Jacob Horn '13 is learning how museums are run (and built) in a summer internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
This summer, Jacob Horn ’13 is writing on the walls of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and being funded by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities (HCAH) to do it. In addition to working on the signs that adorn the Whitney, Horn, who is interning at the museum this summer, is also helping with brochures, mailings and exhibition catalogues for the Whitney’s Publications Department. His duties include proof reading, editing and researching anything the museum might need to print.
Horn says the Whitney, which was founded in 1930 with the goal of buying and showcasing American art, “prides itself on its commitment to American artists at all phases of their careers.” As part of his internship at the museum, Horn is also participating in a seminar program, which gives him the opportunity to meet with museum staff that he normally would not see and to visit other museums in New York. The museum’s permanent collection houses works by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Maurice Prendergast, Georgia O’Keeffe and Gerald Murphy.
Horn’s interest in interning for the Whitney was sparked last summer during his internship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, also sponsored by HCAH. He says he enjoyed the projects he worked on there, but also realized he enjoyed the general atmosphere of working in a museum. Horn says that after Philadelphia, “a New York museum was an ideal next experience to seek out and I was very fortunate that this year marked the start of the HCAH self-designed internship option.”
Horn also says he was particularly excited to be placed in the publications department at the Whitney and describes each project he works on there as a mini-course on a different aspect of the museum and museum management. “In some ways, my job is to read all day, and there’s so much that one can learn from that,” he says.
One thing that has always surprised Horn about museum work is how far in advance exhibits are planned. Research, fund-raising and logistical planning have to be done years ahead of time. “The commitment and effort required on the part of everyone involved is significant,” he says. But that commitment is also what makes the work so compelling: “[The staff] is invested in art, in artists, in students, and in everyone who comes to look at and learn from the exhibitions.”
Recently, Horn got the chance to see the construction site for the Whitney’s new building, which is scheduled to open in 2015. The site visit was a particularly rewarding experience, he says, because it provided a “new meaning to the hypothetical discussions of what the Museum’s future will look like.” It also gave him a chance to learn about the unique challenges of building a museum, which include, for example, requirements for special air handling systems to protect the artwork.
For Horn, the internship also provides an extra benefit: living in New York for the summer. “Maybe it’s just what stands out to me, since I’m really interested in theater and art,” he says. “but it’s striking how deeply ingrained the arts are in the city’s culture.”
—Jack Hasler ’15