Category Archives: Careers and Alumni

Old Masters Work Experience at Christie’s, with a bursary from UoB, by finalist Olivia Weightman

Between the 2nd and 13th of September 2013 I was lucky enough to be offered a place to do two weeks’ work experience a Christie’s in London in their Old Master’s department. When I arrived on the first day I was given an introductory tour of the main areas of the building along with the 15 or so other people who were starting work that day as well. We were shown the main auction rooms and galleries at the front of house and then were taken to look at the warehouses and photography rooms at the back. This whistle stop tour of the most important areas of the building was quite overwhelming and left me with the thought that I would be spending half my time there just trying to find my way around.

Christie's in King Street, London

Christie’s in King Street, London

Once in the Old Master’s office it did not take me long to get a sense of the international scale that Christie’s works on. Each of the four specialists in the vicinity of my desk was talking to clients and other offices in a variety of different languages: most of them were able to speak more than two languages fluently and confidently. Each day I was assigned tasks by the graduate interns who had received them from the rest of the department, which meant every task was different. The work I mainly undertook revolved around administrative tasks, for example helping out with expense reports, and researching paintings for clients. The latter can often take a long time: while I was there we had to go through one particular client’s collection and help find the provenance of each piece. In fact, it took us two weeks and five people to go through this entire collection mainly because most of the time all we had to go on were photographs of the collection and very often we didn’t even have the title or artist of the paintings. In this situation we had to take the photograph to one of the specialists who would make an informed guess concerning the artist and then we would go to the Old Master’s library and look through every book they had on that particular artist to try and find any images that had compositional or stylistic similarities.

Working with a relative lack of information meant it could be a very long process that occasionally turned up no positive results. For example one particular piece was an oil sketch of a man’s head tilted upwards which the client believed was a sketch from a copy of a painting by Rubens…this meant we had to go through all of Ruben’s work trying to find a figure with a similar head and at times felt like a history of art version of where’s Wally!  On a few occasions we found ourselves needing a distraction from the books so we would visit the archives to look through sale records for the specialists, although this did mean navigating our way through the  warren like corridors and going up and down the 119 stairs (another work experience girl and I counted) between the office and archives.

Me in the Old Master’s library doing research for a private collection.

Me in the Old Master’s library doing research for a private collection.

Apart from doing research and administrative tasks I was lucky enough to gain some hands on experience during the ‘hilling’ process. This involved examining works that had just been sent in, prior to a sale, to record any signatures, marks and damage on the front and any writing and stamps on the back as this was essential for helping prove the provenance and authenticity of the painting.

During the second week of my placement the department was busy with setting up the auction of the collection of Professor Sir Albert Richardson, P.R.A, a celebrated collector, architect and President of the Royal Academy (1954-1956). The Old Master’s department was only involved in part of the auction as the 650 lots were made up of examples of Old Master and British paintings, British watercolours and architectural drawings, English and European furniture, sculpture and objects, garden statuary, books, clocks, musical instruments and Georgian costume. I was involved with the research of the Old Master’s pieces and I also helped out with writing up the labels for each piece. However, the most enjoyable part of helping out with the sale was the installation. There was very little time for the actual installation and with so many lots, the six rooms they were placed in were incredibly busy in the build up to the previews. But we did manage to get everything up, whilst also triple checking everything was straight and labelled correctly and in the end the entire collection looked fantastic together and the sale total was over 4 million. The sale was a nice, yet manic, end to two weeks of hard work, research and countless stairs which really gave me an insight into the inner workings of an international auction house and gave me a quick education into the Old Master’s art market today.

One of the gallery assistants admiring the collection of Professor Sir Albert Richardson

One of the gallery assistants admiring the collection of Professor Sir Albert Richardson

I would like to acknowledge the help that the University of Birmingham gave me in securing this great opportunity. I was only able to do the work experience placement after I was awarded a ‘UK Professional’ bursary by the University. This bursary is designed for people doing work experience during the summer holidays and covers the cost of any travel or living arrangements that are essential to you being able to take part in your placement. I would thoroughly recommend this bursary to anyone planning on undertaking a work experience placement during the summer as you can be granted between £100 and £800 to pay for essentials – for me, the bursary paid for my weekly train ticket and London travel card. You can find out more about the bursary – and other opportunities – on the Careers Network pages.

RBSA: Our Collection, Our Archive and You by Hang Nguyen

RBSA Our collection, Archive and You

The RBSA is Birmingham’s oldest artist-led group and the only artist-led group in Birmingham that owns its own gallery and has a permanent venue for its activities. Located just off the only surviving Georgian square in Birmingham, St Paul’s Square, the Society dedicates three floors of exhibition space to fulfill its charitable objectives: to promote artists and the appreciation of the visual arts.

Since the beginning of 2013, I have been co-curating an exhibition with recent Birmingham History of Art graduate Chloë Lund for the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. As an Undergraduate Archive Volunteer, I have enjoyed access to the RBSA’s treasures from its Permanent Collection at close hand, and our exhibition displays a rich selection of the artworks acquired by the RBSA in the past five years, as well as some that have never before been exhibited. The exhibition will not only explore the contents of the Permanent Collection but also the relationship between the Society and the local community, which includes students at the University of Birmingham–each and every one of you! Art History students at the University of Birmingham have many opportunities to get involved with the RBSA, and you can read a bit about what other students have got up to with them here and here.

Chloë Lund and Hang Nguyen

Chloë Lund and Hang Nguyen

The RBSA’s substantial archive is an invaluable resource for the understanding of the history of the Society and its relationship with the people of Birmingham, as well as the wider artistic community. Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raphaelite artist, was himself President of the RBSA as well as other notable artists such as John Everett Millais. Included in the exhibition is a work by the acclaimed photo-realist artist, John Salt, whose work can also be seen during the BMAG’s exhibition on Photorealism. The stories of the Archive have been told through the contributions of many different people and have helped us to create a collective memory of the Society. This exhibition aims to reveal the ways that the Collection and Archive have been shaped by our relationships with our supporters, community, local environment which includes the all the students at the university.

