Week 4

Ah so much happened.  Sunday we climbed Table Mountain. That was hands down the most difficult thing I have ver done in my life. The views were worth it though.IMG_4615 2

This week we were moving around a bit at work. The first day was spent in the marine biology lab of the South African Museum. We met Wayne one of the marine biology curators at the Iziko. He asked use some hard questions about the role of museums and collections within a museum. According to him the most important part of a museum is the collection. Since his collection is scientific instead of art works the collection takes on a role beyond the exhibition as an archive for scientific research. South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world. The collection at the Iziko has about 5 million specimens documenting thousands of animal species. Of course when he spit out those numbers I was in awe, but it also made me think of museum collections in a new light. We are usually focused on the values to humans but the collections at a natural history museum can help use understand evolution, the environment, and the impact we have on the environment. It could probably also help influence environmental decisions moving forward.

The rest of the week I was with Amy, the exhibition designer for the Iziko. This was a totally new experience for me. Her job was to come up with the idea of how an exhibition would look and what the experience would be for visitors. with her I created mood boards, met with collections managers to discuss what would be displayed, met with the carpenters building the exhibitions, and held 200 million year old fossils!!!  This week was super dope and I’m definitely considering this as a possible job option.

Friday we did out final presentations and said our goodbyes. It was bittersweet but i had a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Cape Town: Week 4

I cant believe that I’ve made it to this point already. It feels like just last week we were just arriving in Cape Town, unsure of what the city had in store for us. Now the journey has become clear, being that its reaching the end, and we’re going out with a bang. We got tattoos! Group tattoos! This experience has effected all 4 of us immensely, so we collaboratively decided to document this pivotal moment in our lives.

This was also our last week of work. Saying goodbye to our supervisors and coworkers was hard, but at I’m grateful to have met Janine, Bradley, Stacy, Melanie, Wandile and everyone else that I crossed paths with along the way. Their presences’ made my South African experience unreal. I’m going to miss South Africa but I have a feeling that I’ll be back fairly soon, so my feels haven’t set in yet.

 

Internship – Week 4

The weekend before our last week of internship was an exciting one! On Sunday, we conquered (and I say that literally) Table Mountain. One thing I have learned about most South Africans is they don’t give too many directions, and this was one example where we did not know that we were getting ourselves into. We were told the trail we were taking was the “easy/beginner” trail, but I think they meant “easy/beginner if you’ve trained for 5 months ahead of time”. We started up the hill, and of course, took a wrong turn which added some time onto our hike. The views all the way up were absolutely stunning, which made it a little easier on the fact that my legs were about to give out. But despite the challenge, we persisted up the mountain and made it to the top just in time for sunset. It was fun experiencing something like that with the girls 🙂

Although we were scared we weren’t going to be able to walk for the rest of the internship, we made it on Monday. This day we were assigned to a different department, so we went to the Museum of Natural History. It was very interesting because we got to handle extremely old marine biological specimens. Our task was to top off all the containers with 70% ethanol and put them back in their exact spots. After that we had to sort jars of the specimens into their proper categories, which was a little harder but very intriguing.

The rest of the week Kitty, Isadora, and I worked with Janene and Bradley in conservation, which Kiana worked at the National Gallery. In conservation, we were tasked with a storage full of items that had been put on display in the Slave Lodge once. We had to first take a photo of its condition, write a condition report, clean it, and then take a picture of its new condition. We created an assembly line so Isadora was on photography duty, I wrote the condition reports, and Kitty cleaned the objects. It was very interesting to learn and be hands on with what goes on in conservation.

Friday was our last day and our group presentation about what we’ve learned throughout our internship. We all did not know that much about museums before this trip and gained a lot of knowledge and interest those 7 weeks. We focused on four main components on what contributes to museums: collection, conservation, education, and research. We each picked a topic to present on, mine being conservation. Conservation was a huge portion of what we learned in the internship, especially with our supervisors being Bradley and Janene who are conservationists for the Iziko Museums. I learned how much work goes into preserving the items collected for museums and was lucky to contribute myself.

After presenting we had to say our goodbyes, which was really hard for me because I had grown an attachment and appreciation for the wonderful people I had worked with. I learned so much from them and will hold this experience with me for the rest of my life. That also goes for the whole trip and everyone I had met along the way, especially Kitty, Kiana, Isadora, Marit, and Nate (and Desi of course). This was the best way to end my college career that I could’ve asked for and I thank everyone who contributed to that. Now, on to the next chapter of my life! (Which hopefully will include more of South Africa 🙂 )

Final Week in Cape Town!

