Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Gibson House Museum Seeks Part-Time Guides

The Gibson House Museum is currently looking for part-time, fill-in guides to occasionally cover tours. Candidates should feel comfortable with public speaking and have a strong interest in history, architecture, or decorative arts. The museum is open Wednesday –Sunday, and tours are offered at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00. The position pays $38.50/day, and hours are approximately 12:30 to 4:00. Responsibilities include opening and closing the museum.

Located in Boston’s Back Bay, the Gibson House Museum is a time capsule of daily life during the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, reflecting three generations of Gibson family occupancy (1859–1954). Since 1957, it has been operated as a house museum, displaying four floors of Victorian and Edwardian decorative arts. The Gibson House is a National Historic Landmark and is registered on the Massachusetts State Register of Historic Places.

Interested applicants should send their cover letter and resume to Michelle Coughlin, Museum Administrator: info@thegibsonhouse.org

 

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of June 18th!

New England

Registrar’s Office Intern [Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, MA]

Assistant Manager of Exhibits and Facilities [EcoTarium, Worcester, MA]

Visitor Engagement Fellow [Arnold Arboretum of Harvard, Boston, MA]

Associate Collections Photographer [Northeast Document Conservation Center, Andover, MA]

Mid-Atlantic

Curatorial Assistant [Colgate University, Hamilton, NY]

Collections Engagement Manager [Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, Philadelphia, PA]

Manager, Conference Education [AAM, Arlington, VA]

Research Associate [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY]

Manager of Programs [Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, NY]

Exhibitions Coordinator [National Geographic Museum, DC]

 

Southeast

Project Coordinator [Imagine Exhibitions, Atlanta, GA]

Preparator [Morikami Museum, Delray Beach, FL]

 

Midwest

Educator, Adult Learning [St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO]

Visitor Relations Coordinator [Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Arkansas]

Gallery Educator [Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI]

 

West

Director of Education [Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ]

Director of Community Programs [Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX]

Curatorial Assistant, American Painting and Sculpture [Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX]

 

Making Museums Connected

This week’s post comes from Jingya Guo, a graduate student in the History and Museum Studies program

As a new graduate student of Museum Studies so far, I can always notice shifts inside my understanding of museums. I’ve been to museums many times when I was in China. I visited museums with my parents, and sometimes my peers. We read written labels’ discourse on the provenance of an object, such as a hand-made wooden chair from Ming dynasty, then we received a bunch of information in terms of how it was produced and how its social context was according to the introduction of docent. We experienced this process again and again in a short time period, then we finished our museum visit. The museums in my mind were shrines containing works of art, I was cautioned against touching objects in museums, photos were strictly forbidden to be taken even though the flash light was not open. I hardly noticed people working in museums behind the scene. Museums were once temples for me to worship the beauty of great human wisdom. They were isolated from what I experienced in my daily life. However, I know something in my mind may have already changed, I am not only a museum visitor but also a museum studies student, which means museums will possibly be my workplace. The dual identities that I embody makes me think more about what museums are, and what museums mean to me. With the external changes of technology and globalization, it is indispensable for a museum to make connections with the outside world and stop regarding itself as a “temple.” Museums need to restart life at a grass-roots level and make it popularized to the public. Integrating museums into the community and making people engage in museum activities needs to become a significant considerations for museum professionals. It is the responsibility of museum professionals to make museums connected.

Why is it important for a museum to play an active role in community?

A museum’s nature and characteristics facilitates the need to establish a interactive relationship between itself and the society. Museums, as explained by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), is an institution serving for education and aesthetic enjoyment. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also demonstrates that museums maneuver to organize its collection and design programs for “educational and aesthetic purposes”. The International Council of Museums straightforwardly points out that museums should be open to public and render service for society and the local community.  These institutions address the educational role that museums play and intentionally highlight the interactive relationship between the society and museums. The belief that museums are holy places, storing precious artifacts, has been doubted by many scholars. John Cotton Dana, mentioned that an ideal museum should reach as much of the population as possible and be in proximity to the center of a city. The reason for the existence of museums is for the informal education of the public and as a service to society. Although the nature of a museum can be modified by humans and may change over time, the consensus or agreement that most of us have reached so far in terms of the role of a museum is that it should serve the public so that it can initiate potential at a maximum level.

Another reason for building a connection between museums and outside world is the internal demand of a museum. The organization, administration of museums, design of museum programs and the management of collections in museums all requires a network of external contractors, the engagement of those who can satisfy needs of the museum and help them reach public expectation. For example, in order to gain public trust and get an understanding of what direction museum programs can lead towards, more and more museums adopt the strategy of crowdsourcing. To encourage people to participate in the direction or guidance of museum projects, some museums use social medias such as online forums to connect with the public and understand the public need as much as possible. In terms of collection stewardship, museums have to integrate visitors’ experiences, personal interests, and museum resources into the consideration of the management and use of collections. Museums’ own operations and the purposes of serving public cannot be isolated from the society. Indeed, it is the reciprocal relationship built between museums and the public that help developing museums and meet the internal demands of a museum.

What does museum’s connection mean to me? Why is it crucial for me?