During our exhibition, we will be hosting a variety of free events which include a Student Friendly on Friday 15th November . The night is open to everyone and anyone; it will be an informal, relaxed evening where we, the curators, get a chance to talk to our peers about the Society and this exhibition over a glass of wine! There will also be a chance to join us on a walk around the local canals of Birmingham with RBSA Member Paul Hipkiss who will be talking about his prints inspired by the local places on Saturday 16th November. Finally, there will be a free demonstration by RBSA Member John Shakespeare on Saturday 23rd November.

Curating the RBSA Archive Exhibition has been a challenge that I have relished. The project has given me the chance to find out so much more about the thriving artistic culture in Birmingham and as a born and bred brummie, this has revitalised my own interest in the city. I hope to see you all at the RBSA for the Archive Exhibition, helping to write more chapters in the story of the Society as well as the city.

Elizabeth I, her People…and a Guinea Pig: MA graduate Oliver McCall on his recent Curatorial Internship at the National Portrait Gallery

Image

“The Office” for 6 months

When it came to the end of my MA in Art History last September I was struck by that all-too-familiar feeling of uncertainty. The looming question: ‘what now?’. After spending some time working on a PhD proposal whilst also feverishly job-hunting, I was hugely relieved when I spotted a curatorial internship opportunity with the 16th century collection at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). Given my interests in 16th-century English art, and Elizabethan portraiture in particular, the internship seemed like the ideal opportunity for me to gain some much needed curatorial experience. During the surprisingly enjoyable interview process I was given a tour of the Heinz Archive, which was followed by a fairly standard panel interview and an image test. Shortly after I was offered the internship, and now, six months later, I can say that it was a hugely enjoyable, informative and inspiring experience. Over the course of the internship it was my role to support the 16th-century collection curators with the development of their upcoming major show, Elizabeth I and Her People.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Zuccaro, Federico (1542-1609). c.1557-1609 (British Museum)

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Zuccaro, Federico (1542-1609). c.1557-1609 (British Museum)

This meant that I had a huge variety range of tasks to do, enabling me to gain experience of many different aspects of the planning and development of a large exhibition. However, most of my time was initially spent researching various portraits and object loans for the exhibition. The NPG is one of the premier centres for research into portraiture in the country; the curators attached to each collection (16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, contemporary and photography) carry out research into portraits that come to the gallery as exhibition loans, deal with enquiries from other galleries, collections and members of the public, as well as researching and developing the collection for which they are responsible. At the heart of the institution is the Heinz Archive, which is open to the public via appointment, and which houses a huge number of images, documents and tomes that anyone interested in portraiture would be thrilled to work with. One of the most useful resources is the collection of ‘sitter boxes’. These large files contain images of all known and supposed portraits of numerous sitters, together with correspondence relating to the whereabouts of various portraits. They are extremely useful as a source of comparison when trying to decide whether a portrait is of a particular person. As curatorial intern I was able to make full use of these resources, which helped me to develop my own skills and interest in 16th-century British  portraiture.

One of the most intriguing of the research tasks I was given involved that humble household pet, the guinea pig. During the planning of the exhibition a portrait had come to light that probably contains the earliest known depiction of a guinea pig in English, perhaps even European, art. The portrait was discovered by one of the exhibition curators in a private collection and it depicts three Elizabethan children, whose identities are unknown. There is a clear family resemblance, however, and their high social standing is clearly indicated by their fine clothes. Although the identities of the children are tantalising, it is the animals in the portrait which are most interesting. One of the boys holds a small bird, possibly a finch, which was a popular childhood pet in Elizabethan England. It is in the arms of the girl at the centre of the portrait, however, that the groundbreaking rodent nestles. This work may be unique amongst English 16th-century portraits in its inclusion of this familiar animal and I was tasked with researching the lives of guinea pigs in 16th-century England. Guinea pigs were imported into the Spanish Netherlands on ships from the New World and it is likely that they were transported to England from here. Since the discovery of 16th-century guinea pig remains at Hill Hall in Essex it had been assumed that these animals were kept as pets only by the wealthy. In 2007, however, a guinea pig skeleton was unearthed at an excavation of a ‘middle class’ home in Mons, Belgium, dated around the end of the 16th century. This suggests that guinea pigs may have been kept as pets by a wider range of social groups. It is likely that, in the context of this portrait, the guinea pig acts as a status symbol, given its exotic provenance. Aristocratic children were also depicted with small animals to illustrate their natural dominance. The portrait has already attracted media attention, and you can see the guinea pig in all its glory below and read more here.

Three unknown Elizabethan children Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, c.1580 Privately Owned

Three unknown Elizabethan children Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, c.1580 Privately Owned

Following on from my introduction to the 16th-century guinea pig, I was tasked with some good old fashioned art history detective work – to try to establish the identity of an Elizabethan warrior whose portrait was to be loaned to the exhibition from a private collection. The sitter, known as Vaughan of Tretower, cuts a striking figure with his huge reddish beard and intricate Italian armour and weaponry. In Dynasties, an exhibition catalogue from a few years back (Tate, 1995), the suggestion was made that the sitter might be one Cuthbert Vaughan, a member of an influential Welsh gentry family. Using this as a start point, I used the sitter boxes in the Heinz Archive to search for other portraits of sitters by that name. By all accounts, Cuthbert was a quarrelsome character. He had spent time in prison during the reign of Mary I, and whilst serving Elizabeth as a military leader he often wrote to William Cecil, one of the queen’s chief councillors, to complain that he had not been adequately rewarded for his years spent on campaign. The inscription around the portrait frame, which states that those who through ‘bludy swets’ defend the realm deserve to gain, seems to fit in with this identification.

Portrait of unknown soldier, thought to be Cuthbert Vaughan (c. 1519-1563), dated 1560

Portrait of unknown soldier, thought to be Cuthbert Vaughan (c. 1519-1563), dated 1560

Although most of my research tasks, like those mentioned above, related to loans to the Elizabeth exhibition, I also had the opportunity to assist with enquiries from a couple of other galleries. I helped identify a mystery countess in a hugely elaborate costume as Catherine Carey, a close friend of the queen. I also hunted through pages and pages of portraits of Sir Francis Drake in the Heinz Archive to decide whether a newly rediscovered portrait of an armoured Elizabethan commander was a good likeness of the famous explorer and buccaneer. In addition, I was able to further hone my research skills by attending a workshop on using online resources and databases, a lecture on Elizabethan and Jacobean ‘pregnancy portraits’ at the very grand Royal Society of Antiquaries, and a number of talks at the NPG’s lecture theatre.

