Campus Creatives Museum Events Uncategorized

Darkroom Photography Workshop

By Sydney Bernal

It isn’t often that I ventured into Devlin, and even rarer that I find myself in the basement. However, if you plan on entering Boston College’s darkroom- that’s exactly where you will end up. With the makeshift negatives created in advance from digital files, we were introduced to the process of developing photos and set out to develop our own.


We entered the dark room through a chamber designed to keep the light out, and once in the room with the exception of the special lights that blanketed the room in an orange and red glow, we were in darkness. Each of us got set up at our own station, stationed between two small walls, as to not let our light bleed onto the paper of anyone else. Then, we got to work, mere seconds of light, 30 seconds in the first solution, agitate, a minute in the next, agitate, three in the last, agitate, then rinse. Now, I know magic isn’t real. But, watching my pictures appear on paper after being placed in what looks like water, after seconds of being exposed to light – feels pretty close.


It was inspiring to see the vast and varied creativity that exist within Boston College students, from the pictures of dogs, family members, places, stuffed animals, adventures, to the creative liberties that were taken in the creative process. People were creating as well as reproducing.


It felt both very strange and very romantic to develop photos by hand. I felt instantly like I had entered another world. A world that exists in movies, an analog world. A more careful, precarious world. Unlike, with digital. There was no undo. You can’t be sure of quality until after the fact, and it almost feels more special because of it.

Campus Creatives Uncategorized

Student Submission: Photographs from Ralph Stover and Reid State Parks

A collection of photographs from Reid State Park on Georgetown Island, Sagadahoc County, Maine and Ralph Stover State Park in Plumstead and Tinicum Townships, Bucks County, Pennsylvania taken by Boston College sophomore Hannah Petty.  

This  is a submission by a Boston College student.  The Terrace accepts submissions by all faculty, staff, and students on any art- or museum-related topic.  Submissions can be directed to  

By Hannah Petty
English and Political Science major, class of 2020

Campus Creatives Uncategorized

Student Submission: “The Story of Girolamo Romanino’s The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine”

This paper is a submission by a Boston College student. The Terrace accepts submissions by all faculty, staff, and students on any art- or museum-related topic. Submissions can be directed to

Fig. 1. Girolamo Romanino, The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine, c. 1535, oil on canvas, 60.25 x 81.75 in. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN. Image courtesy ARTstor.

In the third century CE, St. Catherine of Alexandria pledged herself to Christ in a divine marriage. Over a millennium later, Girolamo Romanino captured this moment in his painting The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine. In this iconographic analysis of Romanino’s sixteenth-century painting, Boston College sophomore Abigail Dagher analyzes the artist’s reinterpretation of the St. Catherine myth in the context of the art and religion of Renaissance Italy.  

By Abigail Dagher
English major, Islamic Studies & Civilizations minor, class of 2020

The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine by Girolamo Romanino, or Il Romanino (Fig. 1), tells the story of the vision of St. Catherine—a tale in which St. Catherine envisions Christ bestowing a ring upon her finger, symbolizing their eternal and divine marriage. We now know that St. Catherine was martyred for her refusal to marry the pagan Emperor Maxentius due to her belief that she had already been everlastingly betrothed to Christ. German-American author Paul Carus tells the story in his monthly magazine, The Open Court­:

Once, when St. Catharine was praying fervently in her chamber, Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, appeared before her, clad in fine apparel and accompanied by a great throng of angels and saints. As testimony that he accepted St. Catharine for his bride he placed a real ring upon her finger and promised to perform great things for her if she would remain faithful in her love, and when our Lord Jesus Christ had disappeared she knew at once that vision was to be understood in a spiritual sense. She was completely converted to a great divine love and reverent tenderness toward Jesus Christ, her spouse.1

This oil on canvas piece measures 60.25 x 81.75 inches. The painting itself is quite dark except for the vibrant clothing on the foreground characters, who look as if they are living in Renaissance Italy. The Virgin Mary is wearing a bright white silk cloak and turban that reflect the light and symbolize her purity. There is also a halo, that looks more like a luminary spectacle above her head to further accentuate her divinity and connection to light and goodness. St. Catherine is kneeling with her back towards us, giving her full attention to Christ and his gift of a ring. She has taken off her crown and put her sword down in her conversion to this greater love and is standing by a broken wheel similar to the one she was condemned to death on. The saint is wearing a golden and green dress that shines in the light. Gold is a color of power, wealth, and divinity. Green is a color of fertility and nature. The color choices are paralleled with the divine story that is unfolding in the natural setting.  

