Faye Cura: A Focused ACC Fellowship
Curator Faye Cura began her ACC Fellowship in the U.S. in April, spending three months in Washington D.C., then three in NYC.
The focus of Faye's grant is two-fold: to observe how libraries, archives, and museums in the U.S. exhibit material culture, and to study curatorial practice as a means of public history.
While by nature of proximity, ACC New York staff is best positioned to provide support to fellows within New York City, ACC is deeply committed to creating programs uniquely tailored to each fellow—regardless of geographic location. This support—be it finding apartments, making travel arrangements, or providing access to our international network of partners and alumni—allows ACC fellows to focus their resources on research, exploration, and artistic creation.
In the case of Ms. Cura, ACC coordinated an internship with the Interpretive Programs Office (IPO) at the Library of Congress. Senior Program Associate Liz Behrend identified this internship as an opportunity well-aligned with Ms. Cura’s work as Associate Manager and Curator of the Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) at the Ayala Museum.
In the Philippines, Ms. Cura researches FHL’s Filipiniana collections and from them, creates physical or digital exhibitions, as well as educational programs. The Filipinas Heritage Library is well-established, housing one of the region’s largest collections of books and other materials on World War II-Pacific Theater. In general, however, Ms. Cura notes that “exhibition making is not yet established as a formal, professional practice of public history in the Philippines. A lot of history museums … tend to install exhibitions as tribute to specific personalities, rather than as contributions to national conversations.”
Faye Cura delivering a lecture on the importance of library exhibitions to diplomats at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, June 2018; ) Faye attending a preliminary meeting on the woman suffrage exhibition, where the curator (right) shows items for possible display, John Adams Building, Library of Congress, May 2018
With the Library of Congress (LoC) serving as home base, Ms. Cura has been able to carefully observe their processes of recording and exhibiting national narratives. Through her internship, she was introduced to the Veteran’s History Project (VHP), a massive archiving project that began in 2000. “The VHP,” she wrote, “relies on donations in building its collection, making it unique from other sections of the LoC (and other collections-oriented institutions). Each ‘collection’ equates to one veteran’s life story, and may comprise of at least 10 photographs, letters, oral interviews in cassette tapes or CDs, and other documents. The VHP office receives up to 500 collections per month.” Ms. Cura further reflected on the word “curation” in the context of the library: “It has to do with how communities care for and interpret collections—as in the case of the American Folk Life Center, which works closely with communities as they assert ownership of and expertise on their respective cultures. Curation also has a lot to do with practical (technological) considerations when putting materials out there for access.”
Ms. Cura has also been part of the team planning the 2019-2020 exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of American women’s suffrage. Preparations for the exhibition have brought Ms. Cura and her colleagues in contact with many institutions throughout the city. This experience has allowed her to explore the history of American suffragists, as well as their relationship to Filipina feminists. She found that two leaders of the suffrage movement, Carrie Chapman Catt and Aletta Jacobs, visited Manila in 1912. “Carrie Chapman Catt was instrumental in organizing the pro-suffrage Society for the Advancement of Women, which later became the Women’s Club of Manila, a group that advocated for the social welfare of women and children. Many members of the Women’s Club of Manila also actively campaigned for the passing of the woman’s suffrage law in 1937.”
Reflecting on the past three months, Ms. Cura wrote: “I have had the chance to observe how the various divisions of the Library work together in producing an exhibition; for example, the Conservation Office determines the technical conditions of display such as how long an item could be exposed to light and the curator and IPO directors work around these restrictions as they create the exhibition. While the library’s artifacts make up a living collection, they have to be treated and used with utmost care and respect. I have to say that the team handling the Woman Suffrage Exhibition is made up of some of the smartest and most professional women I have had the honor of knowing. I learn a lot from them every day.”
We are excited to see what the next three months in New York hold for Faye Cura!
Below: (from top left) One of the rare books being considered for display in the Woman Suffrage exhibition; measuring a 1917 issue of The New York Times, featuring a woman suffrage parade that was participated in by local and foreign women; Faye Cura observing the ingress/installation of the Alexander Hamilton agile exhibition at the Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, May 2018