Bard Graduate Center (BGC) is an international community and our curriculum, research, and exhibitions are global in outlook. Scholars from around the world visit BGC, and we annually welcome exchange students from Humboldt University in Berlin and the École du Louvre in Paris. This semester, BGC is delighted to host two students from the École du Louvre. BGC PhD student Jeremy Reeves sat down with one of them, Isabel Guerrero, to learn more about her choice to study at BGC.

Hi there! Thank you for sitting down with me for this interview. It would be great if you could begin by telling me a little bit about yourself. Is there anything in particular you would like to share with the BGC community?

ISABEL GUERRERO: I would say that being in New York, I am reconnecting with a side of my family’s history. My parents are from Ecuador but went to Paris to study and both stayed there. My family is spread out, and I have a part of my family here in New York that I am getting to see again. I think it is great that studies can be a means to explore new places while also reconnecting with family history. I never thought that was something that defined me, but I love it.

JR: It is always great to rediscover family history through one’s own adventures. Out of curiosity, were both your parents art historians?

IG: Not at all! My entire family are psychoanalysts [laughs].

JR: That must be interesting! So you’re a student in the master’s program at the École du Louvre and are currently working on your thesis project. Is there a theme, period, place, or particular question that you are working on?

IG: Yes! I work on sustainable development in museums. I really enjoy it because it is a contemporary issue, and so I have moved a little bit away from art history and towards museum studies. It is also an issue that is relevant to museums across the world, and I have benefited from the opportunity to have as my thesis advisor Hélène Vassal, who is the secretary of ICOM (International Council of Museums) France. I started my research work just as ICOM France created its working group on sustainable development—something that also exists at ICOM—and so it is amazing to be able to attend their meetings and know what they are doing.

JR: That work definitely sounds interesting! In one of my classes, we were talking about keeping a museum at the recommended temperature and humidity and then discussed the environmental cost of maintaining those conditions. I had never really thought of it that way. Coming from Canada, I had never considered the environmental burden of heating a museum to 68° when it is freezing outside.

IG: That’s exactly it! These types of questions need to be asked at all levels of museum work which makes them so fascinating.

JR: Agreed. Was there anything that particularly drew you to BGC?

IG: I think it was the emphasis on material culture and the study of concrete objects. Starting from objects, their materials, and their history is always a great point of departure to speak about anything and it is useful on so many levels. Even though I have slightly drifted away from art history per se, so many themes can be broached through objects and they speak volumes. That’s what interests me the most.

JR: That is exactly why we are all here at BGC so you are definitely in the right place. Is there anything from your schooling at the École du Louvre or from any previous professional experience that you want to bring with you to BGC?

IG: I don’t know if it’s something that I bring personally, but interdisciplinarity and considering multiple points of view certainly speaks to me, and I know that those things are also important here at BGC. I am in Ittai Weinryb’s class on the material culture of the occult and we talk about history, history of science, visual culture, and lots of other things. That perfectly mirrors my own academic background. I did not focus exclusively on art history, and I got an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree which is very useful now. That is the approach I take in my own thesis work. I do not only focus on the environmental side of sustainable development but also examine the social and economic side of things that cannot be separated out.

JR: I know that you also have an internship here in New York. Would you care to tell us a little bit about your experience so far?

IG: I have an internship at the Climate Museum here in New York. It is one of the four museums in the world dedicated to the topic. It has been great. The recruitment process was a bit tricky with the holidays, Covid, and the time difference, but I am really happy because it is a very experimental place. They have a young team, and they ask a lot of questions and have a lot of great ideas. I work as part of their research team and I am helping prepare their next exhibition on climate and inequality. So far, it has been mostly readings and meetings with the team, and the work is still remote, but we should be back in the office soon.

JR: Lastly, do you already have a highlight from your time in New York City?

IG: I would really like to be able to say that it was a museum visit, but that is not yet the case [laughs]. Last Saturday, I went to a drag show in Brooklyn with my roommate and it was a great introduction to New York nightlife. The drag scene is much livelier here in New York than in Paris.

JR: That’s great! Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the rest of your stay at BGC!

Jeremy Reeves is a first-year PhD student at BGC.