A Historical Summer in New York

Lauren Davis, COL ’24, Los Angeles, CA

This summer, I have had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. The Morgan has a long history of presenting magnificent works of art, literature, music, and other forms of writing and visual media; and as someone who grew up playing piano and drums, drawing and painting, writing poetry, and endlessly reading, this was instantly the perfect combination of all my artistic interests. Working within the Department of
Literary and Historical Manuscripts, my primary task this summer was to read and transcribe a series of (mainly) handwritten letter correspondence between the Morgan’s first librarian and director Belle da Costa Greene and art critic Bernard Berenson. This work comprised part of the institution’s recent efforts to expand upon the legacy of Greene, who heavily influenced and changed the way the Morgan operated (including adding her collection of Asian and Middle
Eastern art and manuscripts to the Library and influencing the once-private institution to publicly share its knowledge) since her joining the staff in 1905. It was an honor to be the one to uncover some of her work and daily happenings through her previously untranscribed letters, piecing her story together with each page I read.

In addition to the project on Belle Greene, I was ultimately enamored with the entire institution. From meeting other interns and collaborating with co-workers — some who had been there for decades, others for only a year — to exploring the halls with my neck craned to see the heavily decorated archways and ceilings, there is no feeling quite like it. I’ve felt so much like I fit in at the Morgan, and, having now gotten the chance to work in a museum for the first time, I can say with certainty that it has made future museum work a very likely course for my education. I’ve gotten to learn about the various worlds within museum work, from the
more-commonly-associated job of conservationist to the lesser-known intricacies it takes to become a fundraising or educational manager. I personally find it most intriguing and exciting to work hands-on with historical materials like the Greene-Berenson letters, but it’s amazing to have learned about every area of work and expertise required to collaborate and support the others so that the museum as a whole can function and flourish!

Although I’ve spent the majority of my time in New York working at the Morgan, this internship has also allowed me to explore a city of which I had read about in books and seen in movies all my life but had never seen for myself. With the pandemic still in sight (though hopefully on its departure), it has been exceedingly difficult to transition into adulthood, as I remained at home at the end of my high school Senior year and the entirety of my college Freshman year. The past school year and summer have been my first times away from home, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have spent these times doing what I love, in new and wonderful
ways! This summer’s internship opportunity to discover my passions and find my own way into becoming who I’d like to be very much would not have been possible without the help of Penn Career Services. Their financial assistance has allowed me to be more focused on the educational and career growth I’ve had at the Morgan, as well as on the personal growth I’ve had in a city as iconic as New York.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services