The Intern Insider: Perspectives on the Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection Internship Program
Each summer, the Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection opens its doors to a new cohort of interns. They work on projects that contribute to the mission of the museum. Additionally, the interns have the opportunity to tour nearby art museums and libraries, meet esteemed individuals in the New York art world, and learn about the Frick from resident experts. This past summer two interns, Heather Pilmar and Lauren Haberstock, had the opportunity to work within the Book Department of the Library, and they share their experiences in this post.
Heather Pilmar is a native New Yorker, who has worked in publishing, advertising, and sales. She recently graduated with a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) with a focus on cataloging and education. She is a lifetime fan of the Frick.
When I was a teen, my mother brought me to The Frick Collection, where I was enthralled by the masterpieces on the walls. At an early age, I knew that the Frick was special. I never would have thought that as an adult I would have the opportunity to spend my summer at the institution’s Art Reference Library to work on a metadata project.
From day one of my internship, I dove right into the experience. My role was to assist in a project to provide public, digital access to articles of past issues of the Frick’s Members’ Magazine. After working towards my MLIS for the last year, I understood that giving access to users is what librarians strive to do on a daily basis. As I began the project, my supervisor Megan De Armond, Assistant Metadata Librarian for Digital Resources, explained the process of adding links to records in the catalogs of the Library—FRESCO, Arcade, and NYARC Discovery—that connect to the online version of journal articles in the Members’ Magazine.
The software I used to update the MARC format records were OCLC Connexion and Innovative Interfaces, Inc., Millennium (now Sierra). I had some experience with these programs, including graduate-level classes pertaining to metadata information resources, but the hands-on learning I gained during my internship was irreplaceable. This task allowed me to learn about the complex structure of shared consortial catalogs—the Frick shares Arcade and NYARC Discovery with the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art.
As I was working on the project, I paced myself, knowing that I had 205 articles to work on. Along the way, I learned a great deal about the history of the Frick. One of the articles that intrigued me was “The Bowling Alley in the Frick Residence”, which addressed a space I never knew existed. I learned that it is in the basement of the house and was completed in 1916. After Henry Clay Frick’s death in 1919, his daughter Helen Clay Frick used the bowling alley to house her books and archives, which became the Frick Art Reference Library. I was fascinated by a photograph of the bowling alley lined with books, finding it hard to imagine such materials in that context.
Bowling Alley at The Frick Collection. August 2018. Photo: Heather Pilmar.
Another article that caught my eye was “Promoting Visual Literacy.” One of the reasons why it resonated with me is because at the time of this project I was taking a class on literacy and learning that included this topic. The article highlights the Frick’s Education staff working with teachers from New York City public schools. Its staff instructed teachers how to observe works of art and how to engage students in discussions about works of art. The artworks from the program were incorporated into traditional school subjects, and I found this very compelling.
The Members’ Magazine articles were a great read while working on the metadata project. I also gained so much by speaking and interacting with the Book Department staff. The experience as a whole was outstanding. I am not sure if metadata is in my future or not, but I do know that I gained a wealth of experience through my internship, and I had a summer I will never forget.
Lauren Haberstock is a West-Coast native, born and raised in Arizona. Reflecting her interest in global issues, she attended Pepperdine University for her undergraduate degree in international studies. She spent her post-graduate year teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany and is now back in the United States pursuing her Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) at the University of Arizona.
This past summer saw a West-Coast girl head to New York City for an amazing opportunity at the Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection, a premier art research institute on the Manhattan’s Upper East Side. One semester into my MLIS degree at the University of Arizona had familiarized me with library terminology and basic concepts, but the on-the-job training and experience gained at the Library prepared me for the road ahead in the information landscape.
I worked on the Christie’s, London, historic auction catalogs project within the Book Department. The Library recently acquired several volumes of catalogs from the auction house, and my role was to assist with creating metadata records for the individual catalogs. I learned quickly from Rodica Tanjala Krauss, my mentor and Head of Cataloging Projects. A patient and knowledgeable teacher, Rodica showed me the ropes of cataloging, explaining the different MARC fields and RDA standards.
Christie, Manson & Woods. Catalogue of Important Ancient & Modern Pictures. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library, New York, NY.
We hit a snag early in the project, discovering that many records for the acquired Christie’s catalogs in OCLC WorldCat—used for creating metadata records—were for microfiche editions, not the original print copies held by the Library. The discrepancies in the formats prevented the project from moving forward as planned. This turned out to be a real-world lesson that every project can have unforeseen complications. While a new strategy for the project was formulated, I began to help with another project, which turned out to be equally challenging and fascinating.
A La Vieille Russie, a New York art gallery, recently gifted its collection of auction catalogs to the Library. I hopped on board to help process this collection, vicariously experiencing auctions from around the globe. I worked on catalogs from a multitude of countries containing beautiful paintings and decorative arts, stunning jewelry, extensive Meissen collections, and amazing glass works from Tiffany. My German language experience was particularly useful when creating metadata records for sales in Switzerland and Austria.
Auction catalog from A La Vieille Russie gift. Photo: Megan De Armond.
As I worked through these catalogs, I began to wonder how such items might be used by researchers, as the role of an information specialist is to provide access to users. Fortunately, the summer internship program featured a tour and lecture by an art historian at Christie’s, which answered my questions. In explaining the role of the auction house in the art market, it became clear that auction catalogs offer important insight into the art market at the time of sale in addition to providing information about the provenance of an item. For example, in the recently acquired Portraits of the Early English School catalog—part of the aforementioned Christie’s historic auction catalogs project—for the 1909 sale pictured below, you can see the entry for a painting by Francis Cotes, Portrait of Abigail, Countess of Sheffield. The catalog is annotated with the price—providing insight to the art market at the time—and the name of the buyer—providing provenance information.
Christie, Manson & Woods. Portraits of the Early English School and Works by Old Masters. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives, New York, NY. Photo: Megan De Armond.
Christie, Manson & Woods. Portraits of the Early English School and Works by Old Masters (interior of catalog). The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives, New York, NY. Photo: Megan De Armond.
My internship at the Library afforded me an introduction into the field of art librarianship, convinced me to join the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA), and provided insight into the behind-the-scenes processes that make art research and scholarship possible.
Heather Pilmar, MLIS, Syracuse University, and Lauren Haberstock, MLIS Graduate Student, University of Arizona School of Information; Frick Art Reference Library Interns
Learn more about internships at the Frick here.