Americana Decorative Art Internship - Holy Cross Student Summer Series

Grace Morrissey '22

Grace Morrisey '22 shares her intern experience at Sotheby's in New York

Since June, Grace Morrissey '22, a visual art history major and education minor, has been working as an intern in the Americana Department at Sotheby's in New York. The Americana team specializes in American furniture, decorative arts and folk art from the 1640-1900. Read more about her summer internship:

What She's Working On

As the Americana intern, I help the team with a variety of projects, from researching item lots and object provenance to organizing the department's records. Most of my time is spent in the Sotheby's New York office on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. When I’m in New York, I prepare the binders for our property pick-ups, organize object provenance and assist with instructions for photographing lots on consignment. However, I am also on the road traveling with the team quite frequently for property pick-ups and tagging.

Recently, I’ve traveled with the team to assist with tagging two of the major collections for the upcoming January 2022 sale. Tagging is the process by which items are identified for sale by Sotheby's and then physically marked with a tag, so that the shipping company can collect them for transportation back to Sotheby's or the Sotheby's warehouse. In essence, it's a big game of "I Spy." We locate the objects on site that we'll be selling and then match them with their correct identification.

Lessons Learned

This is a once–in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain firsthand experience with world-class Americana collections, while also being exposed to one of the most important steps of the auction process. I've been able to see all kinds of objects — furniture, candlesticks, andirons, baskets, baby cradles, you name it — most of them dating from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. I've learned so much about the world class client management, inventory processing and property handling that takes place at Sotheby’s!

Making a Difference

Decorative arts — like the Americana furniture and objects that I'm learning about during this internship — often do not get the same exposure or recognition that other traditional fine arts genres do, even though we interact with these objects more on a daily basis. Everyone reaches into their dresser to get socks, but only a handful of people wake up and see an "Old Master" painting or a Jeff Koons sculpture! Decorative arts objects have amazing histories that need to be shared, and in my position this summer, I'll be able to help showcase the craftsmanship, attention to detail and lived histories seen in early American decorative arts.

This profile appears as part of the Holy Cross Student Summer series