Afternoons in the Archive

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Sitting at a table overflowing with old newspapers, I began my apprenticeship searching for articles about art exhibitions presented in the Arcadia University Art Gallery. As I flipped through the pages, I saw history first hand. I captured brief glimpses in time as student journalists writing for the Beaver News (the campus newspaper that preceded The Tower) lamented the death of Martin Luther King Jr., called for a strike in favor of women’s rights, and expressed outrage over the Vietnam War. All of these accounts lie neglected on cold metal shelves, seen and touched by few.

The University Archive is hidden in plain sight, in the basement of the library just to the right of the staircase. I’ve walked past it dozens of times without thinking twice about the strange clay sculptures lining the windows. This relatively small room holds a wealth of information, from artwork and photographs to newspapers and artifacts. Perhaps it’s overlooked because it isn’t talked about much, but the Archive is a brilliant source for information on past Arcadia events, alumni, and professors.

I just finished my first week apprenticing for Matt Borgen, exhibitions coordinator at Arcadia. Before signing up for this course, I had only heard the term “apprentice” in reference to young men of the Renaissance Age preparing for an occupation. For me it means that I get to work with material directly related to art history. My first assignment has been to read through issues of the Beaver News from 1968 to 1972, a period of time in which we lack solid information about art exhibitions at Arcadia. The information we compile will be used in an exhibition drawing from the Archive.

The details are still taking shape, but with the 30th anniversary of the Spruance Art Gallery approaching, Matthew Borgen and Gallery Director Richard Torchia hope to highlight previous exhibitions along with material derived from the archives. The research I contribute will support two shows, one that focuses on famous artists who have shown work at Arcadia and another that focuses on artwork in Arcadia’s permanent collection.

My tasks will evolve and change throughout the semester based on the needs of the department, but I’m excited to see how my efforts contribute to Arcadia. These are important exhibitions that help highlight the impact Arcadia has had on the art world, and I hope that they challenge people to think about art in new ways. It’s exciting to be part of this discussion. I’m getting valuable work experience while making an impact on my community.

My apprenticeship works hand-in-hand with a new minor being offered called “Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Curatorial Practices.” The title sounds daunting, but for an art history major it’s a great program to consider. Not only does it look great on a résumé, but it also allows me to explore career interests. I’m still unsure what I want to do when I graduate, but until then, I’m looking forward to spending more time in the Archive.

Photos by Denise Henhoeffer

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