Alum Spotlight: Nicole Jordan, FCLC ’18
Press room at Trifolio, an Italian printing company that works with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications and Editorial Department. Courtesy of Nicole Jordan.
By Julie Hamon, 2018-2019 Art History Media Intern, FCLC 2019
Nicole Jordan graduated from Fordham Lincoln Center in 2018 with a degree in Art History, and since then has been working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Publications and Editorial department. I met with Nicole at the coffee bar in the Met bookstore, where she discussed her work in the department and outlined the process of editing and producing exhibition catalogues and other related materials.
Nicole started at the Met as a Freelance Production and Image Acquisition Assistant. In that role, she helped acquire, credit, and organize images of artworks for various publications. She explained to me that a significant aspect of acquiring images is ensuring their quality. During the production process, high-resolution images of artworks are broken down by “color separators” that isolate the color components of each image.When placed on top of each other, the separators create the full-color image, from which Nicole and her colleagues can determine if the image is as true to the real artwork as possible. Nicole explained that this process can involve multiple rounds of close looking and editing until the perfect image is achieved. If the image features an artwork in the Met’s collection, Nicole and her colleagues spend a significant amount of time with the artwork in person in order to best understand the artwork’s visual nuances. Nicole says that, “Spending time closely observing a work of art in this manner is an incredible privilege of the job and I’m so grateful to be able to use the visual skills I learned at Fordham to work with art in this manner.”
In addition to ensuring image quality, Nicole’s role required an understanding of metadata: a strong skill of hers after working on metadata-based projects as the former Fordham Art History Media Intern. To acquire image rights and permissions, Nicole maintained the spreadsheets containing the images, “basic tombstone information,” and their metadata. Nicole acquired the images for the Celebrating Tintoretto exhibition brochure, and is proud of the publication she created, Art of the Hellenistic Kingdom: From Pergamon to Rome, for the Pergamon Symposium: an annual conference at the Met where art historians present new research. Nicole also helped acquire images and establish credit lines for The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East exhibition catalogue. A copy of the catalogue happened to be sitting on the table in front of us as we spoke, and thus became a reference for the rest of our conversation in discussing editor-curator relations and the technical details of production.
Nicole now works as the Editorial Coordinator for the Publications and Editorial department. She explained that the editorial department has a broad reach throughout the museum: not only does the team edit exhibition catalogues, quarterly bulletins, and the annual journal but they also edit all wall text and labels in the gallery. In her new role, Nicole works as a strong communicator to coordinate, “the distribution of the manuscripts that undergo multiple rounds of editing from both the production and editorial teams, while also assisting editors, production managers, and the marketing assistant on multiple projects.” She explained that her favorite thing about her job is getting to collaborate with people from all areas of the museum. Nicole finds it, “particularly rewarding to work with passionate curators,” on their exhibitions catalogues, especially when the curator is one whose work she has read while studying Art History.
I was interested in hearing how an exhibition catalogue comes together. I asked Nicole, “In addition to image acquisition and editorial work, what goes into that process?” Nicole explained production to me in detail. The process begins when the department receives a curator’s manuscript for his or her exhibition catalogue. It takes anywhere from one to two years to fully write and edit the manuscript. Once that process is complete, the department contacts freelance book designers to create designs for the catalogue. Once the department receives the designs, the production manager, the publisher, and the manager of publications study and approve the designs. From there, the catalogue goes through, “multiple rounds of editing, ensuring that all images and text are place correctly in terms of the size and cropping of each image. The final approved manuscript is then sent to the printer where the color is laid down one at a time: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.” This is generally performed by “boutique printers” typically in Italy, Spain, or Turkey, “that view printing as an art form.” The production managers will travel abroad, “to ensure the quality of the images and text matches the final approved version that was edited in the office.” Next, sixteen pages of the book, which is called a “signature,” goes through a “sheet-fed press” as a test-run before the entire catalogue is printed. If all is well, the signature is, “signed and the process is repeated until the book is completed.” “UV laminations” that “heat and coat the ink” are used in the printing process, Nicole explained, and can create special visual details in the final product, such as the metallic glimmer of the title on a book jacket. The first complete, printed copy of a catalogue is hand-bound, and once approved, the rest of the copies are machine-bound. Yale University Press distributes the catalogues upon completion.
When it comes to catalogue quality, Nicole explained that, “the Met wants to create publications that offer an extremely similar if not identical experience,” to that of visiting the exhibition. While the design of the publication may not match every visual detail of the design of an exhibition, it, “does strive to highlight the scholarship in a visually unique way.” As someone with an interest in exhibition catalogues, I appreciate this mission, and have certainly noticed its manifestation in exhibition catalogues published by the Met.
I asked Nicole about her path from Fordham to the Met, and was curious about how her undergraduate education and experience prepared her for her post-graduation endeavors. She told me that studying Art History at Fordham, “provided me with an in-depth study of a wide variety of art.” She said that the program helps its students become, “immersed in [the art] world.” This knowledge base has proven to be key when Nicole is working with images and editing text: it is helpful to already have an understanding of the material with which she is working now in a professional context. During her time as the Art History Media Intern, Nicole learned important skills in working with metadata, which is a skill that has been extremely applicable to her experience at the Met.
Nicole Jordan has achieved so much in the year since her graduation from Fordham, and sets an encouraging example for those looking to enter the arts and cultural sector, especially in museums and publishing. It was wonderful to catch up with Nicole, and I am grateful for the time she took to explain her career path and the publication process to me.