Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The End of the Journey

And so it all ends. Throughout today and yesterday, I completed the final task that lay before me: editing the audio tour files with the background music. The music sampling the musician recorded last week runs for only a minute and a half, so yesterday I uploaded the audio files onto editing software so that I could copy and paste the accompanying music. I had done this before, mostly in high school with more outdated software, I spent only about an hour getting reacquainted to the software and completing the task set before me.

Today, I completed the task by listening to the recording over again, tweaking the audio files slightly to account for any distortion heard by the listener while walking along the exhibition. And with that, I completed my internship project! For the past few months, I have spent countless hours researching Point''s life, cataloging the art, and organizing the twenty columns. I gained an appreciation for museum work, artistic analysis and audio recording. Before this semester, I never really thought about museum work as a possible career opportunity. But with my experience working with Professor Schloesser, I now know that museum work is a possible avenue for me after my academic career.

And with that, I hope you all had almost half as much fun reading my blogs as I had writing them and working on my internship. Till the next time!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Last of the Recordings

At the end of this week, I completed the last of the audio tour recordings. Given the similarities between these past few days and earlier this week, I'll spare you the details. For the majority of the columns, I simply read the script I had written a few weeks ago. I then uploaded the files onto my computer, and converted them into MP3 files.  However, a few things did arise that hindered my work.

For one, a few of the columns' scripts needed to be reedited to bring them down to under 40 seconds. While that may not seem long, you should remember that there are twenty columns in the exhibition. If each column is almost a minute long, then it will take visitors twenty minutes to get through only one part of the exhibition. Furthermore, a few of the columns were just a bit too long, and one was almost over an entire minute. Accordingly, I spent about half an hour rewriting the script, deleting a couple of useless sentences and trying to be as concise as possible. One column actually had four drawings of landscapes, and my script had originally called for almost an entire 50 seconds of information! Talk about too much information!

The last column, the most problematic of the columns due to a lack of remaining themes I could display, didn't even have a fourth drawing! So, before I could record an audio file, I had to find and write a script for the final column. After about fifteen minutes of searching, I was able to find a pretty good photograph of Native American delegates to Washington, D.C. which I think shows the lasting impact of the Jesuits. For better or worse, they helped incorporate that region into the United States, and I couldn't think of a better way to end the exhibition than with that message.

In the final concluding hours of Sunday, I compiled the majority of the audio files on an iTunes playlist to gauge the length and quality. Apart from a few instances of static, the audio files were of good quality! The only thing I have left to do before the end of the semester is to match the audio tour with a loop of the guitar riff I recorded with the local guitarist. Until then!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recording the Audio Tour

This, the final week of the semester, is when I finally tackled the final task of my internship: the audio tour. During the last few weeks, I have been writing the script for the audio tour. Compared to that, this week was remarkably easy. On Monday, I rented a simple voice recorder from the Digital Media Lab at my University. I did this because I had tried to record a few entries with merely my computer, but when I listened to the recordings the audio files were rife with static. After I got the voice recorder, the task became essentially reading what I had written last week. To the right is my work space, now refitted for recording the audio tour.

However, as with other aspects of my internship, this task brought with it a few problems. First and foremost, after uploading the sixth audio file my computer "decided" to delete everything I had uploaded concerning the tour. As such, for a few hours on Wednesday I had to rerecord the first quarter of the the audio tour. However, after that the majority of recording was incredibly easy. Although some of my recordings were simply badly worded and I needed to reword some sections of the tour, recording the actual tour went by pretty quickly.

After completing about two thirds of the tour, I reached out to the local guitarist I talked about a few weeks ago. During the middle of November, I decided that the tour needed some background music. So on Thursday, we met at my apartment to record a small acoustic sample so I can test it with the audio recordings. Due to the relative length of the tour, I will most likely loop a longer sample over the tour. Till next time!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Finishing the Audio Tour

Midweek greetings! Due to my rather large workload, I've decided to post a couple of blog posts this week. Yesterday, I completed my biggest job since organizing the exhibition's columns: the audio tour script. After last week, I decided to dedicate more time and energy in writing the scripts for each column. As such, I spent collectively 6 hours Monday and Tuesday writing the script for the second half of the tour. One column was rather difficult, as the entire thing was just landscape after landscape. I had organized it to contextualize some of Point's surroundings, but talking about it was a bit harder. Instead of writing about the subject matter, I decided to write about Point's experiences in the region and how different it was compared to the Flathead territory.

