Spring 2012: Intern Natalie Hardesty photographs the collection

Three interns were working with the OSU Museum of Art staff this spring: Amy Sawyer, Sara Roberts, and this week’s author, Natalie Hardesty. Natalie is a junior art history major with experience in photography, which turned out to be exactly what we needed at the OSUMA. About a third of the permanent collection lacked photographic documentation when I began working with the collection, and as we’ve continued to acquire work, the backlog has, of course, increased. As you’ll read below, Natalie chose the internship assignment that focused on addressing this backlog. Before she could document our permanent collection, however, Natalie had to help us set up a documentation room for the Museum, including selecting and ordering all the needed equipment.

Working as an intern this past spring semester was great! On the first day I walked into the boardroom setting of room 104 in the Bartlett Center. There sat the splendid staff of the Gardiner Museum of Art: Louise Siddons, the fateful leader and her staff, Shawn Yuan, Topher Lundell and Jordan Griffis, who were all very friendly and supportive. Along with two other unsuspecting interns, Sara Roberts and Amy Sawyer, we sat shyly as we were handed several jobs available for us to undertake. I was elated when I saw the outline for an opportunity to work with objects in the collection directly. My assignment was to photograph objects in the collection then upload them to an online database that is open to not only the students and staff, but the public as well.

John O’Neil, “Sea Forms,” 1956. Acrylic on canvas, bequest of BJ Smith.

With my trusty Nikon D80 in hand, I set out with high expectations. I was not disappointed. Topher set me up in the fully-equipped documentation room in Bartlett with a large box (24x30ish) full of etchings, lithographs, and prints. It took roughly two weeks working three days a week to archive all of the articles in the box. The etchings were by far my favorite works to look at, but not the easiest to photograph. It’s quite a task to balance oneself on a chair directly over cherished works of art, melting under the hot photography lights, while trying to capture a level image. Yes, Photoshop can straighten any mistakes, and believe me I used it often, but for myself there’s a certain pride in taking a beautiful image untainted by Photoshop.

John Taylor Arms, “French Lace,” 1949. Etching, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

Around the same time as I finished my first box of images, the equipment for the collection’s documentation studio arrived. After the new equipment was set up, new challenges arrived. Reflective paint surfaces and images behind glass forced me to spend twice as long finding a position where I could capture a level image without obscuring it or catching a reflection. The last phase was uploading the images to the database. This was the easiest part, just ‘right click’ and upload. Though the semester has come to a close I am glad to say that the museum’s staff has allowed me to continue documenting the collection. It’s gonna be an awesome summer!

Unknown creator (Near East), Tweezers, ca. 2nd-1st millennium BCE. Folded copper alloy, Gift of Dr. Alexander and Svetlana Salerno. Each of our interns has to do a mid-semester presentation about their project; at Natalie’s presentation, Art Department head Chris Ramsay suggested that she try taking photographs that introduce a sense of drama.

As you might surmise, all the photographs of collection objects in this post were taken by Natalie Hardesty.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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