This year, the History of Art Internship Programme at ECA has placed almost 50 students in different galleries, museums, archives and libraries across Edinburgh and Glasgow. In this, the fourth in a series of articles focusing on the interns and their placements, we talk to Ivana Cernanova, a student on the Renaissance and Early Modern Studies - MSc programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

Originally from Slovakia, Ivana moved to Scotland five years ago to study French and History at the University of Edinburgh.

She decided to do her MSc at ECA because, as she puts it…

“I was particularly attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of the programme. It gave me the opportunity to study the Renaissance and the early modern period from different angles, venturing into the field of History of Art which I had not studied before, while staying focused mainly on History and Literature. I was also very interested in the internship programme, as I was hoping to get more hands-on experience and to broaden my skills and knowledge”.

National Library of Scotland | Rare Books, Maps and Music

Ivana’s internship is at National Library of Scotland (NLS), where she is based in the Rare Books, Maps and Music Collections. She works, primarily, on the Provenance Project involving books dating from the early 16th to late 19th century.

Her role is to look for any manuscript inscriptions and signatures, dedications, armorial bookplates or any other indicators of provenance, tracking down former owners or donors, comparing her finds to the existing paper records, and adding the information to the library’s online catalogue.

In addition, she has also worked on two portfolios of previously uncatalogued, mostly 18th-century engravings and etchings from the Newhailes Collection, a collection of over 125 loose engravings from the 17th and 18th centuries. 

She says…

“The internship has been incredibly helpful for my studies, as well as for my future career. It’s given me an insight into the profession of a rare books librarian, the workings of the special collections, and the chance to handle a variety of valuable early modern materials, while also greatly expanding my knowledge of European book culture and publishing.

Examining manuscript inscriptions in various languages, dating as far back as the early 16th century, has considerably developed my palaeography skills, and I’ve also gained valuable cataloguing and research experience.

I feel incredibly privileged to be allowed to handle precious books and prints that are sometimes several centuries old, and to get access to the parts of the National Library of Scotland that remain off-limits for the general public. The NLS staff have been very supportive and approachable, willing to help me at any time or to share insights on the workings of their department and on the most curious objects from the library’s collections”.

The supervisor’s perspective

Ivana’s internship has been supervised by James Mitchell, Curator of Rare Books and Music at the National Library of Scotland. He says…

“I’ve really enjoyed supervising and guiding Ivana. Her attention to detail, her enthusiasm, and her historical research background have enabled her to produce extremely useful written documents on, for example, the Newhailes Collection, which will help make these artworks known to the public.

That six of the engravings in the Collection were by Rembrandt was a welcome discovery. Ivana’s findings are nicely encapsulated in an entry she wrote for the National Library’s Blog

This is the fifth year that Rare Books Collections have been hosting History of Art interns. The programme is useful for us in that the students work on projects for which we do not have the time or the particular expertise. In return, they get a hands-on introduction to bibliography and gain extensive experience handling and researching rare books, pamphlets and broadsides published as far back as the 15th century.

I take a paternal care in their wellbeing during the six months that they are here and actively look for ways to help them to grow in their understanding of rare books librarianship and also the work of the National Library and its role in the wider world. And when they leave, I take an interest in their on-going careers and have written many letters of recommendation for our interns over the years.

One of our former interns is presently working in the library of the Royal Collection Trust in England, and another has just finished an internship with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Others are working towards PhDs or have taken positions in museums and academic libraries on the Continent and in the United States”.

Are you interested in studying Renaissance and Early Modern Studies?

Find out more about our MSc programme.