Entrance of the Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney

Art Curating internship experience: Chau Chak Wing Museum

9 November 2023
Gaining new skills and industry insights at the University museum
While interning at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, Art Curating student Ksenia Radchenko examined the artistic evolution in ancient coins and refined her podcasting skills.

Internships in the Art Curating postgraduate program serve as formative work-integrated learning experiences, designed to accelerate the career development of its students. Before graduating, Art Curating student Ksenia Radchenko undertook her work placement at the Chau Chak Wing Museum to gain industry insights and develop new practical skills.

The University's novel museum brings together three renowned collections: the Macleay Collection, the Nicholson Collection, and the University Art Collection. This consolidation allows for a specialised approach to managing the artefacts, providing students in Art Curating and Museum and Heritage Studies valuable opportunities to acquire in-depth industry knowledge during internships at the museum.

Ksenia’s main project involved the examination and registration of the electrotypes of Greek and Roman coins, working closely with the Nicholson Collection’s assistant curator, Candace Richards. She also recorded an episode of the museum’s podcast to discuss the process. 

In 1945, the University museum acquired a remarkable assemblage of 800 electrotypes, or exact replicas, of ancient Greek and Roman coins from the British Museum. However, this collection remained unregistered and was stored with mismatched catalogue plates. Recognising the importance of this collection, the Nicholson Collection’s curatorial and collection management team identified the need to document the collection. Ksenia assisted in registering the collection in the museum’s database. Upon close examination, Ksenia was fascinated by the coins as they reflected artistic evolution in miniature form.

It was truly captivating to observe the development of imagery, from simple incuse squares on the reverse side to intricate and meticulously detailed designs. The grace and beauty of the standing and sitting Gods depicted on the coins were particularly striking.
Ksenia Radchenko, Master of Art Curating graduate

Her supervisor paired Ksenia with fellow intern Emilia, so that they could navigate the database registration process in a supportive peer-mentoring environment together. Ksenia cross-referenced the numerical designations assigned to each electrotype with the 1890s catalogue authored by Barclay Head, a renowned numismatic scholar from the British Museum. This required inputting the original catalogue’s descriptions, including the production date of the original coin, geographical area, obverse and reverse descriptions, and other relevant data. As Barclay Head’s catalogue lacked visual depictions, Ksenia relied on verbal descriptions while meticulously examining each coin.

Working with ancient coins entails delving into the layers of descriptive data within the realm of numismatics, along with the cultural and linguistic differences and challenges that accompany it.
Ksenia Radchenko

Working on the museum’s podcast

Ksenia also joined the Museum’s Object Matters podcast, hosted by the head of the museum’s education department, Craig Barker, in an episode focussing on ancient coins. By recording the podcast, Ksenia developed her skills in research, scriptwriting, and public speaking. Through this dynamic and accessible format, Ksenia presented her internship experience while engaging with audiences beyond the physical confines of the museum space.

My experience working with the collection was truly eye-opening. It helped me acquire invaluable knowledge of the registration processes and policies of the museum databases, which is a highly valuable skill for my work now.
Ksenia Radchenko

By the end of her internship, Ksenia successfully registered about 250 electrotypes of coins into the Chau Chak Wing Museum’s collection management system. 

Ksenia recently graduated from the University of Sydney with a Master of Art Curating. She currently holds the role of Auction Coordinator at Cooee Art Leven. Simultaneously, Ksenia is pursuing her academic interests within the discipline of Art History as a casual academic. Ksenia’s passions encompass history, art, and the captivating realm of Australian wildlife.

This news article has been adapted from a story originally written by Ksenia Radchenko for the ACE Magazine published by the School of Art, Communication and English