Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 31, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Full-Time Community Outreach Coordinator [Please Touch Museum] Position Summary: The Community Outreach Coordinator will report to the Manager of Community Outreach. The Coordinator assists with the curriculum design, program planning and assessment of educational programming in the two key thematic areas: External Play and School Readiness. The Coordinator is also responsible for the implementation of these programs in local schools, childcare centers, social …
  • Kress Interpretive Fellowship [Cornell Fine Arts Museum] The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is seeking eligible candidates for a Kress Interpretive Fellowship for 2013-14. The Kress Interpretive Fellowships aim to cultivate graduate students and young professionals interested in museum careers, focusing on curatorial and educational collaboration. The Fellow’s activities will focus on research of the Cornell’s permanent collection and development of interpretive materials. Under …
  • Programs Fellow [The Museum of Science] Programs Fellow (Sept. 2013 – Sept. 2014) Description Provide an important contribution to the Education Division by performing live presentations for visitors, programs for students and teachers, and other similar programs on a wide variety of topics in science and technology. Contribute new ideas, creativity and perspectives to our efforts in informal science and technology education.This Fellowship, …
  • Fellow, Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative [Walker Art Center]The Walker seeks a full-time, temporary fellow for the Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI). The fellow works with Visual Arts curators to plan and implement a dynamic, sustainable online collections catalogue that focuses on new acquisitions, performing arts commissions, and works produced for artist residency projects. The fellow assists in developing theme-based volumes of the catalogue …
  • Interactive Technology Developer [Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art] The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is currently accepting resumes and applications for the new and exciting position of Interactive Technology Developer. This position will work in a team-oriented environment to create innovative technology-based exhibit experiences that will engage visitors throughout the museum. Please send resumes, 3 references and salary requirements topersonnel@eiteljorg.com or …
  • Program Assistant [Maryland Humanities Council} Program Assistant: Apply by June 7 Posting Date:  May 13, 2013 Job Description The Program Assistant provides assistance to the Program Officers responsible for a set of programs in order to provide program support and general administrative support.  Program areas for this position will include the One Maryland One Book, Letters About Literature, Book Festivals, Civil War Discussion, ...
  • Mellon Curatorial Coordinator [Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art] The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, is conducting a search for the Mellon Curatorial Coordinator for Academic Programs.  Position Summary This position is responsible for helping to strengthen the teaching mission of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.  The successful candidate will have a deep commitment to object-based learning, interdisciplinary teaching, and collaboration, …
  • Director of Curatorial Affairs [Worcester Art Museum] The Worcester Art Museum seeks an experienced and dynamic Director of Curatorial Affairs with a strong background in European art. The Museum is in the process of leveraging its high level encyclopedic collections to have a stronger regional impact, with a clear focus on the visitor experience. The Director of Curatorial Affairs is part of …
  • Program Associate [National Jazz Museum] Position Summary The Program Associate for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem aids the Artistic Director in realizing the Museum’s programmatic vision. Other responsibilities include supporting other Museum personnel with day-to-day operations regarding collections, exhibits, and research at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The position’s responsibilities include organizing and caring for the Museum’s collections both at its Harlem office …
  • Development Associate [National Jazz Museum] Position Summary The Development Associate for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem provides direct support to the Director of Development in the implementation of the Museum’s comprehensive fund-raising program that is focused on institutional support, individual donors, membership, and special events. The Development Associate reports to the Director of Development. Position Responsibilities Research, Cultivation, and Solicitation 1. Conduct prospect research at the …
  • Exhibits Manager [Connecticut Science Center] Job Title: Exhibits Manager FLSA: Salaried, Exempt Full Time (40 hours per week) Reports to: Director of Exhibits Summary of Key Responsibilities:  Provides daily and overall leadership to a team of highly skilled Exhibit Technicians. Leading by example, the Exhibit Manager sets the tone for exemplary service from the Exhibits Department consistent with the established Culture of the Connecticut Science …
  • Education Assistant [The Arts Council of Princeton] The Arts Council of Princeton has an immediate opening for an Education Assistant. Interested applicants should submit materials before June 10. Interested candidates should send resume, letter of interest, three references and salary requirements by June 10, 2013 to Julie Sullivan-Crowley at jsullivancrowley@artscouncilofprinceton.org<mailto:jsullivancrowley@artscouncilofprinceton.org> with “Education Assistant Search” in the subject line or mail to: Education Assistant Search Arts Council of Princeton Paul Robeson Center for the Arts 102 …
  • Coordinator of Live Animal Care; Museum Educator [Brooklyn Children’s Museum] Position Description: Coordinator of Live Animal Care; Museum Educator Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the world’s first museum for children is searching for a full-time Coordinator of Live Animal Care; Museum Educator. This person will coordinate live animal care for the Museum’s reptiles, amphibians, aquaria, invertebrates and birds, as well as develop and facilitate educational programming. Coordinator will lead the team of animal …
  • Manager, Education & Public Programs [Brooklyn Children's Museum]DEPARTMENT: Education SUPERVISOR: Director of Education Overview: Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the world’s first museum for children, is searching for a full-time Manager of Education and Public Programs. Reporting to the Director of Education, this key position collaborates with senior education and museum staff to conceptualize, develop, implement, and evaluate a broad selection of school and public programs, as …


Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: The Price is Right?

