Senior Kayla Malouin hopes to become a museum curator after she goes to graduate school. This spring she gained valuable experience that will serve her well in the future. She curated Collection/Reflection: A History of Wheaton’s Permanent Collection in Beard Gallery, which runs March 7 through April 16, 2010.
Curating the exhibition. At the beginning of my sophomore year I began working in the Collection Study Room in Watson, which provides a space for students and faculty to view and handle objects from the Permanent Collection. Each employee needed to choose a project, and I decided to research the history of the collection. The project has evolved a lot since then; Professor Leah Niederstadt, who is also the curator of the Permanent Collection, and I co-authored a paper on the female donors to the collection that was published and presented at a symposium in Istanbul, Turkey, last April. Around that time, she and I decided I would curate an exhibition on the collection’s history as my senior project and under her supervision. For the exhibition, I had to choose how I would tell the story of the collection and then had to continue researching, write labels, choose artwork, and organize the gallery space.
Gaining experience. I have never curated a show on my own before, but I co-curated a mini-exhibition in Wheaton’s library my sophomore year, with Lauren Salois ’10, under the supervision of Professor Niederstadt. I have also been a curatorial intern twice at the Fitchburg Art Museum, which is in my hometown. Besides collection management, I helped to de-install a traveling exhibition and aided the curator with a regional art show.
Making big decisions. One of the most enjoyable things about curating this exhibition was working directly with the artwork. I had to choose which objects would be displayed and then had to decide where each would hang or be placed within the gallery in general, and specifically, which piece would hang next to, above or below another.
Enhancing my education. Although I attended many exhibitions for my arts administration courses while studying abroad in London, and although I have aided curators with exhibitions at Wheaton and elsewhere, I realized how much work, time, and thought curators need to put into a single exhibition. I learned that any decisions about the content or organization of the exhibition have to be questioned and justified by the curator. In my classes, I have become more critical of exhibitions I read about or attend. This entire experience has been amazing because it has taught me about each step involved in curating an exhibition from start to finish, and has made me trust my own judgment in this regard.