Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Month: November 2011 (page 1 of 5)

Art or Toy?

Last week, I visited the MFA with my friend and her five month old son, Lucas. We’re doing our part to create a museum advocate of the future. Lucas was especially engaged in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. He remained content for a surprising amount of time, simply looking at all of the interesting objects around him. Spotting Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Beginning), a green and silver beaded curtain which is deliberately hung as a partition between two galleries, my friend immediately walked Lucas through it. When she turned to pass through a second time, the employee stationed nearby informed her, rather unkindly, “it’s art, not a toy.” Now I understand the need to protect a work of art, but this particular object is meant to be experienced by touching, looking closely and even listening to the lovely sound it makes when the beads are moved. I don’t imagine they would have hung it in a busy entryway if it wasn’t durable enough to endure constant handling. So, if a visitor is handling an object with appropriate care, why shouldn’t they be allowed to experience it more than once? If a visitor, even a five month old one, is interested enough to linger instead of simply passing through en route to something else, isn’t that a good thing? Visitors are often uncomfortable in museums; they may feel unsure of the etiquette and what they may and may not touch. It concerns me that by encouraging visitors to touch a work of art, but then reprimanding them for wanting to touch it again, employees of the museum may cause visitors to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. That surely was not the intention when it was installed. So what do you think? Can it be art and a toy? Is it less of a work of art if visitors are allowed to touch it as much as they like? I encourage you to visit and see it for yourself. Be sure to pay close attention the first time around though, because you might not be allowed to pass through twice.

Museums in the News

Sorry this is so late; blame the Atlanta airport, whose wifi wanted nothing to do with my laptop this morning.

Lewis County museum votes to lay off paid staff

Minnesota museum and town revel in Spam

An $85 million endowment? The Still Museum can bank on that

Can a Museum Rewrite Art History?

9/11 Museum Is Delayed

Donna Gregor, Mark Twain House Employee, Jailed For Embezzling $1 Million From Museum

Former Smithsonian head Michael Heyman, who cancelled Enola Gay exhibit, dies at 81

New York museum galleries refocus gaze on Islamic art

Marine Corps supporters seek museum for Carolinas

BJ Novak confesses to Museum of Fine Arts prank from 1997

Museum seeks readers for ‘Moby-Dick’ marathon

State museum may have close for up to 2 years

Other Job Sites

While I’m secure in the knowledge that the Tufts Museum Studies Blog is among your favorite places to check for museum info and new job postings (and if it isn’t, don’t ruin my post-turkey buzz), there are some other great websites you can check to see new open jobs in the museum world.

HistPres – Unique Historic Preservation Jobs

Museum Employment Resource Center

Job HQ – American Association of Museums

American Association of State and Local History Career Center

Help Plimoth Plantation

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating today!

Museum professionals and students aren’t exactly two crowds known for having lots of extra money, but if you can spare anything, Plimoth Plantation needs your help.

On Saturday, November 19, the Francis Cooke house at the living history museum burned down during a hearth cooking demonstration. Those of us who went down on the Boston EMP visit to Plimoth two weeks ago may remember that fire is a distressingly authentic threat to historic village even today.

In the spirit of the holidays, please consider donating even a small amount of money to one of New England’s landmark museums to help them rebuild the Francis Cooke house.

Here and There: Holiday Fun, Museum-Style

Thanksgiving break is almost here and it’s time to start planning special holiday activities. I’ve done the research for you and narrowed it down to the six most promising events of the season. Please see museum websites for further details.

1. Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18 4-9pm

$14 for adults on Friday and Sunday and $15 on Saturday

Immerse yourself in good old fashioned Christmas cheer with holiday traditions talks, music, readings, crafts, a gingerbread house contest and sleigh  rides if the weather cooperates.

2. A Rich History: A Celebration of Chocolate at the Old South Meeting House Annual Holiday Open House

Friday and Saturday, December 2&3 11am-3pm

Free and open to the public

American Heritage Chocolate team members demonstrate Colonial chocolate making. Learn how chocolate, coffee and tea were served in the colonies.

3. Traditions of the Season at Paul Revere House

Saturday and Sunday, December 3&4 9:30am-4:15pm

$5 for adults, $4.50 for college students

Visit the Paul Revere House and Pierce Hichborn House to learn about celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day the 18th century way. Enjoy music, treats and mulled cider.

4. Annual Holiday Wreath Making Workshop at Plimoth Plantation

Sunday, December 4 1-3pm $55 for adults

Learn about the history of wreath making while making one of your own. Materials and refreshments will be provided.

5. A Holiday Soiree at Hancock-Clarke House (Lexington Historical Society)

Friday, December 9 7:30-9pm

$10 for adult nonmembers

Reserve by calling (781) 862-1703

Explore the roots of holiday traditions while enjoying refreshments and a performance by the Colonial Singers.

6. Winter Solstice in Legend and Song at the Loring-Greenough House

Friday, December 23 8-10pm

This evening event will feature live music and storytelling that illuminates the legends behind holiday traditions.

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