Musings of an Archives Intern: Patricia Gomes

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When it became official that I would be spending the summer in Buffalo, I thought to myself where would I like to apply for an internship? After checking out the Burchfield Penney Art Center website for contact information I decided to randomly choose one of the names and try my luck sending an email and see if I’d get any sort of reply. Not only did I get a reply, but the very excited Archivist Heather Gring asked me when I would be available to come in for an interview. Within the minute I walked into the Burchfield Penney Art Center for the interview and met Heather I knew that I wanted to intern here for the summer. There was just something about how this place felt like home, invited you in and reassured you that there would be a place that would be a fit for you.

I found my place in the archives department. To be honest I knew nothing about archiving and was a little worried that I had just promised my summer away to do work that was boring. So after the first few days passed of official business, such as sign this and meet this person, I was given my first taste of an archival project—I was to read Charles Burchfield’s journals and transcribe them into Word documents that would later be uploaded onto the website. Maybe I am a nerd, but it was just the coolest thing ever that all of his thoughts and daily activities were documented and we had access to them! I always love reading what inspired artists, so I was really glad to hear that they were going to make them accessible to the world. Never did I think that a project of this nature would come through the archives department and my perceptions began to change.

Before coming to Buffalo, I had done an internship at an art gallery back home in Corning N.Y. There I had to package and ship work and thought I would have an advantage when Heather asked me to help them with some exhibition installation projects. And like everything in life, I realized that there is just so much to learn always. I assisted with condition reports for works of art and discovered that there is a massive index full of terms describing all that could happen to artworks over time. I felt pleasantly surprised by the fact that my supervisor was giving me a lot of real responsibility, opportunities and not just busy work but actually relevant projects.

Along with that I learned a bit about how to index books, how to file records, how to rehouse archival records, and then I was given my final project editing audio interviews for the Living Legacy Project. The LLP is just the coolest thing ever. You think about archives being a department that already is in possession of files and records that just need to preserved and taken care of. But who are the people that make them and who decided what should be preserved? The Living Legacy Project is meant to interview and create profiles on individuals that have been extremely influential to the art and art scene of Western New York. It has a very cool feel of preserving the past and trying to be a resource for the next wave of creative minds here in Western New York. It was just fascinating hearing about the trajectory they have taken to create their careers, make their dreams a reality, and give back to the community. Some of the people I worked with were Patty Wallace, Victor Shanchuk, Philip Burke, and James Pappas. Now their stories and work are available online on the Burchfield website and are accessible to the world.

I really felt a sense of family here at the Burchfield, between the other interns and my supervisors. There was always conversation, helping one another in our projects, and encouraging each other to be successful at the Burchfield and our ultimate goals. I have learned so much and changed my perception of what archives and an institution like the Burchfield can achieve. I have immensely enjoyed my time here at the Burchfield and hope that my path can bring me back here in the future. 


Patricia Gomes is an Art History major at the University at Buffalo, and is also a part of the Honors Program at UB.