Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Jennifer E. Sheppard (Page 1 of 5)

Boston Event: Drinking About Museums at the Well-B Innovation Center

If you don’t yet have Galentine’s Day plans (or Palentine’s Day, gender aside), the Drinking About Museums: Boston group will gather at the Well-B Innovation Center for a tour of their exhibit space and then go for dinner and drinks this Thursday, February 13.

What: Well-B Innovation Center D(rinking) A(bout) M(useums) at the Prudential Center

Where: 800 Boylston Street, Prudential Center, Back Bay Arcade

When: Thursday, February 13, 6-9 p.m. (tour begins at 6; dinner/drinks at 7)

The Well-B Innovation Center in the Pru is a series of rotating exhibits about the future of healthcare. Lots of interesting questions to explore here like, what does a museum funded by a business with a social agenda look like? What does a museum that doesn’t have the same budgetary restrictions as an institution look like?

You can find more information on the event’s Facebook page.

Jobs Round-Up

Here are the museum jobs posted within the last two weeks. Happy hunting!


Director of Education / New Art Center in Newton (Newton, MA)
Digital Communications Coordinator / MIT Museum (Cambridge, MA)
Chief Preparator / Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, MA)
Exhibition Designer / Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, MA)
Education Program Manager / The Umbrella Arts Center (Concord, MA)
Manager of Museum Security & Visitor Experience / Davis Museum at Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
Development Manager / Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA)
Marketing/Communications Assistant / Berkshire Botanical Garden (Stockbridge, MA)
Senior Accountant / Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA)
Senior Grants Manager / Historic New England (Boston, MA)
Museum Technology Specialist / Historic New England (Boston, MA)
Public Space Enhancement Specialist / City of Chelsea/Chelsea Prospers (Chelsea, MA)
Director of Visitor Services and Operations / Discovery Museum (Acton, MA)
Manager of Learning Experiences / Discovery Museum (Acton, MA)
da Vinci Workshop Educator / Discovery Museum (Acton, MA)
Development Coordinator / Mosesian Center for the Arts (Watertown, MA)
Customer Success Associate / Cuseum (Boston, MA)
Museum Partnerships Growth Associate / Cuseum (Boston, MA)
Part-Time Outreach Associate / Cuseum (Boston, MA)
Programming and Communications Coordinator / Armenian Museum of America (Watertown, MA)
School Programs Museum Educator / Concord Museum (Concord, MA)
Museum Development Director / Somerville Museum (Somerville, MA)
Art Conservation Assistant / Oliver Brothers LLC (Beverly, MA)
Stewardship Manager, Boston Community Gardens / The Trustees of Reservations (Boston, MA)
Vice President, Finance / Connecticut Science Center (Hartford, CT)
Director of Development / MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA)
Ellyn McColgan Assistant Curator of Native American Art / MFA Boston (Boston, MA)
Visitor Experience Associate / Well-B Innovation Center (Boston, MA)
Public Relations and Sales Coordinator / Vermont Historical Society (Montpelier, VT)


Curator, African Art / Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY)
Museum Director / Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Washington, D.C.)
Managing Editor / Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY)
Director of Donor and Member Engagement / Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, PA)
Fine Arts Program Collections Assistant / Federal Reserve Board (Washington, D.C.)
Associate Director of Operations / MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, NY)
Executive Director / Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust (Philadelphia, PA)
Cole Fellowship 2020-2021 / Thomas Cole National Historic Site (Catskill, NY)
Patron Services and Exhibitions Manager / Ford’s Theatre Society (Washington, D.C.)
Designer / Albright-Knox (Buffalo, NY)
Senior Officer, Individual Giving / Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY)
Museum Collections Manager and Registrar / Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, D.C.)
Director of Development Operations / Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY)
Vice President for Historic Sites / National Trust for Historic Preservation (Washington, D.C.)
Assistant Educator, Family and Teen Programs, Education / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Associate Administrator, Directors Office / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Director of Facilities and Sustainability / Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Pittsburgh, PA)
Director of Marketing and Communications / Penn Museum (Philadelphia, PA)
Guide, Emerging Professionals Program / Glenstone Museum (Potomac, MD)
Deputy Director of Advancement and Director of Individual Giving / Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, D.C.)