This process was repeated about ten times the past few days, as each column provided a different challenge. But by Wednesday night, I had a strong paragraph written for each column. I am particularly proud of one column which tells the religious evolution of Ignace, the son of a Salish chief. Opening with his baptism, the column charts his eventual Christian burial and funeral. The audio tour reflects this, telling the story of Ignace's first interaction with the Jesuits, the context of his baptism and the weight of his funeral on the community.

After completing the audio tour, my next task is one of particular difficulty: recording the tour. My script is concise, simple and informative, and in the coming days I plan to be recording either today or tomorrow. Furthermore, the musician I talked about a few posts ago will be recording his music most likely this weekend, so hopefully by Sunday the entire exhibition, columns and audio tour will be completed. Till then!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Audio Tour Script

This week I delved into the herculean task of writing the audio tour for the exhibition. Having never written anything like this before, it took me a quite a bit longer than I had originally believed. Before, I assumed I could get most of it done rather quickly. However, each column required essentially its own small story that needed to be told in a few sentences. The greatest problem that could arise during the exhibition is a lack of steady movement along the drawings. Quite simply, I need to make sure people are moving.

As such, each paragraph I wrote for the columns needed to be succinct yet clear, entertaining yet spartan. Instead of my original plan on writing separate sentences for each drawing, I decided to write paragraphs for each column. The first few were a little difficult to write a narrative for, primarily because they were landscapes that offered little in the way for storytelling. Therefore, I wrote the tour in the early columns to provide contextualization. The first two tell the story of Point's journey across the plains, and the third presents the overall geographic landscape of the area. After that, each column tells a short, semi-enclosed narrative that highlights both the subject matter, themes and chronological/geographic background if available. All told, I was able to get through about half of the total columns before the week was over, so this coming week I'm going to write the rest of the tour and record the audio tour for the exhibition.

Apart from that, this week was relatively stable. Apart from the time demands for the audio tour, I was able to get through most of what I wanted to accomplish. Now that I have some practice with writing audio tour scripts, I think that I can complete the entire audio tour by Monday or Tuesday. Afterwards, I'll record it by the end of the week. Until then!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beginning the Audio Tour

During the last few weeks, I have been organizing and titling all of the pieces that are going to be exhibited next summer. After accomplishing that, I have started on my next task: the audio tour. After emailing with my adviser, I wanted to limit the overall scope of the tour. Simply said, I didn't want it to be too long or too short. Accordingly, I spent the majority of this week writing out a rough draft of the audio tour that I am going to be editing and then recording in the next week.

There is some question regarding the technical aspects of the tour itself. My adviser and I are not sure what format the tour will be, either uploaded to Youtube or merely an MP3 file to be accessed by the guests. As such, I didn't want to possibly waste time on formatting any files. I began the week laying out all of the drawings on my table and sketching some basic notes on general narrative themes that might appeal to audience members. Next, I recorded any and all notes I wrote on each piece that can be used to describe each drawing. Geographic and chronological information, the majority of which I researched in the middle weeks of this semester, are going to be the majority of what I'm including in the audio tour. After sketching down all of this information, I began weaving together what I believe will be an exciting and informative tour that guests can listen to. I also contacted a local guitarist I know of who can provide an original score for the tour that, in my mind, can express the somber tone of Point's experiences.

This next week will now be spent completing the writing section of the audio tour. I am near completion with the final section, and I think I can have it finished by Tuesday. After that, I plan on renting a microphone and recording the audio tour by the end of the week. Editing and developing the audio files will happen later, but by the end of the week I plan on having a rough cut of the audio tour that will be featured during the exhibition next summer. 

