One Little Piggy Did Marketing

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Hey world,

The production process for PAY UP is well under way. We got a receipt for $3,000 worth of lumber yesterday, which means that the set is probably being constructed as I type. Funnily enough, the PAY UP set looks quite minimalist (in the press release, I call it “stark and labyrinthine”) but is also incredibly complicated. If you’ve seen any of our social media pages, you’ve seen Anna Kiraly (the set designer)’s axonometric box drawings* that I’ve turned into banners and icons; those give a good idea of the simplicity of the set, very black, white, and geometric. However, in person the set doesn’t feel simple at all. It is incredibly complex and complicatedly immense, as is the whole production. If (when?) you see it, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s impossible to see the same show twice, even if you take the map handed out at the door.

But despite the above opinions, I really am not involved in the production process of PAY UP at all. In fact, most of my days have been spent in the office working on development and marketing. We have a number of special events for PITC donors and sponsors in the weeks leading up to PAY UP, so I’ve been writing the invites for those and updating our database of PITC supporters. I’ve been doing some graphic design work for the various mailings we’ve been sending out, which I’ve really enjoyed. My recent project has been to manage the visa application process for a New Zealand composer who is coming over to work on Pig Iron’s TWELFTH NIGHT in December. If you have never written a visa application for an alien artist, I hope you never have to. It is quite a process, though will hopefully make a big difference to the production because the composer specializes in Maori and Balkan folk music and I don’t know how many other people can say that.

Last week I found out that I got the grant I applied for from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. I enjoyed writing the grant, so getting it was even more exciting. However, Keith Chen, the speaker for whom I wrote the grant, has dropped off the face of the earth and hasn’t responded to email or phone calls in two or three weeks, which is making everyone uneasy. I suggested Tweeting at him because we’ve tried everything else, but I think that may be our absolute last resort.

I went out to lunch yesterday with Emily Cronin and Michael Rushmore (HCAH intern at Philly Mural Arts) and was reminded that my days at Pig Iron are winding down. I only have two weeks left, which means I’ll be leaving just as the rehearsals for PAY UP really start to get off the ground. Luckily, I’ll only be down the Main Line and still plan to be involved peripherally in some publicity and social media things. I have recently struck up a Twitter friendship/flirtation (under the pseudonym @PigIronTheatre of course) with WHYY reporter Peter Crimmins and I’m not ready to let that go just yet.

Yours,
Alice
Pig Iron Theatre Company
* there will be an interview with Anna and Quinn Bauriedel (PITC Co-Artistic Director) posted on our Tumblr sometime next week. payup2013.tumblr.com

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Suckers: A Pineapple Parable

Hello I am Ryan Rebel and I am here today to talk to you about pineapples.

Pineapple_2

 

Pineapples are a majestic fruit.  They are the kings and queens of the fruit kingdom.  They used to represent exoticism and royalty and high class in England, and then they represented hospitality and domesticity in America, but now they just sort of represent Hawaii. . .

Are you bored yet?  Wishing I would get to the point?  Asking yourself that existential, universal question: “Why pineapples?”

I had to ask myself the same question at the beginning of the summer.  No, my job has not been Pineapple Guy.  I’ve been working with Professor Laura McGrane, primarily helping her construct a new class she will be teaching in the fall: “New(s) Media and Print Culture”.  That’s been good and all, but it has nothing to do with pineapples, so why should we care?

Well, one of my other tasks was doing background research for an argument Professor McGrane was trying to make in an essay she’d drafted.  That argument involved a very specific reading of a line about pineapples in an 18th-century work, and she needed to know everything about the cultural perception of pineapples at that time to make sure she wasn’t being an irresponsible academic.  Nobody wants to wake up one day and realize that they have become an irresponsible academic.

So as a side task, Laura gave me the following instructions: “Find me ALL THERE IS TO KNOW about pineapples.”  That’s not a direct quote, but that’s how it felt to me; I had never attempted an extended period of research on such a singular topic before.  I was a bit nervous.  I didn’t know anything about pineapples.  I don’t even like pineapples.  I think they’re pretty gross.  Also sort of intimidating, with all those prickles on the outside.