As the opening of the exhibition crept ever closer, loans research gave way to more practical considerations and I became more involved with the design and interpretation aspects of the exhibition. One of the major themes of the show, as the title implies, is that it focuses not only on the queen and her aristocratic courtiers, as so often happens with portraiture exhibitions of this kind, but also gives space to members of the Elizabethan gentry, judiciary, clergy and merchant classes, as well as ordinary people. Thus, in an innovative move that parallels developments in collection display at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, among others, the portraits in this exhibition will be hung in themed areas, surrounded by other objects that will help to evoke what life was like for different social groups in Elizabethan society. Each area of the exhibition will be focused on a different social group. A similar technique was used at the impressive show The Lost Prince (NPG, 2012/13).

My role in all of this was to compile a dossier on Elizabethan style (something like a 16th-century design magazine) for the gallery design team to use as a source of inspiration when designing and decorating various areas of the exhibition space. The task was a highly enjoyable one and, surrounded by piles of glossy tomes on 16th-century decoration, I gained a greater understanding of Elizabethan and Jacobean design principles and visual culture. Visitors to the exhibition will be taken on a journey through the world of the nobility and gentry, glistening with fine jewellery, decadent silverware and elaborate costume, and heavy with intricate, classically-inspired wall-hangings and architecture, through into the world of the aspirational ‘middling sort’, where the more reserved tastes of merchants and judges is reflected in more traditional timber-framed architecture and worldly motifs. Some of the fascinating objects from the exhibition include a clear class tankard, which William Cecil, Lord Burghley, commissioned to try to promote glass making in England, a charming coin purse in the shape of a frog and the will of a poor woman, which highlights the desperate poverty in which many Elizabethans lived. All of this and more will be displayed in spaces themed around the original owners of such objects.

Sea-Going Clothing 1590–1650 Image: © Museum of London

Sea-Going Clothing
1590–1650
Image: © Museum of London

The exhibition spaces will also be interactive, with ‘windows’ to allow visitors to gaze between worlds, and a virtual bookshelf, where some of the most famous, and some lesser-known, Elizabethan texts can be perused. As part of the internship I helped to develop a shortlist of Elizabethan texts, ranging from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, to pamphlets by notorious author and playwright Robert Greene on “Coney-catching” (a name used for thievery through trickery). Thinking about the democratisation of literature in the Elizabethan period, I also selected several fascinating Elizabethan broadsides, full of tales about monstrous births, deadly sea creatures and the exploits of famous figures. After selecting several texts I used online archives, including EEBO (Early English Books Online), the British Library and the Huntington Library to find copies with impressive engravings. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to browse through pages of these texts and get a feel for the literary life of Elizabethan England.

The burning of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, 1563

The burning of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, 1563

In my opinion, no exhibition is really complete without a glossy catalogue to go with it. The catalogue not only serves as a guide to the exhibition, granting the curators a space to go into greater depth about exhibition themes and loan items, it also serves as a souvenir of the show. Its pages should serve as a reminder of the spectacle of the exhibition space itself. The NPG has produced several stunning catalogues recently, and the catalogue accompanying the Elizabeth exhibition is no exception. Packed with high quality images of many of the portraits and objects in the exhibition, accompanied by essays about Elizabeth I and Elizabethan society, the catalogue should serve as a great introduction to Elizabethan England as well as providing a comprehensive account of the show itself. Although I was unfortunately too late on the scene to be able to contribute any catalogue entries, I was pleased to be involved in several rather frantic proofreading and editing sessions. Of course, although all of the work I did at the NPG was interesting, the internship was made really enjoyable thanks to the guidance and assistance of the gallery staff I was working with. I found the curatorial team at the gallery to be really welcoming and helpful, and I certainly seized every chance to ask as many questions as I could think up about my own research, the gallery and those much-desired career pointers. Having completed the internship I now feel that I’m much better placed to negotiate the rough road to building a career in the arts. I’m also left with the sense that, through the work outlined above and many other tasks, I contributed actively to the development of the Elizabeth exhibition. It was also nice to see among the loans list the extraordinary and little-known Portrait of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, the ambassador of the Barbary States to Elizabeth I’s court, which usually resides here at Birmingham in the University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural Collections.

The Procession Portrait  by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, c.1600–3 Sherborne Castle Estates

The Procession Portrait
by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, c.1600–3
Sherborne Castle Estates

 Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, unknown artist, c. 1600

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, unknown artist, c. 1600

I really recommend that you follow the Ambassador down to London and see him alongside other Elizabethan gems, including the huge and impressive Procession Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which I wrote about for my MA dissertation. The inclusion of this mysterious portrait, which shows the queen in procession surrounded by many of the most powerful figures of her later reign, provided a personal link between myself and the show, which I am very proud to have played a part in.

Elizabeth I & Her People is on at the NPG until 5th January 2014. Admission: £13.50 full price, £11.50 for students. More information and bookings is available here.

A fantastic six months as a U0B Cultural Intern at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, by Lauren Dudley

The University of Birmingham has pioneered a fantastic scheme with local cultural partners, which offers Birmingham graduates the chance to apply for paid internships at partner institutions.  Last summer I was absolutely thrilled to find out that I had been offered the place at Birmingham Museums Trust in the curatorial department of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (BMAG). I worked closely with Fine Art Curator, Victoria Osborne, who was my mentor.

In the curatorial department my role involved researching the collection by responding to enquiries, facilitating print room visits, assisting with the care of objects by updating the collection management system and helping with exhibition planning. I was lucky enough while I was there to see the opening of the new Birmingham History Galleries as well as the contemporary art exhibition, Metropolis: reflections on the modern city (that recently closed, but you can read a little more about it here). I was excited to be offered the opportunity to work on some of the interpretation for Metropolis and wrote a Gallery Trail that guides visitors round the museum, comparing works in the exhibition with some of the more familiar images from the museum’s collection that relate to the theme of the metropolis.  I’m really proud to have compiled the guide and, importantly, to see visitors reading it!