Till then!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Readjustment and Titling

This week began with a bit of an emergency. As it turns out, a percentage of the paintings were double sided, meaning that some of the drawings I had organized into the columns couldn't be exhibited. This caused a small panic among the interns, as I had organized all of the columns very meticulously according to their themes. But luckily, fate was on my side. For one, another intern/assistant for my adviser had looked over all of the double sided drawings and posted them online. And two, when I looked over said list a couple of days ago, I discovered that the majority of drawings that were double sided I had categorized as "miscellaneous." These were mostly random drawings of flowers, animals and foliage, and I generally discarded them whilst organizing the exhibition. As such, despite this small panic, I was able to maintain the integrity of the organization of the columns. Everything was ok!

The second main task for the week was a lot less exciting: titling all of the drawings for exhibition, Given the limited space at LUMA, each column can only feature the titles of the drawings. As such, for the rest of the week I spent simply giving titles to the drawings. This was a slow but steady process, and it didn't take me much time. I spent the majority of the semester with these drawings, and had learned much about their subject matter, themes and purpose. Each piece belonged to a specific part of the narrative, and their titles generally responded to their place in the story. In one column, one detailing the spiritual life of Ignace, I named each piece to encapsulate one part of his life. The first: Ignace's baptism; the fourth: Ignace's funeral. Other drawings, particularly landscapes, I had chosen for that column mostly for their contextualizing purposes. Two drawings depicted mountains, and I chose to name each one a different name depending on what they depicted.

Apart from these situations, this week was remarkably quiet compared to the past few. The most major task-organizing the columns-was behind me the next major one-writing the audio tour-lay before me, For this week, naming the various pieces took priority.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Final Organization

This week I completed the job I begun last week: organizing the drawings into groups of four for the exhibition next summer. Out of the hundred or so drawings, I organized eighty into columns of four each. The first three illustrate Point and his companions traveling to the Salish territory, including the changing landscape as well as the hardships of the long trip to the mountains. The second group each depict a different aspect village life. Hunting, familial and a handful of religious scenes show how Point and company adapted to Native American life and the early impact their presence had on the Salish and Coeur d'Alene Indians. I wanted these early columns to construct a narrative through imagery, beginning with Point's hardships and the rewards of his toils-conversions-becoming widespread in the area. Two mini-narratives of two major figures within the communities-Chief Nicholas of the Blackfoot and Ignace of the Flatheads-will show each man's religious life from baptism to death, and these eight pictures are my favorite in the entire collection.

After these two columns, the subject matter shifts dramatically to war scenes. I wanted to emphasize the difficulty of life within this area, and after relatively lighthearted religious scenes I thought battles between sworn enemies offered the right tonal change. I began this section with drawings depicting battles between individuals, and slowly expanded the scope with each column. At the end of this section is a scene of many Flatheads battling scores of Blackfeet, with a depiction of Christ overlooking the converted Flatheads. I thought this picture combined the two major themes of the collection-that of frontier life and the impact of religion on Native Americans. As such, I wanted to present it in the foreground of the entire exhibition, as the culmination of the narrative begun in the journey pictures in column one. One drawing in the first column depicts a suffering Jesuit brother attempting to sleep next to a wagon on the long journey to the mountains. This large, mighty depiction of Christ overlooking the recent converts, in my opinion, answers the question thought by the audience: why would someone undertake this journey? The answer lay within this battle scene: to fulfill Christ's call to serve.

The last several columns serve mostly as exposition for the artistic narrative featured below. This section features portraits more frequently than the previous. The reason behind this was to show the audience paintings of men who factored into the story of Point's mission in the frontier, fulfilling in their minds who these men were physically. The last piece, the one picture of the collection showing the Native American delegation to Washington, in my opinion depicts the lasting impact of journey's like Point's: through exploring the frontier and interacting with the Native Americans, Point and his compatriots brought the continent closer. Next week I'll be writing and possibly recording an audio accompaniment to the exhibition, and I look forward to articulating the images into a spoken narrative.

Till then!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LUMA Organizing

The end goal of my internship is to organize all the drawings I cataloged for their inevitable exhibition at Loyola University's Museum of Art next summer, and this week I've begun that process. First, I reorganized all the drawings back into their original groups: religious and battle scenes, portraits, landscapes and a small miscellaneous section. They had become rather mixed up in the last few weeks of cataloging, and it took about an hour to complete this reorganization.

