Dena White, Curatorial Textile Intern
BA in Journalism; currently studying pre-program conservation methods and digitization of historical collections.
What led you to pursue an internship at the Rancho?
As I was nearing graduation, I realized that the current state of journalism no longer reflected my interests. Instead, I sought opportunities to gain experience in conservation of historical artifacts and collections management. I volunteered briefly at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe and then was invited to meet Sarah about a possible textiles internship here at Rancho Los Cerritos.
What were some of the tasks you did while interning here?
Since I began in July 2016, my main focus has been assessing and reporting the condition of the Rancho’s textile collection. I’ve also had the opportunity to partner with Sarah in her curatorial mission to exhibit more of the collection’s pieces. We’ll soon be rotating our third historical Bixby garment into the new visitor’s center exhibit space and it’s really exciting to be able to use the techniques from my studies in a real world scenario!
What were you most surprised about during your internship?
I was surprised to see the level of “behind the scenes” work, talent and collaboration involved in creating fresh museum programming that engages patrons. For example, the extensive planning and coordination that goes into transforming the Rancho for Christmas was really awesome to witness and participate in, as well.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
Fortunately for me, I am being assisted in my textile project by an amazing group of textile volunteers and docents. Not only has their support has been invaluable to the project, but their unique insights and the depth of their historical and textile/costuming knowledge have sparked my own curiosity. I always come home after my internship wanting to learn more about something we’ve discussed!
What was the most interesting artifact you came across while working on exhibits?
That’s tough. The Rancho has so many unbelievable artifacts in their collection. But I think one that really made me say, “wow!” was a folding hand fan – the screen was designed to look like a swarm of 3D pink paper butterflies had alighted momentarily in fan formation. I’ve still never seen another example like it online or in any other collection.
What are your hobbies/passions?
I am working on tracing my own genealogy. I also have a collection of my ancestor’s photographs and letters, so it’s really amazing to match the names with the faces in those images. I’m constantly surprised by the technology that allows us to see century’s old documents and images at the click of a mouse. Goosebumps are a regular occurrence during my research process.
What are your plans after completing your internship?
I’m really interested in combining conservation practices with the advances in digitization technology – global access to museum collections and knowledge is key to reminding us that, wherever we call home, we’re all members of the same family tree.