Studying Art History at the Met

Originally published October 4, 2016

By Paloma Vianey Martinez

Junior, Art History

At the beginning of the semester, I changed my major to Art History with the realization that, because I am a painter, I could benefit from more historical knowledge about the field.

Paloma Martinez spent her summer studying art history at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Photo courtesy of Paloma Martinez
Paloma Martinez spent her summer studying art history at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo courtesy of Paloma Martinez

I applied for a competitive internship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City with the desire to feed that ambition. Although I don’t have a formal background in art history, I was not discouraged to apply.

When I was notified I got the internship, I dropped my paintbrush for an entire summer and dedicated myself to art history at The Met Cloisters, a branch of the museum that specializes in the art of medieval Europe.

It was an honor to represent The University of Texas at El Paso at The Met. The internship was a nine-week, paid program in which I collaborated with seven other students from colleges throughout the country.

On my first day, I walked up the glorious steps of The Met and realized I was going to work for one of the most prestigious museums in the world. I met my wonderful co-workers and was given a strict itinerary dictating every hour of the internship. I enjoyed every single one of those hours. We were responsible for touring day-campers and for drafting a one-hour gallery talk during the final week of our internships. Extensive research was needed to prepare for the lecture.

During my lecture, which focused on Netherlandish oil paintings, I talked about the technicality of the work and the historical importance of each piece. What was extremely helpful to calm my nerves was seeing people from the UTEP community attend the lecture. Lorenzo Candelaria, Ph.D., the associate provost, traveled to New York and was there to support me as well as Robert Bledsoe, Ph.D., a retired professor from the English department. The hour felt like seconds to me and it went smoothly after the first few minutes.

We also met several staff from the museum, including curators, prominent educators and directors. They spoke to us about their work in the field and how they got there. Their talks were informative and inspiring. I could tell they were passionate about their work and how they strived to inspire youth to engage with art.

The internship was a long and difficult one, but incredibly rewarding. As a student who had just began studying in the art history field, working at The Met helped form a strong perspective on what working in a museum is really like.

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