Collecting, exhibiting and restoring at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art - The University of Tulsa
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Collecting, exhibiting and restoring at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Girl smiling for a headshot
Tiara Woods

Chemistry major Tiara Woods served as an intern at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art this summer. Hailing from Memphis herself, this internship was a great opportunity to put her art and art history minors to use. 

Woods discovered the internship through a program called the Studio Institute. She submitted her application and résumé and, after the interview process, was accepted as a collections intern at the Memphis Brooks Museum. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Woods was able to spend most of her internship in person at the museum. On certain days, she worked remotely, during which time she caught up on notes and took part in meetings with museum staff.  

An insider’s view of collecting, exhibiting and restoring 

A major focus of her work was performing assessments of different paintings and sculptures at the museum. Woods was able to recommend different works for “deaccessioning,” which involves the removal of artwork from the museum. While undertaking this work, Woods had to navigate the ethics of the process in order to avoid controversy and to follow museum protocol. 

“I would search about the artist, the session files and take condition reports to determine if the artwork needed to be removed,” she explained. Woods worked closely with museum curators and shared her research to help conclude whether particular works should be kept or discarded.  

In a final report, Woods recommended three paintings to be deaccessioned. This report served not only as a summary for the museum staff, but also encapsulated what Woods had worked on during the summer. 

Woods was also involved in other tasks around the museum, including cleaning paintings and sculptures — including two limestone lion sculptures situated outdoors — and assessing existing art collections. “One of my assignments included assessing the pre-Colombian objects in a collection with a visiting expert. I typed up notes for the assessment and helped curate an exhibition for the museum’s education gallery,” Woods remarked.  

Career launching pad 

Girl cleaning a statue
Woods cleaning a lion statue at the museum

Maria Ferguson, Woods’ supervisor in Memphis, observed that the museum was “so fortunate to have Tiara as an intern over the summer. In addition to her excellent work completing a collection assessment with the Brooks staff, she also worked on many other projects. We’re looking forward to where her career takes her, and we know that she’ll have a bright future as an art conservator!” 

Woods’ summer with the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art clearly affected her future plans. With all the valuable experience she gained, Woods is now hoping to pursue a career in art conservation and will be seeking out additional art-focused internships as she moves closer to graduation. 

If exploring, creating and analyzing art and its practices fascinates you, check out TU’s School of Art and its many pathways to personal and professional accomplishment. And if you’re seeking an internship, be sure to contact the helpful CaneCareers staff.