An Intern’s Week at the Museum…

By Danielle Parga, June 15, 2012

What a phenomenal two weeks it has been! My name is Danielle Parga and I am the Curatorial Intern for the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, specializing in Pre-Columbian art. I am here to help with upcoming exhibition projects, which as of now involves the fall 2012 exhibition featuring Maya objects, and a 2013 anniversary exhibition of the Pre-Columbian collection.

This week we worked on exhibit color, matching our Maya pieces with a paint color for their display cases, and defining a neutral wall color which would help showcase the individual objects. We all agreed on a subtle grey as a base with individual bold highlight colors for each case study. For an example, our mosaic mask will have a teal blue case while our bone bells will have a tangerine case. We even brought up the painted display cases to the exhibit space to see how the colors would react under the lights – as it turned out, the color looked very different under the gallery lighting.

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I also helped update bibliographies on each piece of our collection for the collections database. We have about 700 pieces, so this was an undertaking. I helped transfer information from our program Endnote to an online database so that bibliographies pertaining to each work of art are now available on the web for all those who are curious.
For our 2013 exhibit, which is still in planning stages, I began with some basic research on featured objects. I started compiling information on the famous epi-Olmec Tuxtla Statuette, housed in the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, to eventually prepare exhibit labels and further auxiliary text. I also looked into a Quimbaya gold statuette from Colombia.
On another note, I was working this week on our Tlazolteotl birthing figure, one of the collection favorites. Our 2013 exhibit hopes to show the stunning history of the piece. For example, Diego Rivera put it in one of his murals and Man Ray did a photomontage of the sculpture. But most famously, Indiana Jones steals a gold copy of it in his well-known opening scene from a booby trapped cave. Thus I spent a good part of the week checking in with Lucasfilm LTD about their replica movie prop. Sadly, it seems it is in another exhibit but they are willing to license the clip of the movie to play within our case. Perhaps this could add a multimedia edge to the exhibit? We’ll find out in 2013…

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As for me, I am a recent graduate of Harvard College. During my time there I studied History of Art and Architecture, focusing on pre-Columbian art. In addition, I minored in archaeology considering there was much overlap. Moreover, I got a Certificate in Latin American Studies from the David Rockefeller Center. My honors thesis was titled, Spiritual Smoking: The effects of smoke on incense burners in Imperial Aztec Mexico, which focused on copal incense in relation to burners, space and the body. I am very happy to be a part of the Dumbarton Oaks family for this summer and hope that my future exploits are this exciting!

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