It’s that time again: time to meet another member of the UMFA’s stellar staff. Today we get to know Adrien Mooney, who works with our Collections department to keep things running smoothly.
5 Questions for Adrien Mooney
What is your role at the UMFA? Describe a typical (or memorable!) day on the job.
I work in the collections department as the registrar and I am basically responsible for maintaining the data about each collection held by the museum. I also coordinate the incoming loans for exhibitions at the UMFA and outgoing loans of our collections to other museums. When an exhibition is about to open, I usually spend my days making phone calls (often all over the country), going around Salt Lake to pick up any artworks by local lenders, and making sure anything not local can get to the UMFA on time for the exhibit. I’ve only been at the UMFA for about 3 months, but in the short time I’ve been here I’ve really been able to start to get to know the collections just by going through their records and making sure the story or each object can be told in the most complete way possible.
What is your favorite work in the collection, and why?
My favorite work in the collection (currently anyway, it has already changed a few times since I’ve been here) is a recent acquisition from salt 7 artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye called Periphery. I don’t know what it is exactly that I like about the painting, but the overall dark and muted colors and the position of the girl in the dress is all very effective. I love that the painting is so simple and really lets the viewer fill in the blanks for what could be happening in the narrative.
What are your favorite parts of this city and this state? When you’re not at the museum, where might we find you?
One of my favorite things about Utah is probably a little cliché: I love the national and state parks in southern Utah. One of my favorite places is actually Goblin Valley State Park – I really enjoy just wandering among all the weird rock formations there. I’m pretty new to Salt Lake City, so I’m just discovering what I like here, but I do really love the Gourmandise bakery (they have amazing pastries and tarts).
What is your favorite way to pass the time—what are your hobbies, your talents, your interests?
I’ve actually been spending most of my time lately working on finishing up my master’s thesis in archaeology down at BYU, so I haven’t had a lot of time for hobbies! Most of my down time lately has been spent at home, marathoning TV series on Netflix with my husband, just as a way to relax. When I do get the opportunity, I really like participating in the archaeological digs that BYU occasionally does throughout the year. I worked on the excavation of the old Provo tabernacle after the fire in 2010, and I’ve enjoyed working on a Fremont site that has been excavated by BYU over the past 5 years down in Goshen, Utah.
You studied Anthropology, and rumor has it you’re currently working on a book about a tribe. Could you tell us about this project? What drew you to this? Does this interest ever come into play during your work in the museum?
My master’s thesis is an extensive summary of both the archaeology (prehistoric people) and the archaeological work (from the 1870s to present) of the area around the eastern shore of Utah Lake in Provo. Most people don’t realize there was a very large community of Fremont people who lived there from about 700-1300 CE, and even fewer people realize that there have been attempts at excavating the mounds and other remains left behind by those people. Pretty much all of the archaeological sites in that area are located on private land and the majority of these have actually been destroyed over the last 150 years with the introduction of modern farming. After I finish my thesis, I plan on coauthoring a volume about the archaeology and archaeological work of the area with another professor at BYU. It’ll be less technical than my master’s thesis and hopefully get people really interested in the archaeology of the area, and hopefully it’ll help to raise awareness about protecting the archaeological resources there, since both archaeology and preservation are significant interests of mine. Although the interest in archaeology itself hasn’t really come into play while I’ve been at the UMFA, I have noticed that there are significant similarities in how I’m doing work here and work on that project – a lot of that project involves going through historic records (including handwritten notes from as far back as the 1940s). It’s really helped me realize that, as I’ve realized here, you can never really have the complete story of something without good, quality documentation.