Academic Tuesdays: Caylee Post presents at art and art history conference on cutting-edge project
Caylee Post ’20, an art history major with a biology minor, presented at the College Art Association‘s (CAA) Annual Conference in February 2020 alongside Dr. Anthony Mangieri, associate professor and chairperson of the Art and Art History Department, and Ernest Jolicoeur, assistant professor of art. She is the first Salve Regina student to collaborate with both professors on such a venture.
For over 100 years, the CAA Annual Conference has been the largest international gathering of visual arts professionals in the world. Each year, the conference celebrates the accomplishments of its members and provides opportunities to share cutting-edge research and creative work. There are a number of workshops, meetings, receptions and more during the four-day event.
Over 900 members submit proposals each year for presentation and workshop topics, but only a select handful are actually chosen to present at the conference. Students are rarely given the opportunity to present, but Post was able to do so during a session entitled “Research, Collect, Curate, and Digitize: How Undergraduates Created a Natural History Collection” alongside Dr. Mangieri and Jolicoeur.
“I’ve never spoken to anything at that level before, so I really wanted to make it professional,” said Post. “It was a very humbling experience, and I got to go to other sessions and be able to talk to other people and observe what other professionals are doing in the field.”
Post originally came to Salve Regina as a biology major, but she eventually changed her major to art history with a minor in biology. While it may seem like a strange combination to some, she felt that having her hands in both worlds was important to her own educational and professional future. And she ended up being right.
Post’s journey to speaking at the distinguished CAA Annual Conference began her junior year when she was given the opportunity to do an internship within the art history department to help categorize and organize items found in a newly created Nature Cabinet within Antone Academic Center. Due to a joint collaboration between Dr. Mangieri and Jolicoeur, art students had been collecting natural artifacts for this Nature Cabinet, and because of Post’s biology minor, both professors thought that Post would be the ideal candidate to help with the accessioning of each physical specimen and the development of all metadata for a website. The collection currently consists of about 125 natural objects.
“Having the internship was really awesome,” said Post. “It was … going in, creating an accessioning system for all of the objects in the collection, physically tagging them, doing descriptors, kind of figuring out what each of the specimen were …. That biology background helped.”
During her senior year, Post was then given the opportunity to do a research apprenticeship class where she took her categorization project online to create a digital version of the Nature Cabinet. Post worked closely with Dr. Mangieri and Nicole Marino, digital scholarship and instruction librarian at the McKillop Library. The library was able to offer Post a way to create an online database, and Marino helped coach Post on best practices for building a digital collection.
“[This included] uploading all the photography of every object, kind of fitting in more descriptors for each of the objects, just kind of making sure it was … nice and clean-cut to be able to put online,” Post described. “I definitely learned a lot.”
The two-year project for Post culminated in the presentation surrounding her efforts in February at the CAA Annual Conference, where Dr. Mangieri and Jolicoeur talked about the educational aspects of undertaking such a project and how Post had been vital to the success of the Nature Cabinet. Post spoke and presented a paper of her experience during the session.
“[When] Ernie and I … think about the curriculum, we really want to make transformative learning experiences for our students,” described Dr. Mangieri. “Art History is a not field that is solely abstract or theoretical, but it also has these so-called ‘practical’ applications …. We were thrilled that we were able to involve Caylee in this project and have her present with us.”
Dr. Mangieri, Jolicoeur and Marino also presented a professional development workshop called “Creating Digital Humanities Projects in Art and Art History” to help fellow teaching professionals learn how to create digital projects and learning experiences like Post’s for their own students. The workshop was packed, leaving only standing room for attendees. Fellow conference-goers were extremely interested in the ideas presented by Salve Regina, and all three presenters agree that it was clear Salve Regina is an innovative leader in the field of visual studies, interdisciplinary collaborations and student-centered educational experiences.
As for Post, she has fallen in love with art history, and she has already been accepted to the University of Denver to begin a master degree in arts and culture management in fall 2020. She is hoping to someday work on the marketing side of a museum or art company, but she is also glad for the experience of handling a physical collection while being at Salve Regina, which will help her stand out in her profession.
“It was nice that everything kind of came full circle. I mean, working with both the biology and an art aspect … was just kind of a perfect way to end my experience here,” said Post. “These are new skills that I can apply going into grad school or going into a job …. So definitely feel really beneficial that I was fortunate enough to have that as an undergraduate student.”
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