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Science in Museums: Science for All Ages

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 1, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Kacie Rice,

Museum educators, as proprietors of informal learning for all ages, often run into a unique dilemma: how do we create educational science experiences that cater to both kids and adults? I was recently having a discussion about this topic with fellow Science in Museums blogger Cira Brown and our classmate Rachel Hacunda – we noted that museums (especially science and history museums) have increasingly and explicitly catered to a younger audience in the last couple of decades, arguably to the detriment of their adult visitors.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m entirely in favor of museums teaching science to children! That’s kind of my thing! As a museum educator, I’m fully aware of and supportive of the need to use learning theory and childhood development principles in crafting free-choice educational experiences for children – but have science museums taken this concept too far? It often seems that science museums can be either for children or for adults, but not for both at the same time – and I’d argue that this is a big problem for the field. At best, it “dumbs down” science for kids; at worst, it alienates both kids and parents by providing an experience that they can’t equally participate in together. We absolutely need our science museums to be not only child-friendly, but also actively adult-friendly. It’s a win for everyone.

As a case study, let’s look at the two major science museums in the Boston area: the Museum of Science (MOS) and the MIT Museum. MOS is a place many Bostonians remember going as children and hope to take their children one day; the MIT Museum is a place where grown-up science enthusiasts go to learn about recent research at MIT. One of these is almost entirely child-oriented, the other is strictly for adults (the MIT Museum’s website even states up front that content is aimed at those over 12). They fill different niches, but this inherently means that neither of them can fill the needs of an entire family.

The major issue is that kids and adults don’t visit science museum in a vacuum: kids necessarily have to visit museums with their parents. Why, then, is the science museum experience so often only for the kids? And when adults can participate meaningfully, such as in MOS’ recent (and fantastic) Design Zone exhibition (aimed at a middle school age range, but fun for pretty much everyone) – how can we market these exhibits to let parents know that, yes, their children can learn a lot here, but so can they?

I’d argue that marketing and public opinion is a big part of what we’re dealing with – science museums are often lumped together with children’s museum in the public consciousness. They’re hands-on, they’re interactive, and they’re so often just plain fun: these are all things that read as for kids in our culture. Adults gaze silently at art, they read about current research, they want the deeper meaning behind events and objects, and they want to get these things from experts, not figure them out for themselves – these are all major barriers to getting adults to feel comfortable just playing in museums. But playing is a valuable way to learn throughout a person’s whole life. When we play and interact, we lose inhibitions, we are free to make decisions and judgments, we are ultimately free to think critically with no consequences – and this is the real stuff of learning! This is exactly how we teach kids in museums, and we’d love to be able to create these same experiences for the adults who accompany them.

Another driving force behind the ongoing kiddification of science museums is the increasing reliance on learning theory. Now, obviously learning theory is a great thing, and something we should absolutely be using as a tool in creating educational experiences – but we should be using it as just that: a tool. Not every exhibit needs to explicitly target Piaget’s Concrete Operational stage. Increasingly, science exhibitions are aimed at very specific ages (see the above example of Design Zone, aimed at young teens), and rarely do they target the adult audience, or even other kids. But as anti-vaccine debates, climate change denialism, and the emergence of creationism as a “valid alternative” to evolution show, adults desperately need to learn science too.

In casual conversations, I hear a lot about the “dumbing down” of science exhibitions. It seems that educators try to present material in a way that kids can understand, without realizing that kids can understand a whole lot more than we give them credit for. We worry about introducing difficult topics too early, but in my experience, kids can handle science. Kids don’t have the fear of science that adults often develop after years of schooling. If a certain kid can’t handle a certain topic at a certain time, they’ll get to it when they’re ready – and when they’re ready, they’ll have the background knowledge of having at least engaged with the topic before. It hurts no one to give people too much information, but it is a definite problem to withhold scientific content for the sake of remaining approachable for the lowest common denominator.

I think part of the problem here is assuming that people can only learn from those exhibitions, books, and lessons which are specifically aimed at them – but my experience has shown that this isn’t true at all. Personally, I remember visiting exhibitions “for adults” when I was a child – and I remember learning a lot from them! Even if I didn’t interact with the specific content the curators wrote in the labels, I remember seeing major works of art, huge dinosaurs, and recreations of the Battle of San Jacinto and being amazed that such things exist in the first place. When asked about memorable childhood museum experiences, adults will rarely cite carefully crafted age-appropriate interactives, but will talk at length about the Blue Whale at the American Museum of Natural History or the room of armor at the Metropolitan. These are displays that are minimally interpretive (sometimes a trait of adult-centered exhibitions), but that teach and inspire kids in intense, formative ways. And best of all: they’re exhibits that can give parents just as much joy and wonder.

We need to start thinking about what it is exactly that kids get out of museum visits – I’d predict that it would very closely align with what adults get out of them. It likely won’t be about the specific information imparted, but it can be about the experience of being around really cool stuff while doing really cool things – that’s something that all ages can get excited about! And, like play, it’s something that’s inherently educational at every level of development: isn’t that what we want out of a museum visit? The Higgs-Boson particle is inherently cool – we can’t assume that only particle physicists can understand it or relate to it. Show a kid a model of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and tell them what it does. Try telling kids about cosmology, organic chemistry, molecular biology. There’s no way that stuff isn’t awesome, no matter how old you are or what you know about science.

People just need to feel comfortable enough engaging with material, and “dumbing down” scientific content for a younger age isn’t going to accomplish this for anyone. Everyone can tell when he or she is being talked down to (and yes, even kids pick up on this extremely quickly). Let’s have faith in our multi-age audiences to engage with science. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll rise to the challenge.

 

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: No Fairy Godmother Required

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 29, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

Last April, in a fit of ridiculousness, I declared myself Her Royal Highness, Madeline, Ice Princess of Pittsburgh and All Western Pennsylvania. My friends rolled their eyes, sighed, and obliged until the Pittsburgh Penguins were knocked out of Stanley Cup contention in the first round, thereby ending my reign supreme.

This year I did no such thing, but had I chosen to reclaim my Ice Princess title, the circumstances would have been far less ridiculous. You see, I was slated to attend the Please Touch Museum’s 5th annual Storybook Ball, a fundraiser where royal titles – along with ball gowns, knights in armor and a healthy imagination – are not only welcomed, they’re encouraged.

No, really. Some families got *way* into it.

No, really. Some families got *way* into it.

For the past twenty-eight years, the Please Touch Museum has hosted an annual book awards ceremony to honor modern and prolific children’s authors like David Ezra Stein (author of my beloved Interrupting Chicken), Mo Willems (Listen to My Trumpet, Book 17 in the Elephant and Piggie series), and Ame Dyckman (Boy + Bot).

But a ceremony of such importance is nothing without a celebration, and as any child will tell you, story books plus big celebrations can only equal one thing: a Royal Ball. In 2009, the museum decided to host an accompanying fundraiser; thus the Annual Storybook Ball was born. Museum members are invited to come to the museum dressed as their favorite storybook characters for an evening of age-appropriate play, character meet and greets, and of course, author-led story times, all in the name of celebrating great children’s stories and literacy skills.

Adorably, this year’s Ball played out like a prom for pre-schoolers – complete with knights and superheroes, princesses and fairies. And lest you think the kids were the only ones involved, I saw more than one grown set of Prince Charming and Evil Queen chaperones.

 

For the less whimsical in the crowd, Storybook Ball has done more than provide Please Touch Museum members with a night of escapist fantasy that ends happily ever after (provided there are no temper tantrums). As a fundraising event, the Ball has proven itself to be an increasing success and a model for future fundraisers. Some stats, for you bottom-liners out there:

  • Between 2012 and 2013, Storybook Ball has raised over $200,000 for the museum.
  • 1,400 people attended Storybook Ball in 2013.
  • Three authors/illustrators honored in the 2013 Book Awards ceremony attended the Ball.
  • Storybook Ball was listed as one of the Top Ten Things To Do in Philadelphia for the weekend of 4/20/2013 on philly.com’s weekly event calendar.

In short, this fundraiser knows its audience, and it knows its audience is growing. It’s more than your average dinner/silent auction/raffle ticket fundraiser, it’s more fun than your average black tie museum affair and it’s more than a meet-and-greet with your favorite authors at the bookstore. Storybook Ball is all of these things and more.

To quote a famous book loving princess – and Ball attendee! – this event had “far off places, magic spells, daring swordfights, [and] a prince in disguise” among other enchanting features. Props if you can “Name That Princess.” More props if you decided reading was cool as a kid because she liked to read, too.

I’m a hard sell on fundraisers, but I am absolutely looking forward to attending next year’s Ball. Here’s hoping Her Royal Highness the Ice Princess will dust off her skates to make an appearance.

No Ball is complete without a carriage. Members were offered rides around the building in this horse-drawn pumpkin, complete with Footman and commemorative photo.

No Ball is complete without a carriage. Members were offered rides around the building in this horse-drawn pumpkin, complete with Footman and commemorative photo.

 All photos courtesy of the Please Touch Museum

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 28, 2013 in museums in the movies |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

But first, I was sad to hear of E.L. Konigsburg’s death this week. Her book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler made a huge impression on me as a kid and is still inspiring kids today. (I know, I led a Mixed-Up Files tour at the MFA earlier this year!) Read the NYTimes blog post here: The Legacy of an Author Lingers at the Met

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Unofficial tours, taken to the next level: Hack The Met

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 27, 2013 in food for thought |

Here’s an interesting piece by GalleristNY about “Hack the Met,” a highly unauthorized tour operating inside the Met, drawing new, young, often-techie New Yorkers into a dialogue that covers everything from medieval armor and musical instruments to Thomas Gainsborough…. with flasks.

Mr. Gray, who grew up in Georgia and moved to New York in 2007, discovered the Met two years ago when a girl brought him there on a date. He began leading the tours after realizing how few young people frequent the museum. When he asks peers to name their favorite New York museum, MoMA will get a few nods, but apparently no one ever mentions the Met. “I met someone the other night who said, ‘the New Museum,’” Mr. Gray told the group with a pained expression. His mission, he said, was to make “the best museum in the world” hip for a younger crowd.

Read the article here.

 

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Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 26, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Curatorial Assistant II [Harvard University Herbaria] Auto req ID 29195BR Business Title Curatorial Assistant II School/Unit Faculty of Arts and Sciences Sub-Unit ———— Location USA – MA – Cambridge Job Function Museum Time Status Full-time Schedule Monday – Friday 9-5pm Department Harvard University Herbaria Salary Grade 051 Union 55 – Hvd Union Cler & Tech Workers Duties & Responsibilities Harvard University Herbaria. In the framework of a larger digitizing project ‘North American Lichens and Bryophytes: Sensitive Indicators of Environmental Quality and Change’ the Herbaria …
  • Assistant Curator [The Jewish Museum] DATE: April 2013 DEPARTMENT: Curatorial/Program Division TITLE: Assistant Curator SCHEDULE: Full time REPORTS TO: Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Public Programs FLSA: Exempt DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES The Assistant Curator works under the direction of the Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs. Assistant Curators are charged with bringing creative and innovative ideas for temporary exhibitions, collection-based exhibitions, acquisitions and public programs to the table. Assistant …
  • Exhibit Developer [Harley Davidson Museum] Job ID: 13236263 Position Title: Exhibit Developer Company Name: Harley-Davidson Job Function: Exhibitions Entry Level: No Location(s): Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53208, United States Posted: April 24, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: BA/BS/Undergraduate Min Experience: 3-5 Years Required Travel: 0-10%   The Exhibit Developer participates in all facets of exhibit creation, from concept development through production and installation, working under the direction of the position’s supervisor and with project teams combining internal and contract personnel.   Job Requirements Education Required: Bachelors degree …
  • Curator of Research and Public Programs [Wisconsin Veteran's Museum] Job ID: 13242429 Position Title: Curator of Research and Public Programs Company Name: Wisconsin Veterans Museum Job Function: Curator Entry Level: No Job Type: Full-time Location(s): Madison, Wisconsin, 53701, United States Posted: April 24, 2013 Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: BA/BS/Undergraduate Min Experience: None Required Travel: 0-10% Salary: $35,291.00 – $43,848.00 (Yearly Salary)   Contact Person: J Lea Roberts Phone: 608-266-3344 Email Address: JLea.Roberts@dva.wisconsin.gov Apply URL: https://wisc.jobs/public/job_view.asp?annoid=65889… The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) is currently recruiting a Curator to work in Research and Public Programs at the Wisconsin Veterans …
  • Museum Manager [O. Winston Link Museum] Job Description The Historical Society of Western Virginia, a leader in cultural heritage tourism dedicated to preserving the rich history of western Virginia, seeks a highly motivated Manager for the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, VA. Opened in 2004 by the Historical Society of Western Virginia, the Link Museum focuses on the striking photographic and …
  • Managing Editor, ISAW [New York University] Position Summary: The managing editor guides and manages visual content and production of exhibition catalogues and didactics. ISAW intends to organize up to two exhibitions a year that will be accompanied by a catalogue and/or educational pamphlet. This material will be strongly scholarly in nature and heavily illustrated. The managing editor will function as the …
  • Youth and Family Programs Specialist [CM Russell Museum]TITLE:                         Youth and Family Programs Specialist   DEPARTMENT:              Education   REPORTS TO:             Education and Programs Manager   SUPERVISES:             Volunteers as needed   POSITION SUMM ARY: The Youth and Family Program Specialist is a full-time, 40-hour-per-week exempt staff position that reports to the Education and Programs Manager regarding educational activities related to youth, families, and schools for the C.M. Russell Museum. Flexible hours are required for occasional after-hours and …
  • Associate Curator of European and American Art [Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri] Job ID: 12239628 Position Title: Associate Curator of European and American Art Company Name: Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri Job Function: Curator Entry Level: No Job Type: Full-time Location(s): Columbia, Missouri, 65211, United States Posted: April 23, 2013 Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: Ph.D. Min Experience: 1-2 Years Required Travel: 0-10% Salary: $30,000.00 – $44,752.00 (Yearly Salary) Contact Person: Alex W. Barker Phone: 573-882-5075 Email Address: barkeraw@missouri.edu Fax: 573-884-4039 Apply URL: https://myhr.umsystem.edu/psp/tamext/EMPLOYEE/HRMS… The University of Missouri Museum of Art & Archaeology seeks an exceptional curator to interpret and …
  • Prospect Research Assistant [Brooklyn Museum] Overview The Prospect Research Assistant works in concert with the Manager of Development Operations and the Museum’s Development management team to conduct comprehensive and detailed donor prospect research on individuals, corporations and foundations and provides in-depth profiles and reports for gift prospects for the Museum. The Prospect Research Assistant will be a key resource to his or …
  • Visitor Services Assistant [Metropolitan Museum of Art] The Metropolitan Museum of Art seeks part-time Visitor Services Assistants. This position’s primary responsibility is running the Admissions registers and performing reliefs for the other cashiers.  This position also functions as a back-up for office personnel as well as to all areas of the Department, including the Information, and Group Registration Desks.  Other responsibilities include greeting, advising …
  • Deputy Director of Exhibitions [Taubman Museum of Art] Job ID: 13184938 Position Title: Deputy Director of Exhibitions Company Name: Taubman Museum of Art Job Function: Exhibitions Entry Level: No Location(s): Roanoke, Virginia, 24001, United States Posted: April 19, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: Master’s Degree Min Experience: 5-7 Years Required Travel: 10-25% Taubman Museum of Art Deputy Director of Exhibitions The Taubman Museum of Art seeks an experienced museum professional to coordinate and manage a dynamic exhibition program. S/he will assume intellectual responsibility for the …
  • Research Associate [Rodel Foundation of Delaware] JOB DESCRIPTION The job description is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of duties of the position. Research Associates should expect to perform other related duties, as assigned by their manager. Job Title: Research Associate Reports To: Vice President – Policy & Practice Background: The Rodel Foundation of Delaware was created in 1999 with a singular mission to ensure all Delaware …
  • Program Officer [Rodel Foundation of Delaware] Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware is a fast‐paced working philanthropy engaged in transforming the public education system with a dedicated team of talented and passionate people. The Foundation’s mission is to help Delaware create one of the finest public education systemsin the nation. JOBDESCRIPTION: Thisjob description is notintended to be an all‐inclusive list of duties and …
  • Assistant/Associate Curator [Monticello] Assistant/Associate Curator, Monticello.  The Thomas Jefferson Foundation seeks an Assistant or Associate Curator (depending on experience) to assist the Senior Curator/VP for Museum Programs in the achievement of the Curatorial department’s research and exhibition objectives.  Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Foundation is the private nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the home and …
  • Archival Project Manager [Learning Matters] Learning Matters is seeking an Archival Project Manager for our New York office. We need a librarian, archivist, or experienced digital media specialist for a 2-part project.  Phase one is a needs assessment.  The ultimate goal is a fully searchable, digitized collection of interviews and b-roll of 90,000 hours of video about American education. About the …
  • Institutional Giving Coordinator [Development Department]Development Department The National Building Museum seeks an Institutional Giving Coordinator to support the cultivation, acquisition, and stewardship of association, corporate, and foundation donors who contribute to the Museum’s exhibitions, education programs, and special projects. This position manages the Museum’s corporate membership program and sponsorship fulfillment. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and a track record …
  • School Programs Representative/Museum Teacher [National Building Museum] The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. seeks applications for a part-time School Programs Representative/Museum Teacher to work 10–30 hours a week during the 2013–2014 school year. The position includes: 10 hours of work/week between July 29 and early September 2013 to be conducted over two days/week. 20 hours of work/week between mid-September 2013 and June 13, 2014 …
  • Museum and Cultural Affairs Director [City of Riverside] Job ID: 13219266 Position Title: Museum and Cultural Affairs Director Company Name: City of Riverside Job Function: Directors/Administrators Entry Level: No Job Type: Full-time Location(s): Riverside, California, 92522, United States Posted: April 22, 2013 Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: BA/BS/Undergraduate Min Experience: 5-7 Years Required Travel: None Salary: $116,136.00 – $145,116.00 (Yearly Salary)   Museum and Cultural Affairs Director City of Riverside, California Annual Salary: $116,136–$145,116 + a comprehensive benefits package The City of Riverside is seeking a dynamic and innovative professional to serve as Museum and …
  • Interim Executive Director [Freedom's Way Heritage Association] JOB POSTING Interim Executive Director (Part Time) Exciting job opportunity for a self-starter, as a part-time Interim Executive Director for Freedom’s Way Heritage Association, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and implements the goals of Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area. A National Heritage Area is a designated partner organization to the National Park Service (NPS) to manage, preserve, protect, and interpret …

