|Alec Madoff is a Senior Principal Preparator in the Exhibition Department at the American Museum of Natural History. His specialty is making mounts, which Alec defines as "the clutches that hold objects in an exhibit." Much of the work he does uses the skills and talents he developed as a sculptor.
"In college I did a lot of sculpture. At Connecticut College I was an art major and specialized in metal sculpture and welding. After I moved to New York I didn't have room to do big welded pieces, so I scaled way down and started doing jewelry design." If you think of an object or artifact on display in a museum as a jewel and the mount as a piece of metal crafted to hold it, you can see how Alec progressed to where he is now.
"I started out working in art museums and galleries. Doing installations of that sort was interesting, but you don't find such a diverse group of people and exhibits to work on as you do here.
"I always had an interest in natural history, so when I heard about an internship at AMNH, I applied for it. The program has been discontinued, but at the time interns spent a year trying their hands at everything that happens in the department--silk-screening, painting, diorama building, model making. It was a way to see what you like and what you're good at."
Alec has been at the Museum for 12 years, and he loves his job. "As a child I was very interested in shell collecting. I had a huge collection and traded with people from all over the world. I had read articles about the Museum's collections, and it was a dream of mine to work here and become involved. I always wanted to combine my artistic interest and my interest in the natural world, and this seemed to be a perfect place to do that."
Alec has even been able to combine his work with travel to faraway places. He spent three weeks in the Florida Everglades collecting plant and animal specimens, including some leeches that found him (instead of the other way around) in a bay head gator hole. He was also a member of the Museum's expedition to the Central African Republic, which brought back plant specimens used in building the rain forest diorama in the Hall of Biodiversity.
"The nice thing about this kind of work is that every show is so different. For one, we might be setting up a tomb; for another we might be mounting masks or pieces of pottery. And then there was the diamond exhibit, for which we designed ways to display fabulous jewelry and gems. I think all preparators believe it is the variety that keeps things lively and interesting."
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