Julia van der Laan at the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art (AAMU), Utrecht, the Netherlands – summer 2016

Julia_van_der_Laan_2My internship at the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art was a fascinating experience and a great opportunity to recognize and explore classroom concepts in the museum environment. I mainly concentrated on two projects, the first of which was to assist with the upcoming exhibition, ‘Mapping Australia’. I accompanied the Curator to the Special Collections archive of the University Library to search for and request several maps for the exhibition. These, mainly seventeenth-century, maps demonstrate the charting of the Australian coast that took place with each landing on the hitherto unknown southern continent known as Terra Australis Incognita. I wrote a short, accessible text about these historical encounters for the exhibition, and descriptions of the different maps to be loaned from Utrecht University and the Netherlands National Archives. This project offered insight into the work involved in curating a temporary exhibition.

My second main task was to research and write about thirteen early Papunya Tula acrylic paintings which are on long-term loan to the AAMU. This collection is owned by Groningen University which received it as a gift in 1978 through the Australian Aboriginal Arts Board. Information about this series of paintings was either never transferred into the AAMU collection management system or had never been available. My research involved contacting experts in the field of Australian Aboriginal art, digging through old inventory lists and archives, and conducting research on the works in the depot to discover what was marked on the backs of the pieces and how this could help my research. Exploring these works and eventually discovering who the artists were, the paintings’ origins, and the stories depicted, was very exciting and sometimes had a thrilling, detective-like feeling. My internship at the AAMU has certainly opened my eyes regarding both exhibition and collection research and introduced me to varying sides of working in a real museum context.

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A Colleague and I Using the New Touch Table at the AAMU, Photograph for Social Media Platform of the Museum

HUM Major, Class of 2016