Re-displaying the 14th-16th century galleries

The main assignment I was entrusted with was the wonderful opportunity to curate the re-display of 14th-16th century art in the permanent exhibition galleries (Galleries 26 & 27). Gallery 26 was due to be refurbished with new lighting and a fresh lick of paint, and my role was to plan the re-hang of the works in this space, to rotate some of the objects on display with those from the picture store or collections centre, and to update the interpretation. There are some important acquisitions in this part of the collection and I wanted to highlight them in a new way. I gave careful consideration to which images would work best next to each other and thought about the stylistic comparisons that could be made in relation to the Renaissance and the Reformation. For example, I decided to bring up from the store The Agony in the Garden by Garofalo, and to hang it next to Bonifazio de Pitati’s Adoration of the Shepherds in Gallery 26. These works which exemplify Italian Catholic imagery, provide a constrast to Cranach’s Lamentation of Christ, which is shown in the same Gallery and which demonstrates the ideals of the Protestant Reformation.

Benvenuto Tisi (called Garofalo), Agony in the Garden

Benvenuto Tisi (called Garofalo), Agony in the Garden

Bonifazio de Pitati, Adoration of the Shepherds

Bonifazio de Pitati, Adoration of the Shepherds

I also wanted to bring some of the small, precious objects from Gallery 27 into a display case in Gallery 26, so that chalices and reliquaries could be seen alongside the altar paintings, therefore creating a better sense of their original display and function in a church. I also chose to display some metalwork by a contemporary artist in the same display case – Adrian Hope’s Reliquary for a Traveller. This beautiful work was inspired by medieval reliquaries such as the 14th-century one I decided to display alongside it.

Adrian Hope, Reliquary for a Traveller (center)

Adrian Hope, Reliquary for a Traveller (center)

The two pictures shown below, like the Garofalo and Bonifazio above, were all once displayed in churches, probably inside private chapels. The first picture shows the Noli Me Tangere triptych by Jan van Scorel closed and being hung by technicians. The inscriptions on the outside wings identify family members of the donor who commissioned and paid for the work and it is they who are also depicted on the wings of the painting when it is opened (the second below picture). Putting all these paintings, reliquaries and other religious objects on display together in one room helps us gain a better sense of the contexts in which all of these various works functioned, both individually and collectively.

Jan van Scorel (closed)

Jan van Scorel, Noli Me Tangere triptych (closed)

Jan van Scorel (open)

Jan van Scorel, Noli Me Tangere triptych (open)

In Gallery 27 I focused my display on two themes: women and craftsmanship. The objects in this gallery all relate to Christian worship and devotion, but by grouping them into these two themes I aimed to show how they could be better understood and appreciated by today’s museum visitor. Curator of Applied Art, Sylvia Crawley, an expert on the Pinto collection (around 6,000 wooden objects collected by Edward Pinto), brought to my attention a 16th-century intarsia panel – an image created using a variety of pieces of wood. This marvellous piece of craftsmanship depicts The Annunciation and therefore fitted perfectly into the display of religious imagery, especially when shown alongside a painting of the Nativity. I was also really excited to be able to show two prints by Albrecht Dürer, whose technical skill for making woodcuts fitted into the theme of craftsmanship. The images that I selected depict the Virgin and Child and St Anthony Outside a City. 

Selecting objects for the section of the display focused on representations of women was fairly straightforward given that they had already been on show in Gallery 27, but they had not specifically been grouped together in this way. I also brought a painting from Gallery 26 into the case that shows a Virgin and Child. The new display emphasises the fact that representations of women in the 14th-16th centuries highlighted Christian virtue through the example of female saints. Two statuettes representing Susannah and the Elders and Eve exemplify the way in which the artist could depict the female nude without causing scandal. Since BMAG has a famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, many of which represent virtue or sin through the female muse, I felt that by offering visitors the chance to focus on depictions of women in earlier works in the collection would allow them to consider how representations of femininity have changed (or not) throughout the history of art as they move around the galleries.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at BMAG – I’ve learnt so much and will never forget the fantastic experience that I’ve had there. I would recommend any Birmingham graduates interested in working in the cultural sector to apply for this fantastic scheme. For more information, email culturalintern@contacts.bham.ac.uk and see the Cultural Intern website.

A Perfect Opportunity for a Perfect End to a Year in Medieval Poitiers

Joint Honours Student Holly Wain on using her French and Art History skills to work for the journal Cahiers de civilisation médiévale.

As my days at the University of Poitiers drew to a close, I was determined to make the most of the last weeks of my Year Abroad in France. During my course, I was lucky enough to have translation classes with Stephen Morrison, a researcher specialising in the medieval period and director of the Centre for Medieval Studies in Poitiers (CESCM). I began speaking to him about my course at Birmingham and my interest in medieval art history and, then later, about possible work experience at the research centre. I am grateful for all his efforts, as in June I began work at the centre’s journal, the Cahiers de civilisation médiévale.

The journal began in 1958 and covers a variety of areas including philosophy, art history, literature, and musicology. It aims to bring together summaries of topics that deepen understanding in medieval civilisation and articles are submitted by researchers from all over the world. The articles include a short summary abstract in English, and literature reviews were also often published in both English and French. I was therefore given a range of pieces to translate, which was not only brilliant practice for my French but allowed me to learn about subjects I had never come across before such as the celtic ‘evil eye’ which cropped up while translating a review of a work by Jacqueline Borsje. Some of the texts tackled extremely specific areas of the early medieval period so there were sentences that I did not even understand in English! However, in the three weeks that I was there I did manage to translate substantial amounts of text. I was able to develop my translation skills immensely as I had to work around difficult sections to be able to communicate their broader sense.

The Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, where I worked under the direction of editor Blaise Royer.

The Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, where I worked under the direction of editor Blaise Royer.

