Tag Archives: Museum

Crunch Time

So, I blog all about my conference and launch my new website only to leave it for a couple of weeks.  It’s hitting crunch time of the semester and things are beginning to become urgent.  I still have a couple of blog posts backed up to work on, I promise I’ll get them out soon. The MAAM Conference about did me in, I’ll have to start a notebook of topics for a rainy day.  I have two big projects to finish up this month and lucky for me I’m enjoying both of them.

1. For History and Theory of Museum – 15-20 page paper on the history of an institution/museum/collection.  I’m researching the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton.  What an amazing place with such  rich history.  Built as a Barracks in 1758 it has served as barracks, housing for indigent women, a house of ill-repute, a school, a hospital, a site for small pox inoculation and more recently a museum.  Preserved as a museum by a group of patriotic women around 1902, this incredible piece of architectural history served as a nearby site to some of America’s most famous moments.  I spent five hours in their archives the other day and wished I could have spent the night!


Old Barracks Museum, picture from http://www.barracks.org

How often do people really think of the history of a museum itself? Usually we are thinking about the history of the objects within the museum and in the case of the Barracks  the former is perhaps the more interesting of the stories.

2. For Exhibitions A to Z – Create a theoretical exhibition from beginning to finish, as finished as it can be on paper anyways.  This has been a fun project for me, “Simple Joys: Little Things That Make Us Smile” is being kept in the dark until either finished or I find a space that ACTUALLY wants to let me do the exhibition.   That’s my hope.

The other big thing on my agenda now is finding an internship/job for next semester and summer.  I’m hoping to come up with something amazing.  I’m over having a job just to pay the bills, time to get back to the point at hand.

Coming up in my agenda!


A Matter of Class: John Cotton Dana, Progressive Reform and the Newark Museum

Speaker: Carol Duncan,  Professor Emerita, Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Location: Thursday, November 18, 4 pm at the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ


Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi

Speaker: Andrew McClellan (he wrote the book we use for History & Theory of Museums class!)

Location: Thursday, November 18, 7 pm
Nursing Amphitheater (room NU113), Caroline D. Schwartz College of Nursing Building, Seton Hall University

A Fellow’s reflection on the 2010 Conference

Pam Schwartz holding an original signed (by Abraham Lincoln) Emancipation Proclamation during the MAAM Conference Opening Reception.

This post originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on October 31, 2010.

When I applied for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Bruce Craig Fellowship, I had just begun planning my move from Iowa to New Jersey to attend graduate school at Seton Hall University. I knew that it could be a good networking occasion, a chance to meet a few other professionals in the area, and familiarize myself with some of the museums. I never guessed that the four days of the conference would be one of the most enriching experiences of my career thus far.

The opportunities made available to working professionals and students alike were many and worthwhile. I attended seminars over a broad spectrum of topics from online museum models to sustaining historic homes. I made acquaintances with colleagues from all over the world and came face to face with the spooks during our tour at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Throughout the conference I was continually impressed by the amount of passion I saw in individuals for all things museum. Though we as museum professionals often converse about the dismal outlook of our field, I believe that, with so many passionate advocates, museums will sustain as appreciated and irreplaceable centers of edification for generations to come.

My favorite aspect of the conference was the Leadership Luncheon on Monday. Great conversation developed between mixed tables of seasoned and emerging professionals who all came ready to the table with questions and tips for one another. From this experience I gained valuable knowledge about the expectations of employers in my field as well as getting pointers for my cover letter and resume.

Thank you to all members of MAAM and the supporters of the Bruce Craig Fellowships. Your contributions help several emerging professionals each year to offset the costs of attending the conference and in giving them the opportunity to grow both as a professional and as a person. My experience at the 2010 Conference has been an amazing opportunity and I am already looking forward to attending next year.

King Tut at Discovery Times Square Exposition

I made a trip into NYC today to go to the King Tut exhibition at the Discovery Times Square Exposition.

King Tut=ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  The exhibition (set-up/execution) itself wasn’t that amazing but the artifacts are a chance in a lifetime thing to see.

The exhibition rack card boasts that this is the exhibition’s last stop before returning to Egypt FOREVER!   I’m glad I went to it.  Some of the artifacts are over 3,000 years old and they are so beautiful.  My two favorite artifacts in the exhibition were not even King Tutankhamun’s.

Funerary Figurine of Resi – I was unable to find a picture of this but the intricacy of this figurine is exquisite.  Resi was a member of King Amenhotep III’s (Tut’s Grandfather) harem.

Coffin of Tjuya – This photograph does no justice to the gold gilded sarcophagus.  Tjuya was Amenhotep III’s mother-in-law.

