Still wondering what a summer course at CUA feels like? Current student, Mase Woodland, provides a second personal account of the Tenth Annual Art and Museum Libraries Institute. You can view the first account here.
Instructed by CUA LIS Adjunct Faculty member, Sally Stokes, the week-long course took place this past June, and below, is Ms. Woodland’s reflection on the experience:
Taking the Art and Museum Libraries Institute is like having a secret pass to the behind the scenes major cultural institutions in D.C. We had the opportunity to have an inside look at these major institutions and see how they worked. Every day I was excited to see what treasures we would be allowed to see and (in some cases) touch. It was like an elementary school field trip, only instead of going to the zoo and seeing turtles I saw Marjorie Merriweather Post’s dinner menus and invitations from presidents. I knew that each time we got off the bus I would learn something that would prepare me for my career in the CHIM field.
Everyone we spoke with at each institution was gracious and willing to share their knowledge. One of the main benefits of this institute was speaking to the variety of professionals who were at various points in their careers, and to see in a hands on way what jobs are possible in the field. We got to learn the day to day of being a professional archivist/director/manager/librarian. We also got to learn about steps we could take to advance in the world of art and museum librarianship. It was also rewarding to know how their careers began and how they ended up in their current positions and that there was not one way to become a librarian or archivist. Sally and Mark were wonderful in connecting us to the material and the institutions and the making sure the institute was as beneficial as possible.
All of the experiences during that intense week are meaningful. I saw libraries and archives I did not even know existed. It opened my eyes to the possibilities in the field. Seeing the diverse natures of these libraries and archives gives me a concrete idea of what my future in the world of cultural heritage and information management can be. Here are some of the experiences we had:
- I was not aware of the research library at Dumbarton Oaks before this class. There we saw firsthand the development of a project from the raw materials to the finalized hybrid online/physical exhibition.
- At the Textile Museum at George Washington University we saw how the librarian was constantly working towards making the collection as accessible as possible. According to her “The future is in special collections.”
- President Lincoln’s Cottage was a completely different museum experience and encouraged a different way of thinking about communicating ideas and history in an accessible way.
- The Archives of the National Gallery of Art is a working archive and having a detailed explanation of what that means in an institution like the NGA is not something that students typically have access to outside of an internship.
- At Hillwood Museum and Garden connecting the archive to the library collected by Meriwether Post, as well as the actual museum she created really enriched the visit.
Overall, hearing about the origins of these collections from the people who chose to take care of them was enlightening and meaningful. I enjoyed learning from these prominent professionals and through these experiences, in addition to the readings and my classmates in the institute. I learned so much invaluable information in those five days that I will carry with me through the rest of my MLIS coursework and in my career. It does not matter where someone is in their degree, this class will offer new information and experiences they won’t get anywhere else.