Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Job Posting at the American Philosophical Society Library and Museum

From the American Philosophical Society
104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Associate Director and/or Associate Librarian

The American Philosophical Society (APS) has decided to integrate its Library, home to a renowned research collection, with its Museum, a nationally-recognized exhibition program, in order to form the American Philosophical Society Library and Museum. The new unit will bring together programming, curatorial, and archival staff with the plan to grow the APS’s collection, expand its public and scholarly programming, and increase its exhibition activity and outreach efforts.

As part of the re-organization, the Society is seeking to hire an Associate Director/Librarian to help manage the expanded operations. Because this is a new unit, the Society is holding an open call for applicants interested in taking on a leadership role at one of the foremost research institutions in the country. The Society is especially interested in candidates who have extensive experience in libraries, museums, and/or public history and who have shown scholarly productivity and creativity. The new hire will report to the Society’s Librarian (Director of the Library and Museum), supervise the operations of approximately half of the APS Library and Museum’s staff, and have involvement in senior-level decisions for the APS Library and Museum. The specific contours of the job and its administrative responsibilities will be tailored to fit the hire’s skillset. Likely areas of involvement are scholarly and public programming, digital scholarship, and curatorial and exhibit planning. Applicants with extensive library experience may have more involvement in library operations.

The integration of the Library and Museum presents an exciting moment of change for a venerable institution and for the right candidate interested in being a part of it. We encourage all those interested in learning more about the position to email the Librarian at librarian@amphilsoc.org.

Candidates must apply at https://apply.interfolio.com/63358 with the following:

  1. Cover letter of no more than three pages that outlines how their experience can help guide and grow the APS Library and Museum through this transition. Applicants are also asked to include their salary expectations and a list of three references in their cover letter. No letters of reference, please.
  2. CV that highlights work accomplishments and major scholarly achievements.

Applications will be accepted through June 17, 2019.

The American Philosophical Society is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Successful applicants will be asked to show proof that they can legally work in the U.S.


About the American Philosophical Society Library

Founded in 1743, the American Philosophical Society’s Library, located near Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is a dynamic research center that holds over 14 million pages of manuscripts, 275,000 bound volumes, a remarkable rare book collection, and a growing digital library. The Library’s holdings make it among the premier institutions for documenting the history of the American Revolution and Founding, the study of natural history in the 18th and 19th centuries, the study of evolution and genetics, quantum mechanics, and the development of cultural anthropology, among others. The Library also hosts two Centers that build upon its collection strengths. The Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) promotes innovative uses of the Library’s collections that benefit indigenous communities and academic scholarship and the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) promotes the collections through digitization, digital humanities, and the development of innovative library software. The Library offers over thirty fellowships a year (approximately twenty-five short-term and ten long-term) and hosts a robust slate of programming, including conferences and symposium that draw an international audience. The Library has a staff of approximately twenty-five across seven departments. More information on the Library can be found here: https://www.amphilsoc.org/library.

About the American Philosophical Society Museum

The American Philosophical Society Museum’s exhibitions showcase the Society’s renowned collections. The current exhibition—Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic—traces the creation and use of maps during the early American republic. Past exhibitions have featured items such as Thomas Jefferson’s hand-written draft of the Declaration of Independence, a notebook from Lewis and Clark’s Western expedition, a rare 18th-century telescope, Darwin’s hand-written title page for On the Origin of Species, and the only known portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s wife Deborah. Each exhibition offers imaginative programs from guided school tours for grades four through twelve to tailored visits for undergraduate and graduate courses, which interpret the historical themes and objects on view and connect them to relevant issues in the world today. Exhibitions are open to the public every year from mid-April through December and attract over 130,000 visitors annually. The Museum has four full-time staff plus two curatorial postdoctoral fellows. More information on the Museum can be found here: https://www.amphilsoc.org/visit-museum.

“Nice to Meet You” from the New Editors

It’s that time of year again: the editors you’ve come to know and love have moved on to new endeavors. Never fear, your three new editors are here and ready to get to work! Many thanks and well wishes to Danielle, Kelsey, and Amanda – we hope to continue setting a high bar for the Tufts Museum Studies blog.

