Event: Museum Conversations: Curating Data/Challenging History

Left: Fred Wilson Photo by Andrew Walker; Right: Laura Kurgan

Fred Wilson, artist and Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Director of the Center for Spatial Research and of the Visual Studies curriculum, Columbia University

In Harvard’s annual seminar on innovative curatorial practice, Laura Kurgan of Columbia University and artist Fred Wilson will, from different perspectives, reflect on their work to reimagine how museum exhibits present information, often by juxtaposing the unexpected to create new insights. Their short presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion.

Date: Monday, April 11, 2016, 6:30pm

Location: Northwest Building, B-103, 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA

Co-sponsored by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture and the Harvard Art Museums as part of the Harvard Museums’ Seminar on Innovative Curatorial Practice

Free event parking is available at the 52 Oxford Street Garage

Free Course on Preventive Conservation through The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation

Preventive Conservation

June 18 – July 1, 2016
Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Staatsburgh, NY
Instructors: Genevieve Bieniosek, John Childs, Catherine Coueignoux, Cathy Mackenzie, Kirsten Schoonmaker

Description: The 2016 Preventive Conservation Workshop is a 14 day course for pre-program conservation students, focusing on historic housekeeping.  The workshop will take place at Staatsburgh State Historic Site, overlooking the Hudson River in New York State.  Eight participants will be selected for the program, which will take place June 18 – July 1, 2016.  The program is presented by the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Registration: There is no registration fee and the participants will receive a travel stipend. Housing and meals are provided to successful applicants.  Please submit a detailed letter of interest and a resume to courses@conservation-us.org.  Application materials must be received by April 8, 2016.

About the Workshop: The workshop will use the perspective of a housekeeper working in a historic house to introduce preventative conservation principles. The housekeeper is the primary person interacting with the entire collection on a daily basis, and so he/she will have to assess the environment and recognize the effects on the historic artifacts.  The participants will learn in-depth methods of caring for all collections in a historic house, and also gain insight into artifact conservation and the conditions that cause deterioration.

There will be five instructors representing collection specialties.  The group will tackle the “deep” cleaning of a room in the historic interior, including moving furniture, rolling and vacuuming a carpet and cleaning the decorative arts objects.  Hands-on activities will be complimented by lectures and site visits to other historic properties.  Students will be expected to contribute to a blog post and document the tasks performed.

About the Site: Staatsburgh State Historic Site, located about half-way between New York City and Albany, is the elegant country home of Ogden Mills and his wife Ruth Livingston Mills. Sitting atop a grassy hill overlooking the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, their house is a fine example of a great estate built by America’s financial and industrial leaders during the Gilded Age (1876 – 1917).  Major remodeling in 1895-96 transformed the house from a 25-room Greek Revival style home into a Beaux-Arts mansion of 65 rooms and 14 bathrooms. More information about the site can be found at http://parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/25/details.aspx.

Contact: Sarah Saetren
FAIC Education Assistant

Weekly Jobs Roundup

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. As always, they go up immediately on their own page. Happy hunting!


The Art of Schmoozing Workshop Review

Last week, a number of current and former Museum Studies students took part in a workshop put on by the Museum Studies Department and led by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, President and CEO of the Abbe Museum. “The Art of Schmoozing” discussed networking beyond trying to get a job or making a conference more bearable. Networking helps you talk to potential (and current) donors, volunteers, and community members. Knowing how to speak intelligently and politely is important both professionally and personally (picture sitting at a dinner party and not knowing how to talk to the people around you).

Museum Studies Alum Jennifer Clifford practicing her networking with Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. (Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Robinson)

Museum Studies Alum Jennifer Clifford (middle) practicing her networking with Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko (right). (Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Robinson)

While many of us panic at the sight of a crowded conference happy hour, and the prospect of talking to billionaires (should we be so lucky) can evoke anxiety, there are several small tricks that can help ease the nerves. Cinnamon imparted some of her own first-hand experiences with some of the following tips:

  • Always introduce someone new to the whole group. It seems straightforward, but often someone joins a group conversation in the middle of a conversation. Rarely do people stop in the middle to say, “Oh by the way, this is my friend Colleen…” before continuing on. It’s awkward to halt the conversation, but it’s also awkward to be chatting with an unknown, unnamed stranger.
  • To get out of a conversation, either make something up (“Oh you’ll have to excuse me, I need to check on the caterer”) or be straightforward but put the onus on you (“I’m sure there are lots of people you’d like to talk to tonight. I’m sorry for monopolizing your time. It was great to meet you. Thank you!”)
  • To break into a group conversation, you can watch body language and wait for an opening (as long as you’re not lurking!), or you can interrupt very briefly and say, “I’m so sorry for interrupting, I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I loved your talk at NEMA. Would it be alright if I follow up with you later? I have some questions I’d like to ask you.” With any luck, you’ll get that person’s card and you can email them later.

Cinnamon’s presentation was frank and funny, and included tips on knowing how to work with people with different personality types (check out DiSC if you’re interested). Afterwards, participants were able to practice their new skills over wine and snacks.

Keep your eye out here and in the Museum Studies newsletter for further fun workshops!

What We’re Reading: Memory Palace: Gallery 742


Today’s post is a little bit different – a combination of our What We’re Reading series and our Museums Gone Viral series. Here, Julia Kahn, a Tufts student in the Museum Studies and Art History programs, discusses a podcast she discovered while at the Metropolitan Museum. For a look at the gallery the podcast accompanies, check out this article.

For those of you that include podcast among your “reading” material, here’s a really interesting piece with implications for museums. The Metropolitan Museum recently installed a new decorated room in their American Wing, and have partnered with Nate Dimeo, who makes a podcast that tells vignettes of little known histories. In “Gallery 742,” the bite-sized podcast tells a narrative about the nineteenth century New York socialite who originally designed the elaborate dressing room. The story incorporates some of the salacious details of her life, while inviting us to image ourselves back on a particular day in the 1880s. I found this to be quite a lovely piece to hear, especially when I replayed it standing in front of the room. It is what motivated me to seek out this little exhibit on a recent trip to the museum. It made for a very memorable and intimate experience is this personal, unusual room. It helped me transport myself over the Plexiglas barrier and feel like I was momentarily part of that world.

I’m intrigued by the possibilities of how more museums may incorporate new technologies and trends into their visitor experiences. The podcast medium seems like it may offer some rich possibilities. It allows another (non-“expert”) voice to offer an interpretation. It encourages visitors to use their own phones rather than rent extra museum audio guides. It is available outside the museum as an advertisement or follow-up experience, and is inclusive to people who may be far away. In this case, it also emphasized emotional narrative over informational data points, which is probably more appropriate for a complete, decorated room.

There were some logistical issues with this example. For one thing, it was pretty long to listen to while standing there in the gallery, blocking vantage points for other visitors. And it was awkward for my whole group to try to cluster around my iPhone. Even with these inconveniences, I hope that the Met and other museums continue to think about how to use platforms like podcasts to compliment and extend their exhibitions.

And definitely listen to the story of Belle Worsham. It’s a trip!