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FC: My Visit to the National Museum of American History | Rachel Johnston
1: The first thing you come in contact with once you come in the National Museum of American History (NMAH) is security. Everyone must pass through a metal detector and have their bags searched by hand before they are allowed to enter the museum. For the most part the security staff is friendly enough but I would say they are a serious group and might not be the friendly face you would like to encounter as a first impression. However, it is good to see that visitor safety is an important part of the museum's focus.
2: The NMAH has two entrances and the picture below shows the one on the lower level, as you can see it has a lot of space for people to gather, it also has in information desk, a donations box, an auditorium, a gift shop and small exhibits in the cases around the walls. | Like many other museums the information booths are manned by volunteers who tell visitors about the day's programs and answer questions (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996).
3: Here we see the product of the development team working with the marketing team to create a donations box. Instead of just asking for money the sign helps remind people what it is their donation are going to, Joan Grathwol Olson (2008) talked about how people wanted to know that their money was making a difference and this kind of solicitation is a good way to help people remember that it takes money to preserve the objects they have seen in the museum.
4: Here is the museum's auditorium, where many outreach and educational programs take place throughout the week, including films and lectures that tie in with current exhibits. These programs are used by the museum educator to bring in a variety of audiences. | There was a book signing going on outside the museum shop, this is another tool that museum educators use to provide "learning experiences" (Glaser & Zenetou, 1996).
5: I found it interesting that the gift shop made an effort to support the educational mission of the museum by posting facts about objects found throughout the museum. Here you can see that the Wizard of Oz gifts have a sign above them telling you more about the ruby slippers that are in the NMAH's collection. This helps bring the visitor experience full circle by continuing to educate visitors about what they saw that day, as they buy souvenirs to help them remember once they've gone home.
6: Here was can see the work of a curator, who helps visitors interpret the objects they are seeing. We can also see as Mann (2008) stated how the "baton is passed from curator to the registrar" who finds the objects to be included in the exhibit and then on to the exhibit developer who helps put the interpretation and the objects together. | It is likely that the letters found in this exhibit were under the care of an archivist, who cataloged and kept track of where the letters were kept as well as a conservator who worked on preserving the paper .
7: There is another visitor center for people who come in the doors on the other side of the museum on the second level. It to is staffed with volunteers and also incorporates technology to help visitors understand the events going on that day as well as gain feed back from visitors about the museums upcoming exhibits.
8: This is a computer in the visitors center where people can give feed back about their experience that day. Kate Roberts (2009) talked about a feedback booth she had at the end of an exhibit and this is somewhat similar to that. The information collected can be useful for a variety of people, including the development department, curators and exhibit designers and installers. | In the upper level visitors center there is an electronic board with what is happening around the museum that day.
9: This prototype of a computer table that visitors interact with was also in the visitors center. The museum was interested in getting people's feedback on the new technology to see if it would be a useful tool to incorporate in future exhibits. People's feedback on this new technology could be very valuable to exhibit designers as they work to tell the story of an exhibit in a way that people can understand and connect with.
10: A sign near the upper level visitors center shows people where to meet for a guided tour. According to the Art Museum Education Survey Report (2003) guided tours are one of the most popular education programs that museums offer. | This picture shows an educational program that is a cross between education and entertainment. This woman is playing the part of a civil rights activist in the 1960s and is teaching the crowd nonviolent resistance techniques. She is speaking in front of an exhibit on civil rights which helps to teach visitors using not only the educator but objects as well. It is an example of the exhibit coordinator, curator, and educator all working together as Hakala (2009) talked about.
11: This microphone allows people to hear the video all over the room, a very practical concern that was taken care of by an exhibition installer. | These pictures show the work of exhibition preparators who do the physical work of creating and installing an exhibition. In the picture to the right you can see the way the lighting was designed and installed to draw people's focus to certain parts of the exhibit. | The stand the baseball is on was created by an exhibition preparator.
12: I found this list of acknowledgments at the end of The American Presidency exhibit, it lists major donors that helped make the exhibit possible. There were lists like these prominently placed outside many of the exhibits. It shows how the development team had worked to make projects happen. In the Smithsonian paper "Exhibition Development and Implementation" (2002) funding was always one of the first things that had to be in place before anything could move forward with a project. I believe that shows just how integral the development team is to any museum no matter what the size, and as Joan Grathwol Olson (2008) said people like to attach their name to things that they care about.
13: Globensky in his ICOM Keynote Presentation Response (2000) talked about how we need to go beyond objects themselves to help the public make connections. Here are some examples of how museums have used technology as well as old fashioned means to do that. Below, you can either take a pamphlet on an exhibit, or text for more information. | The above object has a phone number to call to hear the curator talk about not just the object, but the broader cultural significance of how that object was used and what it meant to society when it was used in that way; giving people a better framework to understand what they are looking at.
14: This poster can be found outside the museum, it is an example of the way the marketing team attracts people into the museum. It is also an example of the work of a museum photographer. | The handout above is given to visitors at the information booths, it tells visitors about the NMHA's "highlights" so people can be sure they see some of the museum's most popular objects. This flier was the work of not only the marketing team, but curators, and educators as well.
15: This sign was interesting to me because it included the provenance of the objects. Schlatter noted the current trend towards transparency in museum collections (2008, p.36) and this sign is a perfect example of the registrar being as open as possible about where the objects came from and how the NMAH acquired them. I would think transparency would be particularly important with objects as historically famous as Lincoln paraphernalia; making an undisputed provenance even more important.
16: Glaser, Jane & Zenetou, Artemis (1996). Museums: A place to work: Planning museum careers. New York, NY: Routledge. Globensky, B. (2000, October 31.) Reclaiming museum education. ICOM Keynote Presentation Response. Hakala, Jim (2009, January 7). Interview with Johns Hopkins Museum Professions. Podcast retrieved from http://www.sandboxstudios.org/clientfilemanager/JHU/601/interviews/JimHakala.mp3 Mann, Griffith (2008, December 12). Interview with Johns Hopkins Museum Professions. Podcast retrieved from http://www.sandboxstudios.org/clientfilemanager/JHU/601/interviews/GriffithMann.mp3 Olson, Joan Grathwol (2008, December 9). Interview with Johns Hopkins Museum Professions. Podcast retrieved from http://www.sandboxstudios.org/clientfilemanager/JHU/601/interviews/JoanOlson.mp3 | References
17: Roberts, Kate (2009, January 13). Interview with Johns Hopkins Museum Professions. Podcast retrieved from http://www.sandboxstudios.org/clientfilemanager/JHU/601/interviews/KateRoberts.mp3 Schlatter, N. Elizabeth (2008). Museum careers: A practical guide for students and novices. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc. Smithsonian Institution, Office of Policy and Analysis. (2002, August) Exhibition development and implementation: Five case studies. Retrieved from http://www.si.edu/opanda/Reports/EXCaseStudies.pdf Wetterlund, Kris & Sayre, Scott (2003, August). 2003 Art Museum Education Programs Survey. Retrieved from http://www.museum-ed.org | References (cont)