Without further ado, your new editors are:

Darcy Foster

Darcy Foster
MA in Museum Education, 2020

Hi everyone! I’m Darcy Foster and I’m entering my second year in the Museum Education program here at Tufts. I’m from Pittsburgh, PA and I have my bachelor’s in History. I currently work at the Concord Museum as a museum educator and tour guide, but my love for museum education started when I was just a young visitor. While I was growing up, my parents included museum visits during every vacation we took. After one trip that included two presidential library tours and a few historic houses, I realized that I actually enjoyed learning, even though I had never enjoyed it in a traditional classroom setting.

After also realizing my interest in history, I was driven to museums, which can encompass both of these passions. I love working with interpretation and programming to foster conversation between visitors in an exciting way. Museum education allows me to focus on what visitors take away from each museum they visit. I have worked at a variety of museums, from the large National Archives Museum to the tiny Benjamin Franklin House, and in a variety of positions, from archival processing to exhibits. In all cases, I enjoyed my time and it helped me to find a path to museum education, where I can help others find a love of learning in an informal setting. This upcoming summer, I’ll be interning at the Nantucket Historical Association. I’m looking forward to sharing both my experience there and museums in general with you!

Abby King

Abby King
MA in History and Museum Studies, 2020

Howdy, my name is Abby King. I have a BA in History (minor in classics), and I am a second-year grad student in the History and Museum Studies program at Tufts University. I am from the Kentuckiana region and have journeyed a long way to get here. My earliest museum memories have to do with peeking through the glass at fossils and mummies—so I have always had an eye for old history. I currently study ancient to medieval civilizations around the Mediterranean, including the Byzantines and ancient Greeks.

Only in undergrad did I realize I wanted to use my history focus in museums. This epiphany came when I was working in the special collection’s library at my old college, and from there I’ve been on a saucy and nerdy ride to where I am. I have worked with a curator at a historical home, at a baseball bat factory and museum, in the education department of a state history museum, and at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in the registrar’s department. This summer I will be interning at the National Air and Space Museum with a curator and collections manager on oral histories and women’s history.

My successes are all thanks to family, friends, mentors, teachers, and those willing to share their knowledge, so I am happy that I will get to (try to) share a golden nugget or two on this blog about working in this field and experiencing exhibits. Welcome and enjoy our collection of stories!

Jennifer Sheppard

Jennifer Sheppard
MA in Museum Education, 2020

Hi there – I’m Jennifer Sheppard, a rising second-year in the Museum Education program and life-long lover of learning and museums. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate what “museum education” was, but a sudden, serendipitous internship at the Dallas Museum of Art took me from a seasoned summer camp professional with an art degree to a full-blown, italicized and bolded museum educator. That internship and the subsequent full-time educator position taught me the power of accessible programming and universal design, the awesome potential in collaborating with dedicated colleagues, and that bringing multi-sensory materials on a tour is always a good idea, among other lessons.

Looking back at my personal history as a museum-goer, my chosen career isn’t much of a surprise. From the very first time my family took me to an art museum to feed my childhood obsession with ancient Egypt, I have had the immense privilege of feeling like I belong in museums. Now, finding (and fighting for) ways to extend that experience to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities is my driving passion. It led me to the Tufts program and to the team editorship of this blog. Echoing Darcy and Abby, I’m thrilled to engage more with you and the museum field on such big ideas throughout the upcoming year. Stay tuned!

Museum Computer Network (MCN) Scholarships Available! Apply soon

The MCN Scholarship Program awards scholarships to 15 qualified applicants from the cultural sector to attend MCN 2019 in San Diego, CA. The MCN Scholarship program is made possible by the support of our members, sponsors, and conference attendees.