The philosophy that a museum should be open to public and building connections with society has led to a shift in the role of museum workers. As a future museum professional, I need to consider the role that I play in front of museum audiences. Not only should I become a collection manager, or exhibition planner, or museum educator, but more importantly I need to take the responsibility of acting as a facilitator between museums and the public. The mission that museums undertake for informal education and public memory always reminds me of my goal, which is to engage visitors in museums and make them feel freely exhibitions. Also, as a museum visitor who does not have many impressive experiences and happy memories, I do not want visitors to have miserable and frustrating memories when they stepped out from museums. I want them to be able to relate their museum experiences to their daily life, and make museum a social space for family and friends.

To make museums connected, what might be challenges or difficulties for museum experts and museum itself?

What I will eventually encounter in my career might be a realistic museum working environment instead of the romantic picture depicted in textbooks. Many factors have to be taken into consideration for museum professionals. One thing is that we need to be cautious that outside connection will not negatively intervene with the administration of museums. For example, individuals like philanthropists who donate their collections to the museums or fund museums may want to have more say in affairs of the museum and to be involved in decisions of the museum’s mission and scopes. Multiple personal goals or interests may also be involved in the museum’s connection with the public. The other challenge for museum programmers may be in keeping a balance between the freedom enjoyed by the public and the application of the museum’s resources including money and time. Engaging the public into the museum experiences also requires certain rules in order to avoid the waste of museum resources and make the work of museum effective.

In conclusion, it is a long way for museums to transform into a paradigm that everyone may agree on. But the goal of keeping a dynamic relationship with public and connecting with the society should always be a focus for museum experts.

What Does it Take to Restore a 19th Century Eakins Portrait?

Thomas Eakins was an American painter, photographer, and sculptor most known for his portraiture and genre works. Born in Philadelphia in 1844, Eakins has been called the “father of modern realism in American Art.” His work has been exhibited internationally, in institutions such as the Louvre, Met, LACMA, and the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Japan. Although Eakins’ works have been widely displayed and researched, his Portrait of Ella Crowell, completed in 1882, has never before been exhibited. The Fitchburg Art Museum recently sent this painting to be restored, and intends to one day bring this painting, and its dark story, to light.

The Portrait of Ella Crowell is in fact a double-sided oil painting of Eakins’ oldest niece, Ella Crowell, who studied with him before her death. The front side, or recto, depicts Ella in profile, who looks down towards the bottom left hand corner of the canvas. Eakins has carefully highlighted her face and neck, while her dark hair and burgundy dress blend in with the background. The canvas’s verso showcases Ella seated on a wooden chair, her entire body in profile. Her shadowy representation almost foreshadows the tragic events that unfolded a few years after the completion of her portrait: in 1897, Ella committed suicide, after making accusations of her uncle’s sexual misconduct (see Museums in the Age of #MeToo).

While the painting is an outstanding example of Eakins’ technique and style, it was covered with dust and debris, and in dire need of restoration. The Fitchburg Art Museum sent the Portrait of Ella Crowell to the Worcester Art Museum’s conservation lab to be retouched and shined. There, conservators delicately toned and re-saturated both sides of the canvas, significantly brightening its now-lustrous appearance.

Upon the painting’s initial inspection, conservators found a small tear along its side. Removing a single thread from the canvas’s edge, conservators were able to sew the tear, ensuring the patchwork matched the original canvas. Several drops of white paint were also scattered across the seated portrait of Ella. Using a process known as “X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy” to analyze the elements found in the paint drops, it was revealed that the white dots did not contain titanium, meaning they were original to the painting. Conservators carefully removed the distracting white dots by using a special solution of water and heat. Finally, several layers of varnish were removed, producing an overall more illuminating effect.

Today, the multidimensional Portrait of Ella Crowell now shines, and is ready to be exhibited for the first time. However, it is also a painting that tells the hushed story of Eakins’ controversial behavior, a story that is now more important than ever to tell in the age of the #MeToo movement. The Fitchburg Art Museums intends to one day share this painting, and Ella’s story, with visitors.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of June 10th!

New England

Executive Director [Artist’s Association of Nantucket, Nantucket, MA]

Director of Living History Sites [Plimoth Plantation, Inc., Plymouth, MA]

Studio Manager [Peter Rose + Partners, Boston, MA]

Art Research and Dissemination Assistant [Ivana D. George Studios, Bridgewater, MA]

Transportation Assistant [Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, Marlborough, MA]

Development Events Manager [Historic New England, Boston, MA]

Chief, Learning and Community Engagement [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA]

Curator of Education and Public Programs [Fleming Museum of Art, Burlington, VT]

Mid-Atlantic

Associate Registrar [Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC]

Research Assistant [Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA]

Museum Technician Deaccession [The Valentine, Richmond, VA]

Southeast

School Programs Coordinator [Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, TN]

Membership and Events Manager [Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami, FL]

Midwest

Kress Interpretive Fellow [Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH]

Event and Promotion Manager [Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, Cleveland, OH]

Lead Preparator [John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI]

West

Executive Assistant to the Founding Director [The Broad, Los Angeles, CA]

Marketing Coordinator [de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA]

Associate Registrar [de Young Museum, San Francisco]

Assistant Registrar [SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA]

 

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