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Science in Museums: Museums in the Virtual World

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 24, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Catherine Sigmond

Last week the Exploratorium officially re-opened in its 330,000 ft. new building at Pier 15 in San Francisco after a $300 million, multi-year construction project.

The new museum at Pier 15, which is three times bigger than the previous location at the Palace of Fine Arts, boasts an array of exciting new exhibits on all sorts of topics. Visitors can enter the rain chamber, where they select a famous past storm and stand as the exhibit recreates the frequency, size, and velocity of its raindrops, or “The Colors of Water,” where they can match the daily color of the San Francisco Bay and investigate what factors cause it to change from day to day.

But this science museum doesn’t just exist in the physical realm- it also has an extensive virtual presence. It’s not that the museum simply has a really great website with excellent teaching resources (which incidentally it does- check it out here). Rather, visitors searching for ways to engage with the museum without actually settling foot inside the new building can enter an entire virtual world that the museum created in Second Life and use it to engage with exhibits and attend regular public events through an avatar that they create.

In the SciLands region of Second Life users can explore Exploratorium Island and its sister island, ‘Sploland, allowing them to examine over 100 virtual exhibits all while using instant messaging, gestures, and chats to communicate with others. The experience is completely dependent on visitors’ curiosity and creativity.

The museum’s virtual reality blog, Fabricated Realities, features some of the experiments and events that take place in these virtual spaces as well as others that occur in the mash-up between the real and virtual worlds.

Once, for example, the museum streamed a rare transit of the planet Mercury live from the telescopes at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Kitt Peak, Arizona, into the International Spaceflight Museum site in Second Life. An international avatar audience had the opportunity to pose questions to an avatar staff member on stage who answered questions, while a three-dimensional model of the orbit of Mercury hung over the stage allowing avatars to fly up and examine the orbiting planet.

Many of the exhibits featured on the island are based off of real-life components in the museum itself, such as a series of ever-larger dominoes that visitors can push in order to explore chain reactions relating to force and motion. However Second Life also allows the museum to create exhibits that would be impractical or unsafe to build in a real physical space. One great example is a virtual exhibit where users can visualize a nuclear chain reaction by dropping a Ping-Pong ball on a series of mousetraps loaded with other Ping-Pong balls and watching as they are continuously set off.

It’s hard to imagine exactly how it all works without taking a look at it yourself. If you’re new to Second Life or just plain curious, take a look at this “machinima” (a film made entirely in the virtual world) made by the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute to highlight some of the cool exhibits and recent events in Second Life on Exploratorium Island and in ‘Sploland.

I’ll admit that at first I was a bit underwhelmed by some of the exhibits the video profiles. But as I kept watching I found myself more and more impressed by what I saw. The virtual space in Second Life could be great for prototyping new exhibit components, demonstrating large-scale scientific phenomena that would be difficult to recreate in a small room, and allowing both visitors and museum professionals from different parts of the world interact with one another.

For me, however, visiting the museum in Second Life will forever be second to a trip to the museum itself. Although there is a high level of social interaction on Second Life, it can never compare to seeing the reactions on people’s faces to the things they see and do in a science museum and the spontaneity of real conversation. I love that Exploratorium Island is a place where I can simulate what it’s like to orbit the Earth if I want to, but I’ll never be able to hold a bear skull in my hands or illuminate a light bulb by using my body to conduct electric charge like I can in real life.

So while it does have some cool features, I’m still undecided about whether or not I think this is something museums should devote a lot of time to.

How do you feel about museums in the virtual world? Is building a museum in Second Life something all museums should consider?

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“Facebook Home” paints a less-than flattering picture of museums

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 23, 2013 in food for thought |

Watch it online and don’t forget to read the comments. They’ll boost your spirits back up.

 

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Quick – save the Marathon Bombing objects!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 23, 2013 in food for thought, material culture, museums in the news |

Rainey Tisdale, one of our own professors here at Tufts, has been agitating for a museum to step up to collect the objects relating to the Boston Marathon bombing before they disappear.

Listen to her in this interview on WBUR, which aired this morning: http://www.wbur.org/2013/04/23/saving-marathon-memorial-items.

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Playground v. Playpen

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 22, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

I had the good fortune to spend Passover with my cousins this year. Being closer to Philadelphia now, we don’t see our New York family members as often, so we jump at the chance to spend time with them. Especially if we know one of the babies will be there.  I use the term “baby” loosely. The baby in question on this holiday is very much a toddler now.

Of course, being the second youngest cousin present, I was still relegated to the kids’ table – which meant we played together, all night long. We played Trucks. We played Blocks. He told me Je m’apelle Mickey Mouse. (He’s pulling to be bilingual, but his name is not Mickey Mouse.)

Needless to say, he surprised me in many, many ways. But perhaps what was most surprising of all was his ability to use an iPhone. Undirected, he unlocked the phone, paged through his parents’ apps, and correctly selected YouTube so we could watch Mickey’s “Hot Dog” song. (Click with caution. You WILL be singing this song for days.)

Did I mention that he’s barely two?

children-on-ipad-alamy

Dr. Marina Bers of Tufts University’s Department of Child Development has recently written a book on children and technology entitled Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground. An excerpt was included in Tufts’ most recent issue of Alma Matters magazine.

In her work, Dr. Bers posits that when it comes to child development, technology and computer software can act as a playpen or a playground. What’s the difference?

Playground: While they still need supervision, children make their own choices, use their bodies and surroundings in creative ways, and interact with others in their age group. Playgrounds are about autonomy.

- Examples of “playground” technology are programs Microsoft Paint or Word. They allow for the creation of original content. Like a playground, there are boundaries, but what you can do within those boundaries is more or less limitless.

Playpen: It doesn’t hinder development, but it doesn’t necessarily help foster it either. The space and resources provided are extremely limited. It’s more of a temporary holding space with “edutainment” options.

- Examples of “playpen” technology are websites like YouTube. Although they can aid in development, the child plays more passively.

So what does this have to do with museums?

Thinking through the exhibits in my museum, I realized that while we use a lot of technology, there is only one computerized interactive. It is in the corner of an exhibit we call The River, and honestly, I rarely see anyone use it. The kids are too busy splashing in the water, building boats and sending rubber duckies on pirating expeditions to even notice the nearby screen flickering facts about water conservation and the Schuylkill (pronounced: “SKOO-kill”) River.

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Kids come to the Please Touch Museum to learn, but they also come to play. They use their imaginations, socialize, try out new skill sets and solve new problems. Confession: I’m sometimes frustrated when the museum is treated like a playground – I dislike being drenched with “river” water because a kid was roughhousing.

BUT! After reading this article I see that the museum IS a playground.

So…if a museum is a playground for kids, shouldn’t it be one for adults too? Shouldn’t exhibits reflect this?

Thinking over the museums I like best, they’re the ones that have found ways to involve me in my own education. They’re the ones that let me try new things, or put myself in situations I’ve never confronted before. If they use computer programs or kiosks, the content is interesting and open ended.

Similarly, the museums I’ve liked the least are the ones that ask me to shuffle through, stand and admire an important object, and then leave having “learned” something. And yet, I find that this is how most content is presented to adults – through tours and limited computer interactives. If it feels passive…it’s because it is.

Personally I find that in a museum, if a kid likes something, I’ll like it too. I want my museums to be like playgrounds.

So I’m asking you: What are some ways we can make “adult” institutions more like playgrounds? How can we redesign exhibits, programming, technology and content to get adult audiences more involved in their education?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 21, 2013 in museums in the news |

As a break from the other news that has been read, re-read, and read some more by those of us in Boston, here’s what happened in museums around the world this week.

  • Justin Bieber courts controversy after visiting Anne Frank museum and writing he hopes she ‘would have been a Belieber’
  • Netherlands’ national museum, the Rijksmuseum, opens to the public after a 10-year renovation
  • 9-11 Museum will charge admission after all. [editorial]
  • Abu Dhabi’s Louvre museum offers first peek at growing collection ahead of 2015 opening
  • MFA and arts organizations waive admission fee
  • Margaret Thatcher museum: Good way to spend $23 million?
  • MoMA vs. Folk Art Museum Inspires A Petition With A History Lesson: Don’t Forget Penn Station
  • San Francisco Museum Is Sued by Former Curator
  • U-M museum to display pieces in Google Art Project
  • Polish Museum Repairs a Tie to a Jewish Past

Much like Boston, we’ll be returning to business as usual with our Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic and Science in Museum columns next week. We hope everyone is safe and well, and our thoughts are with those who were hurt, or whose friends and family were hurt in the events this week.

