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Museum Visit Photo Essay

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BC: Works Cited Glaser, J. R., & Zenetou, A. A. (1996). Museums: A Place to Work, Planning Museum Careers. New York, NY: Routledge. Globensky, B. (2000). Reclaiming Museum Education. ICOM Keynote Presentation Response. Hurley, L. (2000). Museum Pieces: Events in Cultural Sites. Retrieved from Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund (2001). Service to People: Challenges and Rewards. Retrieved from

FC: THE GETTY MUSEUM Observing Museum Professionals in a Visit and Garden Tour Kelsey Ziff Exploring Museum Professions/Redell Hearn

1: FIRST IMPRESSIONS "Museums are developing...a 'customer-mind-set.' That means taking steps to ensure that from the moment a visitor sets foot into their institutions and until they leave, everything goes off without a hitch" (Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, 2001, Table of Contents).

2: The Getty Museum is located on top of a hill, and visitors must take a tram from the parking lot to the museum itself. In the top photo, a volunteer (in the khaki pants) helps visitors with strollers and wheelchairs access the tram. She also makes sure that all visitors are at a safe distance when the tram pulls up. This shows the visitor services department at work ensuring that all visitors have a positive experience even before they access the museum. | In the bottom photo, two volunteer docents greet visitors at the top of the hill as soon as they step off the tram. They provide guests with information on special programs for the day, as well as tell them where to meet for the daily garden and architecture tours. Visitors are greeted with a friendly atmosphere as soon as they begin their visit and are offered the opportunity to ask questions and get information.

3: The Editor also plays an important role in visitor experience. The Editor is responsible for all printed material in the museum (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, 90). In the top photo, Editors and Visitor Services staff work together at the Information Desk, where the visitor can talk to a staff member for help as well as pick up schedules, maps, and informational brochures in multiple languages. | The Marketing Manager is also responsible for promoting the Museum through printed materials (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, 105-106). In the bottom photo, an advertisement serves to guide the visitor to a particular featured exhibition. Often, the Getty uses the same images and design in its onsite advertisements as it does outside the Museum, which serves to reinforce the Getty "brand" and gives each exhibit a different motif.

4: PHYSICAL SPACES "The physical care and maintenance of the building and grounds reflect the importance of the museum's collections and public service and the responsible staff who work there" (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, 99).

5: These two photos represent the work of the Facilities Manager in keeping the Museum safe for visitors and staff while keeping aesthetic concerns in mind. In the top photo, a decorative aqueduct/fountain is visible above the ground. When the Getty Museum first opened, the channel where the water flows was at ground level. Many visitors tripped over the narrow channel, forcing the Museum's Facilities staff to raise the channel above ground. Now the fountain is a popular spot at the museum to sit, relax, and enjoy the sound of the water. In the bottom photo, newly planted trees are growing. These trees replaced existing Californian pepper trees, whose root systems are so aggressive that they lifted and damaged the tiled ground around them. The trees were quickly replaced and the tiles repaired to keep visitors and staff safe and to maintain the integrity of the grounds.

6: These photos also show the work of the facilities staff in maintaining a pleasing landscape for visitors to enjoy. The Getty Museum was designed by architect Richard Meier and includes a central garden by artist Robert Irwin. As is evident in these two photos, Meier prefers squares and angular shapes whereas Irwin designed using circular motifs. It is the job of the facilities manager to understand the aesthetic mission of the museum building and grounds to maintain the vision of these two artists long after the museum's opening. Interestingly, Irwin, as a painter, knew nothing about landscape design when he applied for the Getty garden project. He worked closely with the museum's landscape staff to create a design that is both beautiful and sustainable.

7: BRINGING THE ARTS TO THE PUBLIC "All ages, income groups, and educational levels are being brought into the museum fold" (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, p. 92)

8: In recent years, museums have made a shift from object primacy to an emphasis on people and the visitor experience (Globensky, 2000, p. 2). As a result, almost all museums offer some type of educational programming, or have an educational mission. At the Getty, I was able to participate in one of the education programs offered: the Garden Tour. There are four tours a day that take visitors into the gardens and teach them about the history of the Getty buildings and how the garden fits in with the museum's artistic mission. The tours are led by docent guides who act as "surrogates for the director, curators, and educators in relating and mediating the collections and exhibitions to the public" (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, 88). In the top photo, our docent guide offers the group umbrellas to block the sun on a hot day, showing that she is also committed to visitor service. In the bottom photo, she answers our questions with information that is engaging and easy to follow.

9: Our guide encouraged us to look at the Getty Gardens as if they were a curated exhibition. When I tried it, the work of curators in the garden immediately became evident. Curators are the "keepers and caretakers of collections" and the museum staff works diligently to ensure the health of the Garden's plant life (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, p. 80). For example, the bougainvillea growing within the steel rebar planters (also visible in the front page of this section) must be closely monitored to ensure that the individual plants to not suffocate one another. The colors, species, and varieties of plant life were specifically chosen to complement one another and provide a sense of harmony within the garden. Although they are not museum employees, the Getty contracts several gardening experts to "curate" this living exhibition. Additionally, as each plant is meant to be contemplated like a work of art, there are several benches in the garden where one can sit, observe the plant life,listen to flowing water, and watch people walking though.

10: Exhibition design also plays a large part in the appearance of the gardens. "The exhibition designer translates conceptual ideas into concrete form" (Glaser and Zenetou, 1996, p. 94). J. Paul Getty's favorite trees were sycamores, and Robert Irwin wanted to pay homage to Getty in his plans for the garden. Unfortunately, not knowing much about plants, Irwin did not realize that the sycamore's leaves would block out almost all natural light coming down the garden's zigzag walkway. In order to remedy the situation, it was decided that each tree would have every other leaf removed from its branches in order to let natural light into the garden. In this situation, exhibition design is used to tackle a physical problem that arises from a conceptual idea. In the bottom photo, one of many lights on the path through the garden is pictured. These work to make the path more safe to walk at night, and also to highlight the various colors and shapes of the plant life growing in the garden, another exhibition design choice.

11: AND FINALLY... On the way out I spotted this stage set up for a special event. "Many cultural institutions-including art, natural history and science museums along with zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens-are eager to build their event business" (Hurley, 2000). These types of events help the museum raise funds in a difficult economy.

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  • By: Kelsey Z.
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  • Title: Museum Visit Photo Essay
  • Photo essay of a visit to the Getty Museum and the garden tour
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  • Started: almost 7 years ago
  • Updated: almost 7 years ago