Laura spun me around and pointed me at Jeremiah Mercurio.  I stumbled into his office and he inundated me with the multitudinous possibilities of strategies and tactics that I could use to achieve that nebulous goal of RESEARCH.  It was incredibly helpful.  He took me through the ropes of the library website, JSTOR, English databases, Art databases, History databases, and even the attractive wiles of the citational program Zotero.

In the wake of that glut of information, I began searching for a different glut of information.  It took me about two weeks to gather a satisfactory (both for myself and for Laura) amount of data on pineapples.  I read 18th-century books on how to properly tend pineapple hothouses, essays about Locke’s essay in which he uses the pineapple as a metaphor, websites dedicated to the history of the pineapple, treatises on the pineapple’s unsurpassed excellence, and a rather awful graduate student’s essay about the symbolism of the pineapple.  It was really a lot of reading.

I found ways to amuse myself as I was going along.  My favorite work on pineapples was written by an 18th-century horticulturalist named William Speechly, head gardener to the Duke of Portland.  He went into several hundred pages of precise detail about the best methods of growing pineapples in hothouses, but my favorite passages were those in which he described his hard-learned method for “extirpating” the foreign insects that were harmful to the pineapple plant.  I imagined Mr. Speechly obsessing over the tiny bugs, ranting to all who would listen about his decades-long struggles with the insidious little pests who were ruining his precious pineapples.

Since these were primary source documents, the print style of the 18th century threw me for several loops.  One of the more startling reading experiences I had involved repeated discourses on one particular aspect of the pineapple’s biology: its suckers.  Many times, these authors would mention the suckers, explain what should be done to the suckers, how they should be treated, when and how they should be removed from the plant.  However, you 18th century scholars know quite well that the typographical symbol for the letter “s” was nearly identical to the typographical symbol for the letter “f”.  The “long s”, it’s called.  You can imagine my surprise every time I encountered a phrase such as “remove the suckers” and read it. . . differently than intended.

Is there a moral to the story?  Reading cross-cultural texts can sometimes be confusing!  Research makes you smarter!  18th-century horticulturalists really hated certain types of bugs!  You can find interest in a topic that you previously had no motivation to be interested in!  These are all adequate morals.

Pineapple-Head

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Writing the Border

Looking south in the Tumacácori Mountains, a popular region for crossing and patrolling the U.S. Mexico Border.

The Tumacácori Mountains, a popular region for crossing and patrolling the U.S.-Mexico Border.

My summer project really started in my Short Fiction I class last fall, when I read a Paris Review interview with Kurt Vonnegut. As someone who had recently—and tentatively—declared a major in anthropology and a minor in creative writing, I was intrigued to find that an author I admired had similar interests. Vonnegut went to the University of Chicago for his master’s degree in anthropology, but he eventually dropped out because was broke and his ideas for a dissertation had been rejected. Twenty years later, the anthropology department accepted Vonnegut’s science fiction novel, Cat’s Cradle, as his dissertation. I found this story both ludicrous and inspiring. I thought: that’s the kind of thesis I want to write, something that explores culture through imaginative fiction. But even though I knew the way I wanted to write, I still didn’t have a subject to write about.

More inspiration came in December, when I read a gonzo-style article by Damon Tabor in Rolling Stone: “Border of Madness: Crossing the Line with Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Vigilantes.” Having thought that the Minutemen had all but died out, I was surprised to read that there were still groups of citizens patrolling the U.S.-Mexico Border. I became completely fascinated by these groups, and during winter break I spent some time researching organizations like them.

During the spring semester, I wrote a research paper on citizen border patrol groups for my Topographies of Violence class. In my Longer Fictional Forms class, I wrote the first half of a novella that features an anthropologist and a fictional citizen border patrol group. This summer, thanks to the Humanities Center, I am home in Arizona doing research I was unable to do last semester and working towards a finished draft of the novella.

