Ever since my Summer 2011 HCAH-sponsored internship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I’ve continued volunteering with the department, helping with research about the photographer Paul Strand, whose core collection the museum recently acquired. Working with the museum during the school year is a lot of fun because once a week, I get to replace my standard college student’s jeans and sweatshirt with my finest business casual, don my museum ID badge, and venture off campus (with the ever-generous HCAH reimbursing my transportation costs) to go spend an afternoon learning new things about art. It’s kinda like having a superhero alter ego, but obviously a whole lot cooler.
However, my “superhero alter ego” comparison can’t hold up, since superheroes must always keep their two lives separated – something I’m fundamentally unable to do separate. Why? Because a whole lot of the research I’m doing right now keeps leading me back to the beautiful tome Paul Strand in Mexico, written by none other than Haverford’s own Professor of History James Krippner. Professor Krippner’s book has proved incredibly useful in learning about a huge part of Strand’s life, and is especially important considering that Strand’s work in Mexico hasn’t necessarily received the same sort of attention as other parts of his career.
The work I did last school year helped me put together many details of Strand’s life through dealing with his personal correspondance; this year, my task is more focused on piecing together the biographies of some of the people whom Strand knew and photographed. As all these different biographies come together, the possibilities for the museum’s collection become clearer. The exhibition this research is going towards is still a long ways off, but I’m excited to see how all the work will fit together into the final product.