My hands gripped the steering wheel as butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Not only was I nervous about the traffic around me, but I also had no idea what to expect on the first day of my curatorial internship. Would I be able to handle the work? What if I made a fool of myself? Was I even qualified to work in a museum?
I entered the Reading Public Museum through the employee entrance and met Ashley, the Collections Manager and Registrar. After giving a short tour of the building, she brought me to the large object storage room and handed me a pair of purple rubber gloves. My task was to assist Ashley in finding new locations for items, including narwhal tusks and poison-tipped spears. I drove home that afternoon, relieved and excited for my next day at the Museum.
Looking back at the past nine months, I can hardly believe how much I have learned and grown. Many skills have been acquired, including, but not limited to: mastering the art of bubble wrapping. Measuring works on paper to the sixteenth. Creating a makeshift studio for photography. Pulling, editing, and filing thousands of accession cards. Dusting the face of an animatronic Levi Mengel. Finding the proper resting place for taxidermy creatures (and going home smelling like mothballs).
Eventually, I was asked to check the dimensions of each piece in the fraktur collection (Pennsylvania Dutch artwork and documents). As a German citizen who majored in German Studies, I was particularly interested in transcribing and translating the birth and baptismal certificates of local families. Although I was unable to review the entire collection during my internship, I believe to have made a valuable contribution. At least my ability to read alte deutsche Schrift has significantly improved.
Next week, I will fly to England to attend the Conservation Studies graduate program at the University of Lincoln. I am really looking forward to studying how historic objects can be restored and preserved for future generations. As I follow my dream towards becoming a conservator, I am sure the memories made at the Reading Public Museum will last me a lifetime.
Curatorial Intern, Summer 2017
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