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 28, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp,

I fib sometimes to get discounts.

At the gym: Are you a student? Totally! (-$25 on membership)

At the movies: Is your parent a senior citizen? Yes! (-$3 per ticket)

At the store: Do you have a club card? Absolutely! (+$5 in coupons for giving my sister’s phone number.)

So it comes as no surprise that when I go to museums, I do everything I can to bring admission prices down. I’ll bring my museum association cards, old student ID’s, refer-a-friend coupons and Groupons…pretty much anything.

It’s not because I don’t want to pay to get in. I know that most museum revenue comes from admission sales. I know it’s how they keep the place open. I want to pay, but I can’t. Honestly, I can’t afford it. I have a really tight budget.

So I was conflicted when I learned that museum prices are rising all along the Mid-Atlantic, particularly in Philadelphia.

According to a recent Philadelphia Business Journal article area museums have been raising their prices by as much as 25% in 2013. On the one hand, this is hugely positive. Attendance for mid-Atlantic museum is up, so the price hike is an indicator that the services we provide are definitely in demand. We can hopefully take this as a sign that the economy is recovering and arts/education funding may grow in the near future. On the other hand…are we potentially playing with fire?

When my museum raised its prices by $1 to help cover overhead costs, I heard complaints day in, day out, for weeks on end about this small increase. It now costs $64 for a family of four to visit – but that’s before you pay for parking, lunch and souvenirs. For many, one day at the museum is a budget buster. Unsurprisingly we see huge crowd increases around the time our LivingSocial coupons are released and discounted Target First Wednesdays can be crazy.

So attendance and prices are up. But what can you do to make sure customers feel like they’re getting more bang for their extra bucks?

Well, for one thing, innovative ticketing definitely helps. Several museums have started to create partnerships – like the Penn Museum and the Mutter Museum did in 2012. Rather than pay $27 per person to see each museum separately, you can now buy a combo ticket and see both institutions for $20. The Barnes Foundation has now folded the cost of an audio guide into their admission prices. Some museums have expanded their definitions of “children” discount tickets, and others have increased the number of “pay-what-you-want-to” days.

But the biggest helper is the marketing scheme. When packaged as a “day-cation” a museum visit is cheap. Let’s break it down.

To get in to Disney World for one day, a single adult would pay $95.

To get on to the beach here in Ventnor NJ you pay a $10 fee, plus $12 in tolls.

Average cost of a museum: $15.

Oh, and by the way, that museum entrance comes with air conditioning and cultural enlightenment. Less chance of sunburn, more chance of learning stuff. Pretty good deal, yeah?

Are prices rising a good thing? How do you convince your visitors to pay more? What kinds of tricks do you use to balance your own budget? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!



Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 26, 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!


Short term opportunity at the American Textile History Museum!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 25, 2013 in Uncategorized |

A fantastic opportunity to work with antique textiles has just come in. They’re looking for 2-3 individuals to photograph the American Textile History Museum’s archives in pursuit of a multi-museum, open-access, searchable database of antique and vintage textiles!

Here’s the description:


Position:  Image capture assistant for the Virtual Textile Project

Location:  American Textile History Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts

Type:  temporary position. Hiring 2 to 3 people.

Duration: June 13 to July 5 (with possible extension and/or additional opportunities).

Contact person:  Catherine Bradley via e-mail catherine.bradley@mcgill.ca


Job description:  The candidate will be trained to photograph antique textiles using different image capture techniques.  This is part of a larger project involving the creation of an open access database of antique and vintage textiles from important textile museums worldwide.  The ATHM is the first museum to have their textiles captured by our team, so the photographic protocols will be tested and adjusted during this phase of the project.  The candidates will be working directly with McGill University researcher, Catherine Bradley, and will be trained by a team from Dragon and Phoenix Software, led by Kat Lind.


The skills of interest for this project are arranged in several groups. The first group includes those abilities required by all members of the team, while the second identifies skills and competencies that need to be covered by the team, but not necessarily by each member of the team. The final group identifies those skills that would be an asset, but are not necessarily required.


Competencies and characteristics – all team members must possess the following characteristics:

  • detail oriented

  • meticulous in following protocols and procedures

  • general technical familiarity with computers, internet and storage

  • works well in a small team

  • comfortable in museum archives

  • fast learner

  • adaptable

  • easy going

  • good visional discernment


Competencies – team coverage.  The following characteristics must be present in the team as whole, not necessarily in each individual member.  The more characteristics the person possesses, the greater the chance of success.

