Liz Siegel: Associate Curator of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago

Could you describe your connection to the Smart Museum and to the University of Chicago? What was your role at the Smart?
I was a graduate student curatorial intern at the Smart Museum for three years while I was doing coursework for my Ph.D. in art history, 1993–1996.

How did your experience at the Smart help clarify your interests in future career pursuits or help equip or prepare you for the work you currently do?
I went into graduate school unsure of how I ultimately wanted to use my education in a career. Working at the Smart Museum decisively showed me that I loved working in museums and that a curatorial career could be exciting and fulfilling.

Could you share a story or memory from your time at the Smart that was particularly significant or unique to your experience here?
On my first day, I was shown how to dust ancient ceramic oil lamps with a brush. It was really exciting working with objects so quickly. Unfortunately, as I dusted one, it crumbled to pieces on the pad in front of me. I was devastated, and convinced I would never again be allowed to work in a museum. It turned out that the lamp was made of fragments that had been glued together long before, and the glue simply gave out. I was so relieved! (And not fired.)

Could you share a story or memory of a favorite object from the collection or of an especially compelling exhibition that you experienced?
I was really lucky to be able to begin cataloguing the then-nascent photography collection (it has grown a great deal since then). I have fond memories of what was then the storage area for prints and photographs.   

Are there any further thoughts or insights you wish to share in the context of the Smart’s 40th anniversary?
Congratulations, Smart Museum!

 

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