Scholars are awarded the following benefits:
– Complimentary conference registration
– Choice of one complimentary professional workshop on Tuesday, November 5, 2019
– A $400 (USD) stipend for travel and food
– Complimentary room at the conference hotel for three (3) nights: November 5-6–7, 2019
– An opportunity to meet with MCN board members over lunch during the conference
– Complimentary MCN individual membership for one year

Scholarship Recipients Expectations:

Every scholar will be required to:

  • Present a five-minute lightning talk on a digital project they have worked on
  • Attend a mandatory scholar orientation and rehearsal the afternoon of Tuesday, November 5, 2019
  • Contribute blogs posts to be published on the MCN blog before and/or after the conference
  • Participate in social media discussions (via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms) reflecting on and sharing the themes and issues that emerge throughout the conference

Eligibility:

Previous MCN Scholars are not eligible to apply. To be eligible for an MCN Scholarship, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Be a first-time MCN conference attendee
  • Be employed at an institution with no more than 20 full-time staff
  • Be new to the profession with less than 2 years of experience in the field

In addition, MCN strongly encourages the following categories of applicants to apply:

  • International candidates (must reside outside of US)
  • Those who identify as part of groups that are traditionally underrepresented or otherwise marginalized, including, but not limited to, persons of color, LGBTQ+, and persons with disabilities

Program Conditions:

  • Scholars are responsible for their own travel arrangements and any visa applications to enter into the US
  • Scholarships are awarded nominally to each scholarship recipient, not to the company, organization or institution with whom they are affiliated
  • Stipends are exclusively issued in the name of the recipient. No exceptions
  • Should MCN be asked to cancel an active stipend check (i.e. issued and/or mailed but uncashed), MCN will charge scholarship recipients a $25 cancellation fee

Applications are due online by April 30, 2019, at 11:59 pm in your timezone. 

Please email scholarship@mcn.edu with any questions. 
 

Do Smaller Museums Better Serve Their Communities?

In conducting my thesis research, I recently came across a quote that really stood out to me and that I think museum professionals can agree on:

“The most promising innovations in museums’ relationships with communities are coming not from the largest, oldest, and best-funded institutions, but rather from institutions once viewed as marginal.” (From “Audience, Ownership, and Authority” in Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Cultures, edited by Ivan Karp and Christine Mullen Kreamer).

Why is it that some of the most striking, relevant exhibitions come from museums operating on a much smaller scale than say, the Metropolitan or the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston? That is not to say that larger institutions are not relevant to their communities, but in my experience, smaller museums seem to be a better platform for fostering interpersonal connections and serving the needs of their immediate audiences.

In reading this quote, a few examples of smaller community museums that appear to offer “the most promising innovations” immediately came to mind, including the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire and the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, Washington.

For instance, the Currier Museum is a resonant example of a museum actively engaging with its community by creating outreach programs that reflects its visitors’ needs. Its mission statement clearly supports this idea- “Focused on Art, Centered in Community, Committed to Inspire.” The Currier also curates exhibitions that directly respond to its community, such as the Visual Dispatches from Vietnam War exhibition that involved Manchester’s close-knit veteran community. More relevant, however, is the museum’s current work reflecting on one of the worst epidemics the United States is currently experiencing. Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire, is unfortunately at the heart of the opioid crisis. In response to this, the Currier has created a program that invites family members of individuals struggling with an addiction to come to the museum and create art in a safe space. This is a beautiful example of a museum “reinventing” themselves to become relevant to their own community, proving that relevance is often more important than even the museum’s collection.

The Currier’s work in successfully engaging with its community reminds me of the transformation that the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle recently experienced. As a result of Director Ron Chew’s decision to create a “community-response” exhibition platform, that is an exhibition “that speaks to the issues happening here and now, and that reach and echo far beyond the museum’s space,” the Wing Luke Asian Museum experienced a spike in museum attendance, fundraised millions of dollars, and ultimately established a “mutually beneficial relationship” within its community.[1] I am impressed with museums such as the Currier and Wing Luke Asian that have taken the (sometimes scary) initiative to amend and improve their relationship with their community, by inviting more voices and perspectives to be heard and recognized.   

What are your thoughts? Does the size and budget of an institution matter when it comes to producing relevant exhibitions? Do any other examples come to mind? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and keep the conversation going!


