Eleanor Lieberman '19
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Employer: Harvard Art Museums
Eleanor Lieberman is the Student Assistant for the Division of Academic and Public Programming at the Harvard Art Museums, a position she has held since last fall. Her work is rewarding and varied, “[My work] varies semester to semester and day to day,” she said, “Often I’ll have meetings or assignments that take me all over the museum.”
Eleanor spends a lot of time “brainstorming what students will be most excited about” in the Museums, thinking about how best to advertise to students so that they visit the exhibits. “We want people to come and we want people to feel welcome. We feel passionate about museums, but learning how to navigate it when other people aren’t,” is part of her job, she says.
One project she’s been a key part of is the creation of stickers for students and visitors as they visit the museum’s Forbes Pigment Collection, which contains over 2,500 pigment samples collected over the course of more than a century. Visiting the Forbes Collection for the first time is “hands down” the most impactful memory of her time at the Museum, she said, “[It] was amazing; it’s the most heavy security area of the museum...and I was looking at these vials that were 100 years old.”
She still gets to visit the vials often. Eleanor examines and picks out, in groups of four, pigments that will go together nicely on a sticker pack, considering not only how they complement one another as colors, but as pieces of history. Today, these sticker packs can be seen on students’ laptops, water bottles, and phone cases all over campus.
Another highlight of her job was an archival research project she conducted last year on the Naumburg Room, a “two-story Jacobean-style hall” located within the Museums that was given by donors in the 1920s.
"We didn’t know why [the donors] gave this to Harvard, so I was trying to figure it out...It seems like the best answer that we have is that they wanted to give the museum room for students. I was able to find the nephew who orchestrated the whole thing, and who was friends with the director of the museum,” Eleanor said.
Her research culminated in a presentation to more than 20 art history professionals who had been in the industry for decades, an experience she described as especially memorable.
Eleanor was drawn to her job as a Student Assistant because of her work at Harvard Art Museums as a volunteer on the student advisory board, a role she began as a sophomore and still occupies.
Aside from getting to work with art, an experience she values in itself, Eleanor has also grown as an independent worker. When she first began, her work was based on direct orders from supervisors; now, she can plan her own work, and engage in months-long projects. The job has also offered a way to recharge from the academic work she engages in as an undergraduate.
"I really appreciate having a different type of work--the work we do as students is intellectually stimulating, but can be draining; so it’s nice to have something kind of physical to work on...It’s also nice to see a product to my work, that’s not just a paper to my professor. I see strangers [that] have these stickers on their laptop, and it’s really cool,” she said.
Eleanor’s time at Harvard Art Museums, as an employee and student advisor has been a gratifying experience, as a student, professional, and art-lover, and she’s excited to remain in the art community after college, wherever that position may be.