I wanted to organise a placement at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery for two reasons. The first was its relevance to my research, which has to do with the relationship between English poetry and Impressionist art. The Bristol Museum has a fine collection of French painting from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and I wanted to spend time thinking and writing about it. The second was my interest in curation and museum work. I wanted to learn more about these by working alongside Julia Carver, who is Bristol’s curator of modern art.
My placement involved a few different kinds of work. Among other things, I helped to organise the Bristol International Photography Festival, which featured a large exhibition of photographs from the Martin Parr Foundation and a related show by James Barnor. I also helped to liaise with three contemporary artists (Jessa Fairbrother, Lua Ribiera, Heather Agyepong), each of whom was making a tailored series of photographs in response to one of the museum’s permanent displays. In addition to this, I assisted with writing the gallery’s online research publications, and put together an exhibition of works by Walter Sickert held in the museum’s store.
The placement’s benefits were numerous. It helped me to extend and refine my knowledge of the Impressionist painters and their English reception. I also gained experience of curation and learnt how to design and maintain websites and online shows. In return, the museum benefitted from in-depth discussions of some of its rarely seen artworks (particularly those by Sickert), many of which had never been written about before. The placement also helped the museum to strengthen its ties to university partners.
The knowledge and skills I acquired on placement will clearly be of use to me in my future academic career and in any future curatorial work I carry out. I am grateful to the SWW DTP for enabling me to carry out this work, and I would strongly encourage those fortunate enough to receive funding through the DTP to take advantage of similar opportunities.
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