MA student Melissa Maichele spent the summer of 2016 contributing to a team field cataloging project organized by the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, as an Americana Foundation Intern. Student interns in this program learn the basics of wood identification, the history of tools and techniques in American craft traditions, and the identifying attributes of early American furniture styles. Maichele examined, cataloged, and photographed a variety of objects made in and around the Boston area. Many of these material culture artifacts belong in the collections of historic homes or local museums, and most have unknown provenance and are being examined for the first time in the context of this initiative.
In the second phase of the project, interns processed the data and photographs from their fieldwork. The results will be uploaded to the Boston Furniture Archive, a free online resource for the study of Boston furniture production from 1630-1930. The archive is an ongoing collaboration between Winterthur and the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture consortium, and is a useful tool for scholars as well as laypeople with an interest in American history and material culture.
As Melissa writes, the internship added to her academic progress the bonus of real-world experience and a wealth of technical skills:
Working with the Boston Furniture Archive was a fantastic learning experience. I learned a lot about American history and material culture, but I also gained useful skills working in the attics and basements of historic homes all over Boston. Over the course of the summer, we learned how to use professional photography equipment, how to write database metadata with controlled vocabulary, and how to handle and look closely at collection objects. I would recommend the experience to anyone interested in becoming a registrar, collections manager, conservator, or art historian.
For students interested in becoming interns, application materials are due in late January.
Visit http://www.winterthur.org/pdfs/boston_furniture_internship.pdf for more information.