Meet Janitza Luna, Undergraduate Research Assistant

The Block Museum is excited to partner with Northwestern’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP) which funds undergraduate students to work with faculty on research projects. URAP students gain first-hand, mentored knowledge of research practices in their discipline. We took a moment to sit down with Janitza to discuss her background and work at the museum.

Hi! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Janitza Luna (she/her/hers) and I am currently a first-year. My hometown is Rancho Cucamonga, California.  I am currently on track to study Sociology because I am interested in interpersonal relationships and interactions between individuals and society. By better understanding social constructs, behaviors, and structures, I hope to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about how they can influence underrepresented and marginalized groups. 

What drew you to the Block and the URAP program?

The Block grabbed my attention through its dedication to sharing various worldviews with the public as an open resource. As part of the Kaplan Humanities Program throughout my first two quarters at Northwestern, my class engaged with film screenings and objects from the collection. Because the subjects and artists presented to us were underrepresented in the genres my class studied (particularly speculative fiction), it was the first time I felt that a museum prioritized historically silenced narratives over Eurocentric ones. I saw the opportunity to work for The Block through the URAP program. I was ecstatic to learn more about doing research in the humanities by working directly with objects from the collection that I would have never seen or read about otherwise. 

What will you be working on while you are here?

Since starting my position at The Block, I have been working on research for Miguel Covarrubias’s print titled “Mexican Street Scene.” This research will be used to write a curatorial report about this particular object and artist and will later be shared with staff through an oral presentation. Alongside [fellow URAP student] Joyce [Wang], I have been exploring the artist’s experiences and background as an anthropologist, the cultural and social implications of the post-revolution Mexican identity, and how this print connects to a larger picture within The Block’s collection. Apart from this project, I help support accessibility initiatives by writing and importing ‘alternative texts’ for The Museum System database. These alt texts provide short descriptions for objects in the digital collection to audiences who cannot otherwise easily access them. 

How has the remote environment affected your work with us?  Are there surprises about remote work?

Working for an art museum remotely has been an interesting experience since most of the work I have examined—especially through alt text work and online collection browsing— has been digitally rather than in person. Although it has not been difficult to do my work solely online, the experience of going to the Block and seeing Covarrubias’s work directly in front of me was more exciting than it would have been if I was accustomed to working in person. After studying this piece for weeks from my computer screen, seeing the small details that I oversaw in the digital copy made me look forward to a time when we can have more fulfilling experiences with art pieces again.

What do you do for fun or focus outside of your role as an NU student?

From playing various instruments to painting to crocheting, I enjoy any chance to get in touch with my creative or artistic sides. I am often listening to new music and curating Spotify playlists for every possible mood. With friends, I love attending concerts, going to museums, and watching films—some of the activities I have missed the most in the past year. Recently, I have been exploring photography and digital art to extend myself to new forms of art media. 

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