  • experience handling museum artifacts

  • experience handling delicate items

  • interest in and knowledge about textiles

  • photographic skills with digital cameras

  • good written and oral communication skills


Hiring process:

  1. Please send a letter describing your suitability for the position, along with a current CV to    catherine.bradley@mcgill.ca

  2. Suitable candidates will be contacted for phone interviews

  3. The most suitable candidates will be interviewed on June 10.

  4. The candidates who are chosen will start work on June 12, 2013.


Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 24, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

  • Summer Research Fellowship for Museum Interpretation [Dayton Art Institute] The Dayton Art Institute announces a new fellowship offered through the generosity of an anonymous donor.**** Two fellows will be selected to focus on researching and developing content on select objects in the museum¹s collection to add to the existing*What is a Masterpiece? An Interactive Tour of World Art *program. Fellows will identify content sources in a variety of media, …
  • Museum Educator [Springfield Art Museum] The Springfield Art Museum invites applications for the position of Museum Educator.  Located in Missouri’s third largest city, the Springfield Art Museum serves as a cultural hub to the region.  The Springfield MSA has a population of over 300,000 and features numerous amenities found in a larger city but with a small-town feel.  Springfield boasts a vibrant downtown, award winning …
  • Education Coordinator [The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine]Location: New York City Department: Public Education and Visitor Services Reports to:  Co-Director, Public Education and Visitor Services Posting Date: May 20, 2013 The Organization: The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is one of the world’s most celebrated institutions, set amidst 11.5 acres of stunning and architecturally significant buildings and gardens. With its doors open to everyone, the Cathedral …
  • Kress Interpretive Fellowship [Portland Art Museum] If you are a recent graduate in art history and/or museum education, we would like to bring to your attention to an exciting fellowship opportunity at the Portland Art Museum. The Portland Art Museum has been awarded a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for a year-long paid, full-time fellowship position in museum interpretation beginning in September 2013. We …
  • Assistant Registrar [The University of Utah] sent in by Tufts alumna, Jennifer Ortiz Open Date 05/14/2013 Requisition Number PRN03750B Job Title Assistant Registrar Working Title UMFA Registrar Job Grade C Standard Hours per Week 40 Work Schedule Summary Mon thru Fri 8:00 – 5:00 Department 00073 – Utah Museum of Fine Arts Type of Recruitment External Posting Pay Rate Range 14.00 – 16.00 Close Date NOTE: May close at anytime. 06/04/2013 Open Until Filled NOTE: May close at anytime. No Job Summary The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located on …


Science in Museums: It’s Not So Bad To Not Get The Big Idea

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 22, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Cira Brown,

This past Sunday, I visited the Museum of Science to see the new exhibit entitled “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times”. Admittedly, it’s a topic I don’t know much about, which makes it difficult to evaluate how the exhibition presented the material. However, the experience made for a good opportunity to assess learning in a museum from my own standpoint – and I realized something interesting. While the artifacts were stunning and the exhibition beautifully crafted, I emerged from my time in the exhibit without a clear idea of what the objective of the exhibition was. What I mean by this is that despite all of the information in each panel, I was unable to construct a larger understanding of the topic at hand – in short, the big idea, save for a vague larger appreciation for the historical significance of the discovery and preservation efforts.

When I visit an exhibit, it’s usually apparent to me what the “take-away” learning objectives are – the label text, artifacts and interactives all acting as scaffolds to support a predetermined goal. I was unable to discern objectives from this exhibit, as the labels were informative, but did not focus too heavily on any particular aspect. I was expecting to find conflicting theories about the origin and meaning the scrolls, each with their respective academic arguments for and against each theory. Similarly, I expected to be presented with detailed explanations of preservation and restoration efforts. Instead, the exhibition mainly focused on providing context about the era in which the scrolls were written, which in and of itself was a tremendous task. Due to the scrolls unknown provenance and inconclusive assertions about the authors’ motivations, I understand the need to be ambiguous, especially given the “official” status that is bestowed upon the museum exhibit.

Nonetheless, I certainly wouldn’t say this say this exhibit failed, and I should note that I did not participate in the audio tour, which may have remedied some of this confusion. Jumping into an exhibit about a topic I knew little about was challenging and left me with a lot of questions – when I went home I downloaded a book and watched a documentary on the topic as well. The exhibit, then, was successful in that it sparked further research and interest. But in the museum, in the whirlwind of information, I felt fairly lost. I’m curious to know if this alienated visitors instead of empowering them.As I reflect on my time on Sunday, I’ve decided that this “lost” feeling isn’t as negative at it appears. I certainly wasn’t frustrated in the exhibit. If something is challenging, the consequential challenge for the curator and exhibit developer is to translate the topic without making it intimidating or isolating, and I wouldn’t characterize the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit as either. I think it’s okay to not understand everything, perhaps even major things, or have an expectation that visitors will meet those educational objectives in bullet form. It brings to mind the work of art museum educators and the valuable discussions that can be created from visual observation – even if the participants do not know the “hidden” or “true” meanings of the artwork, context or symbols contained within. After this initial engagement with an object or concept, will visitors be more receptive to internalizing other meanings? I believe so – and this starting point is inquiry.

Science museums espouse “exploration”, and fostering exploration within a conceptual topic is a difficult experience to design. The science exhibit developer can emulate an experiment to allow visitors to explore particular phenomena, which are a tried-and-true for science exhibitions. The aforementioned impetus for inquiry is usually explicitly stated in label text. However, are there other, non-interactive, non-explicit ways to mentally explore a topic? What about the progression and formation of an idea, particularly a scientific theory? Like the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls or any historical topic, scientific narratives cannot always be summed up in a succinct manner.

