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Days at the Museum

Date: August 03, 2017
Through the Starr Center’s Explore America summer internship program, Patrick Jackson ’19 is working at the National American History Museum in the Photographic History Collection in Washington, D.C.

His photographs center on famous New Yorkers, circa the late 1800s —Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, Walt Whitman — but little is known about the man behind the camera.

“We don’t know much about George C. Cox himself, which is highly unusual considering the caliber of people he photographed,” says Patrick Jackson, a rising junior majoring in history.

Patrick Jackson ’19 examines a box of photographs taken by George C. Cox.Patrick Jackson ’19 examines a box of photographs taken by George C. Cox.

For nine weeks, Jackson is the one uncovering more about Cox. He’ll leave the program at the end of the summer having completed a short biography about him.

For the history major, this internship proved to be a crash course in photographic history.

“What mostly interested me in the photographic history collection was the Cox collection itself. I’m very interested in the time period and the setting,” he says. “But it’s also really cool to uncover this aspect of history I’ve never really thought about before.”

There’s a lot of cataloging and scanning to be done, including the massive Cox collection, which is just short of 2,000 photos. Jackson completed inventorying it in three days. He was even able to identify a self-portrait of Cox, previously unknown to be included in the collection.

“I wanted experience in curatorial museum work,” Jackson says. “This was not only a good opportunity for me, but also gives me very practical experience.”

As a stepping stone, Jackson previously worked with the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience on the traveling Smithsonian exhibit, The Way We Worked, last semester.

“Going from the Museums on Main Street program to this internship was like going into an advanced version,” he says. “The Smithsonian program in Chestertown did a really good job of giving me the basics of museum work.”

This current program is “independent-minded,” says Jackson.

“I can basically try different things,” he says. “I like that freedom — exploring aspects of my research and job that I probably wouldn’t have been able to in a stricter environment.”

Last modified on Aug. 15th, 2017 at 2:43pm by Jean Wortman.