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Published May 01, 2019
Kayle Avery, University of Wyoming Art Museum employee and alumnus of UW’s Department of History, has been admitted into the Winterthur Program for American Material Culture at the University of Delaware.
The program’s main focus of study is anything and everything related to American material culture of the past, from imports to decorative arts, paintings to prints, saddles to chairs. Its goal is to prepare professionals for work analyzing and interpreting objects.
“The Winterthur is the premier graduate training program in American material culture studies in the country. It’s extraordinarily competitive,” says Isadora Helfgott, head of UW’s Department of History.
Avery, currently acting as assistant curator at the UW Art Museum, has benefited immensely from the opportunities provided to students for firsthand experience in museum studies at UW.
“I don’t think I would be able to have done any of this if it weren’t for the amazing resources that we have on campus,” says Avery, who grew up in Laramie. “I’ve had three amazing mentors throughout my time here: Laura Vietti, Isadora Helfgott and Nicole Crawford.”
After getting his start as a work-study under Vietti, UW Geological Museum and collections manager, Avery was inspired to start focusing on museum studies. As he continued, Helfgott introduced the Winterthur program to Avery and encouraged him to apply, and Crawford mentored Avery at the Art Museum, where she is the chief curator.
Avery says he is excited to experience the interesting and challenging program -- and to gain the skills to look at almost any object and be able to identify what it is made from, what period it came from and how it got here. The Winterthur program also has one of five graduate art conservation programs in North America, which involves heavy-duty chemistry work and art history, which Avery also is excited to learn about.
“I’ve gotten all of the practical experience I could imagine,” Avery says. “That’s why this program really appealed to me -- because it was stuff that I couldn’t necessarily train myself to do. I’ve trained myself and had mentors, but this is a field wherein I’ll need deep, academic-level research and instruction.”
Avery is the second graduate of UW’s history department to be admitted to the Winterthur program in the last two years. RJ Lara, a 2017 UW history graduate, is completing his final year in the program.
“Having students admitted to a program like the Winterthur really shows that they are able to think quickly about how what they have learned applies outside the classroom,” Helfgott says. “It is a testament to the breadth of what’s possible with a history degree -- and, in particular, the way our program trains students to think critically and to apply what they’ve learned in classes to the project of presenting history in a larger context.”