Monday, 12 March 2018

ALUMNI FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA: CHRISTINE PENNINGTON & LAUREN WILLIAMS

ALUMNI CHECK-IN

BY: EMILY WELSH

This week I check-in with two alumni working on opposite coasts of our vast country:

Christine Pennington graduated from the MMSt program in 2017 and previously with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia in 2015. She is currently employed as Collections Assistant at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV). Christine's collections management duties include cataloguing and digitizing objects, processing photography reproduction requests, and facilitating collections visits for researchers and community members. Currently her work is focused on assisting the management and installation of MOV's upcoming exhibition, Haida Now, which includes over 400 objects from their collection!    

Christine's previous work with MOV includes her time in a different position with the same title, taking over 20,000 photos for an online database and digitization project. She was also a collections intern at MOV, preparing objects for long-term storage. Christine has previously worked and volunteered in the Ethnology Department of the Royal Ontario Museum, and has worked as Curatorial Assistant at Barkerville Historic Town.      

Christine Pennington, MMSt '17, taking a casual museum selfie. Photo courtesy of Christine Pennington.

Lauren Williams graduated from the MMSt program in 2014 and previously with a Bachelors of Arts with Combined Honours from the University of King's College in 2011. She is currently employed as Assistant Curator & Outreach Coordinator at Arts Nova Scotia. Lauren is responsible for administering and installing the provincial Art Bank, a working collection of artworks by Nova Scotian artists. Each year, artists are invited to submit works which then undergo a peer assessment process for acquisition. The collection's artworks are displayed in government offices and agencies across Nova Scotia. Lauren is also responsible for Arts Nova Scotia communication and outreach initiatives, including social media, information sessions and the annual Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala.

Lauren's past experiences in the museum sector include her time at the Ontario Science Centre during her MMSt degree when she completed her internship under alumnus Cara van der Laan, and curated the permanent radio exhibition as her exhibition project. She also worked as Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator at the former Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto where she initially started as a volunteer.


Lauren Williams, MMSt '14, standing in the Art Bank storage space. Photo courtesy of Lauren Williams.

Christine and Lauren kindly answered the following questions for us here at Musings:

1. Why did you decide to join the MMSt program?

Christine: I’ve always wanted to work in museums in some capacity. During my undergrad I was able to take multiple museum-related courses, including curatorial and conservation courses at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. I started looking for programs that would help me pursue this career, and the MMSt program seemed like a great fit.

Lauren: At some point in my undergrad, I started fantasizing about how I could turn my love of museums into a career. I chose the U of T program as I was initially interested in pursuing the academic side of things – though the hands-on aspects of the program often ended up being my favourite parts.


2. What course or subject matter has been of most use to you in your current role?

Christine: I’m interested in collections work, so obviously the Collections Management course was important, but I think Sue Maltby’s Museum Environments course was the most useful for my current work. Most institutions will teach you general collections care, but Sue brings in so much practical information through a good combination of best practice and real life examples. I feel like nothing sticks with you more than a slideshow of conservation fails that are, unfortunately, all too common.

            Here, Christine photographs one of the beautiful Chilkat blankets at the MOV, in a slightly makeshift manner.                 Photo courtesy of Fiona Hernandez.

Lauren: I truly can find a relationship between each course I took in the MMSt program and the work I do today – which is especially interesting considering I don’t work in a “traditional” museum job. I use skills taught in Collections Management in order to maintain the Art Bank collection; I draw upon ethics taught in Ethics, Leadership & Management when working with artists and arts organizations; I had a background on collaboration vs. consultation from Museums & Indigenous Communities when Arts NS introduced the Indigenous Artist Recognition Award; and Curating Science taught me to strive to find ways to engage the public creatively. I could go on!


3. What do you enjoy most about your work?

Christine: The Museum of Vancouver is working hard to provide greater access to collections for Indigenous communities. This is so important, especially considering the controversial ways in which many Indigenous collections have ended up in museums around the world. It’s amazing and humbling to be able to help provide community members with access to their material culture.  

Christine basking in some of the rare Vancouver sunshine, outside the MOV. 
Photo courtesy of Christine Pennington.

Lauren: I’d have to say that the thing I most enjoy about my work is how every day is different. Through the Art Bank program, I have the unique opportunity to visit offices across different departments in government and interact with folks doing work completely different than my own. It is quite amazing to see the variety of responses to the artworks I bring with me to an installation. I’ve always known art was quite powerful, and that it can elicit strong emotion; however, seeing this in action every day has given me a new level of understanding, appreciation and sensitivity.  


4. Which object, exhibit or program, in your current institution, do you enjoy the most? Why? 

Christine: This is a tough question, because I feel like I change my mind and pick a new favourite weekly. I love anything miniature, and right now I’m working with a lot of argillite carvings from Haida Gwaii, so I would probably pick a mini argillite sculpture of a killer whale by Arthur Moody (AA 2312 in the collection: http://openmov.museumofvancouver.ca/node/91518 ). Argillite carvings are amazing, and this one has so much personality.

Lauren: Currently, I am reviewing applications for the Art Bank purchase program. Over 100 artists have submitted their work for consideration, and the unfortunate reality is, the public will only be able to see as many works as the budget allows for (under the recommendations of the peer assessors, not myself). It feels like such a great privilege to be able to see the amazing breadth of work being done by contemporary artists living in Nova Scotia. So today, that is my favourite program.



Cliff Eyland “Mouse Trap” (1988) 7.5 x 13 cm,
Mixed media, Nova Scotia Art Bank. 
Photo courtesy of Lauren Williams.

If I had to choose a favourite object, at the moment it would be “Mouse Trap” by Cliff Eyland. The piece is a mouse that met an unfortunate end in a mousetrap and was soon after preserved in a thick coat of clear lacquer (Jurassic Park amber-mosquito-style) and mounted on a small board.

Typically, my favourite objects in the Art Bank are the ones that are the hardest to hang in an office – the works that challenge people’s assumption of what “office art” is and forces people to step outside of their comfort zone (Nova Scotia has a very real comfort zone with paintings of boats).






Many thanks to Christine and Lauren for taking time to share their experiences with us! 
All the best in your future endeavours. 

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