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Weekly Jobs Update

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 19, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Historic Site Administrator [Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority] The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has an immediate full-time opening for a Historic Site Administrator at Carlyle House Historic Park in Alexandria, Virginia (Opportunity Announcement #13-04-06).  Annual Starting Salary: $54,000 – $60,000. Excellent benefits provided. For a complete job description, please go to www.NVRPA.org.   HISTORIC SITE ADMINISTRATOR is responsible for planning, developing, coordinating, and executing a management plan for …
  • General Manager [Philadelphia's Magic Gardens] Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) General Manager is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of PMG including staff scheduling and management, visitor services, daily finances, public programs, and events. Under the direction of the Executive Director, this position provides core leadership to staff and contractors, including supervision for other management positions within the organization. The GM …
  • Volunteer Coordinator/ Administrative Assistant [Owls Head Transportation Museum] The Owls Head Transportation Museum is accepting resumes for the position of Volunteer Coordinator/Administrative Assistant. The successful candidate will be self-motivated and possess a strong desire to work with volunteers. Duties include, though are not limited to, coordinating volunteers for specific events and special projects, recruiting and interviewing volunteers, facility use scheduling, contracts and documentation, …
  • Technical Architect, Digital Media [The Metropolitan Museum of Art] General Description: The Technical Architect will serve as the technical administrator for MediaBin, the Museum’s digital asset management system, and will be responsible for system achitecture (including upgrades or migration to a new digital asset management system), task automation, application customization, troubleshooting, reporting, and other professional services. Primary Responsibilities and Duties: -Provide technical expertise for digital asset / …
  • Administrative Director [Master's Program in Museum Studies - University of San Francisco] Job Summary The Department of Art + Architecture at the University of San Francisco invites applications for a full-time staff position of Administrative Director of the Master’s Program in Museum Studies, to begin July 1, 2013. We seek candidates with expertise in academic administration and museum management, who are conversant with the latest trends in the …
  • Education Curator [Mid America Arts Alliance] Position: Education Curator Reports to: Director of Programs Status: Exempt Job Summary: The Education Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of programming resources and educational materials for exhibitions organized or produced by the Visual Arts and Humanities (VAH) division of Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA). Representative Examples of Work Performed: Accomplish the work of Mid-America Arts Alliance Implement the organization’s mission …
  • Curator of Education [Branigan Cultural Center] *Curator of Education* *Branigan Cultural Center * *City of Las Cruces, NM* ** Hiring range: $39,000-$41,500 *__* *_General Description of Work:_* The Branigan Cultural Center seeks an engaging individual responsible for the creation, organization, promotion, implementation, and evaluation of educational programs to the general public, students, and community audiences. The Branigan is an interdisciplinary museum that interprets the rich heritage of the Southwest and the world …
  • Exhibits Developer [Lake County Forest Preserves] Full-time Position Salary Range: $37,221.00 – $45,931.00 Annually Location: Lake County Discovery Museum Application deadline: April 26, 2013 Date posted: April 5, 2013   Responsible for the conceptualization, design, fabrication, and installation of new exhibitions and the maintenance of existing exhibitions at the Lake County Discovery Museum and at preserves/galleries around the District. Projects include temporary exhibitions, outdoor exhibit elements, as …
  • Director of Education [Folger Shakespeare Library] The Folger Shakespeare Library seeks a dynamic individual to direct a nationally recognized Education Department. The successful candidate will demonstrate creative and strategic vision to grow a well-regarded current set of Shakespeare and related programs for teacher training and K-12 education; expand Folger teacher training initiatives nationally; and develop innovative ways of connecting the local and …
  • Assistant Professor in Digital History [Temple University] The Temple University History Department seeks applications for a two-year non-tenure-track position in public history, with a specialization in digital history. The appointment will be at the rank of Visiting Assistant Professor/Instructional, to begin August 2013, with possibility of renewal.  The successful candidate will participate in Temple’s public history program by advising theses, supporting program …
  • Assistant Curator [Bard Graduate Center] The Bard Graduate Center (BGC), a division of Bard College located on West 86th Street in New York City, is seeking a full-time Assistant Curator. Founded in 1993, the BGC is comprised of an Academic Program, Research Institute and Gallery. We offer MA and PhD programs in the study of the cultural history of the material world …
  • Head of Visitor Services [Farnsworth Art Museum] Full-time position reporting to the Communications Officer. This person will be responsible for supervising, scheduling, and training visitor services staff at admissions desks throughout the museum. Will also work with all departments to manage and ensure an excellent visitor experience. Qualifications: Some post-secondary school education, 2-3 years customer service, including employee scheduling. Computer skills including data entry and flexibility …
  • Teen Lounge Coordinator [Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial]Fleisher is seeking a Teen Lounge Coordinator to oversee and coordinate the Teen Lounge program. The position is offered to people interested in arts education and gaining experience in program design and management. The Teen Lounge Coordinator will oversee and coordinate the activities of the Teen Lounge and will be primarily responsible, along with the …
  • Editorial Assistant, Website Maintenance (P/T)—Publications and Editorial Services [Brooklyn Museum] Requirements: Excellent skills in proofreading, copyediting, and word-processing are essential. Familiarity with basic HTML, content management systems, and other tools are a plus. The candidate should be able to work independently, budget time effectively, pursue several projects simultaneously, and meet agreed-upon deadlines. Responsibilities: The position of Editorial Assistant, Website Maintenance supports the work of staff editors in maintaining …
  • Education & Outreach Manager [Pelham Art Center] Education & Outreach Manager Pelham Art Center (Pelham NY) Pelham Art Center was founded in 1969 and is a non-profit multi-arts organization whose mission is to give area residents and visitors a place and the opportunity to see, study and experience the arts in a community setting. Located in southern Westchester County, many artists and more than 16,000 …
  • Director of Interpretation [Adirondack Museum] DESCRIPTION: AM seeks a dynamic, creative individual to oversee its Interpretation Department. S/he will be responsible for developing compelling, interactive exhibitions, public programs, and other offerings that present the story of the Adirondacks. The incumbent will oversee implementation of a new exhibition master plan being prepared by Gallagher & Associates, Richard Lewis Media Group, and others. …
  • Library Digitization/Automation Project Manager [Adirondack Museum Library] DESCRIPTION: The Adirondack Museum Library seeks an enthusiastic and well-qualified project manager to coordinate the activities of recently awarded digitization and automation grants. The goal of the digitization project is to digitize the library’s collection of roughly 1000 architectural drawings and renderings, add them to existing Past Perfect records or, when necessary create new catalog records. …
  • Project Assistant [Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, City of Philadelphia] The mission of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (CreativePHL.org) is to support and promote arts, culture and the creative industries; and to develop partnerships and coordinate efforts that weave arts, culture and creativity into the economic and social fabric of the City. POSITION DESCRIPTION We are looking for a highly …
  • Social Media and Outreach Assistant [Brooklyn Arts Council]Responsibilities: Under the direction of the Director of Marketing and Communications, the Social Media and Outreach Assistant will, Compile and organize artist opportunities for bi-weekly newsletter Create social media posts Monitor social media sites for conversations and comments in our areas of operation Monitor social media analytics, create draft reports and suggest strategy adjustments, as needed Help brainstorm social media strategies …
  • Marketing & Public Relations Manager [Anchorage Museum Association] Contact Person: Brandi M. Kirk, PHR Phone: 907-929-9217 Email Address: bkirk@anchoragemuseum.org Fax: 907-929-9216 Apply URL: http://www.anchoragemuseum.org   Working for the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and its support organization, the Anchorage Museum Association, means working with dynamic people and doing meaningful work for Anchorage’s premier cultural hallmark. Job Title: Marketing & Public Relations Manager (Program Promotion) Position Summary: Under general supervision of the Director of Marketing and Public Relations, this …
  • Director and CEO OMCA Lab [Oakland Museum of California]OMCA CORE COMMITMENT All staff embrace and advance the OMCA mission, values, and vision, and uphold OMCA core principles in their work, public interactions, working relationships, and efforts on behalf of the Museum and the people OMCA serves. This shared commitment helps build a relevant and sustainable future for OMCA. The core principles are: • Open optimism… communicating, learning, …
  • Project Manager – London and San Francisco [Hisorypin] $30-34,000, plus benefits, depending on experience Full-Time This is a unique opportunity to join an award-winning, global non-profit project that is making waves in the digital, cultural heritage and community sectors through its innovative approach. If you think you have what it takes to join this dedicated, forward-thinking team, read on… About us Historypin is a way for millions of …

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Upcoming Workshop: NEMA YEPs Internship Advice Panel

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 18, 2013 in boston emps, professional development, workshops |

New England Museum Association Young and Emerging Museum Professionals have a great upcoming workshop for those in the field looking for more information on how volunteer and internship positions help start your museum career.  Registration has been extended through early next week – register early, as spaces fill quickly!


To register, visit: http://www.nemanet.org/workshops/13YEP.htm

LAUGH: No Joke: Making the Most of Your Internship or Volunteer Position
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Panelists: Jennifer DePrizio, Director of Visitor Learning, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Dan Elias, Senior Assistant for Strategy, Peabody Essex Museum, and Purvi Patwari, Independent Human Resources Professional

Internships and volunteer positions may not be glamorous, have the best hours, or have the best pay (ha!), but these positions are no joke. Join the NEMA YEPs, a group of experienced human resources, volunteer, and internship managers, and hear from the YEPs Chairs, who have had phenomenal internship and volunteering experiences. Learn what skills can be honed through volunteering, how to shape a perfect match internship, and how to frame all of these experiences on your growing resume.

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How Museums Respond

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 16, 2013 in emergency preparedness, food for thought |

by editor Phillippa Pitts

Museums talk a lot about being members of their communities, meeting niche needs and providing unique third spaces. Today, some of the museums in Boston stepped up beautifully. Below is just a rough screen capture snapshot of how our community responded to the Marathon Monday bombings.

Starting with the Boston Children’s Museum fantastic and speedy response to their visitors’ needs:

BCM1

BCM2

BCM3

1-2

2

1-1

3

JFK

 

Thoughts and comments on these responses are welcome below. Also if you have other screenshots from museums in Boston or around the country email us (tuftsmuseumblog AT gmail.com) and we’ll share them!

 

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 14, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

First: a very controversial exhibit at a Berlin Museum spurs this op-ed. Warning, the article and the exhibit may be offensive to some.

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Weekly Jobs Round-Up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 12, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Executive Director [Wright Museum of WW II History, Wolfeboro, NH] The Wright Museum of WW II History seeks an experienced and enthusiastic Executive Director who can take this young niche museum to the next stage in its evolution. The goal is to increase the Museum’s visibility, expand its audience, and grow its financial resources. The Museum has transitioned from a founder-supported organization to a broader …
  • Executive Director [Holland Historical Trust] The Holland Historical Trust (HHT), which operates the AAM-accredited Holland Museum, seeks an experienced and enthusiastic leader to guide the organization as it adapts to the changing economy. The HHT operates with an annual budget of $600,000. The staff includes 7 full-time and 5 part-time employees, supported by an active corps of over 100 volunteers.   HHT’s …
  • Curator [The Southern Museum] The Southern Museum is currently seeking an energetic individual for the position of Curator. The Curator is responsible for overseeing the artifact collection and exhibitions of the museum.  Knowledge of Civil War and Reconstruction, Industrialization, and/ or Southeastern Railroad history is necessary to this position.  The incumbent must demonstrate sufficient curatorial and collections management experience and …
  • Assistant/Associate Curator [Monticello] The Thomas Jefferson Foundation seeks an Assistant or Associate Curator (depending on experience) to assist the Senior Curator/VP for Museum Programs in the achievement of the Curatorial department’s research and exhibition objectives.  Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Foundation is the private nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the home and plantation of Thomas Jefferson, …
  • Curator of Exhibitions [Grand Valley State University Art Gallery]GVSU has a growing collection of more than 11000 works of art, located throughout several campuses in the state. The art collection includes a Print and Drawing Cabinet with more than 3000 museum quality works on paper which are an important exhibition teaching resource. The Art Gallery organizes and presents an average of 11 exhibitions annually at multiple …
  • Assistant Coordinator for Information Services [The Metropolitan Museum of Art] This position works closely with the Associate Manager of the Great Hall and Information Services by assisting in the management and daily operations related to the Information Desks and facilitation of visitors. This position also supervises all staff and volunteers working with the Information Services Division and directly interacts with the Museum’s visitors. Primary Responsibilities and …
  • Technical Editor [National Gallery of Art] JOB SUMMARY:   Vacancy announcement # NGA-13-31B is being issued at the same time for this position and is open to federal competitive status candidates and those candidates eligible under special appointing authorities (e.g., 30% or more compensable service-connected disabled veterans, VEOA, and individuals with disabilities).  Candidates who wish to apply under both vacancy announcements MUST apply …
  • Assistant Curator [Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego]Department: Curatorial Reports To: Chief Curator Employee Status: Full-Time, Exempt Primary Work Location: MCASD La Jolla & MCASD Downtown Contact: jobs@mcasd.org Job Summary: Reporting to the Chief Curator, the Assistant Curator supports the needs the department’s ambitious schedule by assisting supervisor with a variety of programmatic and administrative tasks related to exhibitions and activities at MCASD’s two locations (La Jolla and San Diego) and expansive 4200-object …
  • Curator of Contemporary Art and Design [Cranbrook Art Museum] Cranbrook Art Museum has entered an exciting period of growth. In 2011, the Museum completed a construction project, which realized not only the restoration of its landmark Eliel Saarinen-designed building but also the addition of a new Collections Wing. The Museum’s collections (including the restored 1930 Saarinen House) and exhibitions (which focus on the leading-edge …
  • Curatorial Research Assistant [Pace Gallery] Pace Gallery, home to many of the most significant artists and estates from the 20th and 21st centuries, is seeking a Freelance Curatorial Research Assistant to conduct research in preparation for an upcoming exhibition scheduled for late 2013. This individual will be required to stay in close contact with the organizing Dealer’s office and consistently provide updates …

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Save the Date for the “The Wonder Smith”

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 11, 2013 in events, tufts events |

Explore the children’s book illustrations of Boris Artzybasheff as curated by students from the Tufts University Museum Studies Program. On view from May 6-19, 2013, this is the first solo exhibition of Artzbasheff’s folk-inspired and whimsical illustrations. The exhibition showcases over 40 black-and-white works—many accompanied by excerpts from the fanciful stories they depict—that convey the creative and technical genius embodied in a prolific 20-year career.

Learn more from the Press Release.

So save the date, and make time for the public opening reception on May 6 from 5-8:30 pm!

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Science in Museums: Museums at the Movies, Pop Cultural Partnerships

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 10, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Kacie Rice

We’ve all seen our fair share of movies that happen at museums (museum professionals around the country are surely tired of being asked if their jobs are like Night at the Museum or The DaVinci Code) – but what about bringing the movies to life in museum exhibits themselves?

Beginning May 23, Thinktank, a hands-on science museum in Birmingham, England, will be hosting The Pirates!: In an Adventure with Scientists: The Exhibition, based on the 2012 animated movie of the same title. The movie, released last year in the U.S. as The Pirates: Band of Misfits (some speculated at the time that this change was due to Americans’ perceived inability to think of “scientists” as a fun crowd – though I’d ask anyone who believes this to join my pub trivia team just to prove them wrong), is a stop-motion comedy from the Aardman Animation team (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run) that follows a group of pirates as they accidentally get tangled up with Charles Darwin’s search for the extinct dodo (I’d highly recommend checking it out if, like me, you’re into evolution humor). The movie manages to be at once funny and surprisingly smart – when was the last time you saw the H.M.S. Beagle namedropped in a kids’ movie?

The exhibition, funded by Sony Pictures Animation, will do double duty, both advertising for the movie and educating kids about piracy, filmmaking, and evolution. It features many of the clay puppets and sets from the movie and uses them as a jumping off point to teach kids about steering a galleon and using blue-screen technology. The museum will also be displaying a recreation of a dodo specimen from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to link the exhibition to natural history and evolution themes.

I’ve noticed exhibits like Pirates cropping up sporadically for the last several years. The Perot Museum of Science, Dallas’ brand new flagship science museum, boasts a Tyrannosaurus rex scale model used in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has hosted a series of events and exhibitions coinciding with the release dates of the popular Spider Man franchise of movies. These have included exhibitions on live spiders in 2007 and 2012, the latter of which was highly publicized and attended by Spider Man himself, Andrew Garfield.

These pop-culturally relevant exhibits hold huge potential to attract audiences to museums – but do they do this at the cost of weakening a museums’ mission? I have to admit, when I first read about the Pirates exhibition in Birmingham, my first thought was that it seemed too commercial. The museum is using the props from the film to sell the exhibition and get bodies in the door – the question is: will they center the exhibition around these props to the detriment of real learning, or will they use children’s initial interest in the movie to really get them involved in history and science? Even more concerning: will the funding from Sony Pictures Animation force the museum’s hand in making an exhibition that promotes Sony’s profit-based interests over the museum’s educational interests?

I wondered if casual visitors might have the same reaction that I did – will they see an exhibition like this as a sign that the museum is “selling out” and weakening its educational mission? Will audiences place less trust in a respected cultural institution if it commercially associates itself with popular media? These questions echo fears raised in the 1990’s, when Chicago’s Field Museum partnered with McDonald’s and Disney to raise money to buy Sue, the famous T. rex fossil. Many in the museum field felt that this association would imbue the fossil and exhibition with dangerous corporate messaging that could derail the museum’s educational content. Fortunately, McDonald’s and Disney anticipated these fears and presented their gift as purely philanthropic – while a cast of Sue did travel to Disney World, the travelling exhibit was entirely educational and served to promote the museum’s mission across the country. In this case, the museum’s partnership with popular media corporations paid off: though the corporations did hold naming rights for the exhibitions (see: the McDonald’s Fossil Prep Lab), The Field Museum retained all intellectual rights and had the freedom to teach about Sue in a way that would not have been possible without the funding partnership (for more on this story, including the dramatic legal battle over Sue, I’d recommend Steve Fiffer’s fantastic 2001 book Tyrannosaurus Sue).

Does it benefit museums to use media corporations to capitalize on pop cultural trends and events? Many people decry popular media as devoid of substance, but in the examples above, movies have opened the doors to a variety of academic topics: piracy, technology, paleontology, and entomology. As funding grows increasingly scarce, do you think we’ll start to see museums like Harvard’s Peabody partnering with Paramount Pictures to create an Indiana Jones Hall of Archaeology? Do you think a trend like this would help museums or hurt them in the long run? I’m on the fence about this – while I believe that these kinds of exhibits would bring people in (I’d be the first in line for the Indiana Jones hall!) and provide much-needed funding, I also think they could make the public assume that the museum’s exhibits aren’t academically rigorous, weakening their trust in traditionally esteemed institutions.

As the Pirates exhibit won’t open until May 25th, we won’t know how Thinktank’s relationship with Sony will play out until the reviews start coming in. Until then, my hopes are high that kids will go in hoping to see their favorite pirate characters and come out wanting to read about Blackbeard, Mary Read, and, of course, the dodo.

 

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Meet the Museum!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 8, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp,

Welcome to Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic’s new series Meet the Museum! where we interview museum professionals in the Mid-Atlantic region to get a feel for who they are and what they’re up to.