In my research, I have mainly been doing two different things. Firstly, I have been reading theoretical texts that broadly compare methods of “writing culture” in fiction and ethnography, such as Margery Wolf’s Thrice Told Tale. Ethnography is the standard genre for writing anthropology, and it involves qualitative analysis based on “participant-observation” fieldwork. (Depending on the kind of fieldwork, an anthropologist will “participate” in a culture and “observe” its participants in different ways.) By researching ethnographic and fictional representations of culture, I aim to gain a better understanding of the specific details of lived experience written as culture and how those details may be written to represent different truths to different audiences. In order to ground these theoretical musings, I am focusing particularly on fictional and ethnographic works about groups which patrol the U.S.-Mexico border: the Border Patrol, citizen border patrol groups, and humanitarian aid organizations. My questions concerning border patrols are related to those concerning the disciplinary border between ethnography and fiction. For instance, in what ways are both borders productive, destructive, violated, and constructed? Ultimately, while reading each author, I ask 1) “why are you writing about your subject this way?” and 2) “how do you do it?”

I have spent the better part of the summer doing this kind of text-based research, and I have only begun to dig-in again with writing the novella these past few weeks. During this next month, I will be conducting my own fieldwork by volunteering with a humanitarian aid organization and, hopefully, visiting the Border Patrol station in Yuma. With some luck, I might also have a full draft of the novella.

Thank you for reading! I’ll be posting at least one more time before the summer is over.

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Summer Research in Berlin

pockets_full_of_basil

Ian Gavigan ’14 spent six weeks of his summer research fellowship working in archives and libraries in Berlin, Germany. He didn’t spend all his time there buried in old newspapers. Here, Ian enjoys a late afternoon in Berlin’s neighbor to the southwest, Potsdam. Notice his pockets full of basil.

Last Wednesday, I got back from six weeks in Berlin. Before that, I spent days sitting in an archive I happily stumbled upon, juggling dozens of WorldCat entries, boxes of micro-film, piles of history books, and folders of newspaper clippings. Out of this mess I’m supposed to write a thesis. We’ll see about that. For now I’m enjoying picking through the haphazard collection that’s building around my ever-evolving topic: turn-of-the-century (19-20th) mass media (newspapers), the “academy’s” scientific production of knowledge about humans and culture, and popularly-circulating ways of understanding and “thinking” racial difference.

Although this project started before I arrived at Haverford, it began taking recognizable shape last fall in Professor Travis Zadeh’s  Religion major area seminar called “Religion and Translation.” Early in the course we read the book “Languages of Paradise” by Maurice Olender. It is a history of the connections between 18th and 19th century philologists–people who studied and compared the history of languages and grammar, especially “Oriental” languages like Sanskrit and Persian–and Indo-European or Aryan racism. Through “Indo-European” linguistics, these academics elaborated detailed and complex “histories” of the Aryan race. Comparing languages like German, Latin, Sanskrit, Persian, and Greek and identifying shared structures and vocabularies among them, philologists theorized a shared “Ursprache” or original language and imagined a pre-modern Golden Age of racial purity. Modern German, and accordingly modern Germans, constituted then the racial successors to the “harmonious” and “perfect” Aryan race.

While reading about the development of the philological Aryan mythology I found myself wondering about the connection to the “public”–to the rest of the world that didn’t spend its time gushing over the grammatical and racial perfection of the Vedas. Obviously (think Third Reich, purity laws, Holocaust) these racial ideas weren’t limited to universities–they went viral. With the help of Professor Zadeh, I decided to look at newspapers, thinking that among their pages I could encounter the fin-de-siecle German public’s interface with all kinds of knowledge, racial and otherwise, they weren’t encountering elsewhere. And, thanks to the generous support of the HCAH,  off to Berlin I went!

I started this summer thinking I would be looking for explicit and implicit connections between philology, racism, and the elusive “public” in German newspapers from around the turn of the century. I’m still in the general ballpark, but my focuses have shifted in the course of researching. As it turns out, finding references to philologists in popular newspapers isn’t too easy. I spent time poking around popular Berlin newspapers and wasn’t having much luck encountering explicit discussions of philologists or philological work. However, I was, predictably enough, encountering lots of highly racialized language. Repeatedly, the references were not to philologists but instead to scholars like anthropologists, geographers, and historians as well as to less academic people like travel writers and amateur ethnographers.