My first foray into exhibit development took the form of an exploratory digital exhibition on one of those tricky narratives: the scientific development of early 20th-century physics and the subsequent development of atomic weaponry. The context needed to present the topic is immense, both on a scientific and historic scale: quantum mechanics plus the global affairs that resulted in two world wars. This project addressed many of the difficulties in fostering exploration that I’ve described here, and, in my next blog post, I will discuss various educational methods to confront these “tricky” topics.

Also, I’d be curious to know what others who saw the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit thought of it!


Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: City of Museums

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 20, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp,

Since college, I have tried really hard to dislike Philadelphia. It probably had something to do with dating a guy from Pittsburgh, but it mostly boiled down to this: its not big like New York, it’s not the capital like Washington, it’s not as strong-willed as Boston, and I hate all its sports teams. I’ve been known to call it Filth-adelphia from time to time, and curse its middling existence when driving between Washington to New York. It feels like an “unspecial” city. And did I mention that I really hate all the sports teams?

But, here I am living in Philadelphia, and I’m going to tell you a secret. Ready?

I kind of really like it here.

It was a puzzling thing for me – liking a city I’d decided to hate – until I heard a short bit on NPR, featuring Penn professor David Brownlee that made it all click into place.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the American museum.

In 1789, Charles Wilson Peale (of The Artist in His Museum self-portrait fame) founded The Philadelphia Museum, a collection of odds and ends, paintings and taxidermy specimens he had acquired over the years.


Peale was the first to establish collection loans when he borrowed taxidermy specimens for his museum from a London institution, and was also the first to adopt the Linnaean taxonomy, presenting his specimens as scientific pieces for study and education, rather than for entertainment or shock value as many other curio collections did at the time.

Other Philadelphia museums quickly popped up, and spread the idea that collections could be used to broaden the mind and cultural horizons. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (founded in 1806) is the oldest art school and museum in the United States. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel (founded in 1812) is the oldest science research institution, and the Franklin Institute (1824) was one of the first museums in the western hemisphere to dedicate itself specifically to science education.

For a history major and a museum studies graduate, that’s a lot of BIG museum firsts.

(FYI – The oldest established museum I could find in Boston was the Boston Athanaeum, founded in 1807. Let me know if there’s an older one.)

Maybe Philadelphia feels “unspecial” to me because at so many times it has been special for different reasons. For a little while it was the nation’s capital, then the industrial capital, then arts capital and then a center for scientific and philosophical thought.

And, as Brownlee posits, this fluctuating role in history is also represented in its museums. How, where and why certain institutions were built can represent a city at a certain moment – much the way your high school yearbook photo represents you when you graduated.

I often ask my peers: do museums have a specific personality based on their location? Is a modern art museum in Chicago, for example, fundamentally different from one in San Francisco? Or is a museum a museum a museum, no matter where you go?

Personally, I subscribe to the idea of a personality. I do think museums have a certain feel depending on the city.

Washington gets to have the Nationals – the museums that represent the United States as a whole. Boston gets the Revolutionaries– the places that talk about colonial life and the start of American history and culture. New York has the Hipster-Highbrows – institutions that are as big, as fancy and as eclectic as its population.

But I think Philadelphia has something extra special. It has the Firsts. The places that went through the growing pains and all the changes that make American museums what they are today. And, oddly, for being the City of Museums (as Brownlee put it), Philadelphia institutions don’t feel pretentious.

Sadly, Peale’s Philadelphia Museum failed and the collection was sold, so you can’t go see the first American museum. But Peale’s idea for an educational institution remained, and can be seen in all sorts of museums, both in Philadelphia and around the United States.

What do you think? Do museums have “personalities” based on location? How important is it to be labeled oldest, first or biggest?

To hear Brownlee’s interview on NPR, click here


Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 19, 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!


Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 17, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

Sent in by Tufts alumnae:

  • Assistant Registrar [The University of Utah] sent in by Tufts alumna, Jennifer Ortiz Open Date 05/14/2013 Requisition Number PRN03750B Job Title Assistant Registrar Working Title UMFA Registrar Job Grade C Standard Hours per Week 40 Work Schedule Summary Mon thru Fri 8:00 – 5:00 Department 00073 – Utah Museum of Fine Arts Type of Recruitment External Posting Pay Rate Range 14.00 – 16.00 Close Date NOTE: May close at anytime. 06/04/2013 Open Until Filled NOTE: May close at anytime. No Job Summary The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located on …

Other jobs!