Today, we’re talking to the Please Touch Museum’s new Manager of Visitor Services, Patrick Wittwer.

PWittwer

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into the museum field?

Back in high school, a friend of mine had a part-time job at the Franklin Institute and suggested I apply. I was hired to work the overnight program there and have been working in museums ever since.

What do you do at the Please Touch Museum?

I am the Visitor Services Manager, and I am responsible for the quality of the guest experience at PTM. I oversee a large staff, and work on developing the programs and training that ultimately improves our ability to serve our guests.

What is the most challenging thing about working in Visitor Services?

With a large staff, learning everyone’s name has certainly been challenging. Beyond that [I think] dealing with unexpected issues can be a challenge.

Any crazy customer services stories to share with us?

When I worked at Disney World, we were encouraged to go above and beyond Disney’s guest service standards whenever we could. One of my favorite things to do was to give birthday kids a special message. There was an extension you could call and Goofy would pick up the phone and wish the child a happy birthday. The reaction that this call garnered was one of the many highlights of working for the Mouse.

Do you think Philadelphia museums have a particular “personality” in comparison to institutions in other cities/regions?

I think that the spirit of collaboration amongst Philadelphia institutions is higher than that of their counterparts in other cities, but do think a museum’s “personality” depends on what audience they are catering to.

What are some of the ups and downs about being a manager? We understand that PTM’s Visitor Services department is upwards of 70 people.

One of my goals as a manager is to bridge the gap between the floor staff and back-of-house staff that exists in just about every business. At PTM, there is an enthusiasm from both sides to create unity, which is very refreshing. On the flip side, every manager whose primary responsibility is guest service has to deal with dissatisfied guests, which at times is unpleasant, but the ups definitely outweigh the downs.

You’ve posted a March Madness bracket of children’s television shows and asked the staff to vote on their favorites all month. What inspired you to start this tournament, and what are you hoping the Visitor Services staff will gain from participating?

I had two goals with March Madness. One was to break up the day for the floor staff. My main goal was to use it as an icebreaker. I wanted to get to know my staff and assess their feelings about their jobs, the department, the museum, and get a feel for their personalities. With the tournament being posted on my door, it brought people into my office that may not have been comfortable approaching a new manager. It also prompted discussions that started with the [children’s] television shows on the board and inevitably segued into a chat about the job they do at the museum.

[Update: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won the 2013 Children’s Television March Madness Tournament, with The Muppet Show coming in a close second place. Reading Rainbow and Hey Arnold! rounded out the Final Four slots.]

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the museum field?

Never settle for anything less than what you truly want to do. People who go into the museum business don’t do it for the money; they do it because they have a passion that they are pursuing.  Networking helps. Joining a group like Philadelphia Emerging Museum Professionals (cheap plug – phillyemp.com) is a great way to get to know other people in the field.

Any last thoughts?

Sure, two little nuggets of wisdom:

  1. There are a tremendous amount of resources out there for people in the museum field, use them as often as possible.

  2. If you are not enjoying your position or you are no longer fulfilled in your job, find something new that challenges you and keeps you engaged in your work.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Patrick!

Got a question for Patrick? Post it in the comments!

 

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 7, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

First, to start things out on a light-hearted note, read about the adventures of Cashew, an 18lb tortoise who made national news for three days last week (here and here).

Then, there’s been a disturbing trend of poaching in museums. In other words, stealing the ivory tusks from rhino and elephant skeletons in natural history museums. Read about one foiled theft in Paris in The New York Daily News and the overall trend in Smithsonian Magazine.

And now, back to our regular round-up:

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Weekly Jobs Round-Up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 5, 2013 in jobs listings, Uncategorized |

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

Also for those just browsing while in school, there’s a one-day job opportunity doing program evaluation:

Temporary Contract Position [Randi Korn & Associates / Cambridge Science Festival] Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., a museum consulting firm, is studying visitors’ experiences with the Math Midway 2 Go exhibition at the Cambridge Science Festival’s Science Carnival (held at the Cambridge Public Library).  Math Midway is an exhibition developed by the Museum of Mathematics that is traveling to museums and science festivals across the country.   We …

And back to our regular listings:

  • Education and Programs Assistant [Museum of Arts and Design]EDUCATION AND PROGRAMS ASSISTANT The Education and Programs Assistant is responsible for maintaining all aspects of the Education Department¹s operation, with job responsibilities specifically focused on the museum¹s group schedule.  This position reports to the Manager of Teen, Family and Community Programs, working in collaboration with visitor services, communications, and facilities departments. Primary Responsibilities: * Oversee the Museum’s group schedule activities, with specific focus on student group …
  • Public Programs Coordinator [National Building Museum] The National Building Museum¹s Education Department seeks an energetic, creative individual to plan and manage educational programs for a general, adult audience exploring such topics as architecture, engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, and construction. This position works as a dynamic team member to foster interdepartmental work and works cooperatively within the education division to assist with other programs and projects. …
  • Exhibit Designer [Columbus Museum] *Exhibit Designer* Primary job function is to create the design, layout and graphics for temporary, permanent and hands-on exhibitions.**** ** ** *Duties and Responsibilities* include but are not limited to:**** **·         **Designing effective ways to communicate interpretive objectives, themes, storylines, and subjects using a wide variety of artifacts and other authentic historical materials, graphic reproductions from diverse sources, and …
  • Curator of Exhibitions [Grand Valley State University Art Gallery]Curator of Exhibitions at the Grand Valley State University Art Gallery headquartered in Allendale, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids posting attached. The university has an innovative commitment to collecting and exhibiting art to augment and enhance classroom instruction across all disciplines.  7000 of its 12,000 works of art are exhibited throughout university facilities on …

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Science in Museums: Metaphorically Transporting Exhibits

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 4, 2013 in Science in Museums |
by columnist Cira Brown
I am currently enrolled in the Exhibition Planning class at Tufts, and I love it! I feel so lucky to be given the opportunity to curate our own exhibition as a class, which I’ve been told is quite rare for museum studies graduate programs. Together, we cover everything from object management, collections care, exhibition design, layout, marketing and budgeting. I’ve decided to be part of the exhibition design group, though we all gain experience in the various areas of planning an exhibition. Kacie Rice and Catherine Sigmond, the other contributors to the Science in Museums column, are in the class as well.
I’ve spoken previously about the recurring theme of balance that I find in exhibit development, and I’m finding that the same applies for exhibition design as well. The design itself needs to transform the space, but it also must not overshadow the content. This inherent tension makes for interesting conversations and decisions. Do we use our collection as inspiration for design motifs, or is that too literal and distracting? Should we use a color palette based on the artist’s works or create our own? Does our design aesthetic need to correspond to contemporary styles? Based on survey responses from the class, we’ve decided we want our visitors to feel “transported” and the design should evoke a sense of nostalgia – but what exactly does that mean? Nostalgia is subjective and implies different responses for various demographics. Similarly, the notion of “transporting” a visitor is unclear. Transported to where? A literal place or a figurative feeling? I find this inherent tension to be fascinating, and, as exhibit designers, our task is to translate these abstract feelings into tangible elements in the styling of a gallery space.
I’ve been thinking about my experience in this class and how it applies to a science exhibition context. Science visualization and high-resolution/micro/macro imaging provides such great opportunities for creating spaces, and I love seeing science museums use these elements to the extreme. In a way, science museums are have more freedom in the creation of immersive environments,because the exhibition may not entirely be based on artifacts, but instead on exhibits and experiences. I’ve been thinking a lot about the limits of design in these spaces, whether they suffer from being “over” or “under” designed, and how one would even make these qualifications. I’m also unclear if visitors respond better to highly stylized theatrical environments or more traditional gallery spaces, or whether its dependent on the activity or content in the area.
Anyway, I suppose I’ll use this space to plug our exhibition! Our opening reception will be on Monday, May 6th at 5:30pm, and our show runs from May 7th through May 19th. You can decide for yourself if we were successful in “transporting” you!

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Dream a Little Dream

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on April 1, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

Working for a children’s museum, I am all about supporting the hopes and dreams of young children. Kids tell me them all the time.

I hear dreams of being an astronaut, a firefighter, a doctor, a professional athlete. I hear dreams about being able to read chapter books or tying shoes without help, and dreams of one day being tall enough to ride the museum’s carousel without an adult. I hear it all.

Some of them are silly, some of them are sincere, and some of them are downright outlandish. The thing is, I think it’s so important to support kids’ dreams, rather than quash them no matter what. So what if you can’t grow up to be a Tooth Fairy? It’s about having aspirations, goals to work for and finding ways to make seemingly impossible things come true.

So it really hit home for me when I heard what the Denver Museum of Nature and Science did for one little dreamer.

Eli Navant, 9, dreams of being a paleontologist and museum curator – so much so that when a position for a chief curator opened at the Denver Museum last November, he decided to apply. With the help of his third grade teacher and his parents, he sent in a handwritten cover letter and set of references that included Robert Bakker, an expert paleontologist whom Eli met briefly at one of the museum’s in-house mini-dig programs.

It would have been easy for the curatorial staff to ignore this little boy’s dream, but instead, they made him an honorary “Curator for the Day.” Clearly the museum’s exhibits and programming had made a lasting impression on this little boy, and that was something to be rewarded and shared.

This story is inspiring – both for children and museum professionals.

Kids: You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Museum Professionals: You can connect with your audience in new and innovative ways. You can support a child’s dream, and make the museum a place of welcome and community, sometimes in unexpected ways.

To see the heartwarming CBS Evening News segment on Eli and the Denver Museum, click here. (Apologies for the ad beforehand.)

I’ve had a lot of kids ask me how to get a job like mine at the Please Touch Museum. I used to tell them they had to wait until they were 18 to apply. But now I think I may just tell them to pick up an application at the admissions desk.  Because why not? Let’s support their dreams.

 

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 31, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

The big story remains the lawsuit against the Met over voluntary admission fees. Here’s the LA Time’s account for this week.

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Weekly Jobs Round-Up

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 29, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Development Project Assistant [Chemical Heritage Foundation]The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) invites applications for a Development Project Assistant who will help advance strategic projects and help build relations with individual and institutional donors worldwide. The Development Project Assistant will report to the Director of Institutional Grants and Strategic Projects and will work closely with the Vice President for Institutional Advancement as …
  • Assistant Registrar/Preparator [The New York Public Library]ONLY APPLICATIONS SUBMITTED ONLINE THROUGH THE FOLLOWING LINK WILL BE CONSIDERED: https://jobs-nypl.icims.com/jobs/7274/job Overview: The Assistant Registrar for Collections is primarily responsible for the safe transport of special collection materials throughout the NYPL system, most commonly between the Research Libraries in Manhattan and the Library Services Center in Long Island City (LSC) and back to their home collection site; …
  • Historic Preservation Coordinator [Lower Merion Conservancy]The Lower Merion Conservancy, a private non-profit community preservation organization that conducts a diverse array of programs and projects to protect and preserve open space, historic resources, and the natural environment in Lower Merion Township and Narberth has an immediate opening for its full-time Historic Preservation Coordinator. Job Description: The Conservancy is active in the Main Line …
  • Director of Museum Affairs [The Preservation Society of Newport County] The Preservation Society of Newport County seeks qualified candidates combining both scholarly and management experience for the position of Director of Museum Affairs to provide vision and leadership on curatorial, conservation, research and educational initiatives at its eleven historic houses, ranging in date from the mid-18th to early 20th centuries.  With a collection of 55,000 objects comprised …
  • Assistant Curator of Education [The University of Iowa] KEY AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY: Program Development  and Administration/Outreach Assist with training of volunteer docents Work with Education Department staff to develop and implement an outreach plan to grow new and repeat participation in educational programs Work with Education Department staff to plan, develop, implement and evaluate school programs Insure that all educational and public programs are evaluated in a consistent …
  • Public Historian in Residence [Rutgers University] We are pleased to invite applications for a new full-time staff position at MARCH, located in the Cooper Street Historic District on the campus of Rutgers-Camden.  The primary responsibility of the Public Historian in Residence will be to serve as co-editor of The Public Historian, the journal of the National Council on Public History, in particular to provide …
  • Grants Manager [Zoological Society of Philadelphia] Reports directly to Vice President of Development and responsible researching, writing and submitting foundation grant opportunities for general operating and program support. ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: New Business: Identify, research and evaluate new, existing foundation grant opportunities for capital campaign, general operating support and restricted programs. Lead prospects through all stages of solicitation process Develop proposals which are within the Zoo’s mission …
  • Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper [The Bidwell House Museum] The Bidwell House Museum seeks an organized, detail-oriented individual for a part-time position in our small office. The Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper works directly under the Executive Director, and is responsible for membership record-keeping and correspondence, bookkeeping, office management, and participation in fundraising, media and marketing projects. The administrative assistant also gives occasional tours of the historic …
  • Deputy Director of Education and Interpretation [Newark Museum] *POSITION DESCRIPTION* *DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AND INTERPRETATION* *NEWARK MUSEUM* *NEWARK, NEW JERSEY* *BACKGROUND         * The Newark Museum complex, the largest in New Jersey, consists of 80 galleries of art and natural science, as well as the Dreyfuss Planetarium, the Old Stone Schoolhouse dating to 1784 and the Ballantine House, a restored 1885 mansion that has been designated a …

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Science in Museums: Can Science Museums Crowdsource Exhibit Content

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 28, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Catherine Sigmond.

New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum wants your photos for a new crowd-sourced exhibit on the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

The museum is creating a special exhibition entitled Space Shuttle Enterprise: A Pioneer to fill its halls after the real shuttle was badly damaged last fall during Superstorm Sandy. First unveiled in 1976, Enterprise was the first reusable spacecraft that launched as a rocket yet landed on a runway like an airplane. The exhibition will provide a brief history of this revolutionary vehicle as well as artifacts from the early age of space exploration, video clips and archival image, and will feature large crowd-sourced display of photographs from shuttle fans from around the world.

As Elaine Charnov, Vice President of Exhibitions, explains in an interview with Mashable, crowdsourcing provides the opportunity to harness people’s electricity and enthusiasm about the story of Enterprise’s arrival in New York City in July 2012, while adding an element to the exhibition that is truly citizen-generated.

Visitors can upload photos of their space shuttle moments to the museum’s website or post them to Instagram and Twitter, and even add their own captions. The museum will then choose the best pictures and the ones with the best captions to include in the exhibition and on the museum’s website until the real shuttle is repaired.

I’m always intrigued by crowd-sourced projects, and this initiative makes me wonder about other ways crowdsourcing could be utilized in designing exhibitions for science museums. Many museums are already running great educational initiatives for citizen science, like the Museum of Science’s Firefly Watch, which asks visitors to share their observations of fireflies in their backyard to help local scientists with their research.

But while the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum’s new display invites visitors to participate in the museum’s activities while invoking a sense of nostalgia about one of the museum’s feature objects, it doesn’t do much to facilitate audience participation in scientific activities. So is there a way for science museums to successfully incorporate visitor-generated content into their exhibitions spaces in a way that allows the visitor to both participate in an exhibition’s design and creation as well as contribute to important scientific research?

Unlike many art institutions that are revolutionizing the ways in which they curate exhibitions through crowd-sourcing (check out the visitor-curated exhibitions using the uCurate program at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA for example), science museums will likely struggle to incorporate user-generated content into exhibitions that are typically hands-on and experiment-based in nature.