One newspaper in particular, the “Berliner Morgenpost,” founded in 1898, published a daily section called “Populäre Wissenschaft” or “Popular Science” from 1898 to mid-1900. Many of the articles I’m talking about were published there. While other newspapers that predated the Morgenpost also reported regularly on anthropology, geography, ethnology, etc. in terms of race (I’m currently looking through clippings from the well-heeled “Vossische Zeitung” from around 1880 which regularly reported on the meetings of the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte” the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory), the Morgenpost is important because it became the foremost popular newspaper of the turn of the century period in Berlin, reaching a broader public outside of traditionally well-educated and scientifically-literate audiences.

Simultaneously I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the time period more broadly. No history of Germany, especially with things like race in mind, can ignore German and European colonialism alongside/inside of which this history of race is playing out. There’s also literature  I’m looking at on the political developments, workers’ movements, popular literacy, and consumer cultures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that illuminate the intersecting political and quotidian commitments of Germans c. 1900. A massive amount of literature is available, a small slice of which I’ve looked at, considering the history of ideas of race in local and global contexts, tracing the philosophical and social movement of the category. Histories of “Öffentlichkeit” or the public sphere, nationalism, Aryanism, and ideology in general–each of these helps make up the fabric of this history. And there’s more, but I won’t go into it in this post. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to be read.

So this is where I am. I’ve been in Berlin working at a few different archives and libraries since early June. Now that I’m back home, I will use the rest of my summer vacation to read, re-read, and digest the material I’ve been encountering. Watch out for another update from me. Enjoy the heat!

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Du Bois Project – Updates!

Hi all, it’s Alexandra again writing to update you from The Du Bois project here at Penn.

(www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMB57_Tindley_Temple)

Since my last post, it’s been a busy and wonderful couple weeks! I love this work because I am constantly able to do different things each day and am experiencing so many areas of teaching, research, academics, and Philadelphia. In my last post, I talked a bit about the oral history component of the Du Bois project. Its goal is to record the life histories of older members of the city’s historic Black churches. Last week, I went on my first interview with the group, in which we spoke with Reverend Lillian Smith, the current Pastor of Tindley Temple on South Broad Street. She shared some very interesting insights, such as how she has seen the city change over the past decades and her personal experiences being a woman of color in leadership positions. This week, I have been working on transcribing the interview so that we can have the full text for our archives. Next, we will fact check and select the sections that we want to highlight for video clips to post on the website. For each person interviewed, we also create a booklet with excerpts from their narration, alongside personal photographs that they may provide. Check out some of the completed oral histories that are already on the website – click here!

(chesterfoodstudy.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/veg.jpg)

I have also been able to experience some of Professor Amy Hillier’s (the director of the Du Bois project) other work and research, specifically her latest study on food access in Chester. Chester is considered a ‘food desert’ because the city does not contain a full grocery store, but instead only fast food, corner, and convenience stores. This fall, though, the food bank, Philabundance, will open a subsidized grocery store, Fare and Square, to help provide access to fresh produce and healthier food options. Professor Hillier’s project seeks to collect baseline data of Chester residents’ eating and shopping habits so that they can then compare this with data taken after the store opens. The project ultimately seeks to locate ways for improving community health and decreasing national health care costs by mapping and understanding where, how, and why people both shop for and make decisions about food. It has been a great experience to see the backend of research and the real nuts and bolts of working daily in the field. I think that I would someday love to do academic and social research, so I’m very  grateful for the chance to experience it now!

(assets.rollingstone.com/assets/images/artists/304×304/diana-ross-and-the-supremes.jpg)

Last week, I also visited the African American museum here in Philly, on 7th and Arch streets, just outside of Chinatown. I had been wanting to go for over a year and really enjoyed the experience. I was able to connect with the exhibits on a much deeper level due to all I have learned here in the Du Bois project regarding African-American history in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. I also loved their current traveling exhibit, a showcase of The Supremes, including their gowns and performance outfits. The exhibit juxtaposes negatively stereotypical media imagery of African-Americans from the 1940′s and 1950′s with the ways in which The Supremes remade this image and created the modern ‘diva.’ It includes newspaper clippings, videos, and an awesome soundtrack (You Can’t Hurry Love, Baby Love) playing in the background. The exhibit is open until mid-August, I believe, so you should go soon if you are interested!

