Interpretation and Curatorship: Different, But Complementary Experiences
Written by: Cristina Tejada
The cool part about being the Curatorial and Education member at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park is the exposure to many different aspects of the National Park Service, from leading interpretive tours, to working closely with objects within the park’s collection alongside the park’s curator. Though the position encompasses two different divisions within the National Park Service, the knowledge acquired through working within both the curatorial and visitor services divisions has led me to have a richer experience and exposed me to new opportunities within the National Park Service that I might not have otherwise experienced.
The first half of my position in the summer and fall was more focused on visitor services and interpretation. In the process of creating interpretive tours of the park grounds and the home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, I spent a lot of time engaging in the history of the site and the artist. I had the opportunity to engage in the history of the site with a wide variety of audiences throughout the park’s season.
I knew very little about Augustus Saint-Gaudens before arriving at the park, but after reading more about him and learning more about the site in preparation for leading interpretive tours, I learned so much about Augustus Saint-Gaudens as an artist and his relationship with his other contemporary artists and creative people that lived in the Cornish area. I also had the opportunity to explore broader themes of memorialization and the ways in which people in the present and in the past memorialize and remember individuals.
Now that the park is closed for the winter season, my position focus has shifted to focusing more on the curatorial side of the park. One of my favorite aspects of working with the curatorial team has been the opportunity to work closely with the park’s museum collection. I have had the opportunity to handle and rehouse a range of objects, from historic books, bronze reliefs, and even silk shoes!
I feel like I spent so much time in the summer and fall, learning and understanding the history of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the history of the site; it has been interesting to see how the history I have learned throughout the past couple of months is reflected in the objects within the museum’s collection. Because of my experience working with the visitor service and interpretation division earlier on during the position, I feel like I have a greater understanding of the objects within the collection and greater appreciation for the historical significance of these artifacts that I might not have had otherwise. While I had some previous experience in collections and interpretive work, this position has provided me with a lot of different hands-on experiences and has expanded my skillset, which will hopefully benefit me when I apply for jobs at the end of position.