Looking after treasures of museum’s photography collection
What goes up, must come down is a scientific principle that can certainly be applied to Masterworks Foundation art exhibitions.
Handling the take down of their latest exhibition, Drawing with Light: Photography in Bermuda will be new intern Ann-Marie Walsh, a recent graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. She is the third Ryerson University Donald Dickinson Photographic Collection Management intern to work at Masterworks. The first Ryerson intern, Paul Pegnato, worked with Masterworks on and off for three years and helped to put up the current photography exhibit before leaving.
“This internship is an opportunity to have an amazing experience with a phenomenal collection,” said Miss Walsh who is originally from Arlington, Virginia. “The collection here is world class.”
She arrived about a week ago.
“It is exciting to put into practice everything I have learned over the past few years,” she said. “While I am here I plan to explore the fascinating collection and develop a greater understanding and history of the Island.”
Her tasks will include cleaning, organising and cataloguing the Masterworks collection of old photographs, ephemera and interesting culturally significant objects kept in the basement of the facility at the Botanical Gardens. However, her most important job, will putting away a host of old antique cameras, and photographs of Bermuda on display until September 27.
“Taking the exhibit down will involve unframing many of the works in order to rehouse them in acid free boxes,” she said. “I will also be labelling them. Some of the objects in the exhibition belong in other portions of the collection.”
One of the most important pieces on show is a landscape daguerreotype taken in Bermuda in the 1890s.
“Most daguerreotypes from this time were portraits,” she said. “It is unusual to have a landscape. John Pfahl's photo ‘Triangle, Bermuda' taken in 1975 has great cultural value as well. It is his plan of the Bermuda Triangle.”
A basic love of photography drew Miss Walsh to the photographic preservation field.
“I had worked in a library and there was a small photographic collection that I was very interested in,” she said. “When I found out about Ryerson's Photographic Preservation and Collections Management programme, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. In high school I started taking photographs and fell in love with photography then. I still take snapshots from time to time, but I have really gotten into researching and writing about photographs. I am more interested in the concepts behind photography. While in school, I was lucky enough to make some ambrotypes myself. (Ambrotype was a photo process invented in the 1850s.) I didn't use completely traditional means as we slightly altered the process.”
She said the most difficult part of making the ambrotypes was the ether involved in the developing which was done in a poorly ventilated dark room.
“It makes you light headed,” she said. “Some people in my class fainted. It was quite dramatic. I didn't pass out although I got some bad headaches. I took a portrait of myself. I think the dark room is better ventilated now.”
When The Royal Gazette met up with Miss Walsh she was busy going through some lantern slides that had been donated to Masterworks. They held a number of landscapes and seascapes of Bermuda from around 1910.
“What is unique about them is that they are dated and labelled with the photographer's name and the company,” she said. “You often don't get that kind of information when these things come to a museum”
She said she not only enjoyed the preservation aspects of her work, but also exchanging knowledge with museum patrons and people who donated objects to the collection.
“I would love to see a book made of some of the objects in the Masterworks collection,” she said. “They really do have some interesting things here.”