The remaining two weeks (how did time go so quickly??) will be just as packed, too, and I’m very excited for them. On tap I have:

  • A visit to the Philadelphia Folklore Project, I’m planning to see their latest exhibit that pays tribute to the legacy of African-American dancers and drummers here in Philly who have paved the way for the city’s now vibrant community of Afro-descended rhythm and music traditions. 
  • A walking tour of the Seventh Ward (the heart of Black Philadelphia in 1900 that Du Bois studied in his work, The Philadelphia Negro).
  • An interview with artist, Samuel Joyner, to speak more about his political cartoons that I am using in my curriculum on race and racism today. I saw his work during my first week in the Temple University Urban Archives.
  • Some practice trying out the lesson plans that I have developed with groups of high school students.
  • A workshop hosted by the Penn library that will teach me the basics of Photoshop.
  • We have some real foodies in our team, so continued recipe-swapping and meal-sharing at lunch time! :)

Thank you for reading!!

 

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(Not So Arrested) Development

Hello! I’m Aubree Penney, a newly graduated English and Religion major. Last year I built the virtual Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery as the CFG summer intern, and this year I’m one of the five Haverford interns in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Museum Studies Internship program.

The internship program involves spending 1.5 days a week learning about the Museum, and 3.5 days a week working in our respective departments. I work in Development with the Major Gifts team. Major Gifts focuses on individuals giving gifts of money during their lifetimes, as opposed to Planned Giving (someone leaving a gift in her will) or giving what we call gifts of works of art (which we call “GOWA’s”). My boss works with the American Decorative Arts and Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (a.k.a. PDP) curatorial departments, so a lot of my day-to-day tasks involve their current acquisitions projects, specifically the Fox and the Grapes dressing table and the Strand collection. My Strand work hasn’t gotten underway yet-I start combing through relevant files tomorrow-so for now, here’s a little info about the Fox and the Grapes!

The Fox and the Grapes Dressing Table
Image from the PMA collection entry

The Fox and the Grapes dressing table has been on loan to the PMA for a number of years.  Its sister piece, the Fox and the Grapes High Chest, was given to the Museum a while back. It was fortuitous that the Museum was able to reunite these gorgeous pieces of eighteenth-century Philadelphia craft, and we’re all hoping to keep them together in their home city. I love that the piece is so decadent, and yet it feature’s Aesop’s fable warning against greed. Plus, the delicate table balances the imposing high chest. I love imagining an eighteenth-century family getting up and using these pieces as they prepare for a Philadelphia day in the cool of a summer morning. My small role in the quest to keep the dressing table at the Museum involves examining past events and correspondence about the acquisition so that plans for the acquisition can reflect what’s already been done.

I also perform smaller tasks like looking up 5 star hotels in Paris (I’m definitely staying at the Mandarin Oriental Paris if I ever get the chance!), helping with check-in at the donor opening of the new family-friendly suite of shows ArtSplash, researching prominent photography buffs from Canada and American painting enthusiasts, and doing a lot of data entry in Raiser’s Edge, a fundraising database. I’m also perfecting my thank you note writing skills and learning how to write like other people.There’s always something going on in my office-Michael Bluth must not be anywhere near the PMA because our Development is anything but arrested!

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Summer at the Mütter

Hi, I’m Kate Monahan, and this summer I’m working at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, in their Historical Medical Library and Mütter Museum.

In my first four weeks at the Mütter, I have:

  • handled some medicinal leeches
  • learned how to Photoshop
  • smelled the Cabinet of Death
  • read the reflections of Civil War veterans whose limbs were amputated

Every day I work in this beautiful building:

photo (1)

(not in this room, but this is my favorite room)

specifically in the Historical Medical Library. My projects include digitizing rare books and working on an upcoming exhibit on the Civil War. Most days, this means I choose books to digitize, take pictures of them using a very powerful and fancy camera, Photoshop the results, and research the image in order to create metadata (essentially digitally cataloging the image).

photo (2)

(a typical library day- 19th c. anatomy book, metadata, fellow intern in the background)

Helping with the Civil War exhibit has meant working on several different projects. My favorite so far has been reading and researching surveys sent out in the 1890s to Civil War veterans by the surgeons who had amputated their limbs. Many of the men were still in pain after thirty years, and the letters range in tone from despondent to sarcastic. I was tasked with selecting the 6 most intriguing surveys, which will be researched in the National Archives by a class at Gettysburg College in the fall.