After redividing all of the pictures, I began the long process of organizing the pictures for the exhibition. During a meeting with my adviser, I learned how they were going to be exhibited next summer. Along one large wall at LUMA, groups of four drawings will be grouped vertically with their titles, and there would be about twenty of these vertical groupings. As such, some of the drawings will have to be left out-a prospect that I greatly enjoyed considering that many of Point's drawings are nearly impossible to date or estimate where they were drawn. So this past week I began with the religious scenes, organizing them into groups of four I believe reflect their general thematic topics, subject matter or setting.
The small story of Ignace's spiritual journey!

This part of my internship is what I've been looking forward to most, and it was very enjoyable to construct small narratives through these pictures. One group of drawings tells a short narrative of the religious life of Ignace, a son of a noted Indian chief. The first piece shows Ignace's baptism by Father De Smet, followed by the "Prayer for Ignace on his deathbed," and ending with two pictures of Ignace's Last Rites and his funeral. As such, the future audience will be able to see one man-who has been dead for over 150 years- and his growth as a devout Christian. I can't wait to continue this process: creating over twenty short artistic narratives, all of which will be unveiled next summer at the LUMA!

The next week I'm going to continue this process, and I hope to be finished by Wednesday. Come back then and hopefully I'll have a picture of the completed project: over eighty pictures all arranged into their respective groups! Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cataloging and Organizing

Hello all! This week was mostly geared towards organizing the drawings I've cataloged and beginning to compile wall posts for them. I began the week by organizing all of the drawings, according to their respective themes, into two general piles: completed and uncompleted. As their names suggest, the first pile was made up of drawings/works that I felt very comfortable placing geographically and chronologically; the second pile was made up of still questionable pieces. The split was generally 60-40. The main problem running throughout the mass of drawings is two fold: one, many of the works are very vague, depicting general topics(such as a nondescript river or valley); and two, many of the them are therefore difficult to place in any geographic or chronological context. One drawing in particular is quite troubling: it depicts simply a man sleeping next to a wagon. Given his clothes I estimated that he was a Jesuit, an based solely around the fact that he was tired I assumed that it took place during the first major journey to the West. However, that second assumption is based pretty hugely on conjecture and, to a limited degree, educated guesswork. For the rest of the unknown drawings I guess I'll have to work more on drawing clues from their subject matters or themes, coupled with evidence from the texts to place them in the first, completed category.

This next week is going to be pretty much focused on completing this final task of initial cataloging. I've been splitting my time between school, volunteering and the beginnings of a Master's Program, so I haven't been able to spend a lot of time on the tasks at hand. However, this coming week I'm going to be spending a lot of time on Point's drawings so I've given myself till the end of the week to complete the aforementioned task and begin writing wall texts for all of Point's drawings. Till then!

p.s. Sorry about the oft-late postings, I've been particularly busy but starting this week I'll be spending a lot more time with the drawings than before. So expect my next post in a few days!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Journey Continues

The illusive drawing in question
This week I continued to analyze the collection of drawings which are the center of this internship. While last week I looked primarily at religious scenes and landscapes, this week I am analyzing battle and hunting scenes drawn by Point between 1841-1847. Despite a difference in subject matters and themes, I ran into the same problems from last week during the last few days. Many of the drawings are somewhat difficult to place chronologically and/or geographically, and therefore the majority of my time was spent looking through the research materials for any clues. One perfect example is a drawing depicting a handful of Flatheads attacking a much larger Blackfeet force, with a note from a previous researcher referring to Sacred Encounters. After finding the Encounters page which offered only a small contextualization for the scene, I used clues from the excerpt-namely the fact that it was during a tale end of a winter hunt and the fact that the Flatheads were attacking a superior force-to find the scene within the biography of Nicholas Point. As such, I was able to pinpoint the piece as having been drawn sometime around March 1844 during the tale end of the Winter Hunt, as well as the reasons behind the attack and what happened afterwards. This task was repeated many times over, my research materials becoming littered with Post-it notes and many of the drawings being well documented in terms of when and where they were drawn.

