Cartoons, Campaigns, and Curating: My Summer as the Exhibits Intern at Musselman Library

By Emily Francisco '14

I knew that I was going to have a blast this summer when Meggan Smith, the supervisor of my Exhibits internship at Musselman Library, handed me a binder of articles to read on my first day. The articles, organized neatly with some other documents about Musselman Library, were about the role of library exhibits in engaging communities. Ever since I took Professor Shannon Egan’s course on “Art and Public Policy” last fall, I’ve been eager to learn more about the ways art and art objects can reach audiences beyond traditional museum settings; this internship proved to be the perfect opportunity for me to explore these ideas, while simultaneously exploring my interests in the field of curating.

I was offered this opportunity almost by mere chance. Last spring, after speaking at a programming event for the Friends of the Library, I had a conversation with Robin Wagner, Director of Musselman Library. After chatting about my interest in museum work, Robin mentioned that the librarians had frequently discussed the possibility of having an Exhibits Intern on staff— a student who would be able to research, plan, and work on many of the exhibits to be displayed the following academic year. As a recently declared Art History major (doubled with my English with a Writing Concentration major), and as someone interested in museum management, this sounded like the ideal summer internship. Robin immediately put me in contact with Meggan, who ran the Exhibits & Programs Committee, and the rest is history.

It was everything I expected and more. I truly got a taste of what it’s like to curate museum-quality exhibits in a nontraditional setting. I also dabbled in digital exhibits with my exploration of the new “artiFACTS” system of QR codes in the Library. The best part of my summer, though, would have to be the sheer amount that I accomplished.

I researched Civil War genre painters, wrote wall content for a number of exhibits, learned about nineteenth-century sheet music, looked through political cartoons from 1860, installed frames, designed webpages, arranged Union soldiers’ swords and guns—the list goes on. As you can tell, there were a lot of Civil War artifacts to get ready for exhibition; I got to play a pivotal role in Musselman Library’s preparations for the 150th Commemoration of the Civil War.

I was so fortunate to work with such a fun team—working with the Exhibits & Programs Committee was an amazing experience in itself. They helped me realize my love for curating, and they’ve also taught me that you don’t have to work in the Smithsonian or the National Gallery to design high quality exhibits. Now, as I start my junior year at Gettysburg, I know that I am lucky to have had such a unique and stimulating experience this summer. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of my career path after college.

Read on for photos and additional information

 Musselman Library's Exhibits and Programs Committee
Musselman Library’s Exhibits & Programs Committee, in front of exhibit Sam Fink and the Gettysburg Address, located in the Browsing Room on the Main Floor. Top from left to right: Susan Pinkey, Meggan Smith, Lisa McNamee, and Jim Ramos. Bottom from left to right: Kathryn Martin, Emily Francisco, and Catherine Perry.

James A. Beran Collection of Civil War Artifacts exhibit

One of the two cases featured in the James A. Beran Collection of Civil War Artifacts exhibit, which will be on display on the Main Floor from August 2012 – June 2013. A collection of Civil War artifacts from Special Collections, it was actually curated a few years back by student Joshua L. Stewart, who graduated in 2011. The items are really interesting—my favorite part was definitely getting to hold all the swords! Arranging the display was a blast. I didn’t do as much research for this exhibit since we recycled most of Josh’s materials, but I still got to revise some things, like when we decided to clarify which items were models/replicas versus authentic.

 Exhibit titled The Race for the Presidency: Then & Now

Exhibit titled The Race for the Presidency: Then & Now, exhibited on the Main Floor of Musselman Library from August 2012 – December 2012. This was an especially rewarding end result for me, as it was the one exhibit that I had complete control over from start to finish. I chose the artifacts, did the research, planned the display, compiled the text—everything. It was also interesting because it gave me a very different kind of “curatorial” experience, because it forced me to consider current events and politics in relation to my exhibit material.

To read more about my summer experiences, visit one of my blogs:

“Blogging the Library”

“From the Desk of an Exhibits Intern”

Exhibits I worked on this summer:

Rediscovering the Legacy of Thaddeus Stevens, Special Collections, April 2012 – January 2013

The Race for the Presidency: Then & Now, Main Floor, August 2012 – December 2012

Mort Künstler and Dale Gallon: Painting the Battle of Gettysburg, Apse, Main Floor, August 2012 – June 2012

Civil War Sheet Music, Main Floor, August 2012 – June 2012

Sam Fink and the Gettysburg Address, Browsing Room, Main Floor, August 2012 – June 2012

James A. Beran Collection of Civil War Artifacts, Main Floor, August 2012 – June 2012

For more information about the exhibits that are on display this semester, check out the Musselman Library Exhibits page.