Other days, I get to explore other parts of the Mütter:

  • The museum director’s pet medicinal leeches were out of their tank while it was being cleaned, so I was able to play with them during lunch. They are fed from his arm once or twice a year.
  • Sometimes I get to tweet interesting things that I come across. Tweeting was terrifying at first, especially as someone who way overthinks her media presence, but it’s gotten easier with practice. Check it out at twitter.com/CPPHistMedLib (I am obviously not the only tweeter)
  •  The Cabinet of Death is the metal cabinet where the dried body parts not displayed in the museum are kept. Opening the cabinet releases a foul, overpowering stench. The smell, while revolting, is not actually emanating from the human flesh—it’s from the 19th century resins used to preserve it.

It has been a fascinating summer thus far.

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Finding Home at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Hello! My name is Alex Tonsing. I just graduated and I was a history major. This summer I’m working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a curatorial intern with European Painting. While I work in European Painting, I am actually working on the museum’s colonial Mexican painting collections. I couldn’t be happier about the arrangement considering I wrote my thesis about casta paintings and race in eighteenth-century New Spain.

Maker_unknown,_Mexican_-_Portrait_of_the_Reverend_Mother_María_Antonia_de_Rivera_-_Google_Art_Project

Portrait of Reverend Mother María Antonia de Rivera

Thus far I’ve been working on two main tasks: writing online exhibit labels and researching Robert H. Lamborn, who donated 80 Mexican paintings to the museum in 1888. Writing labels has been a lot of fun. I was surprised how much research was involved in writing 150 word blurbs about art. One of the paintings I worked on today was Portrait of Reverend Mother Maria Antonia de Rivera. This painting is an example of a monja coronada, “crowned nun,” painting. These paintings are exactly what they sound like: they depict nuns wearing large, lavish crowns of flowers. In New Spain, wealthy families would commission these paintings of their daughters when they took their final vows and entered the convent. As such, these images represented the mystical marriage (notice María Antonia’s wedding ring) to Jesus. What I just learned,however, was that this sort of painting was only popular in New Spain. Other regions of Latin America such as modern-day Peru and Colombia also produced many monja coronadas, but with one key difference: the crowned nuns are dead. While this may seem morbid, it was not meant to be. Rather than praise young nuns on their sort of “wedding day,” these other portraits celebrated corporeal death as the moment these brides were finally united with Christ.

Robert Lamborn

Robert Lamborn and Dalton Dorr in Lamborn’s gallery at the Pennsylvania Museum at Memorial Hall

I have also enjoyed researching Robert Lamborn (1835-1895) because he has given me the opportunity to do archival research both at the PMA and the Academy of Natural Sciences (www.ansp.org/). Lamborn was a native of Philadelphia and a well-respected railroad engineer. Between 1881-1883 he spent seven months in Mexico building the Mexican National Railroad between El Paso and Mexico City, where he purchased the 80 paintings he donated the museum. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed researching Lamborn so much is that my hometown shows up everywhere I turn. Pueblo, Colorado sure is a sneaky and tenacious place. I was first startled by a reference to my lovely home when I read one of Lamborn’s own articles, “Life in a Mexican Street.” He was celebrating Mexico City’s incredible urban planning and favorably compared it to modern Denver, Pueblo, and Minneapolis. Wait a second. Come again? Did he say Pueblo’s urban planning was something to brag about? I’d never noticed. Here I go learning to appreciate the little things about where I come from after I’ve moved away.

pueblo

Welcome home!