However, in many instances my investigation returned little in the way of clues or hints. For instance, many of the drawings depicted scenes of Native American warriors combating bears during hunting trips. The problem is that there are very few references to bears in any description of a hunting scene. One of the drawings show Gervais, the son of a well known Flathead chief, being attacked by a white bear during a hunting trip with the only indicator of time/place being the summertime foliage. Therefore, the next major hurdle is going to be closely scrutinizing each drawing that I've yet to place in the timeline so I can create a better chronological/geographic map of all of the drawings in each thematic section.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jumping into the Deep End of Point's Drawings

Hello everyone! Sorry about the noted silence-I was travelling over the past week and had difficulty getting to a computer. This week, I delved deep into the task at hand: organizing and cataloging the drawings. As such, I began with dividing all of the drawings into one of five categories: landscapes, religious scenes, battle sequences, village scenes or portraits. Beginning with religious scenes, I went through each of the drawings, looking for any indications of the year it was written or geographic location in order to construct a historical map of Point's works. This is easier said than done. Often, the drawings featured only faint references to regional landmarks, and dating each drawing was a particular difficulty. One such work, a drawing of an elevated cross in front of the towering Rocky Mountains, offered little in the way of indications to date or location. As such, I spent a good portion of time combing through the several research materials for help. Luckily, I found a picture of the drawing on Sacred Encounters, and that offered a somewhat helpful time span to narrow the focus. This issue arose several times in the last week.

Apart from the frustrations one associates with organizing somewhat vague, yet extremely vivid, drawings, this week was relatively low in problems. The only remaining issue remains the scale of drawings that need to be  analyzed, and so the only thing I can do for now is to work as much as I can to get all of these drawings initially cataloged. And due to the fact that my work-space is my room-which stems from the independent nature of this internship-it seems that I will remained attached to my desk for at least the next week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Spiritual Boot Camp: Training Tough Jesuits for a Tough World

A contemporary picture of the birth place of Point-the town of Rocroi
Greeting again! This week I continued my slow but steady journey through the life of Nicholas Point and his journeys in what eventually became the western United States. However, while last week was devoted almost entirely to examining paintings alongside Point's experiences, this week witnessed this lone historian battling through Nicholas Point S.J: His Life and Northwest Indian Chronicles by Cornelius M. Buckley S.J. Dedicated to the Oregon Jesuits who are continuing the work begun by Point and his compatriots, this biography charts Point's early life growing up in Revolutionary, and later Napoleonic and Restorative, France and experiencing the violence inherent in such a time. Reading about this pious man's early life is illuminating, primarily as it benefits my understanding Point not only as a subject of this internship but also as a man. Point was born in the late eighteenth century in France to a soon-to-be widowed mother, and as a young man he witnessed the terrible violence and warfare that waged between the great powers of Europe. A perfect example incorporating Point's piety with this historical context is described very early on in the book: shortly after Austria rejoined a coalition against Napoleon, the allies attacked near Point's home in Rocroi. During a battle near his home, Point collected what he could from his employer's office when a shell landed only feet away-covering him only in dust and gravel. Point attributed his good luck to the Blessed Virgin, an early indicator of his religious fervor.

This story shows the reader how close Point was to a military, and therefore violent, world. After his mother died, Point contemplated joining the military to make ends meet. However, this martial lens is evident throughout Point's life. Buckley spends much time describing how Point's first experiences in a Jesuit camp resembled a spiritual boot camp, stressing the strict obedience taught to the initiates and Ignatian focus of the training: to create soldiers for Christ. While he was sent home once, although later readmitted to training, the impact of this military style-religious preparation arises in his experiences among the natives. during his time with the Blackfeet, Point describes in a letter how he wishes to "conquer" the Crow nation for the Lord.. Furthermore, in several of Point's letters he wrote he includes rather terse and simple explanations of gruesome battles-in the third letter he explains, quite simply, how the Flathead defeated the Blackfeet so resoundingly that they suffered only four casualties while twenty-one of their opponents lay unburied. These contexts for Point dramatically changed what I thought about the man I will be working "with" for the next few months. When I first heard his story, I figured he was a simple, meek and delicate priest who bit off more than he could chew, so to speak. Now, under the contexts of his upbringing, training and writings, I see him as a rough soldier of God, willing to go to the farthest ends of the world at the time, the American frontier, in order to serve his cause.  

