Report from ISAW's 2022 Exhibition Practicum Student: Priya Barchi

By Lily Wichert

ISAW is pleased to share the following report from our 2022 Exhibition Practicum Student, Priya Barchi:

Throughout the course of this past year, from January to December 2022, I was the Practicum Student in the Exhibitions Department at ISAW. Being a part of this wonderful team for a full year and participating in the organization of this past year’s exhibitions, “Pompeii in Color” and “Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond,” was an extremely rewarding and formative experience! 

Since applying to ISAW, I had been immediately drawn to the Exhibition Practicum. Although I have a strong inclination for research and teaching, I aspire ultimately to work in the museum world after my PhD, hopefully in an environment that will allow me to explore the theme of interconnectedness in the ancient world. After being a docent and giving tours for three years and after taking two classes at ISAW, “Curating the Ancient World” and “Curating Cross-Cultural Exhibitions,” with former curator Clare Fitzgerald, I had grown eager to work more closely with the team and explore newly how the theoretical approaches so carefully discussed can be implemented and approached first-hand. The opportunities to work closely with the ISAW exhibition team – first as a docent, and then as the Practicum Student – have been some of the most exciting aspects of my experience at ISAW.

I had worked in the past in several museum and gallery spaces, but my role had almost always been confined to a specific department. As the Practicum Student I was exposed to all the aspects that lead to the conception and realization of an exhibition and was able to work closely with all the members of the team and familiarize myself with the tasks undertaken by the curators, registrar, publications, and even the financial sector. I got to participate in and witness all the stages of the life of an exhibition, from the early stages of conceiving the driving narrative, through installation as the objects start to liven up the galleries, to then finally seeing the visitors appreciate the product of this long and intricate process, and lastly, the de-install stage, when the objects are removed from the galleries to be returned to their home institutions. One of the things I appreciated most from this experience was the opportunity of working on temporary exhibitions on the interconnected ancient world, while also witnessing the entire life cycle of an exhibition in a fully loan-dependent environment.

During this year, I learned to particularly enjoy the stage of writing wall texts and labels. To see concretized in the galleries all the work that was behind “Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond,” was incredibly exciting. Even more, to see visitors read some of the wall texts I aided in writing and to give tours about objects I had become so familiar with was such a special experience. Working with the whole team and with former curator Clare Fitzgerald was an excellent preparation for the type of curatorial work I would like to do in the future. I want to truly thank every member of the team, as they all so kindly shared their wisdom and always made my input feel very welcomed and valued!