FC: National Portrait Gallery Washington, D.C. | Stephanie Dabek
1: Background | While this Museum is known as the National Portrait Gallery, it is actually two museums into one with the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAMM) occupying the other half. As told by the official website (www.npg.si.edu), the NPG and the SAMM are "two museums that tell American's stories through art, history and biography" ("Visiting the Museum," 2012). This building is very extraordinary as it also houses the Luce Foundation Center and the Lunder Conservation Center. The Luce Foundation Center (for the SAMM - www.americanart.si.edu/luce/) is "the first visible art storage and study center in Washington, D.C." while the Lunder Conservation Center (www.americanart.si.edu/lunder/index.cfm) is a set of five laboratories where items such as paintings, frames, objects, and paper are repaired or reshaped ("Luce Foundation Center for American Art," 2012). Both will be highlighted in this photo essay.
2: Lobby & Visitor Information
3: When I first entered the Museum, I was in the lobby facing the information desk (left) where volunteers were on hand to help. These women were most likely trained by a museum educator. As stated by Glaser & Zenetou (1996), "volunteers at information desks are usually the visitor's first contact with the museum ... they must be trained by the staff to meet, greet, and welcome a diverse public... (p. 145)" | Also in the lobby was a donations box (right). Since the Smithsonian does not charge admission due to federal funding, donation boxes are frequently found within the Museum. This is the work of the Development team, mostly like that of a development officer.
4: Gallery Spaces | This small exhibition entitled Ambrotypes: from the Permanent Collection is the work of many professionals from the Museum. It is no coincidence that this exhibition is next to the Civil War gallery space as ambrotypes were used to photograph war soldiers. This organization most likely came from the curator, who thought it would be best to group time eras together. Working with the curator, the exhibition designer also helped significantly with this gallery. According to Glaser & Zenetou (1996), the exhibition designer "'has the 'eye' to project how all the ideas of others, and the selected objects, will appear in an exhibition" (p. 94). While the gallery space itself is nothing special, one aspect that is important to this particular exhibition is lighting. Since the ambrotypes are extremely old and fragile, they are light sensitive leaving the exhibition designer to showcase the collection on the lowest light possible.
7: At the NPG and SAMM, there are many educational programs. For the NPG, there are signs, like the one shown on the far left, advertising the docent led tours. The photo next to this text is a group of students learning about art from museum employees in the SAMM. Both of these programs are through the Education department. According to Schlatter (2008), the responsibilities of the educator include developing "tours of exhibitions and galleries" and also making "resource kits that enable school teachers to use the museum's exhibitions and collections in their classrooms" (p. 80-81). In this sense, the educator not only provides the volunteers and teachers with the materials needed, but also gives them the training to perform their specific task.
8: Collections & Conservation
10: Like I have stated before, the Luce Foundation Center and the Lunder Conversation Center are great resources found within the Museum. With the Luce Foundation Center, collections that the public would not normally see due to gallery restrictions are able to be placed on view. My favorite part of this Center was the ability to pull out drawers of miniatures (previous page, far left). What an efficient use of space! With just a push of a button, the drawer comes out as the visitors are able to see mini photographs in ornate frames resembling what was seen in the ambrotype gallery. This great organization is the work of the Collections team. Glaser & Zenetou (1996) stated that their role is the "organization and maintenance of storage; planning for short - and long term environmentally controllled storage and exhibition; security" and more (p. 75). The Collections staff do a great job with this by caring for their items and making them comfortable in the drawers, but yet placing them on display for visitors. With this, the Luce Foundation Center storage space probably does not have as many damaged or lost artifacts.
11: My personal favorite part of my trip was visiting the Lunder Conservation Center. While photographs are not usually permitted, I was informed that at the time of my visit (around 5pm) they would be safe to take since the workers had left and the art pieces were safely tucked away for the day. The photo on the right hand side of the previous page is from the Objects Conservation Lab. This instantly brought me back to the interview with Joan Gorman, a painting conservator. In the interview she spoke about how the rise of technology has helped her career as digital and infrared cameras help to take and send photos to clients (2008). This was apparent in this lab as large devices, like the ones shown, took up much room. Also in her interview, Gorman spoke about how critical it is for conservators to know chemistry (2008). If you notice in the back of my photo, the lab hung up a periodic table of elements reassuring myself that a chemistry background is essential.
12: The Great Hall
13: Continuing with our recent discussion on special events, I wanted to highlight the Great Hall, where they take place for the NPG and SAMM. Like Judy Thompson stated in her interview, the special events team oversees various occasions. While the main goal is to generate extra revenue, Thompson also mentions that bringing in new people to showcase what a museum has to offer is also important as well (2008). The Great Hall, located on the third floor, is just one of many lovely places within this Museum to hold an event. In fact, according to the NPG's website, the Great Hall was the site for President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball ("Events and Programs," www.ngp.si.edu/event/hostevents.thml#hall).
14: References Glaser, Jane R., & Zenetou, Artemis A. (2006). Museums: A Place to Work. New York: Routledge. Gorman, J. & Sayre, S. (2008, December 8). Interview with Joan Gorman. Sandbox Studios. Podcast retrieved from https://blackboard.jhu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_1_1. Sayre, S. & Thompson, J. (2008, December 10). Interview with Judy Thompson. Sandbox Studios. Podcast retrieved from https:blackboard.jhu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_group_id=_1_1. Schlatter, N. Elizabeth. (2008). Museum Careers: A Practical Guide for Students and Novices. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
15: Smithsonian Instiution's American Art Museum. (2012). Luce Foundation Center for American Art. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://americanart.si.edu/luce/index.cfm. Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum. (2012). Lunder Conservation Center. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http: americanart.si.edu/lunder/index.cfm. The National Portrait Gallery. (2012). Events and Programs. Retrieved October 28, 2012, from http://www.npg.si.edu/event/hostevents.html. The National Portrait Gallery. (2012). National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved October 28, 2012, from www.npg.si.edu.