UAM Summer Internship Blog 2021: Research — The Unsung Hero

University of Alberta Museums Summer Intern, Sung Eun Cho, reevaluates her fondness towards research.

My adventures as a University of Alberta Museums Summer intern has solidified my opinion that the oft-overlooked world of research is the backbone of museum work. In this post, I would like to introduce you to some of the research-focused projects that I worked on.

The Spotlight project for the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection (UAMAC) was initiated by Nadia Kurd, Curator of UAMAC. It is going to be a series of monthly web stories shared on the UAM website and UAM social media channels (Twitter and Facebook), highlighting diverse works of art in the collection. My task in this project was to carry out preliminary research on selected works of art and artists, and to begin drafting the web stories.

As an arts student I love exploring these stories and the intersectionality of beauty, functionality, and cultural significance, while continuing to develop my writing and research skills. I focused on four artists and their stories, thanks to very constructive and encouraging feedback given by Nadia. The research on artists and works of art for the Spotlight project expanded the horizon of my awareness of various artists while the number of primary sources for potential research in UAMAC and the Print Study Centre surprised me. I hope you will gain a similar experience of discovering and encountering new artists, and various prints as you read these stories. Keep an eye out for the first Spotlight story coming soon!

Another research related project I have worked on this summer is online exhibition development. Using the Mactaggart Art Collection, it has allowed me to dive deeper into my passion for East Asian and Buddhist art. My role in this project is again profoundly anchored in research, with the help of Curator Isabel Cheuh and Curatorial Assistant Sarah Spotowski, of the Mactaggart Art Collection. The research topics include: Buddhist and Chinese auspicious symbols, Buddhist textile design, and how Buddhist monks wore robes and mantles at the time. This initial planning experience opened my eyes to the realization that before the preparation of physical objects and exhibition space(s) we need a good story. The research and story development could take months and sometimes years in preparation. Although I may not participate in the launch of the exhibition, I am glad that I could be a part of this development process.

Prior to this internship, my role as a pandemic-imprisoned, senior honors student at the U of A History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture faculty necessitated continuous research on various topics for several seminar classes. Due to the purely academic nature of the assignments, I did not connect my research to the way museums work. This gratifying experience is confirming my pursuit of a career in the museum field, and I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in the scenes behind the door.