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Alumni Spotlight

Andrea Rosen

Andrea Rosen, M.A. Art History and Museum Studies (G'12)
Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME

As part of a small staff of a museum with huge ambitions, my job seems to evolve and expand constantly, so that what I do now is vastly different than what I did when I started.

Among the museum’s many functions are a constantly changing cycle of exhibitions, the care and display of an encyclopedic art collection, an active program of collaboration with students and faculty, and serving our local and state community. I have a hand in all of those things and more.

When I started in the fall of 2012, my duties broke down into three main categories: 1) scheduling class visits to our print study classroom, and helping faculty make selections of artworks to show; 2) assisting with administrative duties related to upcoming exhibitions (e.g. sending loan requests, organizing checklists, et cetera); and 3) liaising with college student groups.

In each of these areas, I have gradually taken on more and greater responsibilities. Class visits and other faculty collaborations now largely fall to my colleague, though often with my support since it's too big a job for one person. I am now curating my own exhibition of surrealist photography. I now hire and supervise all our student employees, and have restarted a dormant student docent program, training them to give tours.

My colleagues and I always harbor ambitions to expand what we do and to branch into new areas, like an increasing use of digital media. With our staff of 13 people that means we all take on more, and I have to be willing to step into tasks I never expected. For example, I learned video editing so that I can help produce a series of online videos.

All in all, every month, every week, every day of my job is an often hectic, but totally rewarding, and completely different adventure from the one before.

Emily Shafer

Emily Shafer, M.A. History and Museum Studies (G'12)
Collections Maintenance Technician
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

I am one of four people responsible for cleaning the art on display in the museum.

While at Tufts, I took Collections Care and Preservation from Professor Ingrid Neuman who told us that the average museum visitor leaves behind two hairs and a fingernail. I can now say with confidence that this is true. That debris ends up in the strangest places—inside the mouth of a lion sculpture, hanging on an antique wrought iron bed frame, or resting on carvings at the top of 15 foot ceilings, to name a few favorite hiding spots for visitor flotsam and jetsam. At the Gardner, it is particularly important to have a regular cleaning routine for art on display. Since very few objects are protected by cases, dirt builds up quickly on the pieces themselves, making prime breeding grounds for museum pests. Further, because objects never rotate off display (per Mrs. Gardner's will), they are constantly subjected to dirt and dust, which can be damaging if left unchecked.

Collections Maintenance Technicians work when the museum is closed to the public, since we have to move furniture and set up ladders in order to access the art. Using HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums with hose attachments, we clean each object in the museum, which range from sculptures to textiles to the frames of stolen paintings. When cleaning particularly delicate objects, we hold the vacuums to above the object's surface to remove any lose dust and dirt. For more stable objects, we use soft paintbrushes to brush the dirt off the object and into the vacuum. A filter made of fine mesh screen covers the end of each vacuum hose; this ensures that fragments that come loose from objects will be caught by the filter rather than sucked into oblivion. We work through the entire museum from top to bottom on a rotation schedule that takes approximately four months to complete.

My favorite part of my job at the Gardner is that I get to interact so closely with so much incredible art. I'm now much more apt to find and appreciate the quirky details in art both at the Gardner and at other museums. Plus, cleaning my apartment is a breeze in comparison!

Molly Braswell

Molly Braswell, M.A. Museum Education (G'12)
Learning and Interpretation Assistant
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME

My duties in the Learning and Interpretation Department fall into four categories: school tours, docent support, office administration, and overall museum communication.

I schedule and greet all of the school tours, and I work on creating policies and procedures for how tours should function for each exhibit. The job requires a great deal of organization to ensure that the right school and the right docents show up on the right day. To make sure that all goes smoothly I work with security, front desk staff, registrars, curators, and docents.

Working with docents is the favorite part of my job. I schedule the docents for tours, maintain and update the docent website, and provide any and all support as needed. I also work with the Homer Studio Guide program. These guides give tours of the museum’s recently opened Winslow Homer Studio. I’ve had to learn a lot about Winslow Homer in order to provide research materials for the guides.

As the department assistant, I often do typical office tasks but also get the occasional editing and writing assignments. I also manage my department's budget, keeping track of income and expenses, approving purchase orders, and serving as a liaison with the business office.

My job of keeping everyone in the museum informed about the activities of the L&I Department gives me the opportunity to come in contact with different parts of the museum. I often work with the Public Relations and Brand Management Departments to come up with photo opportunities, blog ideas, Facebook post material, etc. The department assistants meet at least once a month, and it is rewarding to brainstorm and tap into all of the creative energy that's here at the museum. I'm constantly amazed by how creative and smart my co-workers are, so it's fun to get together and share our ideas.

The more I get to know the Portland Museum of Art and its goals, the more I feel I can contribute to things like program development and interpretation ideas. I have a lot of ideas for my department, and I am especially interested in working with local universities to boost our college student attendance.

Update: Life changes prompted a recent move back to her home state of North Carolina.