It was very fortunate that the weeks I spent at the journal coincided with the annual conference held by the centre, the Semaines d’études médiévales in which students from many different countries flock to Poitiers to hear speakers present a variety of papers. I was very kindly invited by Blaise and the team to attend the opening lecture by Piotr Skubiszewski from the University of Warsaw on a manuscript found in Poitiers and the tradition of author ‘portraits’. Back at the journal, the team took a lot of interest in my own studies, for example I was able to attend the lecture by Stephen Morrison the topic of which was relevant to my own dissertation project, an early fifteenth-century tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. I gained an insight into the Lollard movement whilst also practising my French! I could not have asked for more.

A flyer presents the conference, detailing the great international presence among the speakers.

A flyer presents the conference, detailing the great international presence among the speakers.

The three weeks spent at the journal were often overwhelming as the team were working on lots of  different projects . As well as translation, I gained experience in the digitisation of previous issues of the journal and the translation of searchable terms for the Brepols database of the International Medieval Bibliography which is primarily linked to the University of Leeds. I worked with Karine Corre who looks after the indexation of books for the development of the database. It is a mammoth task with hundreds of books being sent in. I often felt sorry for her as I entered the office in the morning to find her surrounded by piles of yet more new books! I was also given access to the database so I could use it for my own research. Karine was extremely helpful and we found several very promising articles for my dissertation.

The site of the CESCM, Hôtel Berthelot (although due to building works the team at the journal were relocated, so I spent my time in a much less picturesque university building!)

The site of the CESCM, Hôtel Berthelot (although due to building works the team at the journal were relocated, so I spent my time in a much less picturesque university building!)

After finishing exams and feeling like my year abroad was fading away, work experience at the Cahiers was a brilliant insight into the world of medieval research and the demands of translation. The team were extremely welcoming and enabled my year abroad to be more than lessons at the University, but a full experience in the medieval world of the CESCM.

Can I do it all over again, please? Stephanie O’Neill-Winbow reflects on her time as the Barber’s Learning and Access intern…

Four years ago, having moved from Muscat, Oman, to Birmingham to study History of Art, I was just a little bit lost. Like most students starting university, I was moving away from home to a place where I didn’t know anyone or where anything was; you suddenly have to become completely independent, make new friends, take care of yourself and try to cover up your ridiculously low alcohol tolerance, all the while working towards a degree so that, in three years’ time, you hopefully know a little bit more than you knew before! It’s fun, very fun! However, when your mind turns to work experience (so important for finding a job these days) it can often become clear that not everyone is in the same boat: some people have had gap years in which they gained experience or their parents know someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get them a job over the summer. I had nothing like this. In Oman you couldn’t work anywhere unless you had a work permit (generally not given to 17 year olds), my parents hadn’t lived in Europe for about thirty years, and I went to university straight out of High School. So I decided to gain my work experience right on my door step – at the Barber Institute.

Stephanie and colleagues beneath Lady Barber's portrait

Stephanie and colleagues beneath Lady Barber’s portrait

In the second term of my first year, after I had settled in a bit, I started to volunteer. I spent many mornings and afternoons at the welcome desk, greeting and providing information to the patrons; I also spent a couple of afternoons in the galleries, talking to people about the paintings, and asking the children to stop running around and not to throw themselves at the paintings. Then when the current volunteering scheme at the Barber was introduced, I began volunteering in the Learning and Access department. Immediately it became evident that this was what I preferred: I was working with children during workshops, helping out on tours, assisting at seasonal ‘fairs’ and generally setting up and cleaning up from activities. I volunteered so much that the members of the department knew me – I was even asked to pose (fully clothed and paid!) for a portrait sculpture class and to represent the Barber at Careers fairs. Although as a History of Art student I was spending a lot of time in the Barber, there is so much that I wouldn’t have known about it if I had only spent my time in its library or seminar rooms. There is so much going on in the Barber Institute besides it being the home of the University of Birmingham’s History of Art and Music departments. It was especially enlightening to learn about the different departments that make a working gallery successful: it’s not as simple as hanging some paintings on the wall and waiting for the visitors and money to roll in.

After two and half years of regular volunteering, I was coming to the end of my degree and becoming slightly concerned about what to do next. The opportunity to apply for a paid Learning and Access internship at the Barber came up and I knew that I wanted it! In fact, I had known about the internship during my degree and the thought of applying had been an added incentive to volunteer; thankfully it paid off! After I graduated in June 2012, I was offered the 5 month internship to start in February 2013. I was nervous starting here since it felt strange: for the previous three years I had gone to the Barber for lectures and seminars or to spend hours poring over books in the library. Suddenly it was completely different. I had a desk, a computer, and an office, and I was actually responsible for aspects of how of the gallery as a business was run, rather than a place to study! Initially the internship involved lot of admin, answering phone calls, making bookings and passing things onto members of the department who actually knew what was going on. However after about 2 months I felt completely at home. Alex with whom I mainly work has been unbelievably patient with me, answering every little question I come up with and giving me every opportunity to challenge myself and learn more. In fact all the staff behind the scenes at the Barber have been a delight to work with. From the security guards who help me move big furniture to set up for workshops, to the lovely ladies in HR who deal with the payroll, and the marketing and collections team (who also have interns) who are so easy and helpful to work alongside, it has been a real pleasure. Instead of ‘just’ an intern, I feel like a part of the team. It has also been incredible to be specifically trained to become part of a professional team. As I write this I have just under 4 weeks left of my internship, and the interviews for the next ‘lot’ of interns are taking place very shortly. I find that I’m passing the phone over less and less to somebody else, and if anything it’s actually very satisfying and enjoyable being a point of contact.

The About Face Family Guide that Stephanie helped put together

The About Face Family Guide that Stephanie helped put together

One of my tasks at the beginning of my internship was to put together the initial draft of the Family Guide for our new exhibition About Face: the guide is now finished and the exhibition is open and all has turned out very well! I’m responsible for the Learning Room, and the activities that are placed there for children when they visit the galleries. As I’ve grown into the role, I now help out a lot more with gallery visits and workshops, and my confidence had soared; I genuinely feel beneficial to the department and part of the team. Last week the Barber Institute’s staff were invited to the National Gallery’s private view for the opening of the exhibition Birth of a Collection: Masterpieces from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Unbelievably, I was invited as well! And I must say, I didn’t think that at the start of my career I would be attending a private view at the National Gallery in the company of so many important and influential people in the art world. This internship has given me opportunities and experience that I genuinely was not expecting and for which I will be forever grateful.

