Monday, 13 July 2015

FROM EASTBOURNE TO THE EAST RIVER, FROM THE SHORES OF THE THAMES TO THE BANKS OF THE BOYNE: MMST INTERNS ARE MAKING A BIG SPLASH THIS SUMMER

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN

BY MADELEINE ADAMSON

Welcome to the final edition of Internship Check-In. This week we’ll travel farther afield than usual—to the UK, the U S of A, and up to Northern Ontario—to check in with a new bunch of MMSt interns. Get ready for some internship envy—these four interns' summer positions are pretty cool. Now we just have to convince them to come back to Toronto for September…

It’s all about the Benjamin (Franklin, that is) this summer in London
By Mallory Horrill

The Benjamin Franklin House located in downtown London, England (yes, you read that right) is where I have been spending my spring/summer as a Museum Assistant. My day-to-day shifts between the front and back of house. On the front side of the museum I lead public tours through the nearly 300-year-old historic home, informing on the period architecture, the history of the building, and Franklin’s 16-year stay in London.

The exterior of Benjamin Franklin House: Photo courtesy of Mallory Horrill.

Behind the scenes I work on a variety of projects. My current venture is the creation and launch of a walking tour that takes visitors on a stroll through the London that Franklin would have known. The walking tour has been a project of mine for the past one and a half-months and will be debuting this Wednesday (fingers crossed!). Following the launch of the walking tour I have on the horizon a social media project in which I will craft and implement a strategy to strengthen our online presence.

I am truly getting a taste of the small cultural institution and loving every minute of it. I am changing my hats multiple times throughout the day; one minute I am making a spreadsheet for the week’s visitor metrics and the next I am making fresh lemonade for our Independence Day party. I am looking forward to what the remainder of my internship will bring!

#AllisonInAlliston: Asking questions at the Museum on the Boyne
By Allison MacDonald

As the Museum Assistant intern at the Museum on the Boyne, in Alliston, ON (a small but mighty municipal museum), I’ve heard the same question over and over this summer: “What IS that?”

While we use it as a game with school groups, “What IS that?” is often asked by visitors when confronted with outdated kitchen appliances or farming equipment. Staff are not excluded; we often are stumped when a donor brings an object of mystery to the museum. “What IS that?” is my favourite question. When visitors ask, they’re engaging with the collection and their curiosity leads to new discoveries. When staff ask, our know-it-all egos get knocked down a peg and we get to look at the collection with fresh eyes once again. The spark of curiosity that comes from asking questions is my favourite part of working in the museum world.

What IS this? Photo courtesy of Allison MacDonald.

Over the next two months, I look forward to facilitating visitors, camp kids, volunteers, and staff in answering that head-scratching question: “just what the heck is that?”

As a parting question to you, reader, we at Museum on the Boyne are still stumped by this object. Like many of you, we have objects in our collection from years passed without any information. This wooden wonderment came to us without any context. If you can answer our question, we would be most grateful. What IS it? (Helpful hint: the wooden bars rotate but cannot be removed).

Tenement Thrills: Preserving the stories and structure of 97 Orchard Street
By Lindsay Parsons

I did the unadvisable, and put all of my internship eggs into one Lower East Side Tenement Museum basket and, luckily, it worked out for me. Since early June, I have been the Curatorial-Preservation intern at the Tenement Museum here in New York City. My main project is working on a Preservation Action Plan (PAP) for 97 Orchard Street, the historic tenement building that is the heart of the Museum. The PAP is a 15-year preservation plan, for which I’ll write the Executive Summary and Introduction, and I’ll compile and organize all of the necessary documents for it.

Lindsay very happily in front of 97 Orchard. Photo by Rebecca Solomowitz.

The highlight of the last six weeks, however, has been helping my supervisor Dave Favaloro and the Collections Manager with the Monthly Conservation Monitoring on 97 Orchard. Once a month, a floor of the Museum is taken “off-line”, meaning no tours are allowed on that floor from 9am to 12:30pm. This gives us a chance to assess the condition of the historic fabric of 97 Orchard, to see if there have been any major changes or any areas of concern.

Photo of an unrestored apartment during monthly conservation monitoring. Photo by Lindsay Parsons.

We can detect these changes by comparing it to pictures taken from the last monitoring report done six months prior. We record these changes and try to do minor stabilization projects ourselves, such as pinning back peeling wallpaper.

Photo of a restored apartment during monthly conservation monitoring. Photo by Lindsay Parsons.

It’s not always successful; sometimes pieces of plaster fall or 100-year-old linoleum cracks or peels. Tenements, after all, were not intended to endure for the ages, but it’s my job to help 97 Orchard endure a little while longer, and it’s been fascinating.

Alluring and Alarming: Caring for military artifacts at the Redoubt Fortress
By Kasey Ball

Greetings from the south coast of beautiful, sunny England (no joke, it really has been sunny every day). I am writing to you from The Redoubt Fortress in Eastbourne, East Sussex—an anachronistic military nerve centre that illumines how real the fear of French naval invasion was before Admiral Nelsonʼs victory at Trafalgar in 1805.

The Redoubt Fortress was initially conceived of in 1804 when England sought to create a line of defense along its southern coast. Against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, 73 Martello Towers, and three Redoubts in Eastbourne, Dymchurch, and Harwich were constructed in preparation for an attack. But with Nelsonʼs triumph in the Mediterranean, England was awarded control of the seas, rendering the Redoubts somewhat obsolete. Over the years, the Eastbourne Redoubt has experienced many reincarnations. During WWII, for example, it is believed to have hosted Canadians who were stationed here for D-Day.

The beautiful blade. Photo courtesy of Kasey Ball.

Currently, the fortress serves as a structurally relevant repository of military artifacts. What makes this building so utterly fascinating—its age—is also what makes its collections challenging to manage. The museumʼs curator works tirelessly to maintain ideal conditions for the collections, ensuring the longevity of myriad fascinating objects (you can follow his efforts on twitter).

For my internship, I am learning how to manage a collection that is niche in terms of subject and varied in terms of items. Along with catalogue work and curatorial talks, my job involves a great deal of preventative conservation. Right now, I am in the middle of cleaning 19th-century swords. Weapons are an interesting and provocative locus for reflection. While I admire their artistry I remain mindful of the violence they have seen. What are your thoughts about the conservation and care of weapons?

Thank you to everyone who shared an internship story this summer through Musings! It has been both interesting and inspiring to learn about what fellow MMSt students have been up to these past three months. And now to prepare for those Ignite presentations...


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