I like it!”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

As the Curatorial intern at the Markham Museum, Zoé Delguste-Cincotta has been involved in the thrilling ins and outs of exhibition installation and development. Her biggest challenge to date has been taking what she’s learned during the first year of her MMSt program and applying—or adapting— it to the workplace. 

Zoé gets her hands dirty. Photo by Elizabeth Benner. 

As Zoé says, “the program has prepared me for key aspects of my internship, including exhibition planning, collections care, and label writing. However, many of the skills required in this profession cannot be taught in a university setting.” She’s discovered that, “in reality, much of the theory learned in the program falls by the wayside, often due to time constraints or lack of resources. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity the Markham Museum is giving me to translate classroom theory into hands-on museum practice."

Tell me a bit about your cultural institution and how your role fits in to the bigger picture of the organization?

CRO student Sarah Anderson is completing her internship at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, located in downtown Toronto. Her role as Archives and Exhibit Coordinator is especially exciting, given the impressive history of this cultural institution—the Sony Centre (formerly the O'Keefe, and later the Hummingbird, Centre) has been host to some of the hottest musicals, singers, dancers, and bands ever to visit Toronto. In arranging and describing the Centre’s 55 years of history, Sarah is playing a big hand in bringing the exciting performances of the past back to life—and making them available to a new audience. 

Look at that focus! Photo by Amy Bowring.

At the moment, Sarah is assisting in the creation of an exhibition that will celebrate the very first performance at what was then known as the O'Keefe Centre—the production in October 1960 of Camelot, starring Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet. “As Sarah enthuses, “The Sony Centre is owned by the City of Toronto, and it is my mission to increase visibility into its dazzling, star-studded past.”

And there you have it. Three unique internships, all of which seem to be keeping these MMSt students on their toes, challenging them in incredible ways, and encouraging them to weave what they learned during first year lectures into museum settings.

Current MMSt students: Have you made something cool during your internship so far? Been inspired by a Museum Studies professional with whom you now work? Or are you simply dying to discuss the ways in which the theories of Roland Barthes have factored into your internship? (It could happen!) Whatever your experience so far, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at madeleine.adamson@mail.utoronto.ca if you would like to be featured in an upcoming edition of Internship Check-In.

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