Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Admin Post (page 1 of 16)

Pandemic Play Time

The title is not meant to be flippant. COVID-19 and the current restrictions placed on the Tufts’ community and at large should be taken seriously. The editors are hoping everyone is safe and healthy. The goal today is to give a glimpse at what those of us self-quarantining can do to entertain ourselves. Mental health is just as important as physical health and being cooped up for most of the day can be depressing. Fortunately, there are a few ways to keep our imaginations occupied in this turbulent time.

First, here is a link back to the museum-studies related podcasts post from last year. The extra time for spring break and not attending a physical class could be used to enrich your knowledge of the museum community with these listens.

Next, there are online museum tours and collections you can visit. Mental Floss’ website provided an article for inspiration. The Louvre has virtual tours about Egyptian antiquities and the remains of the Louvre’s moat. The Guggenheim provides a look at its art collection with a searchable database. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has virtual tours for permanent, present, and past exhibits. The Mental Floss article linked above provides more examples of museums you can visit virtually.

Then, there is the opportunity to flex your social engagement muscles online. Museums have been reaching out to their email subscribers as they have closed in order to reassure visitors during the fight against the virus. While visiting museums will be missed, there is a strong museum community presence on social media. Museum professionals and museums have been posting their favorite collection items on social media stories. On Instagram, the Social Distance Gallery account is hosting BFA and MFA thesis shows because people are stopped from seeing them in person. There is the hashtag on Twitter, #MuseumFromHome, where museum professionals are discussing favorite museum artifacts. Maybe you all can provide your favorite object with that hashtag.

Finally, I come to streaming platforms, like Netflix or Hulu. They have plenty of documentaries to offer about subject matter found in museums. For example, there are National Geographic docs on Disney+ about nature, science, and cultures. On Netflix, they have a doc called Fake or Fortune? that is about art forgeries in museums. Or you can have fun watching National Treasure or Indiana Jones and enjoy the protagonists’ cooperation with museums.

Please let us know if the links are not accessible. Remember, you should not feel pressured to be extra productive in this trying time. Most of us are navigating new terrain with working solely from home, and we should not be pressuring ourselves with unrealistic goals. The stress of the unknown can hopefully be lightened with these activities. I would love to hear about what our readers are reading/watching/etc. to keep them entertained, so please leave suggestions in the comments. 

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!

Northeast:

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)

Mid-Atlantic:

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.)

Southeast:

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)

Midwest:

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)

West:

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!

Weekly Jobs Round-Up

Here are the latest museum jobs on the boards. Happy hunting!

Northeast:

Executive Director / Ogunquit Museum of American Art (Ogunquit, ME)
Curator of Education School and Access Programs / Yale University (New Haven, CT)
Project Manager for the Five College Collections Management Commons / Five Colleges, Incorporated (Amherst, MA)
Data Specialist for Five Collece Collections Mangement Commons / Five Colleges, Incorporated (Amherst, MA)
PT Junior Communications Specialist / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation (Boston, MA)
Public Humanities Project Coordinator (One-Year) / Plimoth Plantation, Inc. (Plymouth, MA)
Full Time Teacher Naturalist / Mass Audubon Boston Nature Center (Mattapan, MA)
Arts/Crafts Instructors / Ipswich Museum (Ipswich, MA)
Development Coordinator / Boston Athenaeum (Boston, MA)
Professional Development Associate Director / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Education Associate, Overnight Program & Summer Course / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Account Manager, Social Sales / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Visitor Services and Safety Associate / King’s Chapel (Boston, MA)
Gallery Assistant / Copley Society of Art (Boston, MA)
Administrative & Data Management Assistant / Old North Church & Historic Site (Boston, MA)
Manager of Foundation and Government Support / Mass Audubon (Lincoln, MA)
Grants Administrator / Mass Audubon (Lincoln, MA)
Development Manager / Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA)
STEM Curriculum Manager (Managing Editor) / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Exhibit Fabricator & Installer / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Managing Director / Chinese Historical Society of New England (Boston, MA)
Catholic Records Proofreading Intern / New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston, MA)
Museum Development Director / Somerville Museum (Somerville, MA)
Social Media Strategist & Writer, Marketing & Communications / New England Aquarium (Boston, MA)
System and Applications Administrator, IT / New England Aquarium (Boston, MA)

Mid-Atlantic:

Conservator / Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)
Director of Institutional Giving / Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY)
Assistant Curator, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project / Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & Foundation (New York, NY)
Major Gifts Officer, Major Gifts and Discovery / Smithsonian Institution, Office of Advancement (Washington, D.C.)
Director of Learning and Education Strategies / The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.)
Director of Community Engagement / The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.)
Chief Operating Officer / Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ)
Public Programs Manager / Museum of the American Revolution (Philadelphia, PA)
Executive Director / Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (Washington, D.C.)
Online Marketing Specialist / Smithsonian Institution, Office of Advancement (Washington, D.C.)
Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage / The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (New York, NY)
Curator of Collections & Exhibitions / Freedman Gallery – Albright College (Reading, PA)
Assistant/Associate Curator, Greek and Roman / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Belle de Costa Greene Curatorial Fellowships / The Morgan Library & Museum (New York, NY)
Institutional Advancement Coordinator / American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Assistant Community Services Administrator / Rockwood Park and Museum (New Castle, DE)
Assistant Curator of Education for School Programs / Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library (Winterthur, DE)
Curatorial Assistant / Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY)
Manager of Gallery Learning / The Walters Museum (Baltimore, MD)

South:

PR & Marketing Account Manager / Florida International University (Miami, FL)
Preparator / Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham, AL)
Content Coordinator, part-time / Capitol Square Preservation Council, Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, VA)
Associate Registrar/Registrar / Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX)
ICAA Digital Experience Specialist / The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX)
Director of Learning + Engagement / University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
Travel Exhibitions Manager / Art Bridges Foundation (Bentonville, AR)
Program Education Manager / Art Bridges Foundation (Bentonville, AR)
Associate Museum Educator, Youth & Family Programs / Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR)
Museum Manager / The Peel Compton Foundation (Bentonville, AR)
Deputy Director of Collections and Engagement / Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (Santa Fe, NM)

Midwest:

President / Cranbrook Educational Community (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Associate Registrar, Permanent Collection / The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Executive Director/Chief Curator, The Renaissance Society / The University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Digital Marketing Manager / The Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL)
Executive Director / The History Center of Washington County (West Bend, WI)
Learning Specialist / Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, IL)

West:

Chief Financial Officer / Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Los Angeles, CA)
Director of Public Programs / The Mob Museum (Las Vegas, NV)
Education Program Manager / Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco, CA)
Director, Museum Store / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
Fund Development and Community Engagement Manager / Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz, CA)
Collection Database Administrator / Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums (San Francisco, CA)
Chief Financial Officer / Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Head of Publications / Fowler Museum at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Chief Financial Officer / Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA)
Director of Education / UC San Diego (La Jolla, CA)
Education Specialist / Idaho State Historical Society (Boise, ID)
Director of Education / Burke Museum (Seattle, WA)
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