I’m Celeste Brewer, and I love a good story, especially if it happens to be true.
Stories are what drew me to study history and archives. I am fascinated by the layers of narrative and counter-narrative that can be constructed around the narrowest frames of primary evidence, then deconstructed and rebuilt. I love a sweeping historical saga as much as anyone, but I think more than that, I love the strange small anecdotes that get mentioned in footnotes, or not at all. When I get the chance to create the narrative, those are the types of stories I like to tell.
I divided my time in college between classes in early modern British and twentieth century American history, with a senior seminar on nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina thrown in for good measure. These days, I’m equally likely to be seen on the subway reading Blacks in Gold Rush California or The Grand Strategy of Philip II. (Or I might be dozing. Full disclosure.)
I could certainly be accused of dilettantism, but the balance of (relatively) new and old history works for me right now. Sometimes the recent past is just too raw, while other times the distant past is too foreign. If I continue to pursue academic history I suppose I’ll have to choose. However, for now, it makes me a more versatile librarian and archivist-in-training.
Me in professional mode, presenting a poster at the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in August 2015.
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Despite growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania that’s rarely ever included on maps, where there’s nothing to do for miles, and whose residents don’t travel too far from home, stay away for too long, or concern themselves with art or fashion, I firmly believed a move to New York City would change my life for the better. Even before graduating from high school, I recognized my undergraduate education at The Pennsylvania State University was a stepping stone to even higher education, initially believing medical school was the next logical step after college. Like many incoming freshmen, I was under the impression only a curriculum in science could ever result in a successful career. However, everything changed with a single art history elective and a trip to New York City to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since then, more classes in the humanities have followed and have stimulated my thinking and creativity in ways science never could. Half way through my undergraduate education, I decided to change my major from premedicine to art history and even interned as a curatorial assistant for the university’s Palmer Museum of Art where I initially fell in love with working with primary documents and original artwork firsthand.
I moved to New York City soon after graduating from Penn State in order to attend the new MA Fashion Studies program at Parsons The New School for Design. Outside of the classroom I wrote concise, critical reviews on contemporary art exhibitions in and around the city for the blog M Daily, volunteered for Karen Augusta of Augusta Auctions, a rare dealer of historical textiles and antique clothing, as well as interned for the Special Collections and Archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Although I enjoyed learning more about experimental fashion and other instances of how art and fashion intersect, I truly missed learning about fine art and decided to finish my graduate education at Christie’s Education New York. In 2013, after finishing an internship with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of Christie’s Auction House, I graduated with an M.A. in The History of Art and the Art Market from Christie’s and began working as a freelance archival assistant.
My freelance positions made me realize I need to continue to strengthen my research and archival skills if I want to advance in the competitive field of modern and contemporary art and ultimately work for a museum or university collection. I’m excited to be a first-year student of NYU’s Archives and Public History graduate program, as well as a new graduate assistant at Fales Library. For this course I am looking forward to building upon my pre-existing skills, as well as learning more about digital humanities as I research the relocation of the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts to Greenwich Village in the late 1930s. This is certainly an exciting time to research Hofmann since a comprehensive catalogue raisonné on the artist, Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Suzi Villiger, was only recently published in 2014.
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I am a Brooklyn native, a devoted Yankees fan and I REALLY love my puppy! I am a Navy veteran; I was stationed in San Diego and deployed twice, first to South America and then to the Middle East. I obtained my Associate’s in Social Science from San Diego City College before I separated from the military. After my discharge, I moved to Fairfax, Virginia where I completed my undergraduate degree at George Mason University, receiving a Bachelors in History and a minor in Art History. I am in my first year of NYU’s Archives and Public History Graduate Program and I am so excited to learn about the practices, theories and opportunities in Archives.
I have several interests, some stemming from my academic background and others from my cultural background. I am interested in learning about how archives work in a museum, art museums in particular. Because of my Caribbean background, I am also interested in archives projects that are working towards digitizing slave records both in the United States and the Caribbean. I believe that the digitization of these records will help to answer questions that so many people have about their ancestry.
In the “Creating Digital History” class I am hoping to gain skills that will help me to become a contributing member to the field of Archives.
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