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Museum Visit Photo Essay

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BC: Created for the JHU course "Exploring Museum Professions," 2011

FC: MUSEUM VISIT PHOTO ESSAY THE FITCHBURG ART MUSEUM Fitchburg, Massachusetts

1: Almost all of the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM) departments have contributed to the informational items found here in the lobby. | 1. To the right of the table is a sign with green text which alerts visitors to turn off their cell phones and that large bags are not allowed. The latter is a security measure. Heads of security must protect collections, staff, and visitors as well as train the museum guards (Schlatter, 2008, p. 92). He/she and the personnel who care for the collection decided that it would be best for this institution if over-sized bags were not brought into the Museum, in order to not put objects at risk. | 1 | 2 | 3 | 2. Also to the right of the table is a floor plan of the Museum, probably created by a designer. Schlatter says that designers work with many of their colleagues to develop materials, and in this case, he/she probably collaborated with people in the facilities department to accurately depict the floor map (p. 60). In addition, the designer most likely had a hand in creating the other items on this table. | 3. At the front and center of the table is a clipboard with volunteer applications. A volunteer manager/coordinator selects applicants and places them into department areas which are appropriate and/or of interest to the volunteer (Glaser, 1996, p. 118). The volunteer may work with the public or be behind the scenes, but in either case, the volunteer manager will coordinate the volunteer schedule and train them as well. (p. 142 and 118).

2: 4. The table also has many pamphlets and forms for potential members. To the left of the table is a sign that encourages visitors to ask about becoming a member, which will also result in the gift of a Museum mug (also on the table). The woman at the information desk to the left told me that current members received the 2011 calendar pictured as well. | 4 | 2 | 6 | 5. “The membership program is seen as the basis of the museum’s development or fundraising strategy” and the membership manager/officer is the head of this campaign (Lord, 1990, p. 1). Pictured here are forms created by the manager for visitors to fill out if they would like to become a member or a corporate member. The manager/officer is responsible for enlisting new members and encouraging current ones to renew or upgrade (Schlatter, p. 77). Studies show that people who become members during a museum visit are more apt to renew their membership, so placing information and signup sheets in the lobby is an excellent way to educate visitors about museum membership and encourage participation in the program (Lord, p. 2). | 5 | 6

3: 6. This brochure was most likely created by the marketing manager, who promotes the museum and is responsible for branding as well (Schlatter, p. 87- 88). He/she strives to create interest in the museum and its offerings in order to increase attendance and all types of sales (including those for publications, gift shop items, and enrollment in studio classes) (p. 87). 7 – 8. Working with the educators and exhibition designers, the marketing manager develops events in conjunction with the museum’s offerings and in the same vein, chooses objects to sell in the gift shop (Schlatter, p. 87-88). He/she must increase revenue while trying to represent the museum in its mission’s light (Glaser, p. 106). | 7 | 8

4: 9. – 10. Walking up a staircase, a visitor finds this painting (Eleanor Norcross, Floral Still Life) by the museum’s founder on the landing, with a panel to the left describing its restoration. As a relatively small museum, the conservation was probably contracted out (Schlatter, p. 56). As Gorman explains, the conservator first needed to examine the painting and frame to discover what materials were used and what could have contributed to its current state (2008). After submitting a proposal for restoration to the curator and being given permission to proceed, the conservator begins his/her work and documents the entire procedure (Gorman). In this case, the documentation has become a source of education for visitors. | 9 | 10

5: The education and curatorial departments work well together in the FAM. Several objects have supplemental educational materials nearby, in addition to the curator’s object label. Hakala notes that when designing an exhibition an educator and curator will determine its content, what will be on display, and the view they are trying to present (2009). Working together allows the expert on content (the curator) and the expert on visitors (the educator) to combine their skills to create a worthwhile experience for visitors (Glaser, p. 80; Schlatter, p. 92). | Let's explore the responsibilities of each department...

