Learning in Action: Student Interns at the Hill-Stead Museum

This year, three Porter’s students are interning at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington: Caroline Ma ’19 from Unionville, Connecticut; Susan Zheng ’20 from Shenzhen, China; and Noknoi Sophonpanich ’20 from Nonthaburi, Thailand. For all three, it is their first time participating in this program, in which they get to see and participate in the behind-the-scenes workings of the museum.

Zheng, Shuxin
Susan Zheng ’20

Caroline and Susan got involved with this internship because they are also in a Porter’s course titled “AIS (Advanced Interdisciplinary Seminar) Modern and Contemporary Art: Agents of Good,” taught by Dr. Anna Swinbourne.

When Dr. Swinbourne offered this internship at the Hill-Stead to the class, Susan and Caroline jumped on the opportunity. At the Hill-Stead, they help with a variety of tasks, including volunteer research, mailing letters, and even cleaning and preserving the paintings. They are also tasked with doing social media research in order to boost the Instagram following and presence of the museum as well as helping to organize and promote any and all events. Recently, the Hill-Stead held an event where people could bring their dogs to the museum and they got many Porter’s students to volunteer to help out. In many ways, the three girls feel like the liaisons between the Hill-Stead and Porter’s.

Noknoi Sophonpanich ’20

Noknoi became involved in this program because of her own desire to work with Dr. Swinbourne and learn more about art history. She particularly likes that it is learning that is taking place outside of the classroom. She says, “What I’ve been learning there, there’s no teacher that can teach me that, which is valuable to me. The small things like being on time and knowing that people are counting on me to send them an email about certain things… I think that experience is so valuable.”

Ma, Caroline
Caroline Ma ’19

As a senior, Caroline is excited to get to intern at an auction house in New York City in January, as a part of Porter’s InterMission program. She remarks that she doesn’t quite know what she wants to study in college yet, but that her opportunities both at the Hill-Stead and during InterMission this year are a great way to figure out what she wants to do. She knows that she loves art and art history, but is now interested in learning more about the business aspect of the art world.

One thing all three girls agreed on: Anna Swinbourne is an educator of the absolute highest quality. “She’s such an inspiring person,” says Susan. Caroline remembers, “The first class I took with her was sophomore year and before that I thought, ‘Art history? I don’t really know what this is or if it’s going to be interesting or boring’ but the way she talks about a work of art… she’s so passionate, and knows more than any tour guide at a museum would know.” Susan added, “One time we were talking about an artist and [Dr. Swinbourne] was like, ‘Oh yeah I was in her studio recently…'” The girls laughed. Their admiration of and affection for Dr. Swinbourne and her class is palpable. She is certainly a teacher that they will never forget and who has made a lasting impression on their lives.

Anna Swinbourne earned her doctorate from New York University, as a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow of Modern Art, where she specialized in modern and contemporary art and had a minor concentration in the art of antiquity. In 2009, she was recognized by the International Art Critics Association for best historic show for her James Ensor exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

To learn more about the Hill-Stead Museum, please visit www.hillstead.org

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