To start the week off strong we went and climbed Table Mountain on Sunday! We did a little research and decided Platteklip Gorge was the best trail for us to take. Our timing was not so great so we started a little later in the day which resulted in us having to race against the sun to get to the top so we wouldn’t be climbing in the dark or so we would not miss the cable car back down! Otherwise we would be stuck climbing back down in the dark! We made it thankfully, but it definitely was no cake walk. It was pretty rough and I think we all at one point were reconsidering our decision to climb this mountain, especially since it felt like it was never-ending! We took a wrong turn at one point which led us to a cool waterfall which was actually worth the wasted time. We struggled sometimes but when we all finally made it to the top it was such an amazing feeling. At the top we had a group bonding moment because it was seriously such an accomplishment for us all. I think it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and I have never felt more accomplished and proud. Once at the top it was an easy walk to the cable car which we took back down instead of climbing.

The rest of the week went by so fast it was crazy! On Monday we switched things up a bit by working in the marine biology collections area of the museum. We worked with the small specimens of coral and all other weird sea life. It was pretty cool to see this other side of museums since up till now we have been working with just the art and social history side of museums. It was really cool to experience this aspect of museums and see how this department functions.

Then the rest of the week we were back with Janine and Bradley working on documenting and cleaning a bunch of old artifacts that had just come back from the Slave Lodge after having been there for almost 20 years! It was pretty interesting work and it was nice being able to see and experience for myself how these artifacts are handled. This week we definitely did and saw a lot of new stuff that goes along with working in museums and handling the various collections of the museum.

On Friday, our final day (insert sad face), we gave a presentation about all we have learned and experienced here at the Iziko museums. Afterwards we gave little going away gifts to everyone there and said our goodbyes to Janine, Bradley, Wandile, and a couple other people that we worked with along the way. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to all these amazing people I had met and worked with here. I know we will for sure miss Cape Town and South Africa and all the cool and amazing people we met here. It was such an amazing experience and I can say for sure that I will never forget this crazy journey!

Week 3

We started off the week with a day in the castle of Good Hope. We were helping the staff there prepare to open again for the the first time in years. We spent the morning dust busting! It was fun to be in a castle and the grounds were beautiful. We also got to see a mock key ceremony and a man fire a canon a few times. The castle was also a stark representation of a concept we spoke about a lot during our time so far. Decolonizing museums comes up often in conversation and I think this place is a prime example of the issues of colonialism in museums. Most of the artwork in the castle are paintings of grand Dutch ships on the sea. The artwork, mock presentations, and castle itself ring of colonial times. That being said they are still a part of South African history and heritage. The question for curators now is how to make this space more accessible to local visitors. It could be through dissecting the problematic history behind certain portraits or, making labels in Xhosa as well as English and Afrikaans.

We spent rest of this week on the mobile museum. . Using some of the printmaking techniques we learned in Johannesburg we led a workshop with the children on printmaking. Using styrofoam and pens the children created their own stamps and printed on paper. The other mobile museum days we went to libraries in different communities. It was interesting to see how museums functioned in Cape Town versus at home. Many of the places we visited had full day programs for children during the school holiday led by volunteers. At home we have programs at libraries that may last an hour or two but not something as intensive. I think the way they do it in South Africa is good though because it helps keep the kids out of trouble. At work this week was also bittersweet since the interns from Reunion Island who started the same time as us were leaving. On Thursday we had a potluck as a group with our supervisors. There was great food and wonderful company. Carol could not be there but she sent over cake and cookies for us which was sweet.

 

Cape Town: Week 3

The highlight of week 3 in Capetown for me was Mandela Day, a national holiday in South Africa. On this holiday we took the moble museum bus out to Wellington, a township about 30 minutes away from Capetown. There, our supervisors performed their usual revelation of taxidermy animals and facts about the diffrent aspects of museums. However, afterwards Isadora, Kiana, Liz and I were specifically granted the opportunity to teach the children of the orphanage a printmaking technique that we were taught by our own instructors; Nate and Marit. We wanted the children to express what freedom meant to them through printmaking. Although some children stuck to the theme more than others, I was just excited to see them all enthused take on the styrofoam printing technique that I was also new to.

Third Week of Internships!

