In the Collection: Summer 2012 intern Crystal Labrosse

This summer, the OSUMA had its first full-time, paid summer intern. We created the position in order to provide experienced undergraduates with an in-depth, professional museum experience—and to help us with some urgent projects in preparation for the opening of the Postal Plaza Gallery! Crystal Labrosse had done a smaller internship with us last summer, and her background as an art history major, combined with her previous museum experience, made her the ideal candidate for the Summer 2012 internship. In this week’s post, she shares her summer experience.

I was honored and thrilled last May when offered the position to be the museum’s first summer paid intern. Once the projects started, and the workload piled up, my enthusiasm only increased because this position provided a way for me to explore my interests in working for a museum someday. These projects included archival research, collection identification, event planning and learning more about the curatorial process.

A taxidermied rhinoceros from the Mittendorf Collection is paired with a small trade sculpture of a rhino, intended for the African tourist market. Crystal worked with museum staff to explore the Mittendorf collection and other parts of the former OSU Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

I started my summer by reviewing all the documents in Special Collections University Archives that pertained to OSU’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which closed in 1995 due to budget cuts. It was incredibly fulfilling to read these documents about a museum that started in the 1930’s and see how it progressed to a museum that had a collection of almost 700,000 accessioned items. These items included animal heads, such as the ever-popular rhino from the Mittendorf Collection, to geological rocks, Chinese silk robes, Iranian metal work, and an expansive collection of various cultural and artistic objects from Ethiopia as well as incredible American paintings from the Salmon Collection.

Embroidered robe from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) with dragon motif.

My next step was to locate these objects, which had been placed in the care of various institutions. I followed up with the Gilcrease Museum, our theater department, the Sheerar Museum, and Special Collections University Archives. The largest portion went to SCUA, which stored these objects at the Library Annex. It was here that most of the excitement happened. It was a great feeling opening up boxes and laying eyes on what I had only been reading about for weeks. One interesting piece I found was a silk jacket from the Qing Dynasty. Another example of my favorite items found is a bronze temple bell from Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda is older than the town, which is about 2000 years old, and the bell was used on top along with thousands of other bells to decorate the pagoda complex.

The Shwedagon pagoda and stupa in Yangon is the most sacred Buddhist site in Burma. Over the centuries it has been repaired and reconstructed many times, and it is likely that this bell fragment was preserved during one of the more recent rebuildings, in the late nineteenth or twentieth centuries.

This internship also gave me the opportunity to plan a campus wide scavenger hunt, sponsored by AHO and the Student Union’s ReUnion Event. This event will feature faculty and student art work across campus and at nearby locations. Planning this event has given me an opportunity to become familiar with our permanent collection, which has given me a stronger appreciation for the arts in Oklahoma.

Arthur Benson, façade sculpture for First Christian Church, Stillwater, Oklahoma, 1968.

Another exciting project that I was able to help establish is a mini student-curated show in the Gardiner Gallery that accompanies the main exhibition on view. This first show is in conjunction with the Gardiner Gallery’s first exhibition of the school year, “The Influence of Oklahoma,” and is in memory of former OSU faculty member and Gardiner Gallery director B.J. Smith. The show includes six pieces from the Gardiner’s permanent collection that were donated in memory of Smith. The pieces are not only Smith’s work but also the work of other Oklahoma faculty artists, such as Robert Seig from ECU and John O’Neil from OU, which Smith collected. Student-curated shows will give students an opportunity to learn a skill that they can use outside the classroom and help build their resumes.

John O’Neil, “Sea Forms,” 1956. Acrylic on canvas, gift of George Smith in memory of B.J. Smith.

Looking back on my summer internship I can see that it had a theme: Oklahoma art, past, present, and future. I became familiar with OSU’s history of collecting through my archival research. I was able to meet Kelly Knowlton, a collector of Oklahoma faculty artists, and assist the museum staff in creating a show from his collection. Best of all I was able to plan an event that will bring awareness about the artwork from students and faculty from OSU to students and staff across campus, and I was able to assist in starting student curated shows that will give an opportunity for art history students to get familiar with the museum’s permanent collection and expand their skills outside the classroom. I would highly encourage students to take this opportunity and to apply for internships with the OSU Museum of Art and with other museums, because the experience has been unforgettable.

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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.
This entry was posted in internships, permanent collection, student research, student writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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