Musings on Museum Management
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I am interning this summer with the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, as an art-collections intern under the guidance of the Witte’s director of collections, Leslie Ochoa. I started my 10-week internship by organizing the Witte Museum’s Texas Art Collection’s Works on Paper through rehousing artworks and updating the museum’s online database. I’ve been given many opportunities here, and I’ve truly learned a lot from my internship. I’ve gained a greater understanding into the organizing, management, and care of a museum’s collections from my time here with the Witte.
Working in a nonprofit museum means that everyone helps no matter their expertise, and because of this, I’ve been given opportunities to help with removing exhibits on display, cleaning exhibits, caring for the preservation of works on display in the galleries, taking inventory of artworks in the galleries, and learning the process of lending art to other museums.
My goal while interning with the Witte Museum was just to learn the proper procedures for museum collection management, but what I’ve learned here is far greater. I have been able to connect with a multitude of staff, museum donors, and the president/CEO, Marise McDermott, of the Witte Museum. I am extremely lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to interact and talk with these people because they have given me great advice and different viewpoints when it comes to running a museum. The Collections Department has taught me a lot about the inner workings of an art museum and the importance of conserving and organizing artworks and also making strong connections between donors and other museums. Through these interactions, I have a greater perception of the administrative side as well as the conservation side of what makes a museum run successfully.
I overcame the obstacle of feeling too inexperienced to be given all these responsibilities within the care of different collections. However, my supervisors are extremely kind and make every task an opportunity for me to learn, such as the proper procedures that take place in museum management and the necessary vocabulary for art conservation, which has really benefited my storage reports. During my internship, a group of us interns were able to casually sit down with McDermott, and we talked about leadership, passion, and even feelings of doubt. McDermott gave us words of encouragement when feeling unqualified, stating that you can’t learn anything unless you try it yourself. She also encouraged us to surround ourselves with creative individuals who will support you and help you overcome obstacles of doubt.
The greatest benefit about interning with the Witte Museum is the passionate staff; every member that I have met loves their job at the museum because of how inclusive, and creative everyone is. I have spent a lot of time working in the Collections Department, and although they are always busy, they never complain about the tasks at hand because of how passionate they feel about their jobs. Working alongside these people solidifies my love for art, and I can’t wait to to look into further art opportunities.
My internship gave me more knowledge into the history of Texas art and how it has played largely into the construction of Texas culture. Through different techniques, styles, and genres of Texas art, I’ve applied my previous understandings of art history to my internship as well as taken away some new concepts about how Texas culture brought new techniques into different art style movements. Through my time here at the Witte, I have met many different people who are in some way entangled in the world of art, whether by choice or by complete accident. Two career paths that have intrigued me the most happened when I learned about different art curators and art conservationists, with each sounding like an amazing path that I would love to explore more into post graduation.