Department Highlight:Exhibitions

Meet Elizabeth Henschen, Exhibitions intern and research guru! Check out her unique behind-the-scenes take on intern life at the Brooks!

“For the past five months as an intern in the Exhibitions Department, I’ve been exploring the process of exhibition making and the Brooks Museum’s role in the Memphis community and beyond. Museums do much more than house incredible works of art; they are the intersection of culture. Psychology, anthropology, politics and economics all play into how art is produced and experienced whether it is from centuries ago or today.

To me, a successful exhibit is one in which I lose myself in the show, completely forgetting what time it is or what obligations I have for that day. Working along-side Marilyn Masler, Kip Peterson, Marina Pacini and Stanton Thomas, I’ve discovered that there are numerous components that go into a making a successful exhibition, I hadn’t ever considered before. Everything from wall color to the arrangement of the artwork goes into months of planning and extensive research in order to create an impressive show.

Planning an exhibition doesn’t just involve the show itself, but goes beyond the museum doors. As an important component to each show, the exhibition catalogue serves as a way people can take the exhibit with them and revisit it long after the show is over. During the past few months, I’ve been able to witness the making of the catalogue for the up-coming show, “Venice in the Age of Canaletto” which opens in February. The catalogue features essays from multiple scholars and beautiful reproductions of many of the artworks in the show.

As part of the internship, not only did I investigate the process of exhibition making, but I also explored others ways in which the Brooks Museum fosters a learning environment. The Brooks makes a lot of information accessible to the public. For example, did you know that the Brooks has its own library? I had no idea, until I started gathering research material for one of Marina’s projects. The library is full of art journals, exhibition catalogues and art books, which upon special request, visitors can take full advantage of and explore for themselves. The museum archives are also a valuable source, providing information on past shows and events at the Brooks. On multiple occasions, requests came in from people seeking information on a particular show or artist.

In order to find this information, I searched through the museum archives which contain scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and newspaper articles dating all the way back to the 1910s when the Brooks was first established. The Brooks is a valuable resource and through the sharing of information, links itself to the local and international community.

Combining academic interest with civic responsibility, museum professionals occupy a unique and vital position in the community. Although artwork and objects can create an initial response from the viewer, they can rarely speak for themselves and require the museum professional to communicate their full story. Through their expertise, museum professionals bring the subject to life, encouraging people to learn about their own history as well as other cultures and traditions. The museum professional is invaluable to society because without their effective communication, the power of knowledge is lost.”

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