Saint Gaudens National Historic Site, NH Curatorial Internship – May 2017
by: Leah Chisolm-Allison
Hi everyone, my name is Leah Chisolm-Allison, Curatorial Intern at SAGA and member of ACE!
I arrived to New Hampshire and moved in on Friday which allowed me to explore and get acquainted with my new surroundings over the weekend before my first day. Let me tell you, when I arrived I was amazed at the beauty and richness of the environment. Living in Florida, I am used to seeing buildings and hearing street noise everywhere, but at Saint Gaudens all you hear is nature. I am surrounded by lush trees and towering mountains blanketed in soft clouds in the distance. The birds sing happily all throughout the day and flowers in purple, pink, white, and orange greet the sun with eager desire. Aside from nature, I explored the Aspet, the house of Saint Gaudens, which has the biggest Honey Locust Tree in all of NH standing guard right outside the house. I also ventured to the little studio where Saint Gaudens did most of his work and then little garden in between.
I began my internship on Monday June 19th, where I officially met my fellow intern Abigail Wing, my Supervisor and Curatorial Technician Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Head Curiator Henry Duffy. The first week was focused on cleaning. We learned how to clean the relief statues and portraits throughout the grounds located outside. Learning to use hake brushes, towels, brushes, and cleaning products for certain surfaces on the historical works of art. We then switched to inside where we cleaned inside Aspet, Little Studio, and New Gallery. We clean a ll types of artifacts: Dishware, tapestries, relief portraits, carriages, and more. The first week we learned the importance of preventative care, object care, and weekly maintenance of historical objects so we can understand how valuable it is when it comes to preserving the past.
My second week of work focused on cataloging and inventory. Abigail and I made a huge binder with all the items located within SAGA and our job was to locate the item and then check it off. We learned how to use Re-Discovery which is basically on the computer and we use it to find more information about the item in case we are having trouble finding it. We type in the catalogue number and can see what the object looks like where it should be located and other information that can help us to identify the object. We finished cataloging the Atrium, New gallery, stable, and the Little Studio. Took us a couple days but that is to be expected. It felt like we were on a huge scavenger hunt. We also had the experience of deinstalling two relief portraits and installing a high relief portrait that is on loan and also took on cleaning it so that ready to be viewed by the public. Lastly, we began taking pictures of the dish ware in Aspet to replace old photos of them our new update project.
Last but not least, Mount Ascutney, also known as “The sacred Mountain” to Saint Gaudens and his friends is an inspiration and a subject in many works and art of Saint Gaudens and his friends. I can see this mountain on my way home and anywhere on the grounds of SAGA. This is my favorite view of the mountain from Saint Gaudens.