Membership Manager / Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Nashville, TN)
Chief Education Officer / North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, NC)
Associate Director of Exhibitions / North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, NC)
State Museum of History Associate Director / North Caroline Museum of History (Raleigh, NC)
Museum Curator Supervisor / North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, NC)
Chief Registrar / Speed Art Museum (Louisville, KY)
Director of Library and Archival Collections / Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Nashville, TN)


Curator of Clothing and Textiles / Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO)
Registrar / Art Bridges (Bentonville, AR)
Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Art or 20th-Century African-American Art / Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, MO)
Associate Curator of American Art / Chazen Museum of Art (Madison, WI)
Museum Manager / 21c Museum Hotels (Bentonville, AR)
Hirsch Glass Curatorial Fellow / The Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, OH)
Associate Director / South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (Rapid City, SD)
Executive Director / The History Center of Washington County (West Bend, WI)
Executive Director / McLean County Museum of History (Bloomington, IL)
Humanities Curator / Mid-America Arts Alliance (Kansas City, MO)
Business Development Manager / Jackson Hole Art Museum (Jackson, WY)
Department Exhibitions Manager / The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Director of Public & Family Engagement / Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites (Indianapolis, IN)
Curator / Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Boulder, CO)
Campaign Gifts Manager / Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids, MI)
Director and Curator for The College of Wooster Art Museum / College of Wooster (Wooster, OH)
Director of Curatorial Affairs / Eskenazi Museum of Art (Bloomington, IN)
Head of Exhibits (Associate Curator) / Prehistoric Museum, Utah State University (Price, UT)

South Central

Vice President of Business Operations and Guest Experience / The DoSeum (San Antonio, TX)
Manager of Interpretive Planning / Houston Zoo (Houston, TX)


Rights Coordinator / Getty Publications (Los Angeles, CA)
Associate Curator Digital Presentations / Museum of Motion Pictures and Academy Awards (Los Angeles, CA)
Curator Exhibitions / Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (Los Angeles, CA)
Vice President of Collections and Research / Bishop Museum (Honolulu, HI)
Cultural Services Program Manager / City of Modesto (Modesto, CA)
Digital Engagement Manager / Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK)
Curator of Indigenous Art & Community Initiatives / Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK)
Exhibit Content Developer/Writer / California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, CA)
Assistant Director of Marketing – Advertising & Promotions / SFMOMA (San Francisco, CA)


Building belonging at the MFA with free memberships

When I went to the MFA Boston Hanukkah party this past Wednesday, I wasn’t expecting to walk away with a free membership.

I have an MFA membership now. Go figure.

I didn’t complete a scavenger hunt for the privilege or win any sort of raffle. As it turns out, the MFA is launching a free first-year membership program in celebration of the 150th anniversary of its founding. The only way to enroll is onsite at 14 cultural and Late Nite events held throughout 2020, so it looks like I got lucky with an early opportunity.

Just by the numbers, giving out free memberships is a huge move – even for only one year. An entry-level Supporter membership can cost $75-$114 for one person. Multiply that by one or two hundred visitors (conservatively) signing up at each of the 14 events and you have a six-figure sum that the MFA could theoretically make otherwise. Why is the MFA undertaking such a colossal initiative when even the The Met’s 150-year celebration will comprise mostly a few events and exhibitions?

I wonder if the free first-year memberships were thought of before or after the school group incident in May. In short, a class of seventh graders reported being targeted by racist speech from MFA staff and visitors and racial profiling by security. The MFA was criticized for its handling of the report and communication in the days afterwards; even Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey opened an investigation into the event. In (ongoing) response, the MFA began a “Toward a More Inclusive MFA” initiative involving staff and volunteer trainings, community roundtables, new executive positions dedicated to inclusion and working with the community, and other endeavors.

