Fin

Parisian cafés in color

I imagine that every final post on the WOW blog will be tinged with sadness. And it only makes sense. These internships that we’ve all taken part of have helped all of us grow as professionals, as adults, as human beings. If anything, we’ve discovered more about ourselves and perhaps even figured out what we’d like to do with the rest of our lives. The people we’ve met and the things that we’ve learned have changed us for good.

The final days of my internship were a whirlwind of activity. I’d never felt so busy during my stay. I was flying around making calls, desperately making checklists for the museum’s archives, choosing some works to present in one of the rooms, etc. It seemed that despite everything I did for the museum during my internship, there were always things on my desk that needed to be completed. Even with another intern working with me in the curation department, it was an incredibly trying time. I never did get to finish all my cataloguing on Gustave Charpentier. In the end, I had some assignments that I couldn’t possibly finish without working overtime for four more hours each night and regretfully left them for the next intern to deal with. The Musée de Montmartre’s work is never finished.

My final day in Paris was a sad ordeal as well. I spent it running around, saying goodbye to all of my new loved ones and friends, purchasing trinkets for family at home, and jotting down contact information from everyone I could. There were no tears, though I did sigh a lot thinking about how near my departure was. And as it always goes, as one part of your life ends, you start thinking about what lies ahead.

The internship was over. My time in Paris, a period of my life that feels like a slowly disappearing dream now, was over. And knowing myself, I would start forgetting some of the French that I learned, some of the names of my friends, some of the faces of my past. But what I learned from the internship and my time there will stay with me for a long time. I learned how to deal with a fast-paced work environment. I learned the value of a good day’s work and that a well-oiled team is the most important aspect of a successful operation. I learned more about the inner workings of a museum and the importance of celebrating, not just preserving the past. But I also learned patience, gratitude, and how better to deal with what life throws me. So in the end, I realize that I have achieved my goals that I set out to reach when applying for the World of Work funding. I believe I am more organized, more confident about what I would like to do after my undergraduate career at Brandeis, and more mature as a person.

The exhibition I had been so fervently working on has now started. “Autour du Chat Noir: Arts et Plaisirs à Montmartre 1880-1910” is now on display at the museum and I couldn’t even get to go to the opening. But I never like to keep loose ends. I know I will be back in Paris someday, and that exhibition will be the first thing to cross off my list.

The expo I will not get to see…

– Sujin Shin ’13

Midway but still learning

 

The Musée de Montmartre and its climbing vines

My first month in the Musée de Montmartre is not what I expected it to be. Not that something which doesn’t meet your expectations is a bad thing. People assume that if something doesn’t fulfill or exceed your projected assumptions or fantasies, then it’s a disappointment, a failure, something that you regret pursuing in the end. But what this first month in the Musée has taught me is that although pipe dreams are what might have launched you into your adventures into the wild, blue yonder, it is what you make of your own reality that is a thousand times more fulfilling.

 

I’m sure people are wondering what these silly pipe dreams of mine were before they were given a sharp blow in the head by reality and stomped unceremoniously into the blackening cracks between the ancient cobblestones of Montmartre. I’m almost embarrassed to admit them—they seem so silly now. I imagined myself floating around the musée with a done up bun and a clipboard, gently caressing the edges of a print by the timeless Toulouse-Lautrec with white gloves. I wanted to be in the halls of the musée and arrange the paintings and prints on the walls according to my own vision. I also wanted to drink absinthe in a smoky room and make my acquaintance with Green Fairy but that would have been during my time outside of the musée.

 

But no. I realized that curating a museum requires an infinite amount of patience, an immutable will that can’t be daunted by an amount of work the size of Montmartre itself, and a particularly acute interest in the era you are working on. I have been translating dozens of documents from French into English and, more nerve rackingly, from English into French. I have been consulting editors and publishing companies for the upcoming catalogue of our exposition “Autour du Chat Noir: Arts et Plaisirs à Montmartre 1880-1910” and it’s been an high-speed volley of phone calls, emails, and running around for confirmations. I’m creating an exhaustive list of all museums who would be interested in the exhibition in Paris and the United States and their curators for invitations to the opening gala. Lastly, and most exhaustingly, I have been waist-deep in the affairs of a certain Gustave Charpentier, a musician and composer of 19th century France who was a seminal figure of the cabarets and dance halls of Montmartre during that era. His family’s donation of his papers and personal affairs is extremely interesting and as disorganized. I’ve been painfully organizing every single piece of the donation into a digital format.

