A Sea of Gallery: Multiple Projects for a Museum Intern

Danielle Parga, August 6, 2012

A museum intern’s job is multifaceted! I’ve helped with various projects over the past few weeks.

About the Fall exhibit: we decided which colors to use! Here are a few examples of colors painted on accompanying stools. The stools will be part of the “scientific” side of the exhibit where visitors will learn about the recent research performed on several Maya objects. Installation is in a matter of days…


Next, I put together an interactive powerpoint to showcase digital scans of our Maya stela, PC.B. 537. Chris Harrison is building a label slant which will have an embedded iPad for visitors to explore the scan at different angles and under different lighting. Digital scanning helps scholars to examine, share and preserve ancient artifacts.

Image   Image

In anticipation of next year’s exhibit celebrating 50 years of pre-Columbian art at Dumbarton oaks, I have requested copyright permission to reproduce a variety of paintings and photographs from other institutions. Often, for a single image, I had to contact many different stakeholders, including the photographer, the owner of the artwork, the heirs of the artists, and national government institutions. It takes a lot to get all the proper copyrights!

Specifically, we are working on a mural which features our Tlazolteotl figure. She appears I the bottom corner of the image, so if we reproduce the mural on our gallery wall, the figure sits close to the floor. I used a computer program to show the mural on different walls and at different scales in the galleries, so that we could decide on the optimal format for display. Either way, the mural will look extremely impressive once it goes up.


I worked on another side project curating a new display case for the pre-Columbian galleries. It is tricky to display our pyroengraved ChavÍn gourd bowl considering it is organic matter that is over 2,000 years old. A special mount will have to be made in order to support this fragile object and we are also checking the temperature and humidity in the case and galleries for the best environment for the bowl.


Down in museum storage, I recreated the display case using exact measurements. I then printed out life size photos of the objects in order to get a sense of scale. By putting them on various mounts and in various positions, we could get an accurate impression of what the case will look like. Take a look once it’s installed!

So this is it for the internship! It’s been a quick ten weeks but I’ve loved my work here and enjoyed meeting such interesting people. Most importantly, I learned so much about museum work and I hope to take these skills to the next level. Au revoir!

Ludus Ludorum: The Game of Games


In D.O.’s Pre-Columbian collection, you can see several objects associated with the bloody ancient Mesoamerican “ballgame,” which often culminated in human sacrifice. The interns’ croquet matches this summer have featured slightly less bloodshed, but just as much ferocity.


Croquet may seem dainty and laid-back, especially when you’re playing in the extensive grounds of a DC mansion, but it’s no leisurely lawn game. We interns have been playing after hours for ultimate glory, and there is no pity.

There have been multiple showdowns. The first ended with many of the girl interns doing cartwheels, while Lain and Danielle (ahem, myes) came in for the win. In the last game, DC’s summer humidity tested many of us, while mosquitoes savagely punished those foolish enough to brave the gardens without bug spray (i.e. all of us). But alas, such distractions cannot crush pure talent. There were victory laps and tears, cruel game plans and screams of fury.


Now as summer winds down, there are only three weeks left to find out who is true king of the Game of Games…

July 7th: Nationals vs. Giants


It was hot!


We interns decided to do a group baseball game during our stay in DC. Six of us hopped on the Metro and made our way over to the stadium, peanuts in hand. It was days after Independence Day and it was crazy hot. Luckily we were under an overhang or else the sun would have been unbearable. Sweating, we watched the game, which was very close. At one exciting point, a home run ball landed right in the next section over. It came down to the 9th inning where the Nationals pulled through with the win.


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.

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…

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!