Stephanie (third from left) and other Barber staff at the private view of Birth of a Collection at the National Gallery in London

Stephanie (third from left) and other Barber staff at the private view of Birth of a Collection at the National Gallery in London

It is rare to find an internship in a respected, impressive and successful gallery that is not only long enough to allow you to learn something new and to challenge yourself, but also where you’re part of a team in which you have real responsibility – and one which is paid!  My internship here has given me incredible experience that I know will hugely benefit me in the future. Working in the Learning and Access department has made me sure that I want to continue in this direction. I truly feel that I owe the Barber Institute so much: I not only studied for my degree here, but I gained so much relevant experience here through volunteering, all of which led to the most amazing opportunity of actually working here. I’m now looking into doing a MA in a relevant field once I finish here in June, but really, I’d quite like to be the intern all over again…!

Stephanie at the tea for departing interns

Stephanie at the tea for departing interns

Read about Sophie Rycroft’s experience as an intern in the curating department here. The next round of Barber interns will be recruited in May 2014.

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Postgraduate student Hannah Squire discusses her experience volunteering for the National Trust

The garden and house of Wightwick Manor, West Midlands.

Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, seen beyond the yew topiary of the Lower Lawn

Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Entrance Front of Wightwick Manor

The Entrance Front of Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

heodore Mander and Family at Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images

Theodore Mander and Family at Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images

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Sir Geoffrey Mander and Family at Wightwick Manor © National Trust Images/Cliff Guttridge

I wanted, in this post, to explain the voluntary work I have undertaken over the last three years at Wightwick Manor, a National Trust property, initially built in 1887 (extended in 1893) by Theodore Mander, a Wolverhampton paint and varnish manufacturer and his wife, Flora St Clair Paint. The property was given to the trust in 1937 by their son, Geoffrey Mander MP.

It is a house that I have been familiar with my whole life; it is a centre of art, history and culture in Wolverhampton. My deeply abiding fascination with the house and its history resulted in me applying to become a room guide.

The last few years volunteering at the manor have been incredibly eventful and have helped me acquire many new skills. For example, in helping to clean a few of the rooms in the house, I had the privilege of handling the breathtakingly beautiful, and in some cases worryingly fragile, objets d’art that fill the house. It was a very nerve-racking experience to be cradling William De Morgan lustreware!

William De Morgan lustreware plate depicting an antelope, red on white, from the Drawing Room at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

Lustreware plate by William De Morgan, at Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have also helped catalogue the toys in the nursery, learning how to label the objects without causing any lasting change or damage to them and acquiring the ability to compile an inventory. It was quite emotional handling well-loved toys that had provided great joy and amusement for the children of the house.

The Day Nursery at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Day Nursery at Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

My passion for the house and the work of the National Trust has increased exponentially since I have been volunteering, there. I have learnt so much and find the experience incredibly rewarding. Furthermore, my confidence in public speaking has improved through my engagement with the curious visitors.

Working at the house, I have also had the chance to enhance my knowledge of the Mander Family, Wolverhampton Manufacturing, and the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood among many other things. I greatly enjoy being able to discuss the house and the family with others. This could be with people who are discovering the Manders, the collection, the Pre-Raphaelites or the house itself for the first time, or with those visitors with great local insight into the Mander company,  or with scholars of the Pre-Raphaelites. All of these people have provided me with enriching experiences.

Being an art historian, one of my favourite parts of the collection and the experience is the wealth of Pre-Raphaelite art that adorns the house. The acquisition of such important and spectacular pieces of art was due mainly to Rosalie Mander (née Glynn Grylls), a lover of art and an academic who wrote about the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and who received descendants of the Pre-Raphaelites artists at Wightwick. I have spent many an indulgent hour observing and interacting with the art works and imparting my knowledge of it to the public. The collection consists of works by many noteworthy artists including William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais; Edward Burne-Jones’s Love Amongst the Ruins hangs in pride of place in the grandiose Great Parlour.

LOVE AMONG THE RUINS, oil on canvas c1894 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

Love Amongst the Ruins, Edward Burne-Jones, oil on canvas, c.1894 ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

LOVE AMONG THE RUINS by Burne-Jones, 1894, against the oak panelling of the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

©National Trust Images/Paul Raeside

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The Great Parlour, Wightwick Manor © National Trust Images/ Andreas von Einsiedel

In the Great Parlour also hangs the arresting portrait of Jane Nassau Senior by G. F. Watts. I become so interested in this image, due to its amalgamation of virtue and vice,  that I chose it as the focus of my undergraduate dissertation.

 Jane Elizabeth Hughes, Mrs Nassau Senior by George Frederick Watts, 1858. ©National Trust Images/Paul Raeside/John Hammond

Jane Elizabeth Hughes, Mrs Nassau Senior by George Frederick Watts, 1858 ©National Trust Images/Paul Raeside/John Hammond

The Bechstein grand piano in the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor ©National Trust Images/Paul Raeside/John Hammond

The collection also comprises paintings created by less well-known female artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelites including Lucy Maddox Brown’s poignant and powerful depiction of Romeo and Juliet, and works by Marie Spartali Stillman and Elizabeth Siddal.

THE TOMB SCENE FROM ROMEO AND JULIET, a painting by Lucy Madox Brown (1843-1894) at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

The Tomb Scene From Romeo and Juliet, Lucy Maddox Brown ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Wightwick also contains some exceptional drawings, including detailed, sensuous, red chalk studies of women by Edward Burne-Jones, showcasing the raw technical skill of the artist. At the manor, it is possible to view the drawings up close and thus observe all the fine details created by the artist’s hand.

HEAD OF AUGUSTA JONES by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) at Wightwick Manor, West Midlands.

Head of Augusta Jones, Edward Burne-Jones ©National Trust Images

 Burne-Jones’s red chalk drawing can be seen here, hung with other drawings, in the left foreground  of the image in one of the guest bedrooms.

