Students curate gallery at Oak Hill Museum

Kendall Aronson, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

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Princess Eugenia Ruspoli donated many of her paintings and furniture to her sister, Martha Berry, so that Berry students could learn more about art and culture.

Senior Ellen Summerlin and junior Emily Dover have curated a temporary exhibit on display in the Oak Hill Museum.

The exhibit focuses on the art that Martha Berry’s older sister, Princess Eugenia Ruspoli, donated to Berry after the start of World War II when she left Italy and returned to America following her husband’s death. Many of the pieces are replicas of famous paintings from various art periods. She bought the pieces to furnish her castle with after she married Prince Enrico Ruspoli and moved to Italy. 

“At the time it was very popular to buy copies of famous art to furnish your home with, and so she had all of those, but then her husband died,” Summerlin said. “She moved to New York to an apartment, but all of her stuff couldn’t fit in her apartment, so she ended up sending it to her sister, Martha Berry.”

Both Summerlin, a studio art and psychology double major, and Dover, a studio art and art history double major, have been working in the Museum since they were freshmen. They were approached by the curator of the museum, Rachel McLucas, to put together an exhibit for the space as they were working there over the summer. Summerlin and Dover are both art majors, and they were able to bring that expertise into their work on the exhibit. 

“Ellen Summerlin and Emily Dover worked tirelessly over the summer on the exhibition, using skills they learned here at the museum and bringing in knowledge from their respective art majors,” McLucas said. 

Summerlin said that she and Dover had always expressed a lot of interest in the art and how it was handled because of their background as art majors. Summerlin said that this was one of the reasons why they were chosen to be in charge of the exhibit. 

Ruspoli donated her art so that Martha Berry’s students could experience these pieces of art while at school, since many would never be able to see the real pieces they are based on. She also wanted the students to experience some of the emotions she had when first purchasing the pieces. 

“Eugenia meant for these pieces of art to be viewed by the students,” Dover said. “She gave these pieces because she wanted to show these students something they’d never seen before.” 

Dover and Summerlin spent a month during the summer designing the exhibit and putting it together. They researched all of the artwork and designed the exhibit based off the different periods of time that the art was collected from. The exhibit goes through the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods as a grand tour. 

“We wanted to break down her exhibit in a different way and also make it into more of a learning exhibit,” Dover said. 

Summerlin and Dover spent a lot of time deciding which pieces from her collection should go into the exhibit. They collected the art pieces from their own storage as well as the Alumni Center. They also hung all of the pieces in the exhibit and determined their lighting, labels and location.

“I learned there’s so much that goes into planning a show like this,” Dover said. “Since Ellen and I had a story that we were trying to present with the art periods, we had to think about what pieces best fit those periods, the story and what fit visually together.”

Summerlin and Dover have also begun working on panels that will explain the exhibit in more detail. These panels will be finished in a few weeks. 

“Our curator really wanted to see what kind of show we could put together,” Dover said. “I think she was happy with the results.”

Dover made a 3D model of the gallery over the summer so that they could figure out the layout of the space. They printed out pictures of the paintings and arranged them in the model so they could figure out the spacing that way. 

“One of my dreams is to be a curator at a different museum,” Dover said. “To be able to experience how to put together a show is going to be great.”

Dover said that many students will not have co-curated a museum exhibit during their time in college. She is excited because it is extremely good experience for that job market. 

The exhibit will be open until February for the public to view.

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