Museum and Memory: Part one

El Greco, The Repentant St. Peter, 1600-1605 or later. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection

This is the first installment of our Museum and Memory series for International Museum Day.

My previous job was doing IT Support for a pharmaceutical testing company. They would run clinical trials on rats, monkeys, dogs, etc. It was standard procedure to “garb up” before going into the lab rooms to retrieve PCs and equipment covered in . . . organic material. Eventually (and thankfully), the contract expired and I was let go. My wife told me straight up, “Now is the time to decide what you really want to do! Most people don’t have that luxury!” Within five minutes, I told her, “I want to work in a museum.”

I will always remember the St. Peter by El Greco because I saw it for the first time waiting for my interview here at the Phillips. I kept thinking, “Please, please, please let me work here!” I could not have dreamed of a more perfect fit for an occupation, since my degree was from the University of Maryland College Park in Art Studio.

Last August, while in Spain with my family, we planned a day trip to Toledo, probably about 40 minutes from Madrid. After walking around the city for a bit, we stopped into the House of El Greco (it’s air conditioned), and I was pleasantly stunned to see a second version of The Repentant St. Peter that we have right here at the Phillips! Immediately I exclaimed to my family, “We have THIS painting in our museum!!” I will admit, our setting in D.C. is a bit more inviting, but the air conditioning was very welcome.

Sandy Lee, IT Support Specialist

May 18 is International Museum Day

Irene Rice Pereira, Transversion, 1946. Ceramic fluid and porcelain cement on corrugated glass on panel of oil on hardboard, 13 1/2 x 15 3/4 in. Acquired 1949.

May 18, 2011, is International Museum Day and this year’s theme is Museums and Memory:

“Museums preserve memories and tell stories. They have in their collections numerous objects that are fundamental to the memory of the communities we live in. These objects are the expression of our natural and cultural heritage. Many of them are fragile, some endangered, and they all need special care and conservation. International Museum Day 2011 will be an opportunity to discover and rediscover your individual and collective memory.”

Museums are evocative places. We visit them on special occasions, or we visit so regularly they feel like home. There are big museums that seem to capture the entirety of human creation and existence, placing us in a spectrum of life. There are small museums that tell intimate stories seemingly just to us. Looking at art can feel like being sent in a time machine back to the first time we saw or understood a particular piece. Art can depict a place we’ve been or evidence of distant ancestors.  This week, some of our staff members will present their museum memories. Read part one and part two here. Part three will be published Thursday, Part four on Friday.

Tell us your museum memories.

The Phillips will participate in International Museum Day with free admission on May 18th.