The Indian Bird Room at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Indian Bird Room ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

A collection of pencil and ink drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti also reside within the house, including a humorous pen and ink cartoon caricature of the artist’s sister, Christina Rossetti created in 1862. One can observe Rossetti’s brotherly affection for his sister, depicting her during an outburst of destructive energy caused by the recent Times review of her poetry.  This is one of many images in the house that depict artists’ family members; like Wightwick itself, these provides the visitor with an intimate insight into family relations, whether that be between the Rossettis or the Manders.

A pen & ink cartoon caricature of Christina Rossetti by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1862, at Wightwick Manor, West Midlands

A pen & ink cartoon caricature of Christina Rossetti by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1862 ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

In the context of the house, one observes these pictures intermingling with original, contemporary William Morris wallpaper and furniture, William De Morgan tiles and antiques dating back to centuries prior to the manor’s completion. For example in this depiction of the pomegranate passage one can observe William Morris’s Pomegranate wallpaper, Morris ‘Sussex’ chairs and, on the bookcase, a 17th century or early 18th century Italian maiolica albarello.

Window corner in the Pomegranate Passage which links the family and guest wings at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Pomegranate Passage ©National Trust Images/Paul Raesid

All these different elements, including the arts and crafts influence, combined in the taste of the Mander family to create a personalised interior. Theodore Mander, a man of artistic tastes, was himself influenced by the writer John Ruskin, who advocated the importance of handcraftsmanship and looking to the past for inspiration, notions which this house truly exemplifies. Ruskin’s beliefs were embedded in the Aesthetic Movement as prescribed by Oscar Wilde’s lecture regarding ‘The House Beautiful’, with which he toured America and then England, coming to Wolverhampton in 1884.

Late Victorian ideas about interior design were one aspect of what I decided to examine when I recently became part of a group at Wightwick that seeks to develop the story of the house and to improve the visitor experience, by, for example, providing visitors with greater and more specialised knowledge on a variety of different themes.

I chose to investigate the principles and beliefs of the family including their involvement in the temperance movement and their religious beliefs. I am also looking at the notions of Ruskin and Wilde that influenced the ethos and aesthetics of the house. The Manders were educated upper middle-class industrialists and cultured individuals. Theodore Mander, for example, was at one time Secretary of the local School of Art, read Ruskin and Morris, and wished to convey his artistic taste and understanding of design at Wightwick.

I have therefore been rummaging in the archives,examining Theodore Mander’s files, including his diary. This document tells us about his piety and includes examples of sermons that he himself wrote and preached, in English and German. There are entries concerning his extensive travels round Europe whilst studying chemistry and also, rather sweet, was the diary entry  pertaining to the first time he met his  future wife Flora, whom he describes as a ‘very merry girl’. However, the most exciting discovery I have unearthed so far, was a few pages at the back of a notebook entitled ‘Choice Extracts from Various Authors’ compiled by Theodore. Up until this point I had had no luck in finding any correspondence about his attendance at Wilde’s lecture and I was instead looking for more information relating to the temperance movement when I came across some notes from Wilde’s ‘The House Beautiful’ lecture, given in Wolverhampton, espousing Wilde’s theories on interior decoration which drew heavily on Ruskin and Morris. Theodore memorably records Wilde’s discussion of a wide range of fields, which Wilde refined and changed each time he lectured, including, but not limited to, the use of colour in interiors, and the correct proportions for rooms and childcare.

Here’s a short snippet, jotted down by Theodore:

‘Notes from Lecture on the House Beautiful By Oscar Wilde, Wolverhampton, 10.03.1884

Colouring- Let the mass be of neutral shades, lighted up with bright bits of colour here and there. Fashionable colours are an error. It is as if one should say that B flat is to be the fashionable key of the season in music.’

To conclude, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to be able to peruse the archives and unearth the wealth of knowledge contained at Wightwick. I thoroughly enjoy being there and having the opportunity to help shape the future visitor experience. I have had, and continue to enjoy, many varied experiences, which provide me with skills that will be exceedingly useful in my future career. My History of Art degree and postgraduate study at the University of Birmingham have enhanced my understanding of Wightwick’s collection and its place in the art world; volunteering for the National Trust has elucidated for me the great importance of this organisation and inspired me to continue to haunt the halls of National Trust properties, which edify mine and many other people’s lives.

I highly recommend visiting this exceptional house and its collections, and share in the experience. For more information, regarding Wightwick Manor and Gardens or the National Trust click here.

Alumnus Lucy Wheeler tells us about her post-university experience!

In this brief summary of my two years since graduation, I hope I can provide an overview of my experiences of working in museums and galleries to date.

After graduating from Art History and spending six months firstly teaching in Cambodia and then travelling in Asia, I returned to Birmingham to take up placements at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and at Research and Cultural Collections (RCC). This was a great way to gain experience working with 2 very different collections; the Barber, a range of sculptures, paintings and works on paper from Old Masters to Impressionists – and RCC – an idiosyncratic University collection ranging from physics objects, foetal models to impressive modern art by British artists Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi. At the Barber I was fortunate enough to curate my own exhibition about leisure in Victorian Britain, presenting works on paper from the satirical paper Punch that had never been shown in the gallery before, examples that demonstrated a humorous side to collecting at the Barber. As well as gaining in depth knowledge of the print culture and social implications of sport in 19th century England, I learnt basic paper conservation techniques to spot when a piece of work needed a bit of t.l.c.

At RCC, my main role was to manage a heritage project about University House – the first all-girls hall of residence (the building is now part of the Business School). I got to curate and interpret a period room in the Business School, create a heritage leaflet and organise a reunion for the Alumni of University House. I also got to spend time exploring objects from the University Archive linked to University House such as a war log book and photographs from tennis parties in the 30’s. As well as teaching me the logistics of how to organise a large scale event, this project enthused my understanding of Heritage and the importance of preserving artefacts from the past. I was touched by the letters I received from University House Alumni full of memories of their time at the University and was fascinated by the stories the heritage objects in our collection motivated by participants at the event.

After completing my placements in Birmingham, I embarked for London to start an internship at the Wallace Collection in the education department. Working to coordinate and deliver a number of workshops for school, community and access groups, I saw how greater access to diverse and innovative education projects could benefit confidence and development and realised my commitment to working within programming in a gallery environment. I also learnt how a successful education department needed the anchor of strong administration and organisation and took time to get to grips with data entry, spread sheets and databases.