Though it’s difficult to think of the forms that a crowd-sourced science exhibition might take, it’s certainly interesting to contemplate the ways in which science museums could take audience participation in science to the next level. What would a crowd-sourced science exhibition look like? Would it have to remain photography-based in nature, or are there ways of involving the crowd in designing traditional hands-on science exhibits?

The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum’s new crowd-sourced display certainly raises a lot of questions about the possibilities of involving visitors in designing science exhibitions.

As you brainstorm how (or if) crowdsourcing will play a role in the future of exhibition design in science museums, you can check out some of the photos that have been uploaded to the Intrepid’s website here.

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Flower Power

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 25, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

I will never forget my first flower show. I had made it through my very first winter in Boston and was terribly, terribly depressed. Even though it was technically springtime, there were no leaves on the trees, a foot of snow on the ground, sweaters filling my closet and two pairs of socks on my feet.

My friend Gretchen, an avid gardener and my constant on-call plant doctor, decided that I needed to be with flowers. Well…probably we had to go for a graduate class, but she decided that really we were going because I needed to be around flowers.

And did I ever.

So when the Please Touch Museum offered me the opportunity to spend a day at the Philadelphia Flower Show promoting our upcoming Storybook Ball among other programs for kids and parents, it took every ounce of my energy not to scream with joy. I love flower shows. They’re like botanical gardens, but edgier. Like conservatories, but trendier. Like museums, but full of flowers.

This garden demonstrates that sometimes MORE is more!

This garden demonstrates that sometimes MORE is more!

I think as museum professionals, we should encourage our visitors, exhibit designers, educators and administrative personnel to attend flower shows, comic cons and design expos. Think I’m crazy? Let me explain.

Like a museum, the Philadelphia Flower Show has a mission.

Hosted by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, the Flower show and all related programs aim to “motivate people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture.”

Don’t museums do the same? Don’t we all want to motivate people to improve the quality of their lives with art, history, and natural sciences? Don’t we all want to create community?

Like a museum, the Philadelphia Flower Show requires careful curation.

There are exhibits on the Flower Show floor. For-profit companies, local landscapers and international volunteers and local enthusiasts demonstrate ways to incorporate garden ornaments, stick unusual plants in to your garden, or use an unconventional space as a garden.

While every exhibit must relate to the show’s theme, it’s also important to vary the exhibition content. If every exhibit were about Harry Potter, umbrellas and the Beatles, the show would get boring very quickly.. If every demonstration included prohibitively expensive plants and tools, a good portion of your audience would be lost and excluded.

Want to make your veranda look like the Herbology Lab at Hogwarts? Here's some inspiration.

Want to make your veranda look like the Herbology Lab at Hogwarts? Here’s some inspiration.

Like a museum, the PFS educates its visitors about specific content.

A huge part of the Flower Show is the Hamilton Horticourt, a space for amateur gardeners to share tips, and compete in a flower competition. As an avid plant murderess, I want – nay, need – someone to teach me how to garden. I want someone to show me her work and say, “you can do this too.” I need someone to tell me “don’t water a cactus” and “do water an African violet, but only from the bottom.”

A visitor takes notes on flower care in Hamilton Horticourt.

A visitor takes notes on flower care in Hamilton Horticourt.

A visitor told me in passing, “I’m so glad they chose England this year. It’s so much more accessible. I feel like I can take home some of these ideas and really put them to good use in my own garden.”

As a museum educator, this is exactly what I want people to do with our content.

Like a museum, the PFS exposes its visitors to new and foreign cultures.

Each year the Flower Show has a theme. Last year’s theme “Islands of Aloha” featured Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. This year’s theme “Brilliant!” focused on the United Kingdom, specifically England. While PHS has only just released a teaser for next year’s show, “ARTiculture” is looking like it’s going to celebrate famous artists through flowers. Fingers crossed we’re in for some re-interpretations of Monet’s garden.

"Octopus's Garden" themed floral arrangement demonstrating creative use of eggshells as garden ornaments. The Beatles' song played nearby on a loop.

“Octopus’s Garden” themed floral arrangement demonstrating creative use of eggshells as garden ornaments. The Beatles’ song played nearby on a loop.

Many people will never get a chance to travel to see Sherwood Forest, Mauna Kea, or Tuscany. The Flower Show is a rare opportunity to get a real and dynamic taste of another place. As a museum, isn’t it also our job to expose visitors to new and different places? Different time periods? Artistic styles? Scientific theories? Political ideologies?

So if the Flower Show is so like a museum…

Why shouldn’t we incorporate some of their design, curation, education and cultural ideas into our own institutions? The thing is, no one tells a flower show what to do. In fact, breaking rules are encouraged, because it’s all about creative design and innovation. The more creative you are, the more flower power you have. It’s all about having fun and learning something new.

 I would never have thought to use umbrellas as a garden ornament, but they're great around this wishing pond!

I would never have thought to use umbrellas as a garden ornament, but they’re great around this wishing pond!

What do you think? What can museums learn from conventions and expos?

Did you attend the Philadelphia Flower Show? How about the Boston Show? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

 

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 24, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

The big news this week, of course, is the FBI’s statement on the Gardner Museum heist over 20 years ago. Do you think we’ll ever see those pieces again? Hear ABC’s take on the story, although there are many more out there.

Also my favorite project of the week: Seattle Art Museum’s new outdoor LED screen which reflects back images of the community — quite literally! An interesting concept and a beautiful integration into SAM’s architecture. Read more.

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Weekly Jobs Round-Up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 22, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Conference and Events Coordinator [International Sculpture Center]The Conference and Events Coordinator is required to plan, organize, market, and co-ordinate conferences and special events. The Conference and Events Coordinator works with event planning committees and reports the Executive Director. This job is primarily office based but does require some travel. Primary Responsibilities Meet with sponsors and organizing committees to plan the scope and format …
  • Memorial Exhibition Assistant [9/11 Memorial] The 9/11 Memorial Museum is in the process of finalizing key exhibition components, including the content within a memorial exhibition, In Memoriam. The Memorial Exhibition Assistant will work with the Museum staff to coordinate and execute the processing, documentation, review, and approval for digital content to be incorporated into an exhibition devoted to understanding the magnitude of loss and the …
  • Multiple educator positions [Bullock Texas State History Museum]*School Curriculum Manager* – Manages all aspects of the Museum’s partnerships with schools, local and statewide, and education organizations including cultivating new partnerships that position the museum as a partner in teaching and learning **** – Develops curriculum, media, and other resources that supports classroom learning in a range of subject areas including social studies, literature, science, art, and music.**** – Ensures all student …
  • Exhibition Coordinator [The Textile Museum] The Textile Museum is seeking an experienced exhibition coordinator who will manage all aspects of internally generated and traveling exhibitions hosted by The Textile Museum. The primary overall responsibilities of the position are to organize and oversee a schedule of work that brings the exhibitions from a development stage to a successful conclusion, to develop …
  • Exhibit Content Developer [California Academy of Sciences] POSITION SUMMARY: Reporting to the Associate Director of Exhibit Content Development, and working as part of an exhibit team, this position plays a key role in development of new Academy exhibits. The Exhibit Content Developer is responsible for creating engaging scientific content and developing successful interpretive strategies for Academy exhibits, researching and writing exhibit and aquarium …
  • Development Assistant [The Franklin Institute ob Categories: Development, Philadelphia County (PA), Education & Instruction, Museums, Science, Nature, & Gardens MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: College degree required with demonstrated exposure to and experience in a sophisticated non-profit environment. Additional experience in customer service setting is preferred. This position will provide an excellent learning opportunity for someone interested in pursuing a career in development. Excellent writing skills ...
  • Museum Research Consortium Project Coordinator [MOMA] With the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Museum of Modern Art has embarked on a four-year (January 1, 2013–December 31, 2016), Museum-based pilot program for the study of objects in MoMA’s collection in partnership with graduate students and faculty from the art history programs at Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University, the …
  • Manager of Public Program Operations [Museum of the City of New York] The Museum of the City of New York seeks an experienced professional to manage the operations of its ambitious program of public programs for adults, including lectures, symposia, book talks, concerts, film screenings, walking tours, and gallery talks.  The Manager of Public Program Operations will collaborate with programming staff and exercise primary responsibility for all …
  • Youths Program Manager [Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum]The Youth Programs Manager reports directly to the Director of Education serving in the role of program manager for student programs. Responsible for all areas of Design Prep, a comprehensive program in design career awareness and training for all high school students. He/she schedules and coordinates Design Prep programs working closely with three targeted audiences: …
  • Director Historic Sites And Museums [Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums] The Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums is a Senior Management Service executive level position responsible for the direction and administration of financial, personnel, and public programs of historic sites and museum of the PA Historical and Museum Commission’s Trail of History and for providing Architectural Services to the sites and museums …
  • Communications Coordinator [The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center]Part-time Position Description The Communications Coordinator will work closely with the Director of Marketing and Public Relations to successfully implement the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s communication and marketing plans. This position reports to the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Responsibilities:  Draft and distribute press releases and calendar listings.  Organize, maintain and update media lists  Coordinate social media postings …
  • Education Curator [Mid-America Arts Alliance] Job Summary: The Education Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of programming resources and educational materials for exhibitions organized or produced by the Visual Arts and Humanities (VAH) division of Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA). Representative Examples of Work Performed: Accomplish the work of Mid-America Arts Alliance Implement the organization’s mission strengthening communities and Improving lives through …
  • Humanities Curator [Mid-America Arts Alliance] Job Summary: The Humanities Curator is responsible for overseeing the operation of the NEH on the Road program for Mid-American Arts Alliance; including the identification and implementation of new traveling humanities exhibitions.  This position primarily serves as the project manager for the NEH on the Road traveling exhibition program, and also functions as the point person between M-AAA …
  • Executive Director [Holland Historical Trust] QUALIFICATIONS The successful candidate will have a track record of success in fundraising and resource development, community relations, marketing and public relations, staff and volunteer management, as well as excellent oral/written communication and public speaking skills. S/he will also have the ability to inspire and empower staff, board, community members and donors, through a collaborative and …
  • Associate Director of Education: Interpretation and Public Programs [The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago] The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) seeks a full-time Associate Director of Education: Interpretation and Public Programs. She/He will be a major contributor in the development of interactive and creative approaches to a more audience-engaged museum. They will conceive, develop, and manage all interpretative materials and exhibition learning for museum audiences in collaboration with the curatorial department with the …
  • Outreach Coordinator [Boston Preservation Alliance] The Boston Preservation Alliance is the city’s oldest historic preservation advocacy organization.  We promote the preservation of the city’s unique character by encouraging thoughtful, continued use and sensitive change to Boston’s historic resources. We continue to build our base of support through programs, membership, social media and other outreach efforts, traditional fundraising and an annual awards program and annual auction. The …
  • Multiple Development Positions [Tudor Place Historic House and Garden] Tudor Place Historic House and Garden in Washington, DC (http://tudorplace.org/) is currently hiring for two new positions: Director of Development and Development Officer. Check out the job descriptions here: Tudor Place Development Officer Position Description Tudor Place Director of Development Position Description

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Science in Museums: The Intersection of Art and Science

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 20, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Catherine Sigmond

Although I work in a science museum, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work and debate with colleagues from a range of disciplines at Tufts, particularly those in the art world.

Lately it’s got me thinking- why is there such a distinct separation between the arts and the sciences?

As a product of a multi-disciplinary education (I double-majored in History and Biological Anthropology and minored in French linguistics in college), this is a question that is constantly on my mind. And the more time I spend working in science museums and interacting with art museum professionals at Tufts, the more regarding, presenting, and teaching art and science as separate disciplines makes less and less sense to me.

Think about the common phrases “right-brained” and “left-brained.” Those deemed to be more “right-brained” are generally regarded as creative and innovative, while those seen as “left-brained” are viewed as being more analytical and logical. In other words, the creative right-brained folk are supposedly more artistic, while the left-brained, by contrast, are more scientific.

This division between people’s capabilities in art and science permeates several aspects of our lives- how we view our potential career options, what household tasks we think we will be able to complete successfully, the hobbies we pursue, the way we gage our ability to succeed in certain subjects at school, and a whole host of others.

It’s clear that most people assume that the ways in which artists and scientists view the world are inherently different from one another. And museums haven’t entirely escaped this trend. More often than not, art museums and science museums tend not to be in dialogue; seemingly assuming that the types of content they aim to teach visitors are too distinct from one another to be reconciled.

But if we disregard content and instead examine the ways of thinking that each type of institution seeks to impart upon their visitors, many of the overlaps between the two disciplines become abundantly clear.

When I go to work, staff and volunteers are trained to teach visitors that:

“Science is an activity: It is a way of asking questions and learning about the world that involves collecting objective evidence through observation and investigation, finding patterns in the evidence, and using these patterns to make predictions and develop testable explanations about the world we are a part of.”

And many art museum educators use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to facilitate structured, open-ended discussions where visitors are asked to “look carefully at works of art, talk about what they find, back up their ideas with evidence, listen to and consider the view of others, and discuss many possible interpretations.”

Despite some small differences, these ways of thinking overlap immensely. Both ask visitors to spend time investigating and making observations about what they see, challenge them to discuss these observations with their peers, make predictions about the cause of their observations, support their ideas with evidence, attempt to explain or interpret their ideas, and keep an open mind to a multitude of possibilities. Therefore although the arts and sciences appear to be markedly different, in reality they both rely on some of the same core values.

So why is there so often a disconnect between the artistic and scientific processes in the public eye? Why are kids often made to feel that they must choose one or the other, and what can museums do to change this?

I believe that museums, art and science alike, should begin by recognizing that the skills they are trying to teach are really one and the same. Despite the commonly held notion that scientists are not creative and that artists are not analytical, nothing could be further from the truth. If you work at an art or science museum, why not provide programming, develop exhibitions, or create interpretations that help visitors of all ages explore the relationship between the two fields and begin to understand how they overlap? Both art and science museums can and should play a role in combatting the notion that students will ultimately have to choose between one discipline or the other, and in doing so inspire truly creative design thinking.

Because what happens at the intersection of art and science? The answer is simple: wonder.

As Jason Silva puts it, it is at this intersection, “this intellectual collision of seemingly disparate bedfellows, that something magical and unexpected happens: new patterns emerge; new connections are forged between previously unconnected ideas and inspiration reigns.”

Of course, there are many institutions that are already doing amazing things to help the world realize that art and science are not really so different, and that neither field should be intimated by the other. One of my favorites is the Exploratorium, which employs “Staff Artists” and “Staff Scientists” and helps visitors explore everything from the science and art of severe storm visualization to the art and science of listening and sound. And art exhibitions that incorporate living things such as the upcoming CUT/PASTE/GROW exhibition in Brooklyn (and their recent crowd-sourced bioart mosaic at SXSW Create) are inspiring new approaches to aesthetic design and ecology.

But this trend must not stay limited to a small number of institutions and venues. Art and science museums should rethink their relationship with one another, perhaps embarking on new partnerships to help visitors explore the relationship between their respective fields and encourage innovation and creativity through a diverse variety of outlets.

As Mae Jemison (the first African-American woman in space, a medical school graduate, and a near-professional dancer) claims in what is possibly my all-time favorite TED talk,

“the difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”

How can museums blend art and science to help foster this creativity? I wonder.

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Vacuuming Vatican Visitors

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized |

by columnist Madeline Karp

If you’ve been following the news these days, then you probably know that there is a new pope in town. It’s a big deal, but I confess, I feel kind of left out when it comes to most things Papal. As an American Jewish girl with a penchant for Zen mediation, the choosing of a new pope is more of a curiosity than the be-all end-all of my spiritual well being.