6: 11 – 12. As the registrar/collections manager, he/she must maintain records for each object, which includes noting its location at all times and researching its history and provenance, and must care for the objects, such as assuring their protection and well-being in storage and in the galleries. He/she also establishes and ensures compliance with “the museum’s collection policies and procedures” (Glaser, p. 113-114; Buck, 2008). Glaser differentiates registrars from collections managers, saying that a registrar handles any paperwork that involves an object, such as those for loans and condition reports, and “controls the flow of all information concerning the collections” (p. 113-114). A collections manager, on the other hand, deals more directly with the objects by organizing the storage areas and identifying and cataloguing them, for example (p. 75). In this image, the registrar/collections manager will have recorded the location of these objects and will have provided the name, date, geographical origin, and provenance for the object label as well. | The curator in a small museum such as the FAM may take on several roles. In addition to studying the collection, writing the text panels, authoring publications about the objects and exhibitions, and suggesting objects for exhibition or purchase, the curator may also be the registrar/collections manager and the exhibition designer (Schlatter, p. 57-58). | 11 | 12

7: 13 | 13. The curator also exhibits the collection’s objects by developing themes, choosing objects, and writing text panels (Schlatter, p. 57). As seen here, the curator did just that and then arranged the display case for view. Schlatter notes that an exhibition designer works with curators, educators, and others to “provid[e] the vision to create exhibitions based on sound scholarship that will engage the museum’s audience and attract new visitors” (p. 62). Roberts says that putting an exhibition together is a team-effort of the museum staff, and for the show to be successful, everyone involved must have the visitor in mind from the start (2009). | 14 | 14 – 15. In the middle image, showing one end of the hallway-like gallery of African art, is a large map of the African continent. The object labels in the image to the right, which were written by the curator, include small maps of Africa with the corresponding object’s location shaded in. The educator probably worked with the curator in making these labels in order to increase the visitor’s understanding of the objects. | 15

8: In the report of the 2003 Art Museum Education Programs Survey, it says that education departments encompass many museum programs, including those for adults, families, and schools and also for informal gallery learning, tours, classes and other public programs, online education programming, and partnerships with other organizations (2003). The educator at the FAM is responsible for creating and implementing all of these public programs, “with the goal of enhancing public access to and understanding and interpretation of the collections, exhibitions, and resources” (Glaser, p. 92). Educators hence attempt to attract new audiences by creating materials and programs that encourage different types of learning (p. 92). | 16. Pictured here is a sheet about music, relating to the objects in the display case next to it. This sheet, with information and a timeline, was created by an educator to enhance a visitor’s knowledge about these pieces beyond each object label. | 17. These two panels introduce visitors to the decorative arts gallery. The educator probably worked with the curator on them in order to relay more information about ceramics. The questions seen at the bottom of the first label provide a format for visitors to apply to other pieces in the gallery if they wish to determine answers themselves. | 16 | 17

9: 18 | 18. Beside this display case in the Asian art gallery is a pocket with two laminated sheets. One identifies a common design on ancient Chinese bronze vessels and the other discusses how these vessels were created. Both provide insight into some of the gallery’s objects and entice visitors to pick the pages up and see what bits of knowledge they may find.

10: 19 | 19. Returning to the image of the lobby, this table has several contributions from the educator as well. There is a brochure entitled “Tips for Family Visits” as well as a letter-sized pamphlet of gallery activities for children, which promotes informal learning and social interaction (Glaser, p. 91). To the right of the table is a basket with paper and drawing utensils for visitors of any age which also promotes informal learning and art. Schlatter notes that educators often create materials such as these, with the addition of resource kits for teachers and activities for the museum’s website, to supplement what visitors learn from the institution’s objects (p. 80-81).

11: 20. Continuing the discussion of security guards and volunteers from page 1, the FAM’s security guards protect the museum as a whole and its personnel and visitors by enforcing safety standards for the buildings and emergency procedures (Schlatter, p. 92). They attend to the entrances in order to safe-keep funds from ticket sales, gift shop purchases, etc., and at some museums perform security checks on each visitor (p. 92). As in this photograph, security guards also monitor the galleries in order to maintain object safety. They ensure that visitors do not touch the objects, which is applicable to most art museums, and that none of the objects are stolen (p. 92). Guards are also available to visitors if they have questions, such as where an object, gallery, or restroom is located (p. 92). The security guard pictured here informed me that she also volunteers as a docent. As a volunteer, she is supervised by the volunteer manager/coordinator, but she works with the education department as well. Glaser describes docents as “surrogates for the director, curators, and educators in relating and mediating the collections and exhibitions to the public” (p. 88). In addition to giving tours and being a source of knowledge for visitors, docents also relay the museum’s mission to visitors and notify them of upcoming lectures, programs, and exhibitions (p. 88-89). | 20

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