Meet Spurlock’s New Intern: Tara Leininger  overview image

Meet Spurlock’s New Intern: Tara Leininger

  • Post Date: 08/13/2021
  • Author: Gavin Robinson, collections storage coordinator
  • Reading Time: 4 minute read

Tara Leininger never thought she’d find herself handling centuries-old Chinese and Japanese carvings—but thanks to the generosity of the Freund family through the Kimberly S. Freund Memorial Fund, that was just an average Monday at Spurlock Museum. Tara is the Collections Section’s newest intern and spent the spring semester learning how to handle, clean, and care for the Museum’s Fred A. Freund Collection of Chinese and Japanese Woodcarvings.

  • collage of 4 Freund objects
    A selection of Freund Collection artifacts: 2004.13.0026 (Credit: Okimono: Dragon (ca. 19th century), 7.2 cm x 5.5 cm, wood. Urbana, Spurlock Museum), 2014.09.0003 (Credit: Figurine and Stand: Exrian Group, Immortal Twins (ca. 1644–1911), 7.5 cm x 10.5 cm, wood. Urbana, Spurlock Museum), 2005.11.0015 (Credit: Okimono: Heike-gani (Crab)(ca. late19th–early 20th century), 28.5 cm x 9 cm, wood. Urbana, Spurlock Museum), and 2002.18.0015 (Credit: Okimono: Shinto Priest with Frog (ca. 1868–1912), 8.4 cm x 17.8 cm, wood. Urbana, Spurlock Museum)

The Freund Collection is made up of approximately 750 intricately carved wooden objects that range from the highly functional to the purely decorative, spanning 3 centuries of craftsmanship. They depict human, animal, mythical, or abstract forms in incredible detail.

What about this internship caught Tara’s eye? She had previously volunteered at the Rochelle Flagg Township Museum and Champaign County History Museum, where she gained experience cataloging artifacts and working on exhibits. She immediately felt that this internship was a unique opportunity to build on her past experience and get to work up close with this incredible collection. Since starting, she has especially enjoyed working in Spurlock’s Artifact Preservation Center (APC), where artifacts are stored when not on exhibit, and learning to organize and arrange the Freund Collection onto shelves.

  • woman sitting and cleaning an object with a laptop next to her
    Tara carefully cleans an artifact from the Freund Collection with a soft-bristle brush
  • woman places an object into a drawer
    Tara places an artifact from the Freund Collection onto a drawer in the APC

As an intern, Tara assesses the Freund Collection’s cleaning, conservation, and storage needs. After rearranging the collection within our storage cabinets, she writes detailed condition reports on individual artifacts. One piece she was especially captivated by is a large carving of a toad which beautifully incorporates the natural wood grain into the toad’s sculpted features.

  • view of storage with objects from the Fruend collection in it
    Photo of some of the Freund Collection in storage after being reorganized by Tara
  • wood carving of a toad
    Tara’s favorite piece, an elaborately carved toad, 2020.06.0154 (Credit: Okimono, Carving: Frog (ca. 1926–1970), 21.7 cm x 11.4 cm, wood. Urbana, Spurlock Museum)

Tara will be returning to her work at Spurlock Museum in the fall. We are incredibly grateful both to the Freund family and Tara for the success of this internship. The new arrivals to the Freund Collection are available on our website now.