UAM Summer Internship Blog 2021: Goodbye, UAM! Finale to the 2021 Summer Internship

UAM Summer Intern, Sung Eun Cho, bids farewell while sharing her latest projects: in-person rehousing project at the Mactaggart Art Collection and an online exhibition development project.

Hi, again. I hope you all have been safe and healthy the last few months. Since the last post in August, I have been able to work in-person on some projects in the Mactaggart Art Collection and University of Alberta Museums Art Collection on campus. For this last blog post, I will focus on two projects – the Mactaggart Art Collection rehousing and the online exhibition development – and wrapping up my internship at the U of A Museums (UAM). I plan to be a bit chattier than my previous posts, so hang tight for the read!

The on-site Mactaggart Art Collection rehousing project required myself and Sarah Spotowski, the Curatorial Assistant of the Mactaggart Art Collection, to reevaluate, improve, and enhance the current storage methods for the East Asian clothing and textiles. The collection has purpose-built storage with specifically tailored storage methods for each and every object. Interacting with individual objects created innumerable learning moments: how to handle different textiles and objects, checking their conditions, and figuring out and providing the support they need. I absolutely loved every moment in the Mactaggart Art Collection, enjoying the feeling as if I was conversing with an object that came from the past and was now in the care of our hands for the future. While working in the collection, I was convinced that this is the area of work where I would like to spend the rest of my life. 

The online exhibition development project also involved the Mactaggart Art Collection. Working with Jill Horbay, Communication and Marketing Manager, Isabel Pifen Chueh, Curator for Mactaggart Art Collection, Sarah Spotowski, Curatorial Assistant for Mactaggart Art Collection, and Tejas (TJ) Ambarani, Mactaggart Graduate Research Assistant, we focused on telling the stories and meanings of the symbols on the Chinese Buddhist robe, Embroidered Silk Buddhist Priest Robe. This was a long-term student-driven project initiated during the summer. The initial exhibition planning process mentioned in my previous blog took up several months, gathering various resources and information on the selected robe and similar objects. The story development came later during the Fall semester along with website design and development, the exhibition’s visual identity being developed by TJ. Reinforcing once more the most important lesson of this internship – collaboration and communication are at the heart of museum work – this rare opportunity for an arts undergraduate student to curate and develop an exhibition allowed me to glimpse how cultural institutions share stories through various platforms. Keep a lookout for the exhibition Lion, Lantern, Lotus: Buddhist and Chinese Symbols at the Mactaggart Collection on the UAM website

Now it is time to conclude my stay at the UAM. Thanks to my very supportive and considerate supervisors and mentors at the UAM, I finished my internship with some in-person experiences and this helped me realize my passion for working with physical collections. Thus, I am continuing to work towards a career in art conservation that will allow me to interact more directly with cultural objects. My plan is to carry out my honors thesis research next year while completing a few more chemistry courses in order to apply for the art conservation master’s program. 

While I cherish the in-person experience, I also want to say that my summer of remote work allowed me to get a real sense of what this career in museums requires. The constantly changing environment will push you to adapt, sometimes improvise, reevaluate and view your surroundings from a different viewpoint. You will need to focus on details, which is still an area of work for me, for each and every object or situation, as they require your special care and attention. You will need to be open and willing to try new things and sometimes to go beyond your comfort zone. I am thankful for every UAM staff member who patiently stood behind me, teaching, encouraging, and, for unavoidable occasions, allowing me to make mistakes in order to learn. I was pampered in such a nurturing environment. All the unseen parts – meetings, paperwork, marketing strategies, etc. – might surprise you but they maintain and help museums function as a whole. In my opinion, the people who are behind the scenes are the real guardians of museums. I hope that my gratitude towards all the UAM staff whose patience and guidance coached me throughout the whole period came through, as I will continue to be grateful for this opportunity to work at the UAM.

Photo Note: Photos were take prior to current University of Alberta Covid-19 Guidelines. 

Start from the beginning to learn about all the projects Sung Eun Cho worked on with the University of Alberta Museums last summer. 

Find out more information about the University of Alberta Museums Summer Internship in Museum Innovation