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University Relations

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August 12, 2005
Contact: Diane Silver, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336.

Bennington couple endow curatorial internships at KU's Spencer Museum of Art

LAWRENCE --Thanks to the late Ester and Joseph Berkley's passion for education and art, more students will have the kind of opportunities graduate student Sean Barker enjoyed as an intern for the Spencer Museum of Art.

Barker, who is earning his Ph.D. in art history at KU, was at the center of activity as the museum prepared for a 2004 exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. Working closely with a museum curator, Barker chose photographs for the exhibit from the museum's collection of images of segregation by photographer Marion Palfi. Barker also wrote the gallery guide, shaped promotional resources and developed educational programs tied to the exhibition -- all activities made possible through the student internship.

" It was such a great experience to work in the museum and understand all the facets that come together for an exhibition," Barker said. "Internships offer the chance to work closely not only with a specialized curator but also with the registrar, the photographer, the education department, the publicity department and the exhibition staff."

Now more graduate students like Barker will have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of museum exhibitions, promotions and operations through a new fund for curatorial internships at the Spencer. The Berkleys of rural Bennington, Kan., bequeathed more than $460,000 to establish a fund for Spencer internships at KU Endowment.

" Interns breathe life into every aspect of our work through exhibitions, programs, and collection research," said Spencer Director Saralyn Reece Hardy. "They are fundamental to our role as a teaching institution. In turn, through the internship program, we train and encourage the most promising future cultural leaders."

Hardy said that besides the bequest, the Berkleys had given paintings to the museum in the early 1990s.

"The Spencer Museum of Art is deeply grateful to the Berkleys for their generous bequest for museum internships," she said. "The gift resulted from an idea shared with Ester and Joe Berkley by Andrea Norris, former museum director. This generous bequest helps to endow the Spencer's internship program and ensures its continuity."

The Berkleys worked in banking in Kansas throughout their lives, said a nephew David L. Adkins of Holton. Both were licensed pilots and traveled extensively, often returning from their journeys to give presentations to community groups regarding the art and history of the regions they visited. Joseph Berkley died in 1998; Ester Berkley passed away in February.

" Although they were not college-educated themselves, they believed everyone should get as much education as they could," Adkins said. "They encouraged their nieces and nephews to seek college educations. Their gift is meant in the spirit of continuing the public mission of the museum in promoting the arts and education.

KU Endowment is an independent, non-profit organization serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for the University of Kansas. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university and one of the largest.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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