To Count Art an Intimate Friend
Students are at the heart of our work. Whether during internships at the Museum or during class visits, they engage actively with exhibitions, programs, and collections. Brooke Wrubel ’21 is one of many whose time at the Museum played a significant part in their education and professional development. Now a first-year MA student in the History of Art department at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is engaging with the global interconnectivity and materiality of medieval objects, she wrote the following essay about her recent work at the Museum.
“The Bowdoin College of Art (BCMA) played a pivotal role in my decision-making process for undergraduate study. Visiting Bowdoin College as a prospective high school student, I encountered thought-provoking exhibitions such as This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today, and I learned of the unique opportunities that are extended to students to meaningfully contribute to the Museum’s efforts.
During my time as a Polar Bear, I served as the Student Assistant to the Curator to Sean Burrus, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow, for the 2019–2020 Academic Year and the 2021 Spring semester. In the first few months, I assisted in the final stages of Assyria to America which included a wide range of tasks, from proposing case layouts and digitally designing a wall map, to researching and writing content for a touch screen timeline and an interactive kiosk. The latter two projects allowed me to collaborate with the Department of Academic Technology and consider how best to enhance visitor engagement. Additionally, this exhibition exposed me to the complexities of cultural heritage, the question of who owns the past, and the role of the museum in ethically preserving the past.
After Assyria to America opened in October 2019, my responsibilities shifted toward supporting the early development of an upcoming exhibition highlighting the Museum’s ancient collection. I prepared cataloging portfolios to survey the body of each major donor’s gifts. I integrated my museum work into my coursework in Spring 2020 through an independent study. Advised by Professor Kathryn Gerry, I studied collecting ideologies to examine the motivations and practices of Edward Perry Warren, a foundational BCMA donor. My research on Warren both complemented and informed my early exploration of the ancient holdings as he donated over 500 objects to the BCMA between 1894 and 1930. For Episode 3 of the “Art Up Close at the BCMA” series, I presented two case studies to explore Warren’s educational intentions for his donations: the “Bowdoin Eye Painter” kylix and a charred black-figure krater fragment. My research was accepted for inclusion in the College Art Association Annual Conference in February 2021, and I shared my findings in a virtual poster session.
Returning as a Student Assistant to the Curator in my final semester as an undergraduate, I have continued researching Warren’s donations, including evaluating and selecting objects for inclusion in the upcoming exhibition and writing a biographical essay and several catalogue entries for the forthcoming web portal. To support this curatorial work, I am engaging with the scholarship on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century fascination with the classical world. Additionally, I have contributed to efforts to digitize a selection of the ancient holdings and am developing my own photogrammetry skills.
My time at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art has been unequivocally foundational in my present knowledge of, and continued passion for, museum work. I was delighted to continue engaging with Edward Perry Warren and the antiquities collection as a newly-minted alum, serving as the Exhibition Assistant and Research Associate during the summer of 2021. Upon the completion of this final phase of my work with the BCMA, I am now off to continue my studies in the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. There I will be pursuing my M.A., specializing in Medieval and Byzantine art.”
Brooke Wrubel, Bowdoin Class of 2021