But now that I’m in St. John’s everything is looking metaphorically sunny. I mean metaphorically as most days look something like this:
You can't tell but this is where I work.
Shot of the Harbour from The Rooms.
My internship at The Rooms started on May 5th and will continue on until the 25th of July. The Rooms has only been open since 2005 when the Newfoundland Museum was moved over to the new building to include the provincial archives, art gallery, and an updated museum space. The institution’s mission is to share Newfoundland history and culture with the community and the world at large.
There are nice days here, I promise. Look! This is where I work!
What The Rooms looks like from Signal Hill.
As an intern, I have been tasked primarily with research and cataloguing. The first week was mostly going through old books that had yet to be put into the new catalogue system. At first it seemed sort of dull but once I found some treasures tucked into books and in the stacks, it became a bit more like an adventure. For example, check out these sweet newspapers that were printed when the European armistice was signed with Germany in 1945 and when Japan surrendered shortly after.
Once that was finished, I got to get my hands dirty with the First World War exhibit that is scheduled to go up in 2016. To help the design company visualize what The Rooms is interested in seeing, I built a 3D Sketchup model of the exhibit, following the geometry of a trench. This didn’t take too long given how much time I had spent working on trenches for my Digital History Assignment. This is what The Rooms is thinking about doing but the exhibit is still in its early stages and this design might not make the final cut.
The Rooms was also thinking about having photos coloured from the black and white originals but wanted to see examples of what that might look like. So I got to brush off some of my Photoshop skills from back in my high school days and got down to colouring like an adult. I seriously failed at getting the right skin colour for these blokes down but at least it gave The Rooms exhibition team an idea of what you can do with coloured black and white photos.
Since that has been completed, I have been busy researching. I just finished off some technology in museum exhibits research (thanks to a couple of excellent ladies who happened to work on a topic similar to this for their museology lit reviews). Really cool stuff is coming down the pipe in regards to augmented reality technology and how it can be used for games in museums to keep young visitors interested. Everything is grossly expensive but it’ll be really interesting to see how galleries and museums will use it in the future. So far, I’m really impressed with the CHESS project that coloured Greek statues to look as they would have when they were first constructed in ancient times.
I’ve also been researching First World War soldiers and some of their fascinating stories. In addition to that I’ve found out what the rest of the world is doing to commemorate the First World War and whether or not memory collecting projects are being done. And the answer to these quandaries is: not a lot is being done and few are talking with the public. Germany has been incredibly reactionary and the United States doesn’t feel the need to do much before 2017 as that would be the date of 100th anniversary of the war for them. Australia and New Zealand have it right in many regards with some of the coolest commemoration coinage and postage stamps as well as recreating trenches to serve as educational tools. Naturally Great Britain and France have dominated the celebration planning and have actually funded other countries to help plan their own events. GB has the most memory or story collecting projects as nearly every region has their own website that photos and stories can be uploaded to on top of the major Imperial War Museum site that is ambitiously attempting to collect all home front, soldier, and Commonwealth stories.
Besides researching I’ve been busy interacting with the public without the public knowing. Whenever I think I have a spare moment I head up to the fourth level of the building and watch how people interact with the exhibit. There are concerns that people are being rushing through the introduction because of a sightline that draws people to the back of the gallery space. In theory, this is good because it means people are enveloped in the experience and have moved away from the exit. On the other hand, people are passing by the introduction and other interesting features of the exhibit to reach the sightline. Furthermore, I want to look for whether the sightline is actually working: are people looking at the Venus figurehead when they get there or are they unaware of her presence until they are right beside her? Are people actually drawn into the space or do they take alternative roots away from the exit? This is important as when The Rooms starts to plan their design for the First World War exhibit they will need to know how visitors interact with the space presented. There is no point in duplicating the gallery space on the fourth floor if it doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do and- likewise- it should be considered if it is successful. So far, my experience has just been watching people from a distance but soon I’ll be venturing into the unfamiliar territories of charting their patterns on a floor plan and making notes on how often they use the digital interactives. This should prove interesting as I don’t have much experience in stalking people without them noticing me.
What catches your eye in the picture? What draws you into the space?
That’s all I’ve been doing so far but soon I’ll be getting even more involved in the roadshow that is happening all over the province. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go anywhere but in the middle of June The Rooms will be opening their Level 2 Lab show. Here visitors can interact with mini displays and bring in artifacts that pertain to the First World War. I’ll be up in the gallery space for about two weeks helping with the processing of artifacts. I’m really looking forward to talking to people and hearing the stories they have to tell.
Enjoy what you’ve read and want to know more about my internship? Tune in four weeks from now to hear about my detective work on soldiers, the fun had reading the museum guest book from 1911-1918, my experiences with the Lab Show, and my time shadowing some excellent education programming.