There are many components of the Roman Catholic religion that elude me. There are many subjects upon which we disagree. Yes, I have gotten into arguments about teaching religion in schools and how to best display religious artifacts as intellectual objects without disrespecting associated beliefs, and whether the Messiah has really come yet or not. My deeply Catholic friends and I have more or less agreed to disagree on many of these topics.  And yet, there are two things upon which we all agree: Genesis and Michelangelo.

Once upon a time a great and powerful deity created a man named Adam, and (S)He put him down in the Garden of Eden and all was well. Then in 1508, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint this story, among others, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and it was deemed a masterpiece.

I did not take this picture in the Sistine Chapel. That would be breaking the rules. But if I *had* taken this picture, rest assured I would not have used flash.

A masterpiece that eventually made it onto the art world’s endangered species list alongside Silver Spring’s “Penguin Rush Hour” mural, Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statie, and the Ecce Homo fresco of Jesus in northern Spain.

You may recall back in the late 1980’s, Vatican conservators, art historians and scientists spent the better part of a decade restoring the Michelangelo’s ceiling and famous Last Judgment fresco. (But if you need, I’ve got painting primers for you here and here. Pun intended.)

Critics and art historians have debated whether the job was done correctly ever since. Some argue that the bicarbonates used in the restoration actually damaged the frescoes, and caused the colors to be more brilliant than Michelangelo ever intended.

Personally, I am so thankful I went to the Vatican several years post-restoration, in 2008. The team left a corner of the chapel untouched, to demonstrate the contrast between the frescoed ceiling as it would have looked pre-1980s, and today. The untouched corner was black. I’m talking charcoal black. I can’t imagine being able to admire or really appreciate the work pre-restoration.

But as we students of conservation and museum collections care know, restorations do not last forever. Eventually dust, dirt, humidity and sunlight creep up on us and slowly destroy our beloved art works, documents and objects. It was only a matter of time before the Sistine Chapel needed a booster shot.

But this time, it’s not the Chapel getting a cleansing. It’s the visitors.

To combat environmental pollutants, the Vatican is now looking to install a state of the art cleansing chamber, through which visitors will have to pass before entering the chapel. The chamber will more or less act as a vacuum and refrigerator – visitors will be dusted off and cooled to an appropriate temperature for optimal artwork viewing.

This solution strikes me as costly and kind of extreme – and yet I sort of can’t wait to get back to the Sistine Chapel to take a stroll through the Vatican Vacuum. It sounds like quite the experience.

What do you think, museum friends? Is this idea too costly? Too extreme? Would it work in other places like the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie (home of Leonardo’s Last Supper) or the Caves of Lascaux? Let me know what you think in the comments!

To read more about the new cleaning system check out this article from the Daily Beast.

Haven’t been to the Vatican? Take a short stroll through the Sistine Chapel here, courtesy of the History Channel.

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 17, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

But first, if you’re in New York, stop in at the Museum of Art and Design for their current exhibition, Imagining the Future Museum. From proposals to scrap the physical collection to 3D printers, it looks like a lot of new and exciting ideas are on view. (I also wouldn’t mind seeing their Against the Grain exhibit.)

Also, my new favorite toy of the week? Mazda’s car museum — now on Google Maps? The tech is still in progress, of course, but how is this going to change our present and future museums.

And now for our regularly scheduled highlights reel:

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Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 15, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Director of Guest Experience [Peabody Essex Museum] Peabody Essex Museum is seeking a highly talented Director of Guest Experience. We are developing new innovative interpretation strategies to re-envision what an art museum can be in the 21st century.  Come opening day in 2017, PEM will rank among the…
  • Director of Education [Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art]The Director of Education develops the philosophy and direction of the museum¹s educational programming and represents the Museum in the wider national and international dialogue about the educational value of picture books. Throughout, s/he helps …
  • 2013-2014 Semmes Foundation Internship [McNay Art Museum]The McNay Art Museum, a museum of modern and contemporary art, is offering a ten-month internship in curatorial work beginning fall of 2013. The goal of the internship is to help individuals interested in embarking on a curatorial career by providing sign…
  • Graduate Student Gallery Talk Lecturers [The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston] The search is on for graduate students to applying to for the MFA’s Graduate Student Gallery Talk Program for the academic year of 2013-2014. It is a great opportunity for students to get experience teaching in the galleries with original works of ar…
  • Senior Educator [Metropolitan Museum of Art] *SENIOR EDUCATOR* *Family, Teen and Multi-Generational Learning* * * *The Metropolitan Museum of Art* ** ** *The Metropolitan Museum of Art*, one of the world¹s finest museums, seeks a Senior Educator who shall, under the guidance of the …
  • Family Garden Programs Coordinator [The New York Botanical Garden] Summary of Responsibilities: This is a temporary part-time position. The Family Garden Programs Coordinator is responsible for the development, preparation, and implementation of all garden-based education activities related to Family Garden programs. T…
  • Collections and Exhibitions Manager [Betsy Ross House] The American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, also known as the Betsy Ross House, (BRH) seeks a highly motivated individual to fill the position of Collections and Exhibitions Manager. The Collections and Exhibitions Manager will be respo…
  • Biennial Coordinator [Whitney Museum of American Art] A full time, temporary position (approximately 15 months) is available for a Coordinator to work on the next Biennial exhibition, scheduled to open in March 2014. Responsibilities include: budget management; research; coordination with artists, galleri…
  • Department Assistant, Museum Library and Archives [The Museum of Modern Art] The Museum of Modern Art is currently accepting applications for a Department Assistant in the Museum Library and Archives. The Department Assistant performs a variety of administrative duties with varying degrees of complexity, requiring familiarity with…

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Worth Reading: Why Fast, Cheap, and Easy Design Is Killing Your Nonprofit’s Brand

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 14, 2013 in food for thought |

by editor Phillippa Pitts

We’re all familiar with the well-intentioned but poorly executed museum YouTube video, Twitter stream, or online publication. Some of us are even guilty of creating them. We work hard, even with limited resources and training, to keep pace and keep creating high quality products.

However, there might be a problem even for those out there who are multitalented mavens or saavy consumers: off-the-shelf solutions compromise branding. Heath Shackleford, a marketing consultant, argues:

Technology is indeed empowering those with mini budgets to create mightily. On the flip side, it’s also producing a surplus of uninspired websites, flatlining brands, and cookie cutter approaches to communications. While moving fast and free, nonprofits are trading originality, vision, and identity for templates, plug-ins, and off the shelf solutions.

While I don’t agree with the full article, it’s a great talking point for teams. Is your Pinterest page on mission? Do you know how (or if) your website supports your gallery talks? Can your visitor recognize and navigate these connections? With all your new offshoots and projects, is your institution still telling a coherent story?

Read the full article here.

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Science in Museums: Scientists – They’re Just Like Us!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 13, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Kacie Rice,

In the past few months I’ve become a bit obsessed with the American Museum of Natural History’s fantastic internet campaign celebrating the recent reopening of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. Launched last fall, the museum’s new website includes an interactive timeline, a series of videos about Roosevelt’s life, and, best of all, a Tumblr featuring pictures submitted by people around the world posing with a small cartoon cutout of Roosevelt. The pictures are diverse, interesting, and often funny – the project not only allows for global participation, but also humanizes Roosevelt, an avid naturalist and explorer who would doubtless be thrilled to find himself travelling the world by proxy.

Caption: Theodore Roosevelt meets a new friend in AMNH’s “Theodore Outdoor Contest.” Credit bseitznyc at TR Tumblr.

Roosevelt, our 26th President, was also one of the preeminent science advocates of his day, and his dedication to AMNH helped it to become the renowned educational institution it is today. The museum’s cartoon image paints a picture of Roosevelt dressed for adventure, looking a bit like a precursor to Ron Swanson, the beloved man’s man of TV’s Parks and Recreation. This is a sharp contrast to the aloof, unrelatable scientists we normally see in popular media: The Big Bang Theory’s awkward Sheldon, Star Trek’s unemotional Dr. Spock, and the quintessential mad scientist, Dr. Frankenstein.

This human element to the Roosevelt project got me thinking about the ways in which we talk about science in museums: while we discuss abstract scientific concepts, compare taxidermied specimens, or study dinosaur tooth morphology, we rarely talk about the people who have devoted their lives to giving us our scientific knowledge – the scientists! As a result, science is sometimes dehumanized and assumed to be a body of distinct and unchanging knowledge that comes directly from dense textbooks…and the scientists themselves can easily be reduced to a stereotype of a socially awkward geek in a labcoat.

But as any scientist will tell you, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Science is not handed down from on high; it’s done every day by real people with real lives, families, and hobbies. They drink beer with their friends after work, walk their dogs, and watch Netflix on the weekends. They get on the subway and go to work every day and try to figure out the fabric of the world: what are we made of, where did we come from, what happens if I put the blue stuff in the green stuff? They get many things about our universe right, but they also spend a lot of time correcting mistakes and revising theories. Many of them (myself included) do enjoy debating the finer points of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Heisenberg Compensator, but just as many enjoy hiking, baking, watching sports, reading existentialist literature, and any number of other decidedly unscientific activities. Scientists – they’re just like us!

So how do museums fit into all this? I would propose three main reasons for the informal public science education that museum educators do:

  1. Increasing awareness of scientific issues in the general public
  2. Increasing interest in scientific careers in children and teens
  3. Increasing public support for science initiatives and scientific policy issues

It is these last two points that would most benefit from a discussion of scientists rather than just science in museums. The more we humanize the people who do science, the more we can relate to scientific topics, connect with the people who make science their living, and maybe even see ourselves doing science. Personally, my love of science began with my childhood love of dinosaurs, but I don’t remember knowing much about how scientists learn about dinosaurs or where fossils come from. Imagine if alongside its exhibit on Sue the T. Rex, The Field Museum had an exhibit about Sue Hendrickson, the paleontologist who found her. The thousands of children who come visit Sue could then understand how we find dinosaurs and imagine their future selves digging up dinosaurs for a career!

In essence, this is the power of AMNH’s Roosevelt campaign. Through the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial exhibit, the interactive website, and especially the “Theodore Outdoor” photo contest, the museum has brought an important science advocate to life in a way that makes his work relevant to a new generation. I’d love to see other science museums take the lead in connecting visitors with Charles Darwin, Rosalind Franklin, or Isaac Newton, proving that science is a living, breathing entity done by humans, not a dusty old textbook of facts. It’s a sweet spot to hit between science and history, but interdisciplinary exhibits and programs can often be among the most powerful ones, building bridges to bring visitors closer to both topics. Let’s get out there and make our scientists household names!

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Historically Fashion Forward

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 11, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

I have dreams of wearing a big hoop skirt. I’m talking like a BIG, Scarlett O’Hara hoop skirt. Sometimes a corset, or a bustle; on occasion knee britches and a man’s coat from the Revolutionary War, but tailored to fit and flatter a woman’s figure. I’m a fan of the First Virginia and the Second New Jersey Regiment’s coats in particular, in case you want to make me a replica. I have a bit of a love-crush on historical fashion.

And yet, when it comes to modern fashion, I’m less enthusiastic. I kind of hate shopping. I have to put thought and effort into wearing something that isn’t black, gray or navy, and I work hard to make cardigans fit every occasion. I don’t really care about Oscar dresses, What Not To Wear only interests me when I have the flu, and I wasn’t following New York Fashion Week 2013…

Until.

Right after Fashion Week concluded (perhaps as a dovetail, perhaps not), the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a temporary exhibit entitled Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. Fresh from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the exhibit combines Impressionist artwork with period textiles to demonstrate the interplay between fashion and art in late nineteenth century France.

So often my fashion-conscious friends will try to explain to me how modern fashion is art and I’ll smile politely and nod, but privately disagree – wearing a raw meat dress strikes me as sickening and shamelessly political instead of artistic. But, with this exhibit, I finally see what they’re talking about.

Placed throughout eight parlors, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity displays period costume alongside famous works by Renoir, Degas and Monet. According to curator Susan Alyson Stein, one of the exhibit’s big ideas is that modern fashion came of age in nineteenth century France, during a time when art was also experiencing an aesthetic revolution. The late 1800’s in France represent a time of tumult on so many levels – historians, art historians and fashionistas would be remiss to ignore the connections and influences each had on the others.

One display case boasts incredibly detailed corsets and slippers. Monet’s painting of his wife Camille in a green and black striped dress is displayed next to a similar period dress from England. Vitrines are arranged to look like Parisian shop windows. The mixed mediums ensure a wide audience.

Maybe it’s because I love Impressionism, hoop skirts, and the French Revolution, but I’m seriously trying not to drool and dream of springtime, as I stare at the pictures of big poofy dresses and paintings of water lilies and picnics on a scenic lake shore.

Impression, Fashion and Modernity runs at the Met until May 27. After that, it will be at the Art Institute of Chicago. …Road trip anyone?

To read more about the exhibition and see some drool-worthy pictures check out these websites:

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

But first, a sad piece of local news. The Higgins Armory Museum will close in December of this year. Their amazing staff, inventive programs, and fantastic collection have definitely captured the museum field’s imagination. So sorry to see this team broken up! Read more on the Boston Globe’s website.

 

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Hey grad students–want to give tours at the MFA?

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 9, 2013 in professional development |

The MFA’s Education department is offering a fantastic opportunity to learn and teach in the museum next year. They have put out a call for applicants to join their Gallery Talk Lecturers. It’s a great opportunity for masters students to get experience teaching in the galleries with original works of art. Lecturers will also be offered a stipend of $2000 each.

For more information, download the 2013-2014 app letter and don’t forget to attend the information session on Tuesday, March 26 at 4pm at the MFA.

PS: As a Gallery Instructor working with school groups at the MFA for the past two years, I can’t tell you what an amazing education it is to work with this amazing and encyclopedic collection and the rich variety of people who frequent its galleries!