The legend of St. Catherine’s vision comes from the east, the same region as the Song of Solomon that relishes in earthly delights and love. Our eyes are drawn to the highlighted hues and the piece is asking us to recognize the symbolism revolving around the characters in the painting in order to imagine the allegory within. We are also introduced to new characters that are additions to the original story: an ominous man in the shadows on the left, a woman in red carrying a flag in the upper-right, and another woman to the far right in a nun’s habit.  It is unclear who these characters are, but one can assume that the woman in red is a saint.

Romanino uses chiaroscuro to separate the people in the painting from the faded, darker background setting, which gives us some atmospheric perspective. Both the acute attention to details in the clothing and the atmospheric perspective can be attributed to the influence of two Venetian painters: Giorgione and Titian. Romanino also uses a head count method for proportions in his painting: the baby Jesus figure is about three head counts whereas the adult figures are about seven. The proportions give us a sense of realism that is only heightened by Romanino’s attention to detail in the construction of facial features, figures’ poses, and items of clothing. The baby figure looks quite like a real baby with indentations in his flesh-like baby fat. His head is a bit large for his body, which is a characteristic often found in real infants. The facial figures on the other characters are not idealized; these aren’t perfect figures, rather they are closer to reality.

This sense of realism is amplified by the detailed domestic setting in the background. We are in a specific place. This specific place is actually the hometown of Girolamo Romanino. The castle in the background is his birthplace Brescia, a town in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. The High Renaissance painter lived from ca. 1484 to ca. 1562.2 Romanino, who lived in Venice in his twenties and then in Brescia thereafter, flourished as an artist in a period of observing the natural world and creating a sense of realism in art. The painter’s style was very representative of the High Renaissance environment around him. His works were influenced by Venetian art, evident in his use of rich colors and large forms, but his attention to detail (as seen in the iridescence and pattern-work of the clothing in the piece) is a precursor to baroque styles.

Il Romanino followed the styles of Giorgione and Titian, two Venetian Renaissance painters extant around the same time. Giorgione and Titian switched the “color vs. line” technique often found in Central Italian painting, a process that begins with forming lines that later become colored in. The Venetians went backwards: the new Northern Renaissance Italian style became more focused on color rather than line. Paintings rarely had hard outlines and instead used color and light to generate form. Romanino utilized the sfumato technique to first and foremost create a hazy background but also render the relatively softer figures in the foreground. Sfumato allows colors to gradually come together, resulting in those softened, hazy outlines that are characteristic of northern High Renaissance art. Both the sfumato technique and the atmospheric perspective in The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine are quite similar to that in Giorgione’s The Tempest, ca. 1510 (Fig. 2). In both of the paintings, characters are in the foreground, a bridge is in the mid-ground, and a building paired with an omniscient storm darkly looms in the slightly faded background.

Fig. 2. Giorgione, The Tempest. ca. 1510, oil on canvas, 33 x 29 in. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. Image courtesy ARTstor.

In addition to Giorgione and Titian, German artist Albrecht Dürer was a huge influence to Romanino.3 Dürer was also a High Renaissance painter who focused on naturalism and humanism in his pieces. Although Romanino’s St. Catherine does not include absolutely realistic representations of the human form or facial features, it does incorporate acute attention to detail in articles of clothing and extraordinary attention to the reflection of light in certain places—stylistic choices found in a variety of Dürer’s works.

