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National Museum of Natural History: An Amalgamation of Professional Ministrations

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S: National Museum of Natural History: An Amalgamation of Professional Ministrations

FC: National Museum of Natural History: An Amalgamation of Professional Ministrations Andra Dennett

1: Approaching the National Museum of Natural History along the National Mall in Washington DC leads you past a number of signs, placed at measured spots along the walkway. These signs advertise current exhibits and their locations within the museum. The creation of these boards would have been the result of collaboration between several museum professionals. Most obviously, the photograph of the skeleton was taken by a photographer, either a permanent part of the museum staff or a freelancer (Schlatter, 2008, p. 69), who had certainly worked with the collections manager to ensure that all precautions were taken while photographing the artifact (p. 72). The Marketing staff then used the digital image to create the eye catching signs as a way to grab the attention of passing pedestrians (Schlatter, 2008, p. 88).

2: Upon entering the museum, visitors immediately walked through metal detectors and security staff checked through all large bags and purses. Situated in downtown DC and surrounded by national landmarks, terrorist threats remain a high priority and the security staff is responsible for the safety of the visitors as well as the collections (Shlatter, 2008, p. 92). The location and construction of the detectors had to have been approved by the facilities manager and the upkeep likely falls under their purview as well (Schlatter, 2008, p. 100). The Facility Manager also works with the security staff in order to develop effective emergency preparedness plans (Schlatter, 2008, p. 101). Visitor services has likely collaborated with the security staff as well to ensure that they are able to answer visitor questions and maintain a positive relationship with museum-goers (The Wallace Foundation, 2001, p. 40).

5: The main lobby of the National Museum of Natural History is an iconic image, recognizable from art and films. Beyond its architecturally central location, the lobby is clearly the hub of activity at the museum; visitors enter, meet friends, congregate, ask questions of the museum staff, and decide their next move. Signage above each archway, possibly designed by the marketing team (Schlatter, 2008, p. 87) and hung under the supervision of the facilities manager (p. 100), directs visitors to each wing and ensures ease of movement. The facilities staff maintains the entire building, keeping everything running smoothly and ensures that the building is up to date on all federal and state codes (Schlatter, 2008, p. 100).

6: Each of the exhibits (including the elephant in the main lobby) requires the input of many of the museum’s departments. In the most general sense, the Director helps to steer the museum toward new and beneficial directions and signs off on major projects (Glaser, 1996, p. 50). The curator, meanwhile, directs research on the museum’s collections and oversees the exhibitions, as well as working with the registrar /collections manager to ensure that all of the in-house and loaned objects are accounted and cared for (Sayre, Interview with Rebecca Buck, 2008). Then, of course, the curator, the exhibits and lighting staff, the educator, and the exhibitions designer work together to create an engaging, educational experience for visitors (Schlatter, 2008, p. 62). Behind the scenes, the conservators labor to keep all of the collections in the best shape possible, working "closely | with collections managers, registrars, and curators to assist with the storage, handling, and study of artifacts" (Schlatter, 2008, p. 55).

7: Just as visitors enter through the main doors of the museum, they pass the Information desk. Likely manned by volunteers, this desk would be run by visitor services, the manager of which oversees the collection of visitor demographics and ensures an educational and positive visit (Schlatter, 2008, p. 94). Visitor services staff would be keeping a close eye on those things which could lead to large scale visitor dissatisfaction (Schlatter, 2008, p. 94). The upkeep of the computer systems and databases in use at the desk would be the responsibility of the information services staff (Marty, 2007, p.3).

9: On the bottom floor of the museum, near the Constitution St. entrance is the museum shop where visitors are free to browse and buy a variety of items which relate to the museum's collections. With each new featured exhibit, the museum shop manager "in consultation with the museum director, curators, and education staff, researches and oversees product development" (Glaser, 1996, p. 117). As museum shop workers are often the "only staff the visitor encounters, except the guards" (Glaser, 1996, p. 116) they represent the face of the museum and, like the security staff, have likely worked with visitor services to ensure a positive relationship with the public. Demographics collected by staff at check-out would also | be sent along to visitor services to help focus various museum programs on specific audiences (Schlatter, 2008, p. 94). The information systems staff also plays a large role in the shop, adapting technology wherever they can and ensuring that the retail systems run efficiently (Marty, 2007, p.3). They also make sure that any membership information compiled by the membership staff can be accessed for shop discounts (Schlatter, 2008, p. 77).

10: As I was leaving, I noticed that the area that had earlier been roped off in the lobby was now bustling with activity as tables and chairs were arranged. Some sort of dinner would be taking place that night, certainly arranged by the special events manager. In charge of arranging for | the venue, caterers, and educational side of every event, the special events manager works with the director, curators, educators, and security to design and run a variety of programs and presentations, either to generate public interest or to host a sponsored event (Sayre, Interview with Judy Thompson, 2011). The security team needs to be present at special events as well to monitor the behavior of the guests and keep the collections from harm (Sayre, Interview with Judy Thompson, 2011).

11: Fin.

12: Work Cited | Glaser, Jane R. & Zenetou, Artemis A. (1996). Museums a place to work:Planning museum careers. New Fetter Lane, London. Routledge. Sayre, Scott (interviewer) & Thompson, Judy (interviewee). (2008, Dec 10). Interview with Judy Thompson [podcast]. Retrieved from http:// www.sandboxstudios.org/clientfilemanager/JHU/ 601/interviews/JudyThompson.mp3 Sayre, Scott (interviewer) & Buck, R. (interviewee). (2008, Dec 22). Interview with Rebecca Buck. Sandbox Studios. Podcast retrieved from https://blackboard.jhu.edu/ webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_1_1. Marty, Paul. (2007). The