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Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 8, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Graduate Student Gallery Talk Lecturers [The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston] The search is on for graduate students to applying to for the MFA’s Graduate Student Gallery Talk Program for the academic year of 2013-2014. It is a great opportunity for students to get experience teaching in the galleries with original works of ar…
  • Senior Educator [Metropolitan Museum of Art] *SENIOR EDUCATOR* *Family, Teen and Multi-Generational Learning* * * *The Metropolitan Museum of Art* ** ** *The Metropolitan Museum of Art*, one of the world¹s finest museums, seeks a Senior Educator who shall, under the guidance of the …
  • Family Garden Programs Coordinator [The New York Botanical Garden]Summary of Responsibilities: This is a temporary part-time position. The Family Garden Programs Coordinator is responsible for the development, preparation, and implementation of all garden-based education activities related to Family Garden programs. T…
  • Collections and Exhibitions Manager [Betsy Ross House] The American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, also known as the Betsy Ross House, (BRH) seeks a highly motivated individual to fill the position of Collections and Exhibitions Manager. The Collections and Exhibitions Manager will be respo…
  • Biennial Coordinator [Whitney Museum of American Art] A full time, temporary position (approximately 15 months) is available for a Coordinator to work on the next Biennial exhibition, scheduled to open in March 2014. Responsibilities include: budget management; research; coordination with artists, galleri…
  • Department Assistant, Museum Library and Archives [The Museum of Modern Art] The Museum of Modern Art is currently accepting applications for a Department Assistant in the Museum Library and Archives. The Department Assistant performs a variety of administrative duties with varying degrees of complexity, requiring familiarity with…
  • Curator Of Contemporary Art and Design [Cranbrook Art Museum]Cranbrook Art Museum has entered an exciting period of growth. In 2011, the Museum completed a construction project, which realized not only the restoration of its landmark Eliel Saarinen-designed building but also the addition of a new Collections Wing. …
  • Exhibition Manager [The Skirball Cultural Center] (Limited Term: APRIL–SEPTEMBER 2013) The Skirball Cultural Center seeks a dynamic, dedicated individual to join the Skirball Museum team as Exhibition Manager. Reporting to the Museum Director, the Exhibition Manager will coordinate changing and travel…
  • Manager of Visual Media and Technology [The Fabric Workshop and Museum] Reporting directly to The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM)’s Artistic Director, and working closely with the Head of Exhibitions and Publications, and the Photography Department, the Manager of Visual Media and Technology is responsible for video docume…
  • Education assistant [Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts] The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, a non-collecting museum located on Wilmington’s revitalized Riverfront, seeks a half-time education assistant beginning March 2013. The DCCA, conveniently located on the I-95 corridor and within walking dis…
  • Public Program Assistant [Aviation Museum in Maryland] SALARY:  $41,932.00 – $71,750.00 Annually OPENING DATE: 02/28/13 CLOSING DATE: 04/11/13 11:59 PM DESCRIPTION: The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, Natural and Historical Resources Division is seeking a Museum Public…

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Science in Museums: MakerSpaces and Museums

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 6, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Cira Brown

Last month, Artisan’s Asylum, a community craft studio in Somerville (and one of the largest in the world), held a weekend conference entitled, How To Build A MakerSpace. The “Make Movement” is borne out of the Do It Yourself philosophy, which empowers individuals to learn fabrication skills, both technical and digital. Artisan’s Asylum holds classes on skills ranging from TIG welding to sewing, programming to bicycle maintenance, and provides many of the tools needed for these tasks. The Asylum also rents out space, mostly in 50-100 square foot allocations, and low walls are used as dividers. This arrangement creates a very open environment, resulting in a dynamic community where you can walk around and see a host of various projects, all in different stages of completion. There is even an ongoing project to create a 4000-pound, 18 foot wide, ridable hexapod robot named Stompy.

So, more generally, what is a MakerSpace? Taken from the Artisan’s Asylum website, they are:

“…community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.

Makerspaces represent the democratization of design, engineering, fabrication and education. They are a fairly new phenomenon, but are beginning to produce projects with significant national impacts; notable projects and companies to emerge from makerspaces include the Pebble Watch (a programmable watch whose team is the recipient of the largest Kickstarter campaign in history), MakerBot (creators of a low-cost 3D printer that’s revolutionizing the entire rapid prototyping industry), and Square (a painless payment gateway enabling small businesses to collect money easily worldwide), just to name a few.”

At the How To Build A MakerSpace event, keynote speaker Dale Dougherty (editor and publisher of Make Magazine and co-founder of Maker Faire) mentioned the importance of forging a relationship with museums several times. Museums already have an established presence in the community and many museum missions overlap with the goals of makerspaces. The museum realm has also been eying the Maker Movement, as evidenced by these recent articles and conference discussions:

Talking Points: Museums, Libraries, and Makerspaces
by The Institute of Museums and Library Services, September 2012

What’s the Point of a Museum Maker Space?
Discussion Panel at the Museum Computer Network Conference, November 2012

Unstaffed Maker Spaces? Don’t Event Think About It!
Museum Commons blog, January 2013

Maker Space: Cool New Attraction at New York Hall of Science
Mommy Poppins blog, April 2012

Not only do MakerSpaces provide a great extension for educational programming, but the potential for exhibit fabrication and prototyping is radically altered as well. I know of several people at Artisan’s Asylum who were contracted by museums to build exhibit components, and the Museum of Science even rents a space as well. I am even using the 3D Printer at the Asylum to create my own custom spinning tops for an educational demonstration on gyroscopic navigation at the MIT Museum. I’ve designed these tops with differing moments of inertia to provide visitors with an interactive experience on the concepts of angular momentum and precession. Maker Spaces enable and empower museum educators and exhibit developers to relatively quickly and cheaply augment their educational offerings. In my next column I’ll be describing this endeavor more in depth.

I believe that this is only the beginning of the overlap between MakerSpaces and museum education/exhibition fabrication. Just this evening, in my Exhibition Planning class, I learned that one of my classmates was helping organize a Maker Faire at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. There are many exciting and innovative happenings in this field, and I will be providing further examples in columns to follow.

As an additional note, I should also mention that I am a member and renter of Artisan’s Asylum and I’m happy to give tours to those who are interested! Contact me at CiraLouise AT gmail DOT com. The class listing for each month can also be found on the Asylum website.

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: To Make Good Use of Dr. Seuss

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 4, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

For those of you not up on your children’s authors, this weekend marked the 99th birthday of beloved children’s author, poet and illustrator Theodor Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

The Please Touch Museum celebrated by reading Dr. Seuss’s best-loved books at story time, by making Seuss-esque self-portraits with children in the art room, and by inviting the Cat in the Hat to come in for a meet and greet photo opportunity.

(Be it known: I am terrified of mascots. Many children were far braver than I when it came to approaching an 8-foot tall cat to pose for a photo.)

I think Dr. Seuss is one of those rare figures who unites people. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who outright hates How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Hop on Pop. Grandparents and children were both pumped about meeting the Cat in the Hat. Twenty-something babysitters cooed over If I Ran the Circus and older children begged for multiple re-reads of Horton Hears a Who.

All this makes me think that perhaps Mr. Geisel would be excellent fodder for a variety of museum exhibits. So here, in rhyme, are a few ways I think we could incorporate Dr. Seuss into unusual spaces, in an attempt to bring in a new or wider audience to the museum.

Art
With stylized faces and bold use of color
Dr. Seuss’s cartoons look unlike any others.
With a pen and some paper,
You’ll go through the museum
To re-draw classic portraits as Seuss would’ve seen ‘em.

Math
With poems there comes meter, and timing and rhymes
You could do your addition and maybe cosines,
But you still have to count syllables, iambs and verse
To make your math better, instead of much worse.

Science
We all know the Lorax, he spoke for the trees,
And showed us the downside to big industry.
We can use Dr. Seuss to teach kids about seeds,
Along with earth science and biology.
Since climate debates are happening now
Maybe Ole Dr. Seuss can show us all how
To care just a little, just like we were taught
To make our earth better by a whole awful lot.

Literacy
“I hate poetry!” young children declare
“I won’t read it, it’s boring, you can’t make me care!”
But with poems there comes reading
And spelling and rhyme
I assure you new readers will have a good time
Learning new words and big words
–They’ll turn on a dime!
They’ll love to read, and new poems they’ll pursue
Just like parents and teachers would want them to do.

For older readers, there is more to the story,
Dr. Seuss’s short poems were all allegory.
Re-read through your kids’ books
Like Horton and Grinch
And you’ll soon see some themes
That might make you flinch.

Which leads us to…

History
Dr. Seuss was a man with a good, strong opinion
He didn’t like Nazis, he rooted for women.
The Great Butter Battle told of the arms race
Yertle the Turtle? How Hitler saved face.
Capitalist Grinches, and pro-lifer Whos,
Seuss’s tales carefully – subtly – all spread the news,
That learning history is kind of the cool thing to do.

So you see, there are ways to put to good use,
The morals, the drawings, and words of good Seuss.
My friends in museums from far and from near,
Tell me in comments how you hold him dear!

**Dedicated to my own personal Seuss, Dr. Richard Bronson.

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 3, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

But first, worth reading is an interesting op-ed from a Yale University senior about the “sanitized” presentations of museums that she’s encountered. Agree or disagree, it’s a very opinionated presentation. Read it here.

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Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on March 2, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Kent Intern [The Vermont Historical Society] The Vermont Historical Society will be hiring two interns for twelve weeks during the summer of 2013. The interns will work as a team inventorying and cataloging the Kent Museum collections. The collections are currently housed at the Kent Museum, an hist…
  • Assistant Curator of Education [Hunter Museum of American Art]*Position Title:  Assistant Curator of Education* ** **Occupational Summary**** * * As part of an education team, this position will focus on the visitor¹s experience, both remote and in-gallery including the design and implementation of in-gal…
  • Art Inventory Project [City of Medford] What: Creation of a print and online inventory of the art objects owned by the City of Medford. The final inventory will include images, artist and material information, and brief histories of each object where available.  The online inventory will be mo…
  • Program and Administrative Associate [Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation] VSHP seeks a highly-organized, detail-oriented, energetic self-starter to assist a growing non-profit organization with educational, advocacy, administrative, and fundraising projects.   Duties include:   planning and coordinating a…
  • Associate Director of Interpretation, Div of Education [Philadelphia Museum of Art] *Associate Director of Interpretation – Division of Education and Public Programs* *Philadelphia Museum of Art     * The Philadelphia Museum of Art seeks candidates for a new position, Associate Director of Interpretation, a position within th…
  • Director of Education & Public Programming [Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)] Title: Director of Education & Public Programming Report to: Executive Director Employment Type: Full-Time Overview of Position: The Director of Education & Public Programming is responsible for developing and managing comprehensive desig…
  • Education Associate [New Museum] The Education Associate is responsible for departmental administrative duties and general support for the Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement. This position is an administrative position with excellent potential for developing speci…
  • Collection Registrar [Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities] Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. Cold Spring Harbor, NY. *Collection Registrar***** Collection Registrar Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities Cold Spring Harbor, New York The Society for the Preservatio…
  • Curator of Education [Wichita Art Museum] The Wichita Art Museum seeks a Curator of Education to join its staff in the largest metro in the state of Kansas with a premier American art collection. A senior position reporting to the museum director, the Curator of Education crafts and leads the …
  • Education Coordinator [Fort Wayne History Center] Full-time position responsible for the development, promotion, implementation and evaluation of educational and interpretive programs for community audiences, school groups, private tours, and special events through on- and off-site programs. Also resp…
  • Education Manager, Digital Media & Online [Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum] The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is seeking an Education Manager, Digital Media & Online Learning. As a member of the Education Department, and in collaboration with the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative staff, the Education Manager, Di…
  • Director [Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities] The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) is the leading preservation advocate and resource on Long Island. SPLIA has an extraordinary 60+ year history of pioneering preservation advocacy, exhibitions, educational and publicat…
  • Director of Education [Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, Charleston, SC] *Director of Education – Job Description* *MISSION STATEMENT: * The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is a non-profit organization whose mission is to spark imagination, stimulate curiosity and encourage problem solving through the power of play in…

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Guest Post: Historic Houses as Holiday Rentals

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 28, 2013 in museum topics |

by professor Kenneth C. Turino

Using historic houses as holiday rentals is nothing new in Europe. The National Trust of Britain, the Landmark Trust of Britain, and English Heritage among others rent historic properties from cottages to portions of castles. Here in the United States the idea has been slow to develop, but this is changing. Last October, my partner and I rented a Lockkeeper’s House on the C&O canal near Washington, D.C., operated by the C&O Canal Trust in partnership with the National Park Service, the owner of the building and the park it is in. The house was restored to a 1950′s appearance, with period furniture that could actually be used. Each of the 6 rental houses is restored to reflect a different aspect of the canal’s history.  What a wonderful way to experience the history of the area and the C&O canal. In the house, we found information on the house and canal and guide books on the history of the canal. We used one book on our walk along the canal into Georgetown. We learned a tremendous amount about the history of the canal as we enjoyed the perfect fall weather, along with the many people who were jogging, walking or bicycling on the towpath. That evening we invite about 20 friends to the house for a party. They explored the house, sat on the porch overlooking the canal, and enjoyed the ambiance. The next morning we left our comments in the guest book and were delighted to read about other people’s experience who came here to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and simply the atmosphere: “Thank you C&O Trust for restoring these historic houses and sharing them with sojourners who long to enjoy the vision and reality of this place birthed by the founders of our nation.” Historic houses as holiday rentals are just another way that people can engage in history. It is something we in the field should seriously consider as an option, especially since historic sites are looking for new ways to engage audiences. Some additional rental examples are Rudyard Kippling’s house in Vermont, Naulakha, (www.landmarktrustusa.org/) where he wrote Captain’s Courages and the Jungle Book. Or one where my family stayed, officers’ housing at Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA (www.parks.wa.gov/fortworden/accommodations/), a former military base with accommodations for family vacations, conferences, reunions and retreats. Visitors may choose from buildings including century-old officers’ housing, a castle and special one-room houses. Try historic house rentals, a different way to enjoy history.

Read another post about the C&O Canal: Life on the Canal. This post originally appeared in History Places.

Interested in Historic Houses? Check out Kenneth Turino and Barbara Silberman’s course, Revitalizing Historic House Museums, this summer at Tufts!

 

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Science in Museums: Paths to Exhibit Development

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 27, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Cira Louise Brown

When I tell people that I’m going to school for Museum Studies, I often encounter confusion about what the profession actually entails (“you’re going to be a curator? … what is a curator?”). Once I explain that I want to develop the exhibits for science museums, I’m usually met with something along the lines of, “oh wow – people actually do that?” I remember my similar epiphany about six years ago, realizing that exhibits are indeed created by real people.

So who are they? One of the first things I did after the big “a-ha!” moment (apparently a common occurrence among my peers in the Museum Studies program), was to try and learn more about the backgrounds of exhibit developers. How did they arrive at that coveted position? Through researching and networking (and an admitted abundance of LinkedIn stalking), I’ve found that there isn’t a clear path at all, though a graduate degree in Museum Studies or Education is frequently cited. Some people were previously teachers (at all levels of schooling), while others have backgrounds in architecture and industrial design. Some are academics, completing immense amounts of scholarly work before moving on to the museum sector, while others were artists and sculptors, sometimes even having their own work shown in a museum. An overlap from the library field can be found, with archival work often being presented for public display, both in the physical and digital realms. Those familiar with best practices in collection management, from classification frameworks to restorative techniques, are almost always needed as well. Fabrication specialists, ranging from carpenters with decades worth of hands-on experience to experts in material science are vital in the creation of the exhibit, with the tactical aspects of an exhibit often being among the most decisive experiential attributes. People with a history of working with nonprofits and local organizations tend to transition toward the museum field, which can be expected since almost all museums strive to support their community. Evaluators, with knowledge in psychology, sociology, statistics,and educational philosophy, are vital to the creation of a successful and meaningful exhibit, all the way from conception to refinement. Ever increasingly, backgrounds in computer science and interaction design are skills that prove essential, with digital components becoming ubiquitous and information visualization becoming a booming industry in and of itself. And we can’t forget those with managerial and budgeting skills who are tasked with orchestrating and steering this whirlwind of creative energy!

With all of these trades meshing together under the umbrella of exhibit development, I have to wonder if there is another field that rivals in the variation of its constituents. Of course, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. These collective backgrounds are representative of the sheer magnitude of differing skills that are essential in building a successful exhibit. All strive to create a singular exhibition that is simultaneously tangible and abstract – an exhibition is an experience!

As I look through this landscape of museum exhibit development, I am continually finding tensions at play within the creative process. The design of an exhibition must be visually appealing and engaging, but also must still comply with universal readability standards and not incite visual fatigue. There is a fine line between being captivating and obnoxious, and the developer must find that balance. The information presented must not be so dense to turn off visitors, but must be interesting enough to hold the attention of those with prior knowledge. Then there is the persistent issue of making an experience distinctive and authentic, something that lends itself well to the museum venue, and cannot be easily replicated in a book or on a website. With interactivity easily achievable on websites and apps, standards for what makes an engaging museum exhibit are raised significantly. Even the degree of interactivity is a point of contention – I was surprised to learn that a component can even be considered too intriguing, potentially stagnating the foot traffic in an exhibition that generates revenue by the number of tickets sold.