Then, when I went to the Academy of Natural Sciences to see what they had, I was shocked by what I found. Not only did they have more than ten boxes dedicated solely to Robert Lamborn—not really surprising considering his Will was one paragraph long and granted the Academy of Natural Sciences everything he had—but two whole stuffed boxes were all about Pueblo! It seems this man really liked my hometown. Doing my research I learned that Lamborn served under Captain Palmer during the Civil War and the two of them later worked together to settle Colorado. Unfortunately most of his Pueblo papers were fairly banal: please pay your rent, Lamborn; the economy is down, please pay your rent; ect. Who knew I’d get to learn all about home at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? What a sweet surprise.

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Deep Plays: Notes on the (intern for the) 2013 Fringe Festival

So far this summer, I’ve mastered getting up at 8:30am, stuffing a haphazardly mixed helping of granola and yogurt into my mouth by 9:00am,  and stumbling out into the sweltering sun of the apartments by 9:07am. Beads of sweat steadily tracking moisture down my hastily made up cheeks and lids, I embark on my daily race against the clock. I ignore most major stoplights and road signs, power-walking through metropolitan Ardmore hoping to make the 9:22am. Somewhere around 9:14am, a fellow in a fitted baseball cap, bootcut jeans, a snug crew neck t-shirt, and a mid-sized messenger bag appears opposite the street from me. We never stay in each other’s sights for long; he ducks onto a different route, attempting to utilize a shortcut via the parking lot of Partyland. This shortcut is rather ineffectual, as I, taking the “long route” and he, the “shorter,” both cross the street to the train stop at approximately 9:20am.

Me sleeping, mouth open, France 2009

Me sleeping, mouth open, France 2009

9:22am arrives, and I achieve solace from the perilous social acrobatics and barrage of obligatory head-nods suffered from waiting alongside fellow Haverford students also boarding the train to Center City. Once in the safe, air conditioned care of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, I take a window seat and observe my surroundings–there is definitely a look of employment about the car. Worn leather briefcases, groggily pressed shirts, pointed pleather shoes, and me, serving a look cutely described by my mother as “funky.” Usually, around 9:32, I doze off (mouth probably open, I can never manage to sleep with my mouth closed) past Wynnewood, Narberth, Merion, Overbook, 30th Street, and finally catch wind of the telling smell of Suburban Station.

It takes a minute to shuffle out of the train car among the clumsy crashings of baby strollers from luggage racks and the haughty self-importance of business professionals eager to be the first onto the platform. In the window of 9:44 to 9:53, I arise from the bowels of my usual stop, get a sausage/egg/cheese sandwich on a croissant from Dunkin’ Donuts and a hot Red Eye from Passero’s and quick-step it to the elevator of the 161st tallest building in the world, BNY Mellon Center and push the button that is made to give me access to the 25th floor.  A couple seconds of staring at the superfluously complicated glossy wristwatches of my fellow passengers and I hear a familiar ding!–my cue to step off the upward rising contraption. Nearly always disorriented from the flight, I pursue my best guess in the direction of the FringeArts office, the location of my summer occupation.

imagesEventually reaching the office, I push open the door, croak out a good morning to the rest of the FringeArts team, and wedge my lunch into the fridge. From the hours of 10am to 6pm, I listen to  Yeezus or Magna Carta Holy Grail on repeatedly on youtube. (Note: I would greatly prefer if there were no comments insinuating that alleged rapper J. Cole’s most recently released tiresome slop is superior to either of my listening choices.)

FringeArts is a rather neat organization to be a part of. From reading the “About” page on their website just now, I can definitely confirm that they:

  • support artists (local, national & international)
  • challenge, stimulate, entertain, and educate diverse audiences
  • provide opportunities for—and investment in Philadelphia–based artists in such a way as to lead to the continued growth and health of the local and regional performing arts community
  •  engage fully in the global dialogue and global community surrounding this kind of work

And that is all rather superfly.

While I rhythmically squirm and bop at my desk to the Illuminati’s Greatest Hits on most weekdays, I’m also acting at the guide intern at FringeArts for live arts extravaganza, the 2013 Fringe Festival, taking place this Autumn September 5th through 22nd. As the guide intern, I assist Josh, guide editor and information manager with putting together the festival’s main publication, the Fringe Festival Guide. The guide contains everything a festival goer needs to know about the sixteen FringeArts selected shows and the 145 local artist-curated shows entering the Festival—dates, show times, venues, artist biographies, interviews, photos, show descriptions, yadda yadda yadda. I help edit, write, and organize all of those elements along with Josh and others on the FringeArts team as to accomplish a strong, singular voice as an integral arts platform in Philadelphia. I also contribute to the FringeArts blog, doing weekend art event posts and occasionally some artist interviews and other such thingies. You can check that out if  you click these words.

