Welcome to Learning from Things

...and one at the Rothschild estate

posted on 25 Aug 2015 15:27 by Elena Pinto Simon

….and finally, this past summer, MA student Caroline OConnell had an extraordinary experience as an intern at Waddesdon Manor…..here are some of her thoughts about her summer assignment:

" I was very lucky to spend the summer living on the grounds and working as an intern in the Collections (Curatorial) Department at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, UK.

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Waddesdon is unique in that it is both a carefully preserved historic estate, largely furnished as it was in the late nineteenth century, when the Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, and is the repository of a museum-quality collection of decorative and fine art objects, collected over the last century by various members of the storied family.

My work centered on Manor's extensive drawings and prints collection. Along with one of the assistant curators, I inventoried and catalogued some eight hundred works on paper, many of which related to architectural and ornamental designs. The inventory project dovetailed with my research for an upcoming drawings exhibition that will highlight the collection's significant works by two critical figures in French Rococo design: Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier and Gilles-Marie Oppenord.

It was a privilege to learn from and work closely with Waddesdon's Collection Department and I could not help but wish the summer would last longer. "

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....and one at the V & A, London

posted on 05 Aug 2015 14:02 by Elena Pinto Simon

Meanwhile, in the heart of London, Bard Graduate Center MA student Rebecca Sadtler spent much of her summer interning at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Rebecca sent along this summary:

"From Animal Products to Christian Dior: Opening the Drawer on a V&A/BGC Placement

This summer, I completed a six-week placement at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where I gained valuable insights into the curatorial practices and collections management procedures of their comprehensive Fashion and Textiles Collection. Under the expert guidance of Dr. Bill Sherman from my “home base” in the Research Department, I divided my time between the museum at South Kensington and the Clothworkers’ Study Centre located in Blythe House assisting curators and collections managers with long-term projects and daily, routine tasks. My experiences expanded my practical skill set and encouraged me to push the traditional disciplinary boundaries of my chosen academic focus on fashion history and theory. I was privileged to work with a multitude of objects ranging from obscure paper records to well-known hallmarks of twentieth-century fashion design. These encompassed everything from original register files documenting rather interesting and strange nineteenth-century acquisitions of animal waste products to an infamous and beautiful “Bar” suit designed by Christian Dior in 1947, which helped define the highly influential “New Look.”

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I also spent time working on a digitization project that involved uploading just over 1,500 photographs of textiles classified as “animal products” during the late-nineteenth century to the museum’s internal database. Through this process, the images were also published to the V&A website’s Search the Collections feature for the first time. While it required a great deal of patience and careful attention to detail, it also enabled me to collaborate with colleagues across two museum departments and institutions providing an opportunity to engage what I have learned about textiles at the BGC and explore a dynamic intersection between fashion, science and museum studies that I had not previously considered. Meetings and conversations with fashion curators Edwina Ehrman and Jenny Lister brought the images on my computer screen to life. From their work, I learned that around eight-hundred objects of the original Animal Products Collection, which the museum acquired as a result of the Great Exhibition in 1851, have survived at the V&A and today form an important part of the museum’s Textiles and Fashion Collection. My project culminated in a research trip to the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, where the Animal Products Collection was displayed from 1872 following the location’s opening.

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It was fulfilling to see how small tasks such as uploading photographs, paging through register files, and retrieving objects for research appointments from the storage drawers of Blythe House fit into much larger projects, like Edwina’s upcoming exhibition on the subject of fashion and nature, aimed toward furthering our understanding of the V&A’s vast and varied collections. I am truly grateful the BGC for providing such a worthwhile opportunity and am likewise thankful to everyone I worked with at the V&A, especially Dr. Bill Sherman, for being so supportive, welcoming, and encouraging of my academic interests and continued professional development."

Image one: A study day I assisted with during my placement titled “The Science and Culture of Feathers in Fashion” which was organized by V&A curator Edwina Ehrman in collaboration with the Natural History Museum.

Image two:The view from my desk at the V&A.


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Internship in Oxford....

posted on 29 Jul 2015 12:13 by Elena Pinto Simon

This summer, a number of Bard Graduate Center students satisfied their internship requirement by completing internships abroad. As they complete their summer experience, they each have written me a note about how it all went. Ana Estrades
an about-to-be second year MA student had the opportunity to spend six weeks at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, under the supervision of Dr. Tim Wilson. I thought you might like to read some of what Ana's summer was like; and also to thank Tim Wilson and the Ashmolean team, who made this extraordinary experience possible!

