Emily Edwards Appointed New Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator at the 9/11 Memorial Museum
Fri. October 7, 2016
Since graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in Art History in 2015, Emily Edwards has attended Georgetown University for graduate school and received her master’s degree in Art and Museum Studies in 2016. Checking in with Edwards, we learned that she was recently appointed as the Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
What follows is the email communication about Edwards' recent career developments.
You recently finished your master’s degree at Georgetown University. Could you describe your thesis topic and why it was of interest to you?
My thesis paper was on the progression of inclusivity in the curatorial agenda of the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes is a very unique institution that has a permanent display that hasn’t changed in over 60 years, and only established a temporary exhibition program four years ago. The museum is renowned for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The temporary exhibitions now focus on highlighting non-Western artists while also concentrating on reaching out to the communities within Philadelphia.
I am very determined to increase the diversity of museum exhibitions and collections. I thought it would be interesting to take an in-depth look at an institution with such strict display regulations and show how it is actively working to address the gaps in its collection. If the Barnes Foundation can move towards a more inclusive curatorial agenda, then hopefully other museums can follow its lead.
What projects will you be working on at the 9/11 Memorial Museum?
As the Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator, my job is to work with the curators of both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions. I will assist with the preparations for upcoming exhibitions, such as procuring loans and creating an installation plan, and will work with the Registrar to construct a rotation schedule for objects on permanent display and ensure that proper storage standards are being adhered. I also will be in charge of the Artists Registry, which is an online initiative where artists submit photos of works they have created in response to the 9/11 attacks. I will look through these entries and curate online exhibitions featuring select submissions.
What kinds of experiences did you have during your undergraduate or graduate careers that led to your appointment at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York?
My internships were vital to the development of my career. My first internship was as a sophomore at UT Austin at the Arc of the Arts, a gallery and studio for artists with learning disabilities. After my junior year, I interned with the Education department at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. During graduate school, I interned at three different places. In the fall, I worked with both the Curatorial and Education department at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. During the spring, I interned at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery with their Exhibitions team. For this past summer, I was a Curatorial intern for the Barnes Foundation.
As for activities, as an undergraduate I participated in the Undergraduate Art History Association. I studied abroad in Italy and was able to see many Western masterpieces. I also was a volunteer at the Blanton Museum.
I know that seems like a hodgepodge of pursuits, but all these experiences taught me valuable lessons, honed my interests and gave me a diverse skillset! I started off college knowing I loved Art History, but had no idea what I wanted to do with that. By getting a taste of different roles and spaces, I was able to figure out what I want to do and where I want to work. My original interest in Education was actually essential in shaping my current passion for Exhibitions. After working with visitors and seeing their reactions to different displays of art, I have a better idea of how to curate more impactful presentations.
What about your work in Art History excites you and keeps you engaged?
I specialize in Contemporary Art, so its history is currently being written! It’s exciting to think that I can play a role in how this time period will be remembered in the canon. This also means I get to work with living artists. I love hearing about their creative process and the intentions behind their practice. It is an important responsibility to translate an artist’s work for the public.
What kinds of experiences initially drew you to Art History at UT?
I was fortunate enough to take AP Art History in high school, which sparked my interest in majoring in the subject. I was drawn to UT because it has a fantastic, top-ranked Art History program. I also liked that UT had all of the resources of a large school, while the program had the intimate class size and access to professors like a small liberal arts college. I also loved having the Blanton Museum right on campus. It has an impressive collection, and nothing compares to being physically present in front of a work of art!
What advice would you give to incoming or current undergraduate in Art History?
Make the most of your time in undergrad! Talk with your professors, join organizations, visit the Blanton, work as an intern, tour the Landmarks collection, volunteer, take classes in areas you are unfamiliar with, and actively participate in your courses. This university has so many resources for Art History majors that often are underutilized.
I would also advise undergraduates to take the time to explore their career options. The art world has many components and career paths, and both UT and the city of Austin provide you with the opportunity to explore them. For instance, I interned at galleries and museums, which taught me I was more interested in non-profits than commercial art spaces.
Finally, meet with your professors! The Art History program has an incredible faculty. Not only will they help you with your classes, they will also be a source of encouragement, advice, and support. They want to get to know you, develop your strengths, and lead you to a successful career!
Q+A with Geo-Archeologist Giovanni di Maio
Wed. October 12, 2016
Why do you take into consideration the change of landscape? What insights does it lend?
It is so intriguing to see the evolution of the land, because everything changes. Nothing stays the same; it is interesting to see how things like human activity affect the land.
Why do you think the secondary phenomena of the eruption have been studied so little?
Well, you work on the things that you can find; that’s the nature of archaeology. And we tend not to focus on the smaller stuff. For example, people tend to take more interest in the paintings and frescos than on the imprints or pottery that is found. However, it’s the sum total of the “smaller stuff” that sometimes creates the significant insights into what we know about the lives of those at Pompeii, Oplontis and Positano.
What are the roles of art historians at the excavation site?
Any kind of visual representation has a context. Much of what art historians do is make connections and interpretations, creating a narrative so that we can understand the purpose or function of what we have found. For example, the art historians worked on fragments of frescoes left in storage after the initial reconstruction of Villa A. By studying these fragments and putting them into the original perspective schemes they were able to recover the beautiful trompe l’oeil architectural decorations of two big rooms. These are exhibited in Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii, currently at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University.
Did any ethical issues come up during the excavations?
This region of Italy has a long and rich history. For many in the region and in Italy, these excavations remind them that it was once a city; that once there was life, but it was suddenly stolen by a natural disaster. This changes the experience of seeing the casts of the human beings or the dog exhibited at Pompeii. The city acts as a living museum. It’s reasonable and proper to recognize and remember that they are remnants of lives lived and that they tell a story.
How are sciences, like geology, becoming an essential part of collaborative humanities?
Geology is fundamental to archaeology. There are problems with depth that must be considered, and geology becomes important when making considerations for the stability of buildings. You want to avoid knocking down or collapsing buildings. But there are also other considerations and insights to be made. We had paleobotanists look at the gardens at the villas, and their work showed that the gardens had been abandoned before the eruption. We have done residue analysis on 1300 lime jars that revealed many were actually later used to carry wine. Analysis of carbonized wood showed that they were growing very tall pines. Stone analysis revealed what quarries the building stones came from, which also signified the huge reach and wealth of Oplontis. Pigment analysis finds the composition of materials, so we can date objects. So science is fundamental in every part of archaeology, without it, we could not understand Oplontis as well as we do now.
Khristaan Villela Appointed Director of Santa Fe Museum
Wed. October 12, 2016