[1] Ron Chew, “Five Keys to Growing a Healthy Community-connected Museum,” 6.

Why we should look towards the hospitality industry to improve visitor experience

This post was written in collaboration with second year Museum Education M.A. student Taylor Fontes

When moving to the Greater Boston Area to pursue my Masters degree in Museum Education, I made a hard decision. I chose to continue working in restaurants (a job I’ve done since I was a teenager) instead of pursuing a position at a local museum. I made this decision because restaurant work is a great way to make fast cash. As I move forward into a career in which that will no longer be the case, I wanted to start off strong with as little debt as possible and ample time to complete my course work. Sometimes, I have struggled with this choice as it has meant there is a gap in my resume when it comes to museum work. However, I have recently realized how important working in the hospitality industry has been to my experience in museums. So many of the skills I have learned in hospitality are transferrable to skills needed in museums. I firmly believe that these hospitality skills have strongly informed my ability to provide positive visitor experiences in museum environments.

When Taylor brought up the idea for this post she came from almost the opposite perspective. While she had been working in visitor service positions for a long time, she was new to the restaurant industry. Quickly however, she began to be referred to as a “rock star hostess.” So how did Taylor pick up the restaurant brand of hospitality so quickly? For her, it was so similar to the type of experience she strived to provide for visitors in museums she has worked in.

As museums become more visitor-centered and less object-centered it is important for us to see ourselves as institutions of hospitality. We can look towards the hospitality industry to help inform our practices within the museum. So what are our biggest takeaways?

  1. The vocabulary we use matters: Most hospitality focused restaurants don’t refer to their patrons as customers. It is too transactional. We focus on our guests. Guests are those that we invite in, they are wanted, accommodated, and catered too. In museums we need to think of our visitors as guests as well.
  2. First impressions are everything: From the atmosphere, to the signage, to the person greeting you. In a restaurant, the host/hostess is your first point of contact. They will set the tone for your entire experience, so friendly and personable staff are a must. But what about museums? Is there someone to greet visitors? Are the visitor service staff responsive? What is the tone we are setting?
  3. Restaurants know how to sell their product: Hospitality industry professionals have a lot of experience in selling their product. From the restaurant itself to up-selling the food and drink, this takes lots of knowledge of not just the products but of the audience as well. We need to know our audiences and understand what they want out of their experience. As we know, there are many different types of visitors with varying needs.
  4. Flexibility: Not all guests are looking for the same experience. We have to be flexible and fluid in order to provide satisfying and enriching experiences to a diverse audience. The same approach will not work with a group of millennials out for drinks that will work with an older couple having lunch. The same is true for museum visitors.
  5. Steps of service: Restaurants have very defined steps of service that guide our guests experiences. This does not in turn mean there is no free-choice within it. However, by creating these steps of service restaurants are able to be flexible while still provide superior service. Many museums think about visitor flow when designing exhibits. Creating steps of service within a museum experience can help us to better serve our visitors.
  6. Empathy and Tolerance: Restaurant professionals are highly experienced in empathy and tolerance. While we may use these words differently in the museum field. It is important as museum professionals that we don’t just teach empathy and tolerance but that we live it. In order to provide positive visitor experiences it is important that we can empathize with our visitors to better understand their needs as well as be tolerant to those that have different needs.
  7. The human connection: Hospitality professionals are experienced in creating personal connections in short periods of time. We talk to people from many different walks of life on a daily basis and if we want them to return it is important to create those connections. This, to me, is the biggest transferrable skill to the museum field. We want our visitors to make personal connections to what we are presenting. If museum professionals are not adept in making those connections how can they design and implement experiences that do. These social skills are so important.
  8. Ability to anticipate visitor needs: It is so important in both restaurants and museums for staff to be able to anticipate our guests and visitors needs before they can verbalize, or even know, what those needs are. These can be as basic as providing easily accessible bathrooms and comfortable seating or more complex such as providing for guests with disabilities. We need to anticipate everything our visitors may need when designing programming and exhibitions.

While this is just a short list there are many more things that museums can learn from restaurants as museums become more and more visitor focused.

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