Ana writes: "My summer internship in Oxford was a very rewarding experience in many fronts, from the personal, to the professional and the academic. I spent a total of six weeks, the first two at the Beazley archive, and the remaining month in the Western Art department at the Ashmolean museum. In the Beazley, I familiarized myself with the archive’s library, projects and publications on gems and cameos, and I also met key people in the gem field: Sir John Boardman, Dr Claudia Wagner and Martin Henig. My work there involved identifying copies in electrotype with the original Beverley gems photographed for an upcoming publication. Also, I learned how to take photographs of gems and cameos up-close, which proved useful for one of my research projects in the museum.
At the Ashmolean, I primarily assisted curator Tim Wilson, an expert in Renaissance maiolica, who was a true mentor during my time in the museum. I completed two research projects under his supervision: the iconography of a recently acquired maiolica istoriato bowl, and the cameos decorating a coin cabinet.

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From the beginning, I fitted in well within the Ashmolean's Western Art department team, where I helped in different tasks, from updating their database, to serving the public in their Print Room, finding and handling original drawings. Moreover, by the end of the internship, my efforts were felt both in the museum, and also in my own research. After attending a National Trust conference on Cabinets of Curiosity at Waddesdon Manor, I clarified the focus of my MA qualifying paper: to study the presence of gems and cameo collections in 16th-17th century curiosity cabinets. For this intensely rich experience at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, my sincere appreciation goes to the whole Western Art department team, with special gratitude to Tim Wilson, who taught me so much in little time, and I thank Bard Graduate Center for this wonderful opportunity. "


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Boston Chapter Launches!

posted on 21 May 2015 19:24 by Elena Pinto Simon

Friday, May 15th was a big day for Bard Graduate Center – it marked the launch of the first gathering of BGC’s Boston Alumni Chapter. We came together at the Harvard Art Museum’s beautiful courtyard, and spent a wonderful afternoon in the new study center, looking and talking about a selection of objects from the collection These were selected by Professor Andrew Morrall, who led our afternoon discussion.

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And what a wonderful afternoon it was – Prof. Morrall was terrific, as always, and from the expert to the neophyte among us, we spent two hours looking at his selection of early modern objects, from Albrecht Durer’s The Sixth Knot woodcut to a 16th century Spanish Catalonian Luster dish with a bird motif, to Michelangelo’s Goldsmith’s Designs/ Studies for the Magnifici Tomb in the Medici Chapel (1521), to a Persian Annunciation painting with calligraphy (1590), and carved German lindenwood memento mori sculptures of death from the first half of the seventeenth century — some twenty objects in all.

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After our session, we all went to supper at GRAFTON STREET, just outside of Harvard Square, and spent some time catching up. The group included Ezra Shales, Virginia Spofford, Nina Cohen, Sophia Lufkin, Jeannie Ingram, Andrew Morrall and Elena Pinto Simon. Special thanks go to Jeannie Ingram for helping to make all the arrangements for our visit.

And so, the Boston Chapter is launched! Next spring, alum Michelle Tolini, Curator of Fashion at the MFA) has invited us to the MFA another gathering and visit. There are currently twelve BGC alums living in the greater Boston area, and we all look forward to re-connecting, staying in touch, and networking connections for all alums. Next stop in June? Chicago!


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Waddesdon Manor

posted on 21 May 2015 18:53 by Elena Pinto Simon

The Bard Travel Program is well underway, and we recently received this image from the students who were in England. (Half of the students went to London; the other half to Paris ) The program is centered in London, but does offer several day trips, and this one was to Waddesdon Manor, the Rothschild Estate in Kent.

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Along with faculty members Deborah Krohn and Ulrich Leben, who led the Waddesdon tour, are (bottom row, left to right) Andrew Taggert, Caitlin Dichter, Ulrich Leben, Summer Olsen. In the second row, left to right, are Marietta Klase, Garrett Swanson, Deborah Krohn, Cindy Kok, Caroline O’Connell. Third row includes: Lara Schilling, Christine Griffiths, Sarah Stanle, Amanda Thompson, Clara Boesch, Ana Estrades . On the top step are Kaitlin McClure and Shiela Maloney. The annual trip abroad, led by BGC faculty is for the first year students to study, in situ, many of the objects and kinds of objects they have been studying in the Survey class.


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