I am delighted to share the wonderfully insightful reflection and writing of Isabel (Issy) Steckel (Wesleyan, 2019), this summer’s Social Media intern at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. Issy, a Bay Area native, interested in all things art, Italy, and Jewish studies, dove in, head first to her position as Social Media intern. Her knowledge and expertise only served to garner more publicity for The Magnes, and to bolster our social media presence, tripling our follower count on Instagram. Working hands-on and online with the unique and vast array of ritual objects, photographs, postcards, and manuscripts that are currently on display in I-Tal-Yah: An Island of Divine Dew, Issy crafted creative and professional Instagram posts, taking inspiration from major institution’s social media accounts like The Guggenheim and MoMA in order to insure the highest caliber of quality and professionalism.
In this post, Issy reflects on her experiences this summer at The Magnes, noting the importance of social media, small museum institutional dynamics, and hands on collection experience.
Zoe Lewin | Curatorial Assistant
This past summer, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley, California. As a college student interested in art, history, language, and Jewish studies, I often find myself unsure about exactly how these academic passions might tangibly connect to a career path. At the beginning of this internship, I was simply expecting for an inside peek into what goes on behind the scenes at a museum institution to see if this field was something that engaged me. Yet, my work at The Magnes unveiled even more to me.
With initial guidance from Francesco Spagnolo, The Magnes’ Curator of Collections, I spent the summer leveraging my previous knowledge of Italian language and culture and my excitement to learn more about Jewish culture in Italy to revitalize The Magnes’ Instagram account in anticipation for the Fall exhibition, I-Tal-Yah: An Island of Divine Dew. With amazing support and enthusiasm from Curatorial Assistant, Zoe Lewin, and Undergraduate Researcher, Sarah Klein, I prepared a weekly Instagram post to creatively spotlight one of the stunning artifacts from the collection. The account’s following jumped from fewer than 60 followers to almost 150 in just three months! This active presence on the social media platform enables The Magnes to interact with other institutions and audiences who may not have been familiar with The Magnes’ exhibitions and archives. I specifically noticed that a younger demographic, which is often disconnected from or unaware of The Magnes’ stunning collections, could now access the highlighted objects and artworks through a fun, contemporary, and unassuming platform.
My favorite aspect about my work at The Magnes was that I felt welcomed into the museum’s intellectual community. I was able to really pioneer my own personal project. I could be creative and take risks in how I would present the weekly Instagram posts. Plus, I felt confident initiating structured meetings with Zoe and Sarah, who were both always available to answer questions, edit draft posts, or provide me with access to photograph the artifacts. While allowing me to engage with the larger Instagram network and hopefully make a difference in how young people can approach The Magnes’ many gems, the trust given to me to take the reins of my own intellectual and creative venture made this internship meaningful and inspiring.
The Magnes is an institution that encourages individuals to get involved with their own significant project, just like I did with the Instagram proposal and someone else could continue next summer. Anyone who is interested in museum studies, art, Jewish studies, marketing/social media networking, libraries and archives (and much more!) can find a genuine place at The Magnes in a variety of ways. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Magnes at firstname.lastname@example.org — they are excited to support your future participation. And, last but not least, don’t forget to follow The Magnes on Instagram!