As such, after reading two considerable texts on Point, several primary documents from the man, and studying his artwork as well as I could in the past few weeks, I believe I will be moving beyond the the realm of research to the more interpretive and analytic aspects of this internship in the coming weeks. Instead of pouring over books telling the story of the hard-knocked Jesuit, I will be focusing on his art, detailing their themes and compiling a basic chronology.

Till then!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 2: A Journey Into the Frontier

This week, my main focus was on researching Father Point's life and his interactions with various Native American tribes living within the American frontier. In order to aid in my research, my internship supervisor Professor Stephen Schloesser, sent me two books. The first, Sacred Encounters, provided me with dozens of examples of Point's drawings and paintings he completed during his time among the Native Americans. Sacred Encounters also gave me images of several articles of Indian culture, including pictures of Indian clothing and tools Point would have encountered during his travels.

However, it was the second book, Wilderness Kingdom, that proved to be the most informative and helpful text in my research. Detailing Point's life before his ventures into the American frontier during the mid-nineteenth century, the text's introduction quickly established Point as an educator and as a deeply religious Jesuit who nonetheless retained a particular skill for art that originated in his childhood. The editor's introduction stressed the fact that Point was dedicated to education throughout his life, opening the St. Charles College in 1838, and sought to convert and educate the American Indians in the ways of Catholicism. The beginning of his ventures was of particular interest to me, as the editor describes how representatives of the Flathead tribe traveled thousands of miles to petition the Jesuits to come to them rather than the other way around!

Wilderness Kingdom, for the most part, contained excerpts from Point's own journals as well as paintings and drawings he made during his travels. While reading the text, I took notes in order to construct a basic timeline of Point's travels so that later in the internship I may organize the drawings chronologically. Within the journal entries, Point mostly describes his time among various Indian tribes, from the Flathead to the Coeur d' Alenes to the Blackfeet, while often describing conversion experiences. The drawings and paintings meanwhile depicted a variety of subjects. Slowly, after analyzing dozens of Point's pieces within Wilderness Kingdom, I began to identify a several recurring themes of Point's paintings, most notably religious ceremonies within the tribe and landscapes of the contemporary United States. After reading these general research guides this last week, I will be diving head first in the coming week into a much more dense biography of Nicholas Point to gain more insight into his life and his artistic themes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Greetings world! My name is Liam Brew, and I am currently a senior at Loyola University Chicago pursuing a major in history and a minor in English. This semester, I am interning with Professor Stephen Schloesser and am helping in a project centered around the life and art of Father Nicholas Point, a nineteenth century Jesuit who lived and ventured in the American frontier and interacted with native Americans. After speaking with Professor Schloesser a week ago, we agreed that my duties for the next few months would be to research Point's life and art, analyze or interpret many of his drawings, categorize said drawings based upon basic chronology or theme, and write wall texts for each piece for an exhibition occurring some time in the near future. 

Having been given a packet of several dozen 
drawings, depicting frontier Jesuit missions, native American villages and warriors as well as landscapes of the soon-to-be American countryside, I became excited at the prospect of learning more about an area of American history I know relatively little about. Throughout my collegiate career, I have focused on modern European history, and I welcome the chance to learn about frontier history. In preparation to cataloging and categorizing Point's pieces, I will be reading Wilderness Kingdom and Sacred Encounters along with a standard biography of Point's life in the frontier. 

The internship itself is mutli-layered and consists of several well defined tasks. In order to create a general or basic chronology of Point's pieces, I will be gleaming clues and hints that indicate the year and location of the drawing. I will also be tasked with categorizing the pieces in terms of their themes and subjects. Essentially, I am in charge of analyzing and organizing one wall of Point's art for the exhibition at the Loyola University Museum of Art, and writing wall texts for each piece. Given the antonymous nature of the internship, I will doing the vast majority of these tasks in my apartment or in the Loyola University library.  And so begins the adventure into the life, times and works of Father Nicholas Point!

See you again,