The following blog post is written by Ana-Alicia Feng, the Collections Management and Research intern at the University of Maryland Art Gallery. To learn more about professional development opportunities for UMD students at the Gallery, click here.
This past semester I was given the opportunity to work as a Collections Management and Research intern at the University of Maryland Art Gallery, as well as design and develop my own research project building upon my work with the African Art Collection. In the fall of 2016, I will be starting my senior year, pursuing a double degree in Studio Art and Marketing. As someone interested in visual arts administration, this was an incredible opportunity and experience offered by the Gallery.
The Department of Art History and Archaeology’s African Art Collection is one of the University’s largest and most understudied collections. I was able to work with the majority of these objects, specifically the items from late professor Ekpo Eyo’s teaching collection. For my research project, I proposed an exhibition titled Looking Through the Mask to encourage viewers to take a different perspective of the art. The exhibition seeks to explore the cultural context and meaning behind these wearable art pieces. These pieces represent more than just an aesthetic point of view and to understand them we need more than a visual analysis. Although these masks have fulfilled their spiritual purpose, they now serve as a commemoration to the culture, carvers, and performers that had the honor of interacting with these pieces.
The exhibition will hopefully inspire more professors to take advantage of the teaching collection, as well as give students an insight to the Gallery’s permanent collection. It was an amazing experience to work with the African Art Collection because I was able to apply the knowledge that I had learned in an art history class about some of the objects in the teaching collection. Apart from the knowledge I gained from my research, the exhibition would not have been possible without the help and guidance of Madeline Gent, the Permanent Collection Registrar and Graduate Assistant, and Taras Matla, the Gallery’s Assistant Director. Together, they helped me prepare for, and build the exhibition, as well as teach me about museum work. This exhibition represents my wonderful time at The Art Gallery as well as my interests in a career of visual arts administration.