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  • Behind the Scenes of UCL Art Museum: An Intern’s Perspective

    By Nina Pearlman, on 8 March 2012

    Cupboard with solender boxes

    Storage cupboard with solender boxes that house mounted prints and drawings

    Written by Sandra DiRosa

    Today marks my fifth day as an intern for UCL Art Museum and although it sounds a little farfetched, I have almost learned far more interesting things in four days than I have learned in three years of university schooling. Instead of learning about art, I am experiencing it up close…something most art history majors dream about! Growing up in New York, the center of the art world, museums were my favorite place to go and interested me far more than any movie, television show or book did. Although I just started working at UCL Art Museum, I have been in London since mid-January and in the time between then and about a week ago my time was occupied by classes. My “Contemporary British Art and Design” class that is offered through my program brought me to numerous museums and galleries around London. I have become fascinated by the curatorial aspect of art and have seen a wide array of styles and set ups: from the British Museum to the White Cube to the London Transport Museum. My interest in museum work has only become greater and now, I am getting a behind the scenes look into a fascinating museum: something I’ve dreamt about my entire life. Welcome to my experience here at UCL!

    Just today, my coworker and I were quite literally knee deep in famous prints and drawings that we had to pull for an upcoming art history class at the museum. Flaxman, Rembrandt, Van Dyck…oh my! I have learned that UCL Art Museum is one of the best kept secrets if you are interested in printmaking and drawing from only some of the greatest master artists of all time. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a Durer or Turner firsthand? Yesterday, as she was training me in art handling, Andrea asked me to put a Rembrandt back into the box we were using. I touched a Rembrandt! My art history-geek peers are so jealous. I also got to take a trip to the paintings archive today with a family who was looking for their grandfather’s artworks. Their grandfather, Henry Charles Bevan-Petman, was a prize-winning Slade Fine Arts student in 1915 who won the annual competition for his painting of a standing nude woman. Upon showing them the drawings for the painting, they thought one of the standing nude models was their grandmother. Although it turns out the drawing wasn’t her, we found out that the actual prize-winning painting was indeed their grandmother. Thanks to UCL Art Museum, they got to see firsthand their artistic ancestral history. Fascinating right?

    Everyday I’ve been here I have seen or learned something incredible about this museum. Going through files and archives is a joy, even if my seemingly unglamorous job is to organize them. Being surrounded by over 10,000 objects from some of my favorite artists also isn’t a bad deal. Just today I gave introductions to prospective UCL history of art students and couldn’t contain my excitement describing what I’ve done here so far. The stressed students seemed to lighten up a bit after stepping into the museum and hearing an introduction from an excited intern who has only been here for five days. I hope that everyone feels the same excitement that I’ve found at UCL Art Museum because there is so much to learn about art, history, and museum work. My behind the scenes experience has taught me all of these things plus more and I can’t wait to see what else will come my way in these next few weeks. In the near future I will be helping with our digitisation project which is photographing all of our prints, drawing, paintings and sculptures for a digital archive. No doubt I will be getting a behind-the-scenes look into this museum, as I will be the one responsible for going through all of the artwork we have stored here and transporting and handling the objects. If that isn’t exciting for an art history fanatic like me, I don’t know what is. I’ll keep you all posted about our future project but for now I’ll stop bragging. Actually no I won’t…I can’t help it!

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