Reading over the 150th anniversary press release again, it looks like the bulk of the related celebrations will champion diversity and inclusion. The release mentions “community” 16 times, “diversity” 4 times, and “inclusion” 3 times. The focus on community does relate to the strategic plan released in 2017, but I suspect the MFA is also still trying to make up for the events in May and move forward.

The MFA has been working hard to position itself as a place of belonging for the community – something many museums grapple with. We know free admission doesn’t bring in new or more diverse members on its own; however, the slate of cultural events with free admission planned for 2020, including celebrations for Nowruz, Juneteenth, and an ASL night, may attract such a crowd. By providing free first-year memberships at these events, the MFA incentivizes return visits by audience segments it desperately seeks to connect with. In theory, this will give the Museum more opportunities to build and rebuild relationships with the community.

I haven’t heard of other museums offering free memberships like this, so I’m curious to see how the next year unfolds for the MFA. What do you think of the plan – will you be going to get your free membership?

Weekly Jobs Round-Up

Quite a few internships posted among the jobs this week. Happy hunting!


Native Plant Horticulture Internship / Native Plant Trust (Framingham, MA)
Curatorial Intern / Concord Museum (Concord, MA)
Program Coordinator, Research & Academic Program / The Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA)
Executive Coordinator, Director’s Office / The Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA)
Spring Education Intern / EcoTarium (Worcester, MA)
Events Coordinator / Hancock Shaker Village (Pittsfield, MA)
Farm Camp Educators / Berkshire Botanical Garden (Stockbridge, MA)
Marketing & Design Internship / Fitchburg Art Museum (Fitchburg, MA)
Development Communications and Operations Manager / Heritage Museums & Gardens (Sandwich, MA)
Stage Tech/Performing Arts Production Intern / MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA)
Early Childhood Education Specialist / Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA)
Senior Project Manager, Buildings and Structures / The Trustees of Reservations (Boston, MA)
Associate Director of Development Operations – Boston / The Trustees of Reservations (Boston, MA)
Information Technology Support Assistant – Intern / Mass Audobon (Lincoln, MA)
Curator of Russian and European Art / Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
Fellowship Program Project Manager / Yale University (New Haven, CT)
The Dangremond Museum Studies Internship / Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library (Hartford, CT)
Curator / Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)


Associate Development Officer for Foundation and Government Giving, Developent / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Registrar/Collections Database Manager / Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington, DE)
Executive Director / Teiger Foundation (New York, NY)
Chief Preparator / Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State (University Park, PA)
Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellowships / Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA)
Exhibitions Coordinator / The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.)
Executive Director / Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center (Pennsburg, PA)
Associate Director of Visitor Experience / Ford’s Theatre Society (Washington, D.C.)
Outreach Scientist / Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore, MD)
Departmental Technician, AAOA / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Belle da Costa Green Curatorial Fellowships / The Morgan Library & Museum (New York, NY)
Guest Experience Internship / Mt. Cuba Center (Hockessin, DE)
Executive Director / Museum of Fine Arts – Washington County (Hagerstown, MD)
Chief Conservator/ Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)
Education Manager / Historic Hudson Valley (Sleepy Hollow, NY)
Major Gift Officer, Intermittent / Smithsonian Institution, Office of Advancement (Washington, D.C.)
Chief of Staff / The Jewish Museum (New York, NY)
Senior Exhibition Manager / International Arts & Artists (Washington, D.C.)
Security Operations Manager / The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.)
Museum Director / Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Washington, D.C.)


Director, Bo Bartlett Center / Columbus State University (Columbus, GA)
Director of Finance and Administration / Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC)
Director of Marketing & Sales / Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (Jacksonville, FL)


Head of Paper Conservation / Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Executive Director / Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (Grand Island, NE)
Andrew W. Mellon Visual Arts Curatorial Assistant / National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago, IL)
Andrew W. Mellon Permanent Collection Curatorial Assistant / National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago, IL)
Historic Agriculture Specialist / Wood County Park District (Bowling Green, OH)
Exhibit Fabricator/Carpenter / The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
Humanities Curator / Mid-America Arts Alliance (Kansas City, MO)
Collections Manager/Registrar / Grinnell College Museum of Art (Grinnell, IA)
Interpretive Planner / The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH)
Curator of Art and Social Practice / Obama Foundation (Chicago, IL)

