I don't think a lot of people go into the museum fields knowing what [a] registrar is, especially straight out of an art history program. What really hit me was the sense that the Registrar Department is this expanding dictionary of the museum. It's constantly being updated.Eliza Henne, Duke Class of 2024 (ABOVE: Photo by Jade Wilson)
For rising Duke senior Eliza Henne, the first day of her summer internship at the Nasher Museum involved a project that seemed small: photographing “mounts.”
In the museum’s study storage, she went through big boxes of mounts, brackets or armatures constructed from metal and/or wood that safely support three-dimensional objects while on display in the museum’s galleries. She noted their dimensions, took photos of them, and then added this information to the related objects’ record in the museum’s collections management database called The Museum System (TMS).
Two weeks later, she realized the impact of her work: “I looked over at a checklist and saw—wow! There’s a picture of a mount. I took that!”
Later in the summer, Eliza worked on various physical storage elements. She made a number of boxes and bean bags for storing 3-D objects.
“That was a little bit eye-opening,” she said. “Because you’d think with such fragile, old pieces you need all this fancy equipment and really specific materials. But, no. If you have archival board that you can make boxes out of, if you have a little fabric and some plastic pellets, that’s enough [to meet professional museum standards].”
On quieter days, Eliza worked on object descriptions. With a description, objects in the collection can now be accessible to individuals with vision impairment or low vision, she enthused.
For Eliza, the most exciting part of the internship was observing registrars at work, she said. Exhibitions were deinstalled, exhibitions were installed.
“There was always a surprising element,” Eliza said. “Oh, there’s going to be a trip to Object Storage today. We’re going to re-house some ancient American textiles. We’re going to check on Alan Dippy, [one of our preparators], putting up that plastic piece [Tony Cragg, Real Plastic Love, 1984. 2018.25.3] in Love & Anarchy!”
Eliza thought about objects as aesthetic works of art and also physical objects, she said. Associate Registrar Bryan Hilley conversed with Eliza about how museum professionals decide whether a portfolio box is a work of art to be included within the collection. “To work with the objects in all of their physicality means that these small details and these small considerations are all valuable and need to be recorded.”
BELOW: Photo by Jade Wilson
This is a very active place, the Registrar Department, and within the all of the museum's departments. It was so surprisingly dynamic because the museum collection itself is dynamic. There were always new discoveries to be made.Eliza Henne
Carmichael Internship for Duke Students
This summer, Eliza was awarded the Carmichael Internship, a paid eight-week placement within a department in the Nasher Museum.
The Nasher Summer Internship program is a cohesive program overseen by the museum’s Academic Initiatives Department.
Ellen C. Raimond, Ph.D., Associate Curator of Academic Initiatives, and Gabrielle Tenedero, Museum Educator for Student Engagement, have professionalized the internship program that begins with matching students with supervisors in the marketing, education, curatorial, registrar and development departments. Students get to know one another and Nasher staff during lunch meetings, outings to nearby art museums and galleries and professional development activities that give them a glimpse into a museum career.
I am glad that my time at the Nasher is not quite at its end, and the chance to work long-term within a museum community and a professional environment that fits my goals so closely has shown me the true potential of the museum field, for me and for my generation.Eliza Henne (LEFT: Photo by Jade Wilson)