  • Natural Science Educator [Turtle Bay Exploration Park, CA] Turtle Bay Exploration Park, located in beautiful Northern California, is seeking an enthusiastic, creative and experienced team player to join the education department. Reporting to the Education & Program Manager, the educator develops and implements interactive, engaging and learner-centered interdisciplinary education programs for museum, family and school programs, takes the lead on natural science programming and training and provides direct supervision …
  • Manager of Youth Learning & Engagement [Wolfsonian] The Wolfsonian­Florida International University, a museum and research center located in the heart of historic south Miami Beach, uses objects to illustrate the persuasive power of art and design, to explore what it means to be modern, and to tell the story of social, political, and technological changes that have transformed our world. It encourages people to see the world …
  • Project Manager [National Museum of the American Indian] Leads a multi-disciplinary team of museum personnel assigned to the project from across the museum, from inception through completion. Collaborates with representatives from the following functional areas:  collections, curatorial, conservation, registration, exhibition design, exhibition fabrication, media, information technology, fundraising, special events, publications, and administration and finance. Manages the most complex projects in the museum, i.e. those that …
  • Assistant Coordinator, Exhibition Planning and Administration [The Museum of Modern Art] The Museum of Modern Art is now accepting applications for an Assistant Coordinator in the Exhibition Planning and Administration department.  Reporting to the Associate Director the incumbent will serve as an exhibition coordinator for medium-scale exhibitions and performances within the context of The Museum of Modern Art’s robust exhibition program, overseeing and implementing all aspects of …
  • G:Class Assistant [The New Museum] The G:Class Assistant will develop and facilitate projects, trips and schedule work assignments for high school interns at the New Museum. Under the supervision of the Associate Educator, the G:Class Assistant will mentor teen interns as they gain work experience and exposure to contemporary art and ideas. The position hours are 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues-Fri July …
  • Exhibition Coordinator [The Huntington Library] The Exhibition Coordinator serves as the project manager for the institution’s major exhibitions, including but not limited to exhibitions scheduled for the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, West Hall of the Library, the Chandler Wing of the Scott Galleries, and the Works on Paper Room of the Huntington Art Gallery.  The Exhibition Coordinator works with …
  • Chief Registrar and Collection Manager [Museum of the Moving Image]POSITION TITLE: Chief Registrar and Collections Manager Museum of the Moving Image is seeking an individual to serve as the Museum’s Chief Registrar and Collections Manager. This person will direct the planning and day-to-day management and care of the Museum’s permanent collection, all activities concerning incoming and outgoing loans, and oversee the application of approved procedures …
  • Academic Programs Coordinator [The Hammer Museum] Under the supervision of the Assistant Director, Academic Programs, the Academic Programs Coordinator will coordinate the Museum’s UCLA student-related academic programs. These academic programs include but are not limited to the Hammer Student Association, Hammer Interns, student professional development programs, and outreach to campus. The Hammer Student Association is an organization of undergraduates and graduates …
  • Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art [The Cleveland Museum of Art]The museum’s Contemporary Art department seeks applications for the position of Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art. Working under the direction of the Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, the individual who is appointed to this position will assist in the stewardship, programming and development of the museum’s important holdings in this field. Candidates should possess a …
  • Assistant Chief Conservator, Collections Conservation and Housings [Preservation Department-Yale University Library] Preservation Department Yale University Library New Haven, CT Rank: Librarian 2-3 (Grades 24-25) Requisition: #21178BR www.yale.edu/jobs   Schedule:   Full-time (37.5 hours per week); Standard Work Week (M-F, 8:30-5:00)   Yale University offers exciting opportunities for achievement and growth in New Haven, Connecticut.  Conveniently located between Boston and New York, New Haven is the creative capital of Connecticut with cultural resources that include two major art …
  • Senior Curator of Exhibitions [Ohio State University] Job ID: 13411096 Position Title: Senior Curator of Exhibitions Company Name: The Ohio State University Job Function: Curator Location(s): Columbus, Ohio, 43201, United States Posted: May 10, 2013 Entry Level: No Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: Master’s Degree Min Experience: 3-5 Years   Apply URL:http://www.jobsatosu.com   Senior Curator of Exhibitions Wexner Center for the Arts Columbus, OH The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University is seeking a Senior Curator to work in tandem with the center’s Director …
  • Multiple Positions [Please Touch Museum] Current Job Openings Community Outreach Coordinator (.DOC) Experience Host (.DOC) Membership Manager (.DOC) Retail Assistant-Part-Time 24 hrs/week & Temporary May to Aug 16 hrs/week (.DOC) Security Officer-Part-Time (.DOC) Security Officer-On-Call (.DOC) Learn more.
  • Media and Communications Editor [Society of Architectural Historians]SAH seeks a Media and Communications Editor to manage SAH’s non-scholarly print and online communications. The Editor will collaborate with SAH staff and leadership to develop communication strategies for promoting SAH’s major initiatives including its annual conference, study tours, publications, awards programs and public outreach. The Editor will strategize on media, marketing, communications, and branding. Learn more.
  • Digital Preservation Officer [British Library] Ref S&C00406 Location London, St Pancras Position Type Fixed Term Specialism Curators, Conservation and Reading Room Salary: £37,937-£44,059 per annum plus benefits                     2 years fixed term                     St Pancras, London                                                                   The future of information is digital, but unless we take action today, our digital collections may not be safe, usable, or even understandable in just a few years’ time.   The British Library is one of the …


Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Cinderella Ate My Breakfast

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 13, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp,

I did not have the chance to make my mom breakfast in bed this Mother’s Day. I had to go to Philadelphia to be a princess.