South Central:

Vice President of Development / Witte Museum (San Antonio, TX)
Registrar / Art Bridges (Bentonville, AR)
Protection Services Manager / Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR)
Individual Giving Manager / Scott Family Amazeum (Bentonville, AR)
Manager of Interpretive Planning / Houston Zoo (Houston, TX)
Director of Digital Programming / The National WWII Museum (New Orleans, LA)
Travel Exhibitions Manager / Art Bridges Foundation (Bentonville, AR)
Director of Development / Clinton Presidential Center (Little Rock, AR)


Sybil Harrington Director and CEO / Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
Director of Individual and Major Giving / Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
Institutional Partnership Associate / Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA)
Curatorial Internship and Education Internship / National Museum of Wildlife Art (Jackson, WY)
Director of Exhibition Design / Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA)
School Programs Coordinator / The J Paul Getty Trust (Los Angeles, CA)
Associate Registrar, Exhibitions / Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Exhibit Director / Oregon Historical Society (Portland, OR)

Thinking about design thinking

I’ve had some exposure to design thinking both professionally and as a student but it has always involved developing a usable product, either physical or digital. It wasn’t until I attended a session at the 2019 NEMA Annual Conference that I realized its potential for programming purposes. In hindsight, that’s an absolute “duh!”

In a session titled Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems Throughout the Museum, Sherlock Terry, Trish Palao, and Jennifer Rickards of the Montshire Museum of Science shared examples of using design thinking for a range of projects including exhibit design, operational challenges, and event planning. They introduced the room to the basics of design thinking, walked attendees through the steps in three Montshire use cases, and then we had the chance to practice it ourselves. (Hands-on learning – my favorite!)

The idea behind design thinking is that it is a human-centered approach. It’s flexible, iterative, and, as most design thinking proponents will tell you, usable by most anyone. It’s not exclusive to people who identify as designers professionally or as a hobby. I’d wager many professionals follow the process intuitively, but may not hit each stage.

The typical order for the five stages is as follows:

The stages can happen in order, out of order, and repeat as many times as the project requires. Understand your users from their perspective, clearly define what it is they need, brainstorm ways to help, and do a practice run (or three) to see if the project achieves what you hope it will.

This graphic from the Interaction Design Foundation illustrates the cyclical nature of the process:

Copyright holder: Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Design thinking’s focus on user needs and flexibility makes it the perfect multipurpose tool for just about any challenge we might encounter in museum work. As our work is entirely for the sake of our visitors, if our project doesn’t work for the people we serve, it doesn’t work at all – no matter how cool or innovative we think it might be.

If you’re new to design thinking, here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned courtesy of both Montshire staff and the Tufts digital media course:

  1. Enter the process with a well-defined goal to guide you. Our broad goal for the practice scenario in the NEMA2019 session was “How can our museum better engage teens?”
  2. There are multiple ways to think of the problem you are defining – without thinking of it as a problem. Consider it a “job to be done” or build a challenge statement. Montshire staff gave us this template for a challenge statement:
    • How might we [theme goal] in order to [broad goal] considering that [key consideration #1] and [key consideration #2].
    • Example: “How might we train staff in order to better engage teens considering that staff may have little knowledge and/or negative impressions of that age group?”
  3. When brainstorming, go big and broad. Montshire staff came up with 40 ideas during their ideate stages! The idea isn’t to have 40 winners, but to spit out anything that comes to mind. Ideas which might seem totally bizarre or unattainable may have just the right kernel of inspiration.
    • Post-its are your friends here: use one post-it per idea and then group them into themes.
  4. Prototypes don’t have to be physical. Develop the prototype that fits your goal – if you’re designing a program, this might be a lesson plan, a discussion prompt, a question on a sign, a game, a worksheet, whatever. Whatever format lets you test if users are getting what they need is the right format.

Here are some additional resources on design thinking and design thinking in museums:

What uses have you gotten out of design thinking? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments!

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