Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Alexandra M. Harter (Page 1 of 4)

Where was your last museum visit?

One of the assignments in my Exhibition Planning course is to share about an interesting exhibition that we went to see. Most of my classmates tended to share about the most recent exhibition that they saw, myself included. Whether in-person or virtual, as museums start to open up more and more it’s been wonderful to be in gallery spaces again.

For myself, my last visit in-person was to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond, Virginia to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. 

Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

This traveling exhibition was the last stop before these artifacts returned to Egypt and it was focused on the ancient cities of Thonis-Heraclion and Canopus which are located under the sea, along the coast of Alexandria.

I really have enjoyed learning about underwater archaeology in the course of my studies at Tufts, and I had never seen an exhibition that included a focus on how these artifacts were excavated. With Sunken Cities, this was really one of the major aspects that the exhibition focused on. Visitors got to see footage of the excavations and learn about where these cities were and how much is left to excavate. There’s still quite a lot of work to do at these sites, yet there are already enough artifacts to have an entire exhibition! As a visitor, this was really exciting.

I would say the other major focus of this exhibition was the cosmopolitan culture of these ancient port cities, especially the religious ceremonies. An entire section of the exhibit walked visitors through the mysteries of Osiris, religious ceremonies that took place at a certain time of year.


British Museum, “The Mysteries of Osiris”

It was really wonderful to go and see this exhibit, and I’m looking forward to going to museums again as things open up now that we are getting vaccinated!

What was your last museum visit? Are there any exhibitions that you are looking forward to visiting in the near future? Feel free to leave a comment below!

The Museum Experience

Now more than ever, museums seem to be striving towards creating memorable experiences for visitors. The pandemic necessitated the use of technology and virtual tours so that exhibits could still be enjoyed. Suddenly you didn’t need a plane ticket to take a tour of the Louvre or ancient Egyptian sites. Personally, I did not often seek these online experiences out — while of course it is incredible to be able to take “tours” of museums from the comfort of your home, it mostly just made me long to be there in those spaces in person and seeing the artifact with my own eyes. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. 

However, after viewing the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibition, “The Salem Witch Trials, 1692,” I was rather impressed with the quality of the experience. Of course, I still would rather have been able to go in person. But at least I could still view an exhibit that I had planned on visiting and feel that I had a pretty good sense of the exhibit itself and what it would have been like to have gone in person. I was also able to learn just as much as I would have if I had physically been there, as all of the text, artifacts, and art that were on display were available for the virtual experience as you “walked through” the exhibit. I felt very impressed, and felt that by “visiting” the exhibition in this way, I hadn’t missed out on any aspect of the visit had I been able to go in person.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

Experiences like these seem to be on the rise in museums, starting with virtual visits like this one at PEM, but also expanding to include increased use of technology and VR experiences for visitors who go to the museum in person. For instance, the wildly popular Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has traveled to numerous cities and advertises its experience, described as allowing visitors to step into the artist’s paintings. With 360° projections, use of virtual reality, and gigantic screens, the event is certainly immersive. I am curious as to whether exhibitions like this one offer much of an educational outcome for guests, or if it’s meant to simply impress with the quality of the technology and use of Van Gogh’s work to create an attraction. 

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience - Washington

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Recently, I visited a museum that seems as though it is in some ways similar to the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. And it was largely used as an opportunity to get cool pictures for visitors’ Instagram profiles. The Museum of Illusions at the Walk of Cairo did have explanatory text for the numerous visual illusions that guests interacted with, and we were given a tour of the first floor to explain these optical illusions as well. The focus was definitely placed more on the experience than anything, and I definitely had more of a feeling of visiting an amusement park than a museum. The more interactive experience did remind me of children’s museums I had visited when I was kid, but every station served as a photo opportunity for a cool picture. Unsurprisingly, the museum’s Instagram page is filled with people’s pictures.

Ames room

The Ames Room at the Museum of Illusions, Walk of Cairo

It was definitely fun, and my recent experiences at the Museum of Illusions and the PEM’s Salem exhibition — while very different from each other — have made me more interested in these experiences that museums are advertising now more than ever. While I was initially skeptical, I think these experiences have the potential to attract visitors who usually might not choose to visit a museum exhibition, and can create memorable educational experiences for visitors to enjoy by taking advantage of the technology available.

Happy Veterans Day!

And happy grand opening day to the National Museum of the United States Army! Here’s the link to watch the opening ceremony, which will be livestreamed this afternoon at 1 p.m.


National Museum of the United States Army

There are various exhibits set up, including a soldiers’ gallery, which has the stories of men and women from many historic periods. Other exhibits seem broadly organized by period, covering the colonial era and Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Army’s role in WWI, and all the way up to modern warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. The individual soldier seems to be of particular focus, giving voice to their particular narratives and experiences.


Experiential Learning Center, National Museum of the United States Army

The museum is also in the process of preparing an experiential learning lab, in which visitors must work collaboratively to help the Army solve a humanitarian crisis; this experience helps reinforce geography and STEM skills.

The museum is also ensuring the health and safety of staff and visitors, with efforts such as timed tickets and contactless ordering from the cafe.


COVID-19 safety measures, National Museum of the United States Army

The National Army Museum is also offering virtual events, for those visitors who are unable or uncomfortable to visit in person. There are two upcoming (free!) virtual book talks:

November 19, 7-8 pm EST. Book talk with Marc Gallicchio.

December 17, 7-8 pm EST. Book talk with Paula Tarnapol Whitacare.

Personally, I’m super interested in the Curator’s Corner episodes, which feature artifacts of interest in each episode. The first episode features Sgt. Gary Uchida’s canvas travel bag during WWII. Here’s that episode: 

It is certainly interesting to see how the museum is diversifying and offering these events, and the efforts that are being made to ensure that museum visitors and staff can still enjoy the museum safely. It is certainly some good news to see a new museum opening up, and a great way to celebrate Veterans Day. Thank you to all who served, and are serving now!

Job Roundup:





A Very Different Halloween

It’s my favorite time of year: the leaves are changing, everything is pumpkin flavored (even some things that shouldn’t be), and the weather is changing to crisp autumn temperatures. I remember last year, which was my first year at Tufts and my first autumn in MA, being especially excited for fall. Massachusetts just seems like the place to be for the fall season. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so: in Salem alone (which is probably the most attractive site for this time of year), there are usually more than one million visitors, generating almost $140 million from tourist spending.

This year, however, will be very different. It’s going to take a lot of extra planning to enjoy the events that are usually taking place this year. For instance, the Salem Witch Museum is limiting capacity, and guests must purchase same-day tickets online beforehand to reserve their time slot. The Peabody Essex Museum, meanwhile, is limiting capacity and incorporating timed entry for their special exhibitions this season, The Salem Witch Trials 1692 and Salem Stories

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

However, if you’re like me and can’t make it to Salem this year, there are also tons of virtual events going on. For instance, the Salem Witch Museum has a virtual tour of the witch trial sites, while Historic Salem Inc. is offering a virtual house tour. While the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit is in person, they do also have a PEMcast episode dedicated to the exhibit. Actually, the entire website of Salem Haunted Happenings has a ton of events throughout the entire months of October and created an app to keep track of it all.

Haunted Happenings Logo

Haunted Happenings Logo

Finally, the Museum of Science is offering some fun events as well. Personally, I’m most interested in Obscured Vision: A Night of Sonic Storytelling and Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys Halloween Happeninga virtual music concert followed by a Q&A and costume contest. 


Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys

So while it’s certainly an unusual fall season this year, I’m still excited for all of the events that museums are offering. 

If you know of any other upcoming events, please leave a comment below!

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