Photo from exhibition’s website: http://www.kingtut.org
The exhibition contains artifacts from the 18th dynasty of rulers covering a span of roughly 100 years. Tut ascended the throne around 1330 BCE. The exhibition was set up as I believe a typical blockbuster exhibition usually is: big, ominous and showy.  It was over-crowded, with low-lighting and mysterious background music. Okay, so I actually enjoyed the music it did add a little bit of excitement to things.
I love being able to walk all the way around an artifact, especially when they are so intricate.
Artifact selection was amazing; there was a wide variety and not too many versions of almost alike objects.
Neutral: My ticket included the 3D movie.  3D is fun but the 20 minute movie itself did not add to the exhibition.
Negatives: There was severe funneling at the beginning and end of the exhibition and this caused for some major blockage of flow.  I found this especially unfortunate at the end where the replica of King Tut’s mummy lies and three enormous text panels covering the latest in genetic testing and cause of death research.  This portion definitely should have been lent more space.
This period of history fascinates me and I gained considerable knowledge over the subject today.  If you’re in the area, this exhibition is a must see because the artifacts are exemplary.
My last comments today are about how torn this exhibition made me feel.  I wanted to cry for two reasons.  First, the artifacts are so beautiful, breath-taking and in such amazing condition.  They are really unsurpassed by few other things I have seen in my life.
Secondly, the Egyptians believed in an after-life and being immortal.  They felt if their name lived on then they too would.  In that sense, they have been immortalized.  I, however, cannot help but feel disrespectful in the fact that we have dug these souls up to gawk at and perform a million medical tests on.  Have we enhanced or disrupted their afterlife?
3,000 YEARS AGO! 3,000! That is so amazing that people have been in existence so long and that we have items they touched and used.  IT’S THE REAL THING and I saw it! This is why museums are AWESOME!

The Role and Evolution of Museums

The role of museums is to serve society as a cultural, educational and historical institution. Museums no longer exist merely for the acquisition, preservation and simple exhibition of artifacts. They are developing an increasing role in the cultural revitalization and global sophistication of our society; they provide society with answers to important questions (Who am I and where did I come from?). Likewise, museums provide a means for a broad spectrum of visitors to gain worldly wisdom and enjoy global adventures that may have otherwise been implausible. The biggest issue in the evolution of museums is maintaining relevancy within a rapidly changing society.

Many museums and galleries suffer from what I refer to as the “Dusty Old Frame Effect”. Museums are maintaining their collections but are not helping their collections maintain their relevancy. It is no longer effective to have a mere cabinet of curiosities; people do not want to see things (dusty old frames) they want to know reasons (Why is this relevant to me and my life?). Museums must continue to show their artifacts and engage their visitors in ways that are relevant to today, tomorrow and the future. In order to evolve with our rapidly progressing culture, museums will need to embrace change. This evolution will include use of technology and new methods in exhibition development, increased collaborations with multiple institutions, innovative and hands-on programming as well as the use of social networking and media.

I envision that with imagination and a lot of effort museums can sustain and become even more beneficial tools than they have served to be in the past. If museums utilize all of the technological advances made available to them they will be able to attract larger and broader markets of visitors. In the future I see museums increasing the use of fully immersive exhibitions like those of the United States Holocaust Museum in which the visitor plays a role within the exhibit they are viewing. Recent generations of museum visitors have come to expect constant stimulation and activity and now expect that in their visits to museums as well. Museums, though classically a hands-off place, will begin evolving into hands-on learning experiences for visitors.

Most important will be the growing presence of collaboration within institutions, both within the non-profit sector and across multiple others. Collaboration enables museums to share knowledge, experience, resources and even marketing costs. Recent financial distress has made these relationships vital and occasionally profitable, especially within smaller regional museums. Collaborations and the use of social networking will continue to increase visibility to untapped or non-traditional markets of museum-goers. The successful evolution of the museum lies in increasing visibility and remaining relevant to the society of today.

This is a subject many museum folk could go on about for hours.  The American Association of Museums has even created The Center for the Future of Museums.  Lucky for you, I was limited to a 500 word essay that I care not to elaborate on at this time in the morning.  The possibilities are endless, I just hope museums will keep thinking forward instead of sitting on valuable collections and not utilizing them to their full potential.

First day of work

We haven’t had water for a day or so now, which didn’t make me very happy considering I couldn’t even shower for my first day of work today. Thank goodness I had a couple of bottles of water in the fridge..it was a cold wash-up this morning. Anyways went to work this morning and I got my official British Museum security card. I am now an official employee and when I flash my card I get into any national UK museum free and free tours and usually discounts at gift shops, sweet. Family, you can all be expecting some nice souvenir from the British Museum.

My office is just an open area with about 7-10 other people working in it though I do get my own desk and computer. Everybody seems very pleasant and I even have my own British Museum e-mail. So for the first part of my internship it looks like I will be engaged in audience observation and surveying for the exhibit “American Scenes: Prints from Pollock to Hopper.” How fitting right? I know who all the artists are. Today I began by creating a blueprint of the exhibit so that on Monday I can begin visitor observation. This includes my lurking about the exhibit and choosing random people who come into the exhibit to observe. I time them as they walk in and observe and draw on my little map where they go and how long they stand in each place. Creepy? A little bit, but it should also be quite interesting. I will also be conducting some other types of research as if the way the exhibit is set-up is the most effective way it could be. This exhibit will be traveling around the UK when it finishes at the BM so my research will actually me influencing other UK museums and the way they install the exhibit!

I’ll be working four days a week for about 6-7 hours a day. They figure this whole process won’t take me the full time I am here so they are going to find me something interesting things to do later on. I tried to pay attention today so I hope I don’t get lost trying to find my office on Monday. The whole set up is kind of like a labyrinth. Fortunately for my weight-loss program the exhibit I am surveying is on the exact opposite side of a HUGE museum and there are lots of stairs. Hopefully I will lose some weight between this and the fact that my meals consist of a couple of pb&j sandwiches a day along with the occasional bowl of rice or spaghetti.

So all is well and exciting. We’re going out to the pub this evening for a celebratory drink for completing our first week and tomorrow Casey and I are going to go wandering about and on Saturday we are going to the horse races. Fun. Love you all and hope you are having an enjoyable summer!