Collection Challenges

Today was our first official day of work at our internships. I have the privilege of working with the curator of works and papers at the South Africa National Gallery, Andrea Lewis. She is absolutely fantastic and I know that I am going to learn so much  and have such an amazing experience working with her. For our first day she showed me around the collections area where she has been doing a lot of work reorganizing and cataloging the extensive collection of paper works. A common concern I’ve noticed these past couple of weeks as we’ve had the opportunity to visit the collections areas of some of the museums is that they are struggling in one way or another. Whether it be from a lack of space, funding, or a proper cataloging system there just seems to be SO much room for improvement and that is no different at the National Gallery. When I was first getting to know Andrea she explained to me that before she had started working there the previous curator had been an employee for approximately 30 years, and in that time had created his own system of cataloging and filing that relied a lot on his own memory. This has proved to be a very frustrating and difficult adjustment for Andrea and so because of this one of my main tasks while here will be to physically go through every single drawer in the collections and catalog every single piece of material that is there. In just the first day we came across instances of missing artworks, extra artworks, misnames and damaged pieces. It is clear that there is a lot of work to be done and I can not wait to dive in head first and hopefully make even the smallest improvement to the collections and to help ease headache that this has been giving her.

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