The main thing that has been an eye-opening new experience for me with my Smithsonian internship so far, is how many people are involved in as well as the level of concise detail that is involved with working with photography before and after it has been ingested into the Digital Asset Management System, DAMS. I had the opportunity to physically visit Washington D.C. from December 4-12, 2021 where I met with my supervisors, Alex and Mark. I learned more about the detailed work that goes into uploading archival photographs into the DAMS after Mark photographed a collection of portraits during our photography session. The photographs were then edited for clarity to remove dust marks and other imperfections through a computer software called Hasselblad and sent to my folder in the DAMS to be cropped and ingested. His detailed and meticulous work inspired me to ask and think of new questions about photography and museums. The photography session was boiled down to the science of selecting specific portraits, positioning the lighting, background, and ensuring that the portrait is centered and straight before taking a photograph. He used concise brush strokes to remove dust particles from the portrait before taking several variations of photographs and selecting a clear, vivid portrait to be sent to my DAMS folder. His work provided me with a deeper appreciation of the work that goes into photography and how my work with cropping and ingesting photographs relates to the larger objectives of the Smithsonian NPG. I was also able to view the William Bache Album, a ledger book of Silhouettes from George Washington’s enslaved population. Museum Conservators were treating the book and photographing it for a future project. After our photography session, I took the WMATA, the Washington D.C. metro back to the NPG at 6 pm EST where I visited the Lunder Conservation Center. I had the opportunity to see how paintings and other mediums are conserved and restored.
During my trip to Washington D.C. I subsequently met with Alex and he gave me a tour of the Smithsonian NPG “Out of Many” Exhibit. He explained how exhibits are constructed, background information on how portraits are created, and current projects that his team is working on such as the William Bache album. After we toured the Out of Many exhibits and discussed future projects such as using museum data to create data visualizations. My next project alongside cropping additional photographs will be to ingest Bache Album pages from EIP files from a Capture One Camera. These raw files will become Archival files inside the DAMS. I will subsequently ingest the corresponding TIFF files of each full-page into the DAMS and describe derivatives through metadata.
My initial expectations for this internship were to obtain a greater sense of what it means to work within a federal museum such as the Smithsonian NPG as well as what it is like to work for a museum in the general sense. I am overjoyed that I have had the privilege to work with Alex and Mark performing meaningful work to support the Smithsonian NPG. I have also arranged to have several informational interviews or career conversations with Smithsonian NPG employees such as Alex and Mark to obtain a broader idea of different museum careers and how I hope to one day work within the Federal Government. I subsequently joined the SHFG, Society for History in the Federal Government on January 1, 2022. I know that my experiences with this internship and more will help prepare me for a future career. My expectations have changed since I am now halfway through this internship because they have yielded a deeper sense of my role and how my work relates to broader aspects of the Smithsonian NPG.
I have cropped and ingested 166 photographs into the DAMS as of 2/1/2022 and I look forward to continuing this internship experience.
My next steps include maintaining my work ethic to work on subsequent projects and conduct further informational interviews, career conversations, with Smithsonian NPG employees to build connections and learn more about working within a federal museum.