 

And yet, everything about this internship is making me feel as if I’m making a difference and that might be what I’m most proud of. This work is absolutely necessary for the smooth running of the museum and the good of the archives. I had said that one of my goals for this summer had been to improve on my study skills and be more concentrated on one task at a time; I’ve certainly had a lot of practice in this certain area during my time here. I feel myself changing, being more focused on the task at hand and being more precise with my time. They sound rather mundane, but they’re invaluable skills.

 

I might have mislead the reader in the beginning, implying that I have had some sort of epiphany-like discovery of self, that my realization that my world is what I make of it was a chapter that I have already written. But I see it more as a change in philosophy, a hazy projection of my coming time at the museum and a hope for the future. I won’t be so pretentious as to call it a prediction, but I think that this new germ in me will grow into something significant and beautiful, nourished by French wine and a little time amongst hardworking lovers of art.

And maybe a tiny tourist train

A Week in the Musée de Montmartre

I’ve always envied my little sister who, from eight years of age, knew she wanted to study Nefertiti and the ancient Egyptian culture. She’s now is in college, pursuing an archaeology degree. She speaks Arabic and can read hieroglyphs. And she’s dead set on this. I’m not built like my sister. She’s confident about her skills, knows what she wants, and how to get it. For me, my talents and interests lie all over the place. When March rolled around, I was anxious. I’d never had an internship before: who would want me? What I did know is that I love the arts and humanities, and this ultimately led me to an internship at the Musée de Montmartre.

The Eiffel Tower at the end of the day

I had been studying in Paris for an entire academic year, and during that time I took an art history class focusing on French art in the past two centuries. The professor was incredible, animated and devoted to her subject, and her enthusiasm floated like a bright yellow miasma around her perfectly coiffed bob. She helped me realize that I had become attached to art history: it played into all of my interests and skills.

So, I asked my professor if she knew of any art galleries or perhaps even museums that might like an intern for the summer. And what do you know? It turns out she’s the curator for the Musée de Montmartre (as if she wasn’t awesome enough already) and said she’d be glad to have me work for her.

So, today concludes a hectic first week with the Musée de Montmartre and my head is turning from everything that I’ve encountered. Right now, we are in the process of preparing the future exhibition “Autour du Chat Noir à Montmartre, Arts et Plaisirs 1880-1910” which will take place from the Sept 13, 2012 to January 13, 2013. The exhibition will focus around the importance of the Chat Noir (or Black Cat) which was a famous cabaret in the heart of Montmartre frequented by many famous artists and intellectuals during this golden age of Paris.

Moulin de la Galette, a cabaret in the heart of Montmartre

The museum’s goal is to showcase and celebrate the incredible body of work that flourished in area of Montmartre, especially in the 19th century when Paris was the center of the art world. They call it “The Old Montmartre.” My professor (now my internship director) and I spent some time getting acquainted with the history of this artists’ district, which is located just a stone’s throw from the famous Sacré Coeur church that overlooks Paris. I’ve also gone into the reserves to take a look at the daunting tasks I will have to tackle soon. At the moment, my duties include frantic translation of press documents and creation of reports for the Museum (without these, the museum can’t borrow any works of art!). But, in the coming weeks I will be personally handling and cataloguing works of art, two-hundred year old newspapers, and posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen. I’ll also be researching for future exhibitions, helping with the museology of exhibits, organizing the trades and lending works of art to other museums in the world, and even working on future museum catalogs! My supervisor is really serious about the mission of the museum, to educate the public about the wonderful works produced by Parisian artists during the heyday of Montmartre’s artistic period. And, as usual, I feel her enthusiasm resonating with me.

My premier goal this summer is to center myself and discover what it is I would like to do after Brandeis. As a student with only a vague idea of what the future holds for her, the atmosphere of the museum is bound to help me see if a career in museum work is for me. I have an incredible director who is one of the most driven and fantastic women I’ve ever met. I’m surrounded by the colorful history of Montmartre. And I’m looking forward to working in an area of Paris that sparked the creative powers of hundreds of people; hopefully I’ll be able to profit from that, too.

– Sujin Shin ’13