Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Virtual Reality Experience

MASS MoCA has virtual reality (VR) experiences from Laurie Anderson, which you can view through 2020. She has developed projects there in the past and was an artist-in-residence. Anderson is a poet, filmmaker, vocalist, and multimedia artist, and the VR experiences of Chalkroom and Aloft showcased that. For both you would sit in a swiveling chair, place a VR headset with earphones over your head, and then were transported to another place and time that was like a curious dream of hers that you had entered. 

Chalkroom is a massive labyrinth of black walls marked with chalk and glowing portals that you can fly through with a push of your arms. Aloft begins with you sitting in an empty plane that gradually comes apart around you until you are floating in the air, using your virtual hands to grasp at objects swirling around you, to listen to Anderson’s hypnotic anecdotes. When I experienced the latter, I grasped onto the seat because my stomach dropped at the illusion of being up high. In the former, I was giddy flying through and exploring the chalkroom. It was a strange coincidence that I had been seriously considering the importance of VR technology in museums just a month prior, and then got to experience it firsthand. 

VR technology allows the audience to be emerged in the experience of a work of art, or it can act as a tour through a gallery. Curators, artists, and educators alike can utilize this technology for a new perspective on content. It connects to younger audiences that struggle to engage with static exhibits. VR can engage your hearing, movements, thinking, and visual perception. Though VR can draw people to museums, VR also means that people with impaired mobility or trouble accessing museums due to its location, cost, or social atmosphere can access great works of art and history from a remote location.

Money and timing are important factors. VR headsets can range from $20 to $1000 depending on whether you want headphones, hand controls, hand sensors, and a comfortable head clasp. By timing, I mean that if a museum could afford the technology, there would certainly be a limit on how much they could afford, so there may be two headsets that people must take turns to use, like at the Anderson installations that had six altogether and people had to schedule an appointment to have the experience. Despite this, VR technology can encourage new and returning visitors to offset the cost.

Hopefully, museums across the world will engage with this more immersive version of VR technology so that everyone can experience the richness of many cultures from close to home.  

Weekly Jobs Round-Up

Northeast:

Visitor Experience Supervisor (Connecticut Science Center, Hartford, CT)

South:

Educator for Gallery Teaching (Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN)

Curatorial Assistant (The Menil Collection, Houston, TX)

Special Events Manager (Army Historical Foundation, Fort Belvoir, VA)

West:

Manager of Youth Programs (Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles, CA)

Manager of Exhibitions and Publications (Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA)

Mid-Atlantic:

Manager of Public Engagement (Jackie Robinson Museum, New York, NY)

Assistant Curator (Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD)

Fellowships (Met, New York, NY)

Associate Administrator, Egyptian Art (Met, New York, NY)

Midwest:

Curator (Cleveland Clinic Art Program, Cleveland, OH)

Community Arts Program Assistant (John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI)

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Northeast: 

Head of Visitor Experience and Services (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT) 

Education Program Director (Yale University, New Haven, CT) 

Special Assistant to the Director and Chief Curator (Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA) 

Senior Preparator (Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME) 

Development Manager (Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA) 

Engineering Education Associate I (Museum of Science, Boston, MA) 

Live Animal Curator (Museum of Science, Boston, MA) 

Associate Director, Donor Relations (Museum of Science, Boston, MA) 

Production Manager/Audio Specialist (The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA) 

Associate Registrar (The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA) 

Prospect Research Manager (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA) 

Assistant Preparator/Collections Care Specialist (Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA) 

South: 

Executive Director (Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubback, TX) 

Senior Curator (The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX) 

Conservator (Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, FL) 

Chief Curator (Perez Art Museum Miami, FL) 

Corfrin Curator of Asian Art (Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL) 

Curatorial Assistant (Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL) 

State Museum of History Associate Director (North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC) 

Curator of Education, Engagement, and Learning (Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, Auburn, AL) 

Director of Customer Success, Exhibits and Environments (Solomon Group, New Orleans, LA) 

West: 

Curator of Education & Exhibits (Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House, Ukiah, CA) 

Vice President, Education and Engagement (San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego, CA) 

Departmental Curatorial Assistant (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA) 

Registrar and Exhibitions Manager (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA) 

Archivist/Research Historian (Lane County Historical Society, Eugene, OR) 

Non-Profit Partner Executive Director (Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Fort Collins, CO) 

Associate Director (The Getty, Los Angeles, CA) 

Manager of Campus Partnerships (Stanford University, Stanford, CA) 

Manager of Exhibitions and Publications (Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA) 

Mid-Atlantic: 

Historic Site Manager (The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Rockville, MD) 

Education Program Manager (The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Rockville, MD) 

Executive Director (Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden, Alexandria, VA) 

Special Events Manager (Army Historical Foundation, Fort Belvoir, VA) 

Librarian (Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD) 

Director, University Galleries (Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ) 

Director of Development (Woodlawn Conservancy, NY) 

Exhibit Developer/Project Manager (The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY) 

Collections Associate (Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY) 

Associate Registrar and Coordinator for Exhibitions (Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY) 

Curator of Jewish Culture/Judaica (The Jewish Museum, New York, NY) 

Relationship Manager (Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) 

Midwest: 

Curator and Collections Manager (The History Center, Cedar Rapids, IA) 

Executive Director (Rocky Mount Historical Association, Piney Flats, TN) 

Collections Manager (First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, Wheaton, IL) 

Executive Director (Ephraim Historical Foundation, Ephraim, WI) 

Community Arts Program Director (John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI) 

Executive Director (Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, MS) 

Curator (Cleveland Clinic Art Program, Cleveland, OH) 

Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Modern/Contemporary Art (University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI) 

Katharine Hepburn Visits the Frick!

