For the past five weeks I have been one of two interns at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The museum has five permanent staff members aside from the interns, so working here has given me an opportunity to see every aspect of museum work. The Jewish Museum consists of the permanent collection that focuses on Jewish immigration and innovation in Milwaukee and an occasional special exhibit, either created by the museum or traveling from another museum. For my internship, I have been working closely with the special exhibits. Going into the summer, I thought I would be working exclusively on research for a future exhibit, but over the past weeks I have had the opportunity to work all over the museum in multiple positions.
My first week was spent working with the museum’s curator to set up an exhibit that opened in June. The exhibit follows the career of Milwaukee sculptor and painter Adolph Rosenblatt, who created large-scale works of everyday life. The two main pieces for the retrospective are called My Balcony and Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter, which show crowds of people at the Oriental Theatre and its former neighbor, the Oriental Pharmacy. Both of these locations are longtime Milwaukee institutions, and the people Rosenblatt sculpted are all real people he met there. Combined, the two pieces include close to 130 figures, each about a foot tall and weighing a few pounds. Over three days, I helped move these and many other pieces weighing up to 300 pounds from their storage into the museum. While this was outside of what I expected to be doing, I enjoyed the new opportunity to handle art, and seeing the exhibit in its completed state was very satisfying.
Aside from my stint as a handler and preparator for the Rosenblatt exhibit, my main project for the summer is helping Education Director Ellie Gettinger research and plan an exhibit for fall 2018 on the Hollywood blacklist. I have been poring through books, articles, and documents concerning the blacklist for weeks now, and I am learning new things every day. Specifically in my research I have been looking for films from the era that deal with the blacklist and communism, either on a surface level or more subconsciously. As most of the blacklist consisted of Hollywood screenwriters, the subversive messages in the films can be harder to pick out, and it is fun to find scenes in which the writers have the most input. I am also looking into how the museum gains access to use these films in the exhibit, with copyright law and licensing processes. As a Film & Media Studies and Anthropology major at Whitman, this sort of research is a great way to combine my academic interests in the real world.
Working at the Jewish Museum has given me great access to the sorts of opportunities I will have after Whitman. I now have experience in arts administration, curation, art handling and preparation, archives, and research. Along with this being a beneficial experience for me both academically and professionally, I have really enjoyed my internship experience at the Jewish Museum.
Experiences like Eli’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.