The Please Touch Museum hosts an annual Mother’s Day Princess Brunch for Centennial Guild Members (i.e.: platinum level, or those who pay for the highest possible membership package). The morning is complete with omelets and pancakes made to order, flowers for the mothers, and early admission to the museum, so kids can play on the floor relatively undisturbed.

And, oh yeah, you can meet a princess.

Following Storybook Ball, I was drafted for a Tour of Royal Duty – my supervisor claims it’s because I have the necessary “bubbly enthusiasm” early in the morning.

I was cast as Sleeping Beauty, and spent the morning greeting children, asking them if they had “a good sleep with nice dreams” and discussing the importance of eating your breakfast so you can have the energy to play all day. It was a blast, and no small ego boost to have squadrons of little girls follow you around like you’re a rock star.

But when I was all finished Princessing and had slipped out of the tulle dress and back into my blue jeans, I suddenly felt conflicted. Had I done the right thing by agreeing to do this? What kind of role model was I being for these kids?


My university-educated, progressive, egalitarian, feminist side was boiling mad. How could I – a girl who had put so much effort into my education, and who refuses to date men who choose my body over my brain – walk around smiling at kids pretending that none of it matters?

I typically agree with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Orenstein posits that most women have a “princess complex,” where we fear aging into evil hags, will wait around for Prince Charming rather than adventure solo, and feel we need to meet certain societal conventions to be considered beautiful. (I could go on and on, but I’d rather you read more about it here, here or here.)

My inner feminist was freaking out, but my museum professional side took a deep breath.

In school we learn that part of being a good museum professional is to know your audience. What do they like? What do they want? What gets them excited?

Little girls love princesses. (And by the way, their brothers love princesses who freelance as international superspies, Jedi Knights and ninjas.)

If dressing up like a princess is what it takes to get a three-year-old girl to come to the museum, then so be it. It doesn’t mean that said princess has to sell the idea of needing a prince or that you have to be a certain dress size to be beautiful. Quite the contrary. This princess asked kids what their favorite exhibit was, and did they like coming to the museum, what’s the best part about Kindergarten and what books they like to read. She also told them that they were beautiful, especially with pancake syrup all over their faces.


Interestingly, kids are more willing to share their toys (and breakfasts) with princesses, and kids who are normally really shy told me their life stories. Learning through play, for sure. If only they believed all their playmates were royalty.

My hope is that rather than creating girls with a princess complex, I’m helping to create museum advocates. Anything that helps to create a good memory in the museum – be it a Carousel ride or meeting a princess – creates the inroads for that little girl to ask to come back, or to go to another museum next weekend, or to even take out a membership years later when she has kids.

So I came to this conclusion: so long as you’re not violating the museum’s mission or promoting retrograde thinking, and you are working towards building a community in your museum, princess it up. Jump into that tulle dress, smile, sparkle and sell it.


Where do you fall on this issue? Do you think it’s okay to have princesses in the museum? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!


Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 12, 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!


Weekly Jobs Round-up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 10, 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!

  • Education Curator [Aspen Art Museum] *About the Aspen Art Museum * The Aspen Art Museum is an accredited, globally preeminent, noncollecting institution that organizes and presents the newest, most important evolutions in international contemporary art through a dynamic exhibition program of ten to twelve shows per year. With an annual operating budget of over $3.1 million and staff of 28 professionals, the AAM is situated …
  • Kress Interpretive Fellowship 2013-2014 [Metropolitan Museum of Art]KRESS INTERPRETIVE FELLOWSHIP 2013-2014 Position Description: The Kress Interpretive Fellowship aims to cultivate students and young professionals interested in museum careers and focuses on curatorial and educational collaboration. The Fellow’s activities will focus on fostering connections between the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department’s historic British collections and the creative practice of contemporary design and architecture communities. The collections range in date …
  • Exhibit Content Developer [Museum of Science] Description Develop engaging, educational, accurate, accessible and relevant facilitated and un-facilitated museum experiences that effectively communicate their intended messages to a wide audience and that reflect input from the public, experts in the scientific and engineering community and from Museum staff. Collaborates with team members, project managers, other museums, and members of the community to develop …
  • Exhibition Curator [Atlanta History Center] Job ID: 13253385 Position Title: Exhibition Curator Company Name: Atlanta History Center Location(s): Atlanta, Georgia, 30305, United States Posted: April 25, 2013 Job Function: Exhibitions Entry Level: No Job Type: Full-time   Job Description The Atlanta History Center is looking for a highly motivated and results-oriented professional to fill a three-year position within the organization of Exhibition Curator. The successful candidate will be a strategic and innovative thinker, who demonstrates strong verbal and written communications …
  • Membership Manager [The Museum of Arts and Design] The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), the country’s premier contemporary institution exploring the intersection of craft, design and art, seeks an energetic membership professional to join the Membership team. The Museum is the country’s preeminent institution dedicated to the collection and exhibition of contemporary objects from these disciplines created in a variety of media. The …


Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Museum Professionals 360°

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 6, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp,

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you may know that I spent Sunday morning at the Stainton Society’s Annual Brunch, which featured CNN journalist Anderson Cooper as a guest speaker.