Having just completing an exhibit development internship at the Museum of Science and currently creating interactive demonstrations at the MIT Museum, I’m fortunate to be able to observe and participate in this creative process firsthand. I always refer to exhibit development as a craft, based not only on the various skills needed, but also that I believe it’s best learned through active participation, a summation of endless tips, tricks, techniques and lessons learned. I’m eager to explore these themes through a series of blog posts, each focusing on a different facet in the development process. Stay tuned!

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: A Novel Idea

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 25, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

I love novels. I hope to publish one someday. I read them constantly. I use the margins to write notes cheering characters on, or chastising them for behaving badly. I give novels to friends. I organize them on shelves first alphabetically, then when that gets boring thematically, then yet again by cover color, height, or number of pages.

So when I read that Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk had created a museum based around his novel The Museum of Innocence, I was deeply fascinated.

Pamuk’s novel revolves around two lovers – Kemal and Füsun – who cannot get married. To ease his pain Kemal begins collecting everything Füsun has touched, creating a museum dedicated to his lost love. (Thankfully the spoilers end there. I’ve not yet read the book. It’s behind three others on my reading list.)

While he was writing, Pamuk was also collecting to create his own museum and he discovered some interesting things. While combing through flea markets in Istanbul and, later, other non-Western cities, he found that people tend to want the same objects. Whether you live in the USA, St. Petersburg, Rio de Janeiro or somewhere else, objects like baseball cards, teacups, old keys and antique matchboxes are the center of personal, private and prized collections. 

Where others might calls this desire to own specific knick-knacks an emerging market, Pamuk calls this trend emerging humanities. What people collect and why is deeply personal, but also reveals quite a bit about the human condition. We tend to agree that museums should collect certain kinds of objects, and yet what we collect on our own is often very, very different. What is it about polished rocks, or lighters or miniature cars that holds sway with us, but yet are “unworthy” of being collected by museums? If they are so deeply important to us as individuals, why don’t we think they are deeply important to our cultural institutions? We often look for cultural difference, but what if you look closely, it’s easier to find cultural sameness.

Pamuk makes a great point: it’s one thing to see a painting of George Washington. It’s completely different to see Elvis Presley’s recipe for his favorite peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich. One of these things you naturally relate to more, as a person; You want to know why he liked that sandwich. You sort of want to taste it.

There is another angle of Pamuk’s projects that interests me as well; the idea that people learn in different ways. While writing his novel, Pamuk collected things as Kemal did. He imagined what Füsun used, touched and ate, and developed his novel using items from his personal collection. And then he put them on display. Friends asked Pamuk why he did this. His response:

“…I also felt the need to point out that while novels appeal to our verbal imagination, art and museums stimulate our visual imagination; the novel and the museum were therefore concerned with entirely different sides of the same story. …What triggers the creative mind, in art as in literature, is not just the will to transmit the energy of ideas, but also a desire to engage physically with certain issues and objects.”

So you don’t like to read? Great! Check out the exhibit. Can’t bop over to Istanbul to see the Museum of Innocence in person? Fantastic! Read the book. I have had the privilege of having a Pamuk experience as a child when I read E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This book introduced me to The Met, informed my first tour of the museum, and is one of my most beloved novels on the shelf.

So you can see why this idea strikes me as a foolproof sort of plan. What if museums were more like novels? What if we wrote novels about our museums? How would our exhibits, collections, and audience change? Let me know what you think in the comments!

To read more about Orhan Pamuk’s novel and museum, check out this Newsweek article.

And because I know you’re curious, here is the recipe for Elvis Presley’s sandwich.

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 24, 2013 in museums in the news, Uncategorized |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

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Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 22, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Coordinator of Volunteers for Museum Ambassadors [Denver Museum of Nature & Science] The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is searching for a Coordinator of Volunteers for Museum Ambassadors. This position is responsible for ensuring volunteer support for all volunteer positions in the non-gallery specific, public areas of the Museum…
  • Continuing Education Coordinator [Longwood Gardens] Longwood Gardens invites applicants for the managerial position of Continuing Education Coordinator in the Education Department. About Longwood Gardens: Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, inspiring people through excellence in…
  • Digital Content Manager [The Museum of the American Revolution]   Digital Content Manager OVERVIEW The Museum of the American Revolution, a private, nonprofit educational organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is seeking a Digital Content Manager to assist in the planning and execution of digi…
  • Collections and Exhibitions Manager [Historic Philadelphia, Inc] The American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, also known as the Betsy Ross House, (BRH) seeks a highly motivated individual to fill the position of Collections and Exhibitions Manager. The Collections and Exhibitions Manager will be respons…
  • Manager, Public Programs & Events [Edsel & Eleanor Ford House]Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is seeking an experienced professional to assume responsibility for creating and producing dynamic public programs that have a broad visitor appeal and support and promote Ford House’s mission and strategic vision. Repor…
  • Museum Educators [Historic London Town and Gardens] Historic London Town and Gardens is looking for 3 people with experience in museum education or education to assist us with programs, tours, working with teachers and other educators, scheduling and developing education activities and programs. These ar…
  • Exhibits Manager [Florida Historic Capitol Museum] The Florida Legislature Historic Capitol   Job Title Program Specialist  Working Title Exhibits Manager General Summary This is independent, professional work developing and coordinating the permanent and temporary exhibits of …
  • Site Supervisor, Plimoth Grist Mill [Plimoth Plantation] Title: Site Supervisor, Plimoth Grist Mill Department: Colonial Interpretation (CID) Reports to: Program Manager & Associate Director, CID FLSA: Non-exempt; Full-time, Year-round Supervises: Program staff of Plimoth Mill   SUMMARY The …
  • Institutional Giving Manager [Plimoth Plantation] Primary Responsibilities: The Institutional Giving Manager has direct responsibility for managing and coordinating all aspects of Plimoth Plantation’s programs for generating significant funds from foundation, corporate and government sources. S/he i…
  • Exhibitions Project Coordinator [Virginia Museum of Fine Arts] The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts seeks a highly motivated and detailed individual to provide administrative and project management support for a variety of exhibition projects. Reporting to the Deputy Director for Art and Education, this position works cl…
  • Collections Storage Assistants [The British Museum] The British Museum Collection Services Collections Storage Assistants x 4 Full-time Fixed Term Contract; until 30 December 2013 £18,056 per annum, pro rata Ref: 1313111 This is an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic individual to join the d…
  • Cultural Resource Preservationist [Missouri State Historic Preservation Office] Founded in 1968, Missouri’s state historic preservation office was one of the nation’s first. It did not replace the citizens’ role in preserving properties, but helped facilitate the process of identifying properties significant to the citizens, …
  • Library Exhibitions Manager [Emory University] Reporting to the Director of Library External Affairs, the Library Exhibitions Manager provides direction and vision and is responsible for overall management of the Emory University Libraries Exhibition program which includes the Schatten Gallery as well…
  • Education Coordinator [LeMay­ America's Car Museum] The Education Coordinator supports the development, implementation, and sustainability of the Museum¹s educational programs, outreach programs, and library resources for LeMay ­ America¹s Car Museum. The Education Coordinator is responsible for the …
  • Part Time Visitor Services Facilitators [The MIT Museum] The MIT Museum seeks part-time visitor services facilitators.  Duties include: greeting visitors, selling admission tickets, ringing up museum store purchases and periodically restocking store, staffing reception desk and answering visitor questions, mon…
  • Early Childhood Education [The New York Hall of Science] Early Childhood Education Reports to: Director of Early Childhood Education Job Code: 25-2010 Job Title: Early Childhood Science Instructor FLSA Status: Exempt (Professional) Background: The New York Hall of Science, New York City’s only hands-on …
  • Executive Director [Connecticut Historical Society] POSITION DESCRIPTION * * Title:                          Executive Director *Reports to:             *The Board of Trustees *Location:                          *Administration General Description: Sub…
  • Historical Interpreter [Delaware Seashore State Park] Delaware Seashore State Park is seeking a creative and motivated person to help manage interpretive programs at the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum. Schedule is as follows: Part time schedule for May – September is 30+ hours per week includin…
  • Executive Director [Camden County Historical Society] Job Categories: Camden County (NJ), Historic/Cultural Preservation The Camden County Historical Society in Camden, NJ, seeks a full-time Executive Director. A private nonprofit founded in 1899, our mission is to collect, preserve and interpre…

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Book Review: False Impressions: The Hunt for Big Time Art Fakes

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 18, 2013 in book reviews, Uncategorized |

reposted from editor emeritus Amanda Kay Gustin.

False Impressions: The Hunt for Big Time Art Fakes
Thomas Hoving

This book is fairly typical of all Hoving’s popular works, which is to say it’s uncomfortably gossipy, breathtakingly arrogant, and compulsively readable.

The overall narrative of the book is split into two parts, and for me it didn’t really get going until the second half. The first part is Hoving’s chronological overview of art forgery through time, starting with Roman forgeries of Greek originals and coming up through the present day. The second part of the book is much more interesting, and follows Hoving himself through several major forgeries that he’s unmasked (or tried to unmask) in museums throughout the world.

The first thing to understand about this book is that Hoving is never wrong, in anything. Even the fakes he purchased for the Met were ones that he felt uneasy about to begin with, and his gut was eventually proven correct. Disputes with other curators were of their own making, and they always loved him in the end. Eminent experts who fell for fakes are lesser, gullible, sad specimens. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, he was responsible for bringing Velazquez’s Juan de Pareja to the Met.

That overwhelming arrogance is particularly on play in this book, as part of his thesis on fakebusters (those who are particularly gifted at detecting forgeries) is that they have an innate sixth sense, a superior eye that allows them to instantly make judgments that ultimately, after further study, appear correct. Hoving himself, of course, has this eye.

In spite – or perhaps because of? – this personal heroism, this book is a great read. Hoving is a gifted storyteller, and he holds nothing back, giving you the constant impression of being let into his inner circle as he shares secrets, gossip, and information that would probably embarrass all sorts of people.

From a museology point of view, I was primarily struck by two things. First, Hoving has a very black and white view of what a “fake” is and he doesn’t allow for much sophistication in thinking about the concept. For him, any work of art that is not 100% by the original artist is a fake. No in-the-style-of could possibly be as good as the original. He frequently recounts stories of art that has been so extensively restored that it is now worthless, and no longer original. He doesn’t really allow for any further thinking about why someone might imitate a style, or what the line in over-restoring is, or what compels an art forger beyond money. Anyone who paints, sculpts, or otherwise makes art in a style not their own is committing a sin, full stop. Not really any moral gray areas or ambiguities there.

Second, and this one pained me quite a bit as the book went on: Hoving’s concept of the museum begins and ends with expensive masterpieces. Money is nothing in the pursuit of a really good piece of art, and the millions spent on fakes by both himself, his curators, and the other museums he tells of are simply the price you pay in the collecting game. Education for him happens almost entirely through exhibitions that expose the masses to what they ought to know. The only time he talks about education “for the public” what he really means is an intensively scholarly weekend symposium that he put together on forgery – and by public, what he really means are rich collectors who might end up donating to the Met. Money is only to be used in pursuit of his particular version of perfection; woe to those who might want to use it to make school tours free, or expand art education in low income communities.

In the end, this was a highly entertaining read that frustrated me at times, but also made me think. It’s a good weekend or beach read while still being “on topic” for museum professional development.

 

Read more on Amanda Kay Gustin’s blog, Amblering.

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: A Dance with Disasters

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 18, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

Lately, a series of weird things have been happening at my museum. A short while back, Philadelphia had massive wind and rainstorms. In a matter of two weeks, we experienced no less than two power failures and a flood. It sounds drastic to call them disasters, but had the museum staff been unprepared to handle the situation, there certainly could have been disastrous consequences.

Given our recent roller coaster ride, I thought this might be a good moment to go over good museum practice. In case of emergency…what should you do??

1. Know your museum’s emergency preparedness plan.

Do you know where your department meets for a head count in case of a fire drill? How about where visitors should go in case of a power failure?

Knowing where to go and what to do in case of an emergency helps maintain calm among visitors and employees. When the power went out at the Please Touch Museum, all of the museum staff ushered visitors into the main hall. Parents and children remained calm, because the staff was calm. Yes, something was amiss, but there was no need to panic. Everyone knew where to go and what to do. During the flood, operations managers and cleaning staff knew the most efficient ways to eliminate the water and the smell. The museum opened for business as usual, with only a few extra “Wet Floor” signs hinting that something had happened.

CHECK: Does your museum have an emergency preparedness plan or handbook?

2. Have back up programming.

What do you do when your lecturer suddenly gets sick? Or when your museum experiences a power failure? Having a back up plan can keep you from having to cancel events.

Instead of kicking people out, the PTM staff jumped into action. No, visitors couldn’t see the theater show during the power outage, but they could attend an interactive story time in the main hall! Using costumes and puppets, Education, Visitor Services and Community Outreach staff worked together to put on educational programming that connected stories, puppets, games and songs to appropriate learning standards. Children learned about the parts of bugs and played with various bug puppets, and were read stories about sharing and making friends. Visitors had so much fun playing this way, there was a little disappointed groan when the lights came back on a short while later.

CHECK: Do you have back up programs? Having an emergency program (and a battery powered microphone kit) up your sleeve never hurts!

3. Practice good stewardship – Keep things off the floor!

Floods happen for a variety of reasons. Ours was thanks to heavy rain and a blocked sewer system. Museum staffers came in to over a foot of water in the some parts of the basement, and a less-than-pleasant smell.

The Community Outreach department had a program later that day. Thankfully, because they stored their supplies off the floor, none of their materials were wet or damaged. But several file boxes left on the floor were water damaged. It is always easier to save supplies damaged by water than those damaged by fire; however, storing your files, collections and program aids correctly can prevent any damage at all.

CHECK: Are your supplies and collections stored according to good stewardship practices? Need a refresher? (It’s okay, we all do sometimes.) Check out AAM’s guide to good collections stewardship here.

4. Know who to call and when.

A visitor falls down the stairs and injures herself. Someone’s Nalgene explodes, spilling water all over the floor. A researcher accidentally tears a priceless document in the reading room. Who do you call?

At the children’s museum, we experience a lot of spills, involving both liquids and people. It’s important to know when to call in the cleaning crew, the supervisor or even an ambulance.

CHECK: Do you know who to call and when? If not, familiarize yourself with your museum’s First Aid policies and emergency cleaning procedures.

5. Teamwork is everything.

When something goes awry, it’s stressful for EVERYONE. In case of emergency, keep calm, and lend a helping hand wherever you can.  I’m so proud of the way my colleagues handled themselves these past few weeks. Just when we thought nothing else could go wrong – the power would go out again. Sticking together and helping each other has really made us a stronger team.

And while our forays into emergency preparedness have been exciting (dare I say…fun?) let’s keep our fingers crossed that our dance with disaster is over for a little while.

Has your museum experienced a disaster? What did you do? Which policies helped? Which needed work? Share your stories with me in the comments!

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Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 17, 2013 in museums in the news |

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

Also, in honor of Valentine’s Day, The Museum of Broken Relationships popped up again. While more a travelling exhibit than anything else, this crowd-sourced project is definitely worth a look: Legacies of love showcased at the Museum of Broken Relationships

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