During our third week here at the Iziko museums we started Monday off by cleaning the new exhibit in the Castle of Good Hope. This exhibit had been closed for over a year and it’s reopening was this week so we helped clean and prepare the space. Tuesday was Mandela Day so we went with Sthembele on the mobile museum to an area called Wellington where we facilitated an activity for the kids at the children’s home that we visited. We took our former printmaking experience and did a small activity using the Styrofoam method and had the kids make their own prints on pieces of paper. It was really successful and I think the kids had a good time!

This week was Lizz’s birthday week so we spent time celebrating with her doing various activities. On Wednesday we went to a really really fancy dinner on her birthday that served a 6 course meal with wine pairings. The highlight was the dessert, it was absolutely delicious! We all had a really good time and I especially enjoyed experiencing something a little different from what we have been doing here in Cape Town so far. On Friday we went back to Camps Bay beach and enjoyed the sand and the sun since it was such a beautiful day. Afterwards we went on the Ferris wheel at the Waterfront and enjoyed the views of Cape Town.

Over the weekend we made the trip to Stellenbosch to some wine tasting; we had dinner at one winery and did tastings at two others, one of which had a chocolate and wine pairing! It was interesting seeing this area of Cape Town because it was still very similar but had such a different vibe. It has been really interesting hearing people’s opinions of these different areas of South Africa and then being able to see it for myself.

Internship – Week 3

This week we started off working at The Castle of Good Hope, another Iziko Museum. We helped organize and clean for an exhibition which consisted of mainly colonial artwork and artifacts. It was interesting to see a different side of the Iziko Museums, because this focused mainly on colonial times and the people that contributed to the Apartheid Era, whereas the National Gallery held items and artwork of people affected by the Apartheid Era.

Tuesday was Mandela Day, so we accompanied the Mobile Museum to a Children’s Home outside Cape Town. We had to come up with our own project for the kids, so we used our printmaking skills to make a short activity. Each child would get a piece of styrofoam and engrave something on it with the theme “what does freedom mean to you?”. They would then come to us and we would roll a paint color of their choice over the drawing and they would stamp it on a piece of paper. The kids seemed to really enjoy it and it made my day to see a smile on their face. It felt really good to give back, especially on a day like Mandela Day.

Wednesday was my 22nd Birthday, and we went on another Mobile Museum. It was also really special to work with kids in need on my birthday. Thursday we went with Stella as well on the Mobile Museum and ended the day with a potluck lunch to say goodbye to our coworkers from Reunion Island, Leyya and Sandrine.

Internship week 2

Week 2 we’re back at it again with the sewing poles. More artworks are starting to go up in the “Hidden Treasures” exhibition. It feel very satisfying to be able to look around and point out all the things you had a hand in. It has also been great to see the store rooms and touch the art. Carol, the curator, has a wealth of knowledge about the pieces she’s using and their cultural significance.

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Tuesday we went on the mobile museum for the first time. The mobile museum is a large van that is used to bring the museum to children in urban areas that might not get a chance to come to the museum. It was fun. We led a bracelet making workshop after Sthembele gave a presentation on the museum and showed some artifacts. I was just as wide-eyed as the children at times. It’s not every day you see the backbone of a whale or a taxidermy penguin.

Friday was our trip to Parliament. It was nice and we got a lot of information from the tour guide. Some of it went over my head but I can say I learned much about South African government. We also got to meet other Iziko interns.

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Week 2 at Iziko Museums!

This week we continued working with Carol in the National Gallery to help set up the exhibition “Hidden Treasures”. We finished some stuff we had already started working on and helped set up other things as well. It was really satisfying seeing everything starting to come together!

On Tuesday we went with the mobile museum for the first time to a library that had a program for kids over their break from school. Sthembele did a little presentation with the artifacts from the museum and afterwards we helped the kids do a little bead making activity.

On Friday we went on a tour of Parliament and saw all the rooms in which their meetings are held. It was really cool learning about the designated seating and who sat where. We also learned some other background information about these chambers and how the meetings work.

After our tour in Parliament we went with Janine to the Castle of Good Hope for the first time briefly to see the new exhibition that they are setting up which has been closed for over a year. Janine also showed us a gallery there containing old traditional and modern pottery. I really enjoyed seeing all the old beer pots and Zulu pottery alongside more modern pottery. It was interesting to compare them and see how pottery has progressed. I could honestly spend hours there just admiring everything, and since my concentration is in ceramics I really enjoy examining stuff like this to try and figure out the techniques and methods used. This was definitely the highlight of this week for me!