The Stainton Society is an Atlantic City-based medical philanthropy group and the annual brunch is their big fundraiser for a local medical center. The who, what, and why of how I got into is event is really neither here nor there, but if you’re friends with me in general, then you may know that I am a huge Anderson Cooper fangirl. That had something to do with it.

I say this with only a little bit of bias: Anderson was awesome.

“There’s a value to bearing witness to what people are going through,” he said. “I think it’s important to see people in remarkable situations and acknowledge it.” No, bearing witness does not change the course of events, he continued. But it does open our eyes to other places and situations, and prevent someone who has passed away from simply dissolving into history, as if he never existed at all.


He went on to play to his audience, talking about how doctors and nurses bear witness to emotional, physical and medical extremes in hospitals – they see deaths and births, cure deadly diseases and deliver heartbreaking diagnoses. He then spoke about seeing war zones, of dealing with loss, of the people he’s met who remain optimistic, even in the direst of situations. On the surface, this all has nothing to do with me, or my profession.

But when it was all over, I had a strange thought: Anderson Cooper is a museum. (Specifically, I think he’s a history museum, but you can tell me if you disagree.)


Anderson Cooper has dedicated his life to bringing others’ stories to the public. They are stories from people you will never meet, stories that you may never hear otherwise. Some of them are terribly sad. Some of them are amazing. Some of them are funny in their own way. He wants to inform people and to tell them the facts – it’s up to us to interpret those facts, form an opinion and make that story mean something.

What is your museum’s mission? Technically, it may be to interpret history or make artistic masterpieces accessible for a nominal fee. But isn’t it really to bear witness to an historical moment? To recognize the human capacity to create amazing works of beauty?

Museums collect things, but the true story is that of the person who owned or used them. Objects tell a story – like Anderson Cooper, it’s the museum’s job to root that story out and share it with the public. With any collected object or exhibit, we have to find the story, ask the tough questions, edit the content, package it for mass consumption and give people something to think about. Please remember this exhibit, museums ask visitors. Please make this story meaningful.

I suppose what I’m getting at here is that in their own way, museums bear witness to the human condition and we as museum professionals are the reporters.

So what do you think? Is Anderson Cooper a history museum? Can history museums be Anderson Cooper?

Share you thoughts with me in the comments!

PS- I highly recommend reading Anderson’s book Dispatches from the Edge. In addition to giving insight into the lifestyle of a foreign correspondent, it may have helped inspire this column’s name. (Just a little.)



Museums in the News

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 5, 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!

My pick of this week is this Sun Times piece about what we’re losing in the Field Museum’s budget cuts and how much more there is to natural history museum than what you can see for the price of admission.


Exhibit opening next Monday!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 4, 2013 in events, tufts events |

Don’t forget: The Wonder Smith: Children’s Book Illustrations of Boris Artzybasheff opens with a public reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. next Monday, May 6.

This exhibition includes over 40 black and white works from the Boston Public Library’s John D. Merriam Collection. Through them, visitors can explore the artist’s creative and technical genius. Many are accompanied by excerpts from the stories they depict. Jump into the world of storytelling, early 20th century Russia and America, and children’s illustrations.

The exhibit is on view at the Tufts University Art Gallery in the Aidekman Arts Center at Tufts University. Learn more by reading the press release here.


Weekly Jobs Round-Up!

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on May 3, 2013 in jobs listings |

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

But first, if you’ll be a Tufts student next year, check out this position at the Tufts University Art Gallery:

  • Visitor Services Ambassadors [Tufts University Art Gallery] The Tufts University Art Gallery is hiring Visitor Services Ambassadors for the 2013-2014 academic year. The newly created position of Visitor Services Ambassador combines the responsibilities of visitor service (welcome visitors and provide information about the Gallery and its programs) with those of gallery guide (engage visitors about the exhibitions) and security staff (monitor the …

And back to our regular listings!