This week I traveled home to Pittsburgh, PA for a few days. While in town, I was able to stop by The Frick Pittsburgh to see the exhibition Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage & Screen. The exhibition included clothing, pictures, posters, and original play bills from Hepburn’s productions and films. The clothing collection came from the Kent State University Museum, and it included a mix of clothes that she wore in movies, on the stage, and pieces that she commissioned for her personal wardrobe that matched styles she had previously worn during performances.  

Katharine Hepburn posing for LIFE magazine, 1968.

As a fan of Katharine Hepburn and her iconic style, I was excited to see the clothing up close to examine the details of the pieces. The clothing was beautiful, and most galleries showed a comparison for the clothing on mannequins and pictures of Hepburn on set.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much this exhibition embodied her personality. Quotes from Hepburn and personal stories were interspersed in the labels, and they truly enhanced the exhibition. In the space where her wardrobe makes the transition from mostly dresses that tightened at her 18-inch waist to a much less form fitting and comfortable wardrobe (which included pants!), there was a story about a movie studio that wanted Hepburn to return to wearing dresses and skirts because they were more feminine. So, someone snuck into her dressing room and stole her pants. In a display of her bold personality, Hepburn proceeded to walk around the movie set without her pants to show that returning her trousers was the better option for the studio. Rather quickly, they were returned to her, and she proceeded to continue to wear them because they allowed her to have more mobility. 

Her pants were such an iconic part of her wardrobe because she pioneered comfort in women’s clothing and made pants a common fashion staple for women. A display of pants from her personal clothing collection was actually my favorite part of the exhibition. Hepburn seemed to be a creature of habit, and therefore, she owned many pairs of the same type of pants, which were usually beige or brown. From the museum and exhibition design perspective, I can see how these pants would have been a challenge. While immensely important to Hepburn’s style and a testament to her fierce personality, these pants are not very interesting to look at. The colors alone (beige and brown) don’t draw in the visitor’s eye.  

Credit: Joanne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review

So, what did the exhibition designers do? They about 6 pairs of pants and put them on mannequin legs. Then, they set them in a variety of positions that mimicked the way that Hepburn moved. One pair was upside down to imitate a pose that she did during a photoshoot with LIFE magazine in 1968. The unique placement of these pants not only drew the visitors into the room and immediately to these objects, but it also simulated Hepburn’s personality through its movement.  

Overall, the exhibition was wonderfully done. Only three galleries were filled for it, but they were packed with information and anecdotes about Hepburn. They were set up in mostly a chronological order, so even people who were not fans of her productions would be able to see the evolution of her style.  

This exhibition is up at the Frick Pittsburgh until January 12, 2020, so if any readers find themselves in the area, I recommend checking it out! If you are not in the area and would like some more information on the exhibition the website is: https://www.thefrickpittsburgh.org/Exhibition-Katharine-Hepburn-Dressed-for-Stage-and-Screen 

Autumnal Museum Day Trip

As we say goodbye to the summer and step into fall, I want to plan a Spooky Season day trip for people. The month of Halloween, aka October, is an opportunity to enjoy local and tourist fun by heading to Salem, and more specifically, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). The museum just opened their new wing that has three floors to explore, plus a garden to relax in. I happened to walk by with friends to see the huge throngs of people that were lucky to get free museum admission on this opening weekend.

New wing on right

So, from Tufts, you want to get to North Station. You could drive on to the Mystic Valley Parkway about a mile away from the university, and then head to Salem via I-93 N and I-95 N, or just I-95 N if you want the extra scenery, or you could even take the Lynn Fells Parkway. The parking at the Salem T station is M-F $5 and $2 on the weekends. The PEM/Mall garage is $1.25/hour, but the rates kick up in their primetime, so maybe public transit is the best option.

Or, if you are pressed for coin, you could take the train. Grab the 101 bus to Sullivan, take the Orange Line to North Station, and then the Newburyport/Rockport Line 1113 towards Rockport, and get off at the Salem station, which is a couple minute walk from PEM. So, now you arrive on a Tuesday through Sunday betwixt 10 and 5. Last time I visited, Tufts’ IDs got you in for free, otherwise the student ticket price is $18. 

PEM main entrance

Their Expansion page on their website wants to entice with their mission of “creating transformative experiences of art, culture and other forms of creative expression that encourage exploration, discovery and wonder.” Not just exhibit space, but a collection center will be completed—perhaps a future Tufts Museum Studies field trip could get us a BTS sneak peek.

The new installations are with the times, so to speak, and highlight key points from our courses. The Asian export art exhibit doesn’t shy from the fact that some of the pieces are originally purchased with illegal opium trade profit. It’s important for museums to maintain transparency and trust with their community, and there’s an added history lesson. Another installation is Figurehead 2.0 which integrates digital media into the exhibit and demonstrates new ways to connect with its audience.

Also, their PEM Connect Campaign aims to make differences in our children’s lives, and their children, and so on. They hope to achieve this through new programming but weren’t clear on what that includes. Take note, museum websites should be clear also because people want to be informed about what there is to do at a museum. We will cut them slack since they are still renovating through 2021.

Let us know your review of the new building and share exhibit critiques. And happy fall! 

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