Meg! Me! The Quiet Volume!

Meg! Me! The Quiet Volume!

It’s all been enlightening to be a direct part of the inner-workings of the Philadelphia arts scene, in however small a way and however brief a summer. I’ve gotten to see so much– Italian high conceptual art involving a damaged father-son complex due to the father’s uncontrollable failing bowels (On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God); a wall-walking mime firmly opposed to gravity in a show replete with projected video animations (LEO); a laboratory experiment/crash course in economics inspired choose-your-own-adventure art installation (Pay Up); a panel-style autobiographical performance of the elderly’s sexual exploits (All the Sex I’ve Ever Had); an absurdist theater artist digging through piles of dirt in a room conducting post-modernist archaeology (The Object Lesson). I’ve even gotten featured in a promotional photoshoot for the guide along with one of my fellow interns, Meg, for a show about the dramaturgical quality of silent study called The Quiet Volume.

I do have one quandary, however. As of yet, I have yet to figure out how to take a lunch break, and often forget about it all together. Do you eat while you work, as exemplified by the multitasking capabilities of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? What about the stains on the keyboard, then? Am I liable for that? Would Lysol wipes be of help? My terrible social ineptitude prevents me from clearly communicating any of these inquiries, so for now for I go downstairs to get a 4th Street cookie and munch on it for a couple of minutes while vacantly staring into space. It is about 1:30pm and I make my triumphant, energized return from daily vacation, on high enough spirits to soldier through the rest of my day of researching all of the wonderfully strange shows preparing to stream into Philadelphia come September. Every so often, the afternoon is punctuated by a small office party, an argument with Greg from Marketing concerning the artistic validity of Justin Bieber, or a go at the cooler of complimentary tuna steaks resting by the supply shelf. 6:00pm rolls around and I pack up my brown leather bag, head buzzing with inquiries about the logistics of a graveyard cabaret show or a musical about federal detention, and amble to track 4 at Suburban Station to catch the 6:12pm.  Day done.

–Maya Beale ’15

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Working at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Hey! I’m Rilka Spieler. I’m a rising senior and a history major at Haverford. This summer I’m interning at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH–I know, a great acronym). Before I talk about some of the exciting things I’m doing this summer, I’ll give y’all a little bit of background about the museum itself.

The museum’s stated purpose is “to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which all Americans aspire.” Informally, it’s to present Jewish history through an American lens. Organized chronologically, the museum seeks to take its visitors through time, starting in 1654 when the first Jewish families permanently settled in North America, traveling from Recife, Brazil. The core exhibition, spanning three floors, follows American Jewish communities both geographically and chronologically as each attempts to strike a balance between its constantly in flux Jewish and American identities.

When the museum first opened to the public in 1976, it had a total of 40 artifacts in its collection. Since then, the museum has acquired over 25,000 objects related to Jewish life in America, making its collection of Jewish Americana the largest in the world. And as an intern in the Registration department, I work mostly with the collection. The specific part of the collection that I am working with this summer was donated last year by a southern Jewish woman of German ancestry named Margaret Anne. The artifacts (two of which are in the picture below) and recorded histories, which date from the mid-19th century to present day, tell about her family’s experiences and the little-known stories of small-town southern Jewish life.

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My primary job this summer involves accessioning all of the objects in the Margaret Anne collection. It’s a tedious-sounding process that allows me to become familiar with each object individually and with the collection as a whole. As I go through and accession each new object, I gain an intimate knowledge of its history – where it was created, who used it, why, and how.

While I probably won’t get to see the end of Margaret Anne’s collection, being able to work so closely with these artifacts has been a great experience so far. The more I learn about each object, the more I understand about the collection as a whole.  And I look forward to spending the rest of the summer with her collection!

Rilka

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