I then was lucky enough to get funding to study for an MA in Art History at University College London. I look back on my MA as an amazing experience – the rigorous programme introduced for me new ways of understanding and approaching Early Modern visual culture using contemporary theory and I gained a good knowledge of South African contemporary practice. I made some great friends on the course and also volunteered at UCL Art Museum where I gained experience of updating museum databases and digitalising the collection online. Whilst writing my MA dissertation in the summer I took a month out to work with the BBC interning in the arts documentary department, writing pitches and treatments for BBC Four art documentaries and running on location shoots for shows including Imagine and The Review Show.

After graduating from UCL I started working at Jerwood Visual Arts, a contemporary gallery in South London which is a key initiative of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Highlights from this role include installing the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize and working with Marcus Coates and Grizedale Arts for the exhibition ‘Now I Gotta Reason’. I learnt so much at JVA, from scheduling and delivering artist workshops, managing a team of volunteers and marketing exhibitions through social media platforms.

©Hydar Dewachi

©Hydar Dewachi

I am currently working on a Freelance basis, creating education workshops and lectures for schools and museums. If I could offer any words of advice from my experience so far for those wanting to pursue a career in a gallery it would be: gain experience as soon as possible – from a department and museum that appeals to you; be prepared to undertake small, repetitive tasks-mail outs and room set ups are just as important as bigger tasks; PERSEVERE– the arts are overcrowded with lots of people wanting to work in galleries-but be patient and an opening will come!

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MPhil student Sophie Rycroft on her internship at the Barber Institute

Heading to the Barber Institute on my first day as a Collections and Exhibitions Intern I was certainly excited but also apprehensive. Trying to be realistic, I was sure that I would spend a great deal of time photocopying, making cups of tea, and doing various mundane tasks that nobody else wanted to do. Luckily, this was very far from being the case. From day one I was involved in the Barber’s big loan exhibition: In Front of Nature: The European Landscapes of Thomas Fearnley. Experiencing the practicalities of installing an exhibition was particularly valuable as I increasingly gained confidence in handling such high value and irreplaceable objects. Installation was particularly varied, one day I would be hanging works on the walls and the next I would be painting plinths. It was an extremely busy time for the small team at the Barber and a great deal of attention was paid to making it perfect, after all, it has been the most costly exhibition at the Barber to date. Despite the meticulous planning of the exhibition, I was reminded that you can never truly envisage what the space will look like until the works are on the walls. As a result, the hang of the exhibition was completely changed. Luckily, everything was finished just in time for the opening, which was a great success.

Meanwhile, my main personal project during the internship was to curate a print room display on the architect of the Barber Institute, Robert Atkinson, for which I had just three months to organise. As part of this project I found myself trawling through letters from the 1930s, taking photos of the Barber from the top floor of the Muirhead tower and trying to track down the son of Robert Atkinson. The exhibition was installed at the same time as two other exhibitions, which marked the start of the Barber’s 80th anniversary year. On the day of 80 years since the signing of the deed of settlement (founding the Barber Institute), the exhibitions were opened and I spent a rather exhausting but enjoyable day giving five talks on my exhibition to various groups and showing people round. The private view was a great opportunity to look back on what I had achieved and witness people enjoying the works on show.

My research for the exhibition culminated in a public lecture, which I gave on the last day of my internship. Far from being confident at public speaking, this was certainly going to be a challenge for me. I was amazed by how many people were genuinely interested in learning more about the history of the building and its architect, and I was particularly pleased to have a good turn out for the lecture. As Robert Wenley (head of collections) introduced me, I was extremely nervous, but this soon went as I concentrated on sharing the knowledge I had gained over the last few months. The complements I received afterwards have done wonders to boost my confidence in public speaking and this is one of the most valuable skills I have gained from my time at the Barber Institute. I was certainly sad to leave the Barber, but it has confirmed to me that working in galleries is what I want to do, and it has provided me with a great basis of skills to pursue this career.

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sophie rycroft

‘The Most Perfect Example of His Work’: Robert Atkinson and the Building of the Barber Institute is on display in the print bay of the green gallery until 5th May 2013.

http://barber.org.uk/the-most-perfect-example-of-his-work/

The Barber Institute hires six interns each year, in Collections and Exhibitions, Learning and Access, and Marketing and Public Relations. Recruitment for the next cohort of interns will begin in May 2013.

Alumnus Nicole Burgess on her internship at Christie’s

Christie’s

This summer was my first of many as a graduate of English Literature and History of Art. After finishing my degree and having sent out many emails, CVs and cover letters, I was lucky enough to secure a two week internship in the Books and Manuscripts department at Christie’s auction house. Although a little daunted, I arrived, along with many other students and graduates, at the King Street house early on a Monday morning and was given a tour of the building before heading to my department. The Books and Manuscripts section is fairly small, comprising two heads of departments, five specialists and two administrators. This was a very important factor during my time at Christie’s, since the small size of the department made for a friendly atmosphere and meant that I was able to experience a range of job roles and was given plenty of varied tasks to do.

Christie's King St

Christie’s King St

Working closely with the administrators, I helped organise the stock lists and client papers in the busy run-up to auctions. This is a vital part of working in an auction house in order to maintain a smooth and easy relationship between auction house and client, and ultimately maintain the prestigious reputation that Christie’s has in the auction world on an international scale. I was also given the responsibility of editing the new catalogues that were being released for the October and November sales. Making use of all the skills I had acquired at university, I really enjoyed proof reading the material and making various corrections for the editor before the copy was sent out to press.

I was also given the great opportunity to work alongside the specialists, helping to check the condition of prospective lots for sale. This allowed me to get hands-on with wonderful items including books of hours, maps and bibles. This was an invaluable experience that allowed me to put my art history skills to the test, conducting my own researches about specific items, to chart their auction histories, their provenance etc., so that the specialist could correctly value the lot.

Working behind the scenes for such a demanding industry, I learnt invaluable skills and enhanced my interest in the workings of the art market. I would highly recommend anyone who has an interest in the running of an auction house to apply to Christie’s; my experience was thoroughly enjoyable and will never be forgotten.

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