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Graduate assistant Molly Harrington caught up with the postdoctoral fellows at the UMD Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection, Dr. Max Rosenberg in Modern and Contemporary Art History, and Dr. Nicole Riesenberger (a 2016 graduate of our department) in Virtual Culture.
Max received his Ph.D. in 2015 from Yale University, where he studied postwar American and European art under Dr. David Joselit. His dissertation focused on postwar Germany and the influence of video art and the documenta exhibition on the formation of a liberal democratic state. Before his time at The Phillips, Max was a visiting professor at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Last fall, he gave a talk at UMD about Andy Warhol, in connection with his current research on Pop Art and self-portraiture, a project that arose from his dissertation. Along with revising and expanding his dissertation, Max teaches a weekly undergraduate seminar at the UMD Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips, “Depth and Surface in Modern and Contemporary Art.” Max says the course is intentionally broad, and allows students to develop a vocabulary for engaging with a range of artworks, but especially works on display at The Phillips. Max looks forward to giving a lecture about German artist Markus Lüpertz in conjunction with an upcoming exhibition at The Phillips. He benefits from the time and resources needed to research and write afforded him at The Phillips, and hopes to remain in academia, ultimately with a university teaching position.
In contrast to Max’s traditional postdoc, Nicole has experienced the freedoms and challenges that go along with defining a new role. After finishing her Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance Art under Dr. Gill at UMD in 2016, Nicole became the first fellow to hold this position in Virtual Culture at The Phillips, a position intended to enhance the visitor experience through new technologies. The wide array of possible tools and information related to Nicole’s task means that she works on several projects at once, and her position has been extended for a second year so that she can see some ideas come to fruition. When Nicole began her fellowship, she undertook a large visitor study to learn how visitors use the existing Phillips smartphone app and other in-gallery technologies. Through this study, she identified aspects of the visitor experience that could be improved with both digital and analog solutions, such as indoor-positioning technology that would help visitors more easily navigate the museum and find works of art that interest them. Alongside an advisor from UMD Libraries, Nicole is also hard at work planning a large-scale digitization project for The Phillips Collection’s archive, which contains over 120,000 pages of archival material. She has been exploring options for virtual reality and augmented reality in The Phillips Collection—her current focus is on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, an important group of works about which The Phillips has a wealth of primary sources. VR and AR experiences will allow people worldwide to see and learn about the series even if they cannot see the works in person.
Finally, Nicole serves as a Research Leader for UMD’s First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) Phillips Virtual Culture stream, in which students develop experimental projects at the intersection of art, museums and technology. Although Nicole’s current projects have led her far from the Italian Renaissance, her time as a graduate assistant here in the MSCVC has proved quite valuable: she mentions that her knowledge of seemingly simple tasks like cataloging images, digitizing documents, and keeping track of metadata has been helpful, and that she benefited in particular from last year’s AR project at the Riversdale House Museum in conjunction with the 200th anniversary exhibition. Nicole hopes to remain in the growing museum technology field, where she is excited about the opportunity to improve the visitor’s connection with art in myriad ways.