Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Mcubed Scholars Program is our weekly seminars. While we sometimes spend the hour talking about how we can develop professional and research skills, we also have had guest speakers and taken field trips. A couple weeks ago we had a researcher come in and present her research on the Flint Water Crisis. This past week, we took a field trip to UMMA to see how research was implemented in the museum context.
We heard from a panel of 3 speakers about how they used different kinds of research to do their jobs. It turns out it’s not just about curating and preserving artifacts (although that is a big part of it), but also how visitors are responding to museum events and exhibits and what kinds of questions visitors ask. For these kinds of things, surveys are often used to gauge what is working and what needs to be changed.
We also heard from a curator from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology about the conservation of artifacts. Things like temperature and humidity are important details in preserving artifacts. She also oversees conservation at three field sites in Egypt, Sudan, and Turkey.
After we heard from the panel, we got to hear about three distinct pieces of art from experts. The first was Schöne Madonna sculpture, created circa 1400 in what is now the Czech Republic. She would have been part of religious ceremonies, and may even have had a removeable crown and cape.
The next piece we saw was part of the Africa collection. It was a small sculpture of a regal figure sitting while holding an egg, which reflects a proverb about great rulers. One of the interesting things about this piece was that the artist was actually named. Many pieces of African art have artists which are marked as “unrecorded.” The piece was made by Osei Bonsu circa 1950 in Ghana. Most of the figures were created to sit on top of a staff, but this one was made to stand by itself.
The last piece we saw was a painting by Picasso called “The Bullfight,” painted in 1943. It was an abstract piece, so it was hard to determine what it was depicting at first. We then saw a similar painting by the artist Romare Bearden entitled “Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle,” which is a reference to a poem about a bullfighter. This painting was made in 1946, and was obviously inspired by Picasso. Bearden went onto paint different subjects that were closer to home than Spain. We were shown a printout of one of his collages called, “The Block,” which was created in 1971 and (if I’m not mistaken) depicts a street in Harlem. Bearden lived through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, which had a profound effect on his work.
It was very cool to hear about how research can be implemented in the museum context, and opened my eyes to other job opportunities that I might be interested in when I graduate.
As for my project, Kelly and I are still working hard transcribing and coding audio data. Our final presentation of our research at the Mcubed Symposium is fast approaching as well. More next week!