Tian Tian ’11 – Being able to have classes regularly at the Louvre Museum in Paris is already a big treat for me as an art major student. Having an externship in the Louvre during December just literally put me into heaven.

At the beginning of my study-abroad semester, my art professor at the university I am attending in Paris, Prof. Mandel introduced me to this great opportunity to do an externship at the Louvre Museum for a series event called “Nocturne Louvre” during several weekends in December. After three months’ rigorous preparation and numerous training sessions by the Louvre staff, I finally become an eligible extern. This series event “Nocturne Louvre” is a very genial and smart idea which offers free entrance and extended hours to visitors on Friday nights.
My responsibility during this externship is to present the paintings in one of Louvre’s exhibition areas as a trilingual interpreter using French, Chinese and English. The specialty of this exhibition area I present is the French classicism master, Nicolas Poussin’s paintings.
Paris is a city famous for the frequent strikes by the workers. There happened to be a huge strike on the first day of my externship, Dec. 4. More coincidently, this strike is started by several major museums in Paris, including the Louvre. The reason of the strike is because the administration refuses to replace the retired staff of the museum with new staff and the current staff are very disappointed. Half of the Louvre Museum was closed during that day, but fortunately the strike ended right before the start of my work at 6:00 pm. At first I was a little bit concerned that there will not be many visitors because of the strike, but in fact there was a huge crowd that night because they had waited a whole day for the museum to reopen. Without getting a chance to reflect a little bit of what had just happened, I turned on the “working mode” in my brain immediately.
Quite different from a typical tour guide of the Louvre Museum, my role as an extern during “Nocturne Louvre” is to take initiative to approach the visitors and try to present the paintings by engaging the visitors into my conversations. To put it another way, my job is to act like an advertising agent, who tries to use the most effective way to promote the product. Even though as a trilingual interpreter, I am required to always start the conversation with the visitors in French. This is a challenge but also a great way to show my progress on French oral expression. I also find it easier now to approach visitors and engage them into an “informative” conversation, because that is one of the major skills I learned and achieved during my internship at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis during the past summer.
The most constructive part that made me learn a lot is the skill to communicate effectively with the people of different backgrounds and expectations. That night at Louvre, the visitors who listen to my presentation are highly diversified. I learned to adopt a more casual approach to present the paintings for the visitors who are less familiar with the art. Comparatively, I also learned to use very professional interpretations towards those demanding visitors who are obviously scholars of fine arts. The most interesting visitor that night was a gentleman from London who made my “one-way-presentation” into an open discussion with him about the paintings because he is obviously an expert on Nicolas Poussin’s paintings.
At the end, during my three and a half hours’ work during 6:00 – 9:30 pm, I presented the paintings for 15 individuals and 6 group visitors. I feel like I have learned a lot from this experience and meanwhile I am so excited about another Friday night’s work. I regard this externship experience at Louvre a very constructive and memorable way to finalize my study abroad semester in Paris.