An Afternoon with Ancient Art: Interviewing Curator Juliet Istrabadi

77.33Black Figure Water Jar
On shoulder: Dionysos and satyrs
On body: Herakles wrestling with Triton
Attributed to the Rycroft Painter
Greek, Attic, ca. 510 B.C.
Clay, glaze, added red
Gift of Thomas T. Soiley. 77.33
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When I sat down with Juliet Istrabadi, I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’ve never interviewed a curator before. What I received was an energetic and eager response to all my inquiries. She clearly has a passion for her work and I learned a lot while conversing with her.

Juliet actually began as a student here at IU Bloomington and worked as a graduate assistant at the IU Art Museum. This was how she first became familiar and connected with the museum’s collection. Istrabadi has always had a love of art and is an artist herself. She enjoys, “What [art] shows about us and our history,” and believes, “That talking and thinking about art is just as creative as making it.” This belief along with the experiences she had working at the museum led her to the career of being a curator.

In her four years here, she has been the curator of two exhibitions and is currently working on another for 2014 with Julie Van Voorhis, Associate Professor of the Department of History of Art. This exhibition will be titled Colors of Classical Art and will involve input and collaboration from students. Cooperation with other professors, curators, and staff is a big part of what goes into almost any event at the IU Art Museum.

Being the curator of ancient art, Juliet has a wide variety of objects to keep organized and to arrange. The timeline of these objects dates back to about 5,000 BC with a host of different countries and cultures represented. She estimates that about 500 objects are currently on display with the total amount of objects in the collection at 10,000! That’s a lot of pieces to take into consideration.

The museum also has one of the largest collections of ancient jewelry in North America! This includes pieces that are only half-made or have only one part, for instance, one earring or a piece of a necklace. These parts are important because, as Juliet puts it, “they help us understand how jewelry was made in the ancient world.” Another interesting fact is that many of the coins and gems in the collection are very tiny and yet still have greatly detailed scenes carved into them. What’s even more fascinating is this being done during an era without magnification!

Istrabadi feels that she is very lucky to have this job and is right at home amongst the collection and culture of the museum. Every day is a new experience and a new finding.

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B.W.

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