My Internship in the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My internship at the Burchfield Penney centered around the archiving of materials collected over the years from Artpark.  The rehousing element gave me new insight into what exactly goes on “behind the scenes” in a museum.  Prior to acquiring this internship for my final semester at Buffalo State College, I had only taken art history classes and visited museums hoping to work in one some day.  I had no idea of the inner workings that occur in each department daily and keep the museum running efficiently.   I was able to learn how to handle each medium and safely rehouse the materials. I think it is very important to learn the basics and get some first-hand experience in a field before choosing it as a career.

The Artpark Archival Collection holds so many memories of what was produced at Artpark over the years. The materials act as a view into events many viewers did not have the opportunity to participate in. I have only been there once years ago to see Bright Eyes play, so I was under the impression that concerts accounted for the majority of events which occurred at Artpark. The numerous artists captured images which ranged from ballet dancers and performers, to fireworks, and everyday occurrences.The collection links the past to the present, and provide an essential look into Artpark's events. It was extremely interesting to see the various materials kept in the image component of the Artpark collection: contact sheets, negatives, slides, and photos. Once we finished rehousing all of the materials I was able to help sort everything out and inventory the boxes. Through this process I was able to fully grasp just how many materials we had rehoused over the first part of the internship--nearly 60,000 images! The rehousing process can get tedious at times, but it really is amazing how many images we were able to preserve.  The new slide sleeves were made out of polyethelyne, which protects the images over time. In working with the archiving department I learned just how important it is to save the written information on each of the binders that we sorted through. This text provides archivists with as much background information as possible pertaining to the images.  Some binders had more information written on them than others, while some were not labeled or dated. 

In addition to working on the Artpark Archival Collection, I had the opportunity to assist in the transition from one exhibition to the next. It was incredibly interesting to see the process involved in taking down an exhibition. I had the opportunity to experience many different activities which included spackling and removing marks on the walls. It is very interesting to see the vast amount of people who all come together to make each exhibition happen. Volunteers came in to help with the process as well as fellow interns. Everyone came together to make this transition of exhibitions possible. I enjoyed working in an environment where personal expression was encouraged and each employee (and intern) was able to participate.

 As someone utilizing this internship as a stepping stone in deciding what avenue I would like to explore after graduating this spring with a degree in Art History, it has been such a great experience to see all of the amazing materials housed in the Burchfield Penney first-hand. My experience this past semester has helped me in deciding what sort of graduate program I would like to apply to.  When I first came to the museum I had no idea all of the work that goes into running such an institution each day.  During the course of my internship I learned about the different departments within the museum and discovered the different avenues one can explore when going to graduate school with the hope of working in a museum someday.



Mackenzie Loftis is an Art History Major at SUNY Buffalo State, and conducted an internship at the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives from January through May 2014.