So, who are those unideal figures accompanying St. Catherine, Mary, and Christ? Art historians now know that the piece was commissioned to commemorate the Ursuline order in Brescia founded by St. Angela Merici on November 25, 1535, the feast day of St. Catherine. The Ursulines created a Roman Catholic religious order and the first institute dedicated to education for females under St. Ursula, who was the patron saint of education and a fourth-century martyr.4 The woman in the upper-right corner of the painting is carrying the white and red flag as a tribute to St. Ursula. Il Romanino’s inclusion of the tribute displays his own personal support to the teachings of the order that prides itself on, “the ability of the creative arts to humanize life.”5 It is fitting that the image St. Catherine, the patron saint of teaching, is paired with the tribute to the Ursuline Order in Romanino’s piece. The woman in the nun’s habit is thought to be Angela Merici, based on the likeness of an earlier portrait, and the mysterious man on the left is thought to be St. Lawrence, the patron saint of church officials.

Saint Angela Merici always thought of her followers, or daughters, as spouses of Christ and repeatedly referred to them as “spouses of the Most High” in her writings.6 Il Romanino created a work of art that was, and still is, representative of all of the elements most important to the Ursuline order. Followers of the order are eternally devoted to their quest of finding a relationship with God and Saint Catherine was an image of the victory of that search. She is an everlasting representation of the feeling of being one with God. St. Catherine is on her knees and has her back turned to us. She is giving all of her attention to Christ who is at the very center of the piece. Everything revolves around this relationship with God. In this painting Romanino has created an ode to the Ursuline order in a realistic and idealized way. This piece has a sense of pictorial drama and is symbolic of St. Catherine’s divine relationship with God, but due to its naturalistic and lifelike elements it is also telling its audience that anyone can find this everlasting divine bond. These are real people in a real setting telling a symbolic story.


Campus Creatives

Student Submission: A Tale of Two Museums

The Lobkowicz Collections and Museum at the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague. Photo courtesy the author.

No two cultural institutions are ever the same, but there are often many similarities waiting to be found just beneath the surface. In this short essay, one of our student ambassadors has crafted a case study which compares and contrasts The McMullen Museum to The Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.

By Ileana Lobkowicz

My family returned to Prague in the early 1990s to reclaim and restore a vast, centuries-old collection of objects and properties that were confiscated twice in the 20th century—first by the Nazis and later by the Communists. The Lobkowicz Palace Museum opened in 2007, featuring paintings by Canaletto, Pieter Breugel the Elder, and Velázquez; a collection of arms and armor, and ceramics. Also on view are musical instruments and original scores and manuscripts by many of the greatest composers of the 18th-19th centuries, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. A family-narrated audio guide leads visitors through the museum’s 22 galleries and offers a personal perspective into European history. 

The McMullen Museum of Art is the university art museum of Boston College, founded in 1993 under Director and Professor of Art History, Nancy Netzer. Since its founding, it has housed over 60 innovative exhibitions compiled by research teams of scholars and faculty worldwide. The museum recently moved to its newest Brighton Campus location, which opened in September of 2016, dwelling in what was the former residence of Boston’s cardinal archbishops. With the aim of fostering transdisciplinary collaboration, the new space has been brought to life with a number of student events, lectures, and conferences. 

The McMullen and The Lobkowicz Palace Museum are most comparable in their educational initiatives, serving not only as art institutions, but also as cultural centers for learning. The McMullen offers a number of educational opportunities, including weekly public docent tours, workshops, and tailored programs for school groups. To fortify its bond with Boston College, the museum serves as a resource to enhance the undergraduate experience for students and educators—bridging classroom curriculums with art. One of the McMullen’s most recent initiatives is the Student Ambassador Program, which employs undergraduate students to engage with and promote the museum’s efforts, from using technology to enhance visitor engagement to conducting research on the permanent exhibition. 