  • Exhibit Content Developer [Museum of Science] Description Develop engaging, educational, accurate, accessible and relevant facilitated and un-facilitated museum experiences that effectively communicate their intended messages to a wide audience and that reflect input from the public, experts in the scientific and engineering community and from Museum staff. Collaborates with team members, project managers, other museums, and members of the community to develop …
  • Exhibition Curator [Atlanta History Center] Job ID: 13253385 Position Title: Exhibition Curator Company Name: Atlanta History Center Location(s): Atlanta, Georgia, 30305, United States Posted: April 25, 2013 Job Function: Exhibitions Entry Level: No Job Type: Full-time   Job Description The Atlanta History Center is looking for a highly motivated and results-oriented professional to fill a three-year position within the organization of Exhibition Curator. The successful candidate will be a strategic and innovative thinker, who demonstrates strong verbal and written communications …
  • Membership Manager [The Museum of Arts and Design] The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), the country’s premier contemporary institution exploring the intersection of craft, design and art, seeks an energetic membership professional to join the Membership team. The Museum is the country’s preeminent institution dedicated to the collection and exhibition of contemporary objects from these disciplines created in a variety of media. The …
  • Associate Curator of Education [Woodmere Art Museum] Woodmere Art Museum, located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, is seeking candidates with expertise in art education for the position of Associate Curator of Education.  Woodmere’s mission is to inspire creativity, learning, and self-expression through experiences with the art and artists of Philadelphia and the region, and candidates who demonstrate a passion for …
  • Registrar [Oklahoma City Museum of Art] Job ID: 13313454 Position Title: Registrar Company Name: Oklahoma City Museum of Art Job Function: Registrar/Collections Management Entry Level: No Location(s): Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73102, United States Posted: May 1, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: BA/BS/Undergraduate Min Experience: 3-5 Years Required Travel: 0-10%   Mission: Supports Museum mission through all aspects of registration, collections care, department, budget development, exhibition coordination Basic Functions: The Office of the Registrar implements Museum policies and procedures encompassing acquisitions, loans, exhibitions, deaccessions, storage, packing …
  • Curator of African Art [Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University]Job ID: 13313045 Position Title: Curator of African Art Company Name: Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University Job Function: Curator Entry Level: No Location(s): Atlanta, Georgia, 30322, United States Posted: May 1, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: Ph.D. Min Experience: 5-7 Years Required Travel: 10-25%   Job Description The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University seeks an experienced professional and accomplished scholar to serve as Curator of African Art for its preeminent collection of sub-Saharan African …
  • Curator of Collections [The Menil Collection] The Menil Collection seeks a Curator of Collections dedicated to the research and interpretation of the museum’s holdings of non-Western art, most specifically those areas encompassing the cultures of Africa, Oceania, and the American Pacific Northwest. The Curator of Collections will supervise research and publication of works of non-Western Art, undertake original research, and provide scholarly …
  • Museum Educator [Tampa Museum of Art] Job ID: 13265878 Position Title: Museum Educator Company Name: Tampa Museum of Art Job Function: Education Entry Level: No Location(s): Tampa, Florida, 33629, United States Posted: April 26, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: BA/BS/Undergraduate Min Experience: 3-5 Years Required Travel: 0-10% The Tampa Museum of Art is currently accepting applications for a museum educator. The primary responsibility for this position will be the establishment of a new direction for the Museum’s engagement with its K-12 …
  • Manager of Collections and Exhibitions [Allentown Art Museum] The Allentown Art Museum seeks an experienced professional to manage its collections and exhibitions, including scheduling. This individual is responsible for all activities related to the care of the Museum’s collections, providing oversight and coordination of outgoing and incoming loans, and assistance in planning and installing permanent and temporary exhibitions.  Experience in both preparatory and …
  • Vice President, Education & Visitor Experience [San Antonio Children's Museum] Job ID: 13267948 Position Title: Vice President, Education & Visitor Experience Company Name: San Antonio Children’s Museum Job Function: Education Entry Level: No Location(s): San Antonio, Texas, 78201, United States Posted: April 26, 2013 Job Type: Full-time Job Duration: Indefinite Min Education: Master’s Degree Min Experience: 7-10 Years   Background Founded in 1995, the San Antonio Children’s Museum (SACM) is the city’s only museum exclusively devoted to children under the age of 10.  With three floors of interactive exhibits …
  • Membership Manager [Please Touch Museum] Position Summary: Please Touch Museum seeks a Membership Manager to build and support the membership program.   Primary responsibilities will include, but not limited to: measuring and testing the effectiveness of membership marketing strategies; proactively establish new membership incentives and programs; managing the processing of new and renewal memberships through Siriusware; accurately maintaining membership records and membership database; …
  • Exhibitions Interactives Producer [The Field Museum] As part of the Exhibitions Media and Interactives team, the Digital Interactives Producer will create digital hands-on experiences for permanent and temporary exhibitions.  Working within a creative environment, the Digital Interactives Producer is accountable for all aspects of production–from conceptualization to programming and integration into exhibitions. Job Duties Responsibilities include: Conceptualization and production of digital interactives based on …
  • AHA Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives [American Historical Association] The American Historical Association is seeking a Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives. The Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives will oversee the AHA’s communications with members and other constituencies. This includes print and digital publishing, web design, information management, and membership – all part of a strategy to enable the American Historical Association’s programs …
  • BitCurator Community Lead [University of Maryland] Posting Details   Title: Faculty Research Assistant Functional Title: BitCurator Community Lead Position Number: 117047 Category Status: 15-Fac.Non-Tenured,Continuing Con Applicant Search Category: Faculty University Authorized FTE: 100.00 Unit: ARHU-MD Institute for Technology in the Humanities Hiring Range Minimum: $60,000 Hiring Range Maximum: $60,000 Campus/College Information: Founded in 1856, University of Maryland, College Park is the flagship institution in the University System of Maryland. Our 1,250-acre College Park campus is just minutes away from Washington, D.C., and …
  • Project Manager [Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities]The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland is seeking an experienced project manager who will provide coordination and management for research projects and initiatives in the digital humanities. The Project Manager will work with senior MITH staff to conceptualize, implement, and manage digital humanities research work in a collaborative, team-driven environment. The successful …


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.



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


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


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.



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 …


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?


“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.



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.


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?


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.


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!



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.


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 …


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.


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:










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!



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.


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 …


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!


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.



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.


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!



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:


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 …


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!


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.



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.


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 …


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.


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!



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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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…


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.


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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