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A long-standing dream of mine has been to use digital tools to promote engagement with the arts particularly in impoverished areas. Whether connecting low-income students with professionals in the arts over Skype or digitizing an exhibition to reach a lot of people, we have to take advantage of the opportunities technology affords us.

Mary Kate Weggeland, Duke Class of 2019

Inspiration Leads to Experience

Mary Kate Weggeland gives a gallery talk at the Nasher. Photo by J Caldwell.
Mary Kate Weggeland gives a gallery talk at the Nasher. Photo by J Caldwell.

Mary Kate Weggeland grew up in Riverside, CA, in an artistically inclined and business-oriented family. Now a junior, she remembers her introduction to visual culture – discerning between intricate fabrics and considering various room layouts with her grandfather, an interior designer. This beginning might seem obvious given that Mary Kate is pursuing a degree marrying art and business: art history major with a Concentration in Museum Theory and Practice, French minor and Markets and Management Certificate. However, she arrived at Duke intending to study political science or Economics. One class – lecturing fellow Kristin Huffman’s course “Art in Renaissance Italy” – changed all of that. Huffman encouraged Mary Kate to join her research team in the Wired! Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture, exploring the visual and material culture of Venice through engagement with digital technologies.

The Future of Art History is Digital

Mary Kate Weggeland (second from the left, back row) and Nasher MUSE pose during an event at the Nasher Museum.
Mary Kate Weggeland (second from the left, back row) and Nasher MUSE pose during an event at the Nasher Museum.

“Working in a place like the Wired! Lab can change the way someone looks at art history,” Mary Kate says. “I know, because it happened to me. The future of art history isn’t static. It’s digital. And now I’ve begun to explore how to apply that to museums, these institutions that have figured so prominently into my life.”

Mary Kate and her Wired! Lab team did just that with the Fall 2017 exhibition A Portrait of Venice: Jacopo de’ Barberi’s View of 1500 in the Nasher’s innovative Incubator space. Her work on the Venice project has informed her professional
experiences as she has completed a dual curatorial/education internship at the National WWII Museum (summer 2016), digital marketing projects in Montreal (summer 2017), and two internships at the Nasher focused on digital marketing
to university students (spring and fall 2017).

So what’s on the horizon for this soon-to-be senior? “Marketing is something I’m interested in exploring right now. It combines my longstanding passions for visual culture and connecting people with my newfound passion for digital media,” she says. “Where that will take me is the question but that’s what’s so exciting about the arts in the digital age: they’re ever changing and ever evolving.”

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