In addition to providing visitors with a free audio guide to learn about the history of the Collections, the Lobkowicz Palace Museum also offers specialized tours and programming for student groups to complement their areas of study. One such program is the annual Curator Challenge, an investigative project wherein students become “curators” tasked with discovering the purpose and provenance of uncatalogued objects from the Collections depository and Music Archive. In keeping with the mission of making the Collections accessible to the general public, the museum also hosts seminars and presentations on a wide range of topics—from music history to art restoration, prompting further discussion and interest for visitors. 

In the dawn of their existence, museums were only used to display art. But today, there is a growing movement to redefine their purpose—as multi-functional venues. Honoring the entire architectural landscape of the gallery spaces in both the McMullen and The Lobkowicz Palace, both museums host a number of events, be it alumni reunions, corporate meetings, receptions, or weddings. 

For example, the McMullen’s most popular student event series, Art After Dark, invites visitors for a night of food, dance performances, live music, crafts, and games—allowing people to interact with and explore the art housed within. The Lobkowicz Palace hosts a daily music concert in its Baroque concert hall, where those attending can take in its 17th-century frescoed ceilings while being musically accompanied by Mozart, Beethoven, and Dvořák

2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Brighton Campus, Boston College.
McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. Photo courtesy Gary Wayne Gilbert.

While many cultural institutions share common goals and practices, there are differences that make each unique. One area where the McMullen and Lobkowicz Palace diverge is the frequency of their exhibitions. The McMullen changes its exhibits on a semester basis, where rotating temporary exhibitions define its curatorial programming. Months or even years of advanced preparation and research go into the installation process, which is just as quickly disassembled to prepare for the next exhibit. As each theme changes, so does everything involved in its assembly: light alterations, repainted walls, new catalogue designs. This quick transformation requires adaptability, attentiveness, and strategic planning in order to stay interesting and relevant as a museum—something the McMullen continues to do with great success. 

The Lobkowicz Palace, on the other hand, houses a permanent exhibition and thus demands a different approach to maintain its public interest. Since the museum remains largely unchanged (save for temporary exhibitions or occasional room expansions) the need to seek tools and creative ideas to enhance it is essential. The focus, then, is placed on developing new programming and opportunities around the exhibition to stay current, rather than physically changing the exhibition itself. The Lobkowicz Library and Archive serves as an endless well of knowledge and history, housing materials that haven’t been touched in decades or even hundreds of years—a catalyst for ongoing public enjoyment and scholarly enrichment. 

Both museums seem to share a mutual commitment to preserve the interest in and importance of their respective collections. Efforts are focused on cultivating sustainable educational programming and scholarly research. Both institutions strive to be ever evolving, finding ways to engage audiences both young and old. Creating such immersive environments allows people to discover the inextricable link between history, art, and humanity. 

My involvement at both the McMullen and the Lobkowicz Palace has provided equally enriching experiences—ones that underscore the creativity, dynamism, and vision that seems to form the core of a successful museum. 

Campus Creatives

Student Submission: Curating for the Digital Age

Instead of fighting the omnipresence of the smartphone, some institutions (including the Met, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, among others) are embracing social applications to convey the message that the museum can be highly compatible with the modern digital age.

By Faye Hubregsen

Around the world, museums have begun to harness social media to increase engagement and create new interactive experiences for visitors. The increasing importance of digital strategy represents a shift in the ways museums serve as trusted cultural networks, disseminate knowledge to the public, and perceive their role as stewards of educational content. This movement towards recontexualizing the museum experience through blogs, vlogs, virtual reality, and social networking provides an outlet for museums to engage people with their collections and ideally encourage a bilateral dialogue in which people can react in real-time and share information easily. As a consequence, museums directors and curators are forced to consider how technology changes the way people engage with exhibits. Instead of fighting the omnipresence of the smartphone, some institutions (including the Met, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, among others) are embracing social applications to convey the message that the museum can be highly compatible with the modern digital age.


Museums offer unique exposure to a diverse set of collections and research, and social media has the power to capture content and render it more accessible. At the McMullen Museum, there is an entire committee dedicated to social media and the team has adopted not one, not two, but five social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Blog) to serve as both exploratory resources and as a vehicle for spreading the word about events, programming, and exhibition highlights. Many museums (including the LA County Museum of Art, the Met, and the MFA Boston) find that Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are the primary ways to reach younger demographics particularly since 46.8% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 and 24 as of last December.

Skeptics could make the argument that to unite an object from antiquity that has stood the test of time with a photo that vanishes in less than 10 seconds seems contradictory, but this is the approach that several museums are taking. Los Angeles County Museum of Art created a Snapchat account that now has 160,000 followers and features images with humorous captions:


Some Snapchat followers have gone as far as to praise LACMA via Twitter:


Another recent Snapchat proselyte, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, posts a weekly emoji art history lesson:


As was the case with BC’s McMullen Museum last semester for the Medieval Manuscript exhibition, the Instagram profile was designed to communicate parts of the show that were not immediately discernible to the general public. Below is a screenshot of the winning word-bubble submission contest:


This particular example served as a tool to help invite and engage with difficult-to-reach audiences and promote the image of the museum as an inclusive, inviting space. What’s more, social media allows museums to showcase stories of the behind the scenes curation and offer glimpses into exhibition development.



So how can museums take steps to increase their reach?

Track the user – Measure the impact

In 2009, the Cleveland Museum of Art decided to use social media as a way to track and analyze visitors’ paths through its gallery. This led to the discovery that, rather than following the curators’ prescribed trajectory through the collection, visitors navigated the gallery randomly hopping from one piece to another, depending on what interested them. Going forward, incorporating GPS technology that would allow visitors to plot their journey through galleries–similar to how people plan their commute on Google Maps—could mark the end of getting lost in the Greco-Roman wing or flipping through the brochure in search of a particular Picasso portrait.

Generate Interactive Opportunities

At the National Gallery of Denmark (also known as the Statens Museum for Kunst –SMK), visitors were invited on “Instawalks” — small group gatherings at the museum before opening hours where people could capture and share photos tagged with #emptysmk.

The result provided photos that exposed different visual perspectives inside the museum:

Another step some museums have taken are selfie installations where visitors are encouraged to take selfies with the works of art. In 2013, the Pompidou in Paris granted guests to take photos of themselves seated on the lip-shaped sofa at the center of Salvador Dali’s re-creation of Mae West’s face.

Revise & Adapt the SM Game-Plan

The primary factor that sets well-adapted museums apart is their conscious effort to reflect on their experiences, and continuously acclimatize their social media strategy with the needs of visitors and the museum. Actions taken by the museums described above may not be universally effective across all institutions, but they provide an example for museums looking to increase reach and engagement.

Where are the implications for social media in museums going forward?

Endorsing the use of smartphones could mean that more art galleries will design and curate Instagram-friendly exhibitions. According to Dana Miller, the Director of the Whitney’s permanent collection,

“The ways in which people are interacting with works have changed, and so that changes, a little bit, the way we space the works.”

Despite the fact that social media can help advance museums in their efforts to nurture community involvement and public engagement, digital networks can pose various challenges. For example, user-fixation characteristic of the social media world feeds into a “customer is always right” mindset which can be a threat to the authority of scholarly insights in favor of visitor gratification. Due to the fact that social media involves different platforms of communication, this can be a challenge for the established authority of one single museum voice. Therefore, how to monitor, manage, and balance professional insight with public dialogue is an urgent managerial strategy to consider. According to a survey published by Invaluable, more people in the U.S. now discover art via Instagram and Pinterest than they do by actually visiting exhibitions. They found that 84% of Americans visit art galleries or museums less than once a year, and 15% claim they never go. If these cultural venues plan to attract a larger, more widespread audiences, they will need to embrace at least some facets of social media. Given that the social media learning curve operates as a moving target, museums with a reputation for being set in their ways will have to be mindful of the risks that come with delayed adaptation.

So, what do you think? Is social media likely to render brick and mortar venues for art obsolete? Are people going to opt to scroll through the Louvre’s Instagram feed instead of wandering through its galleries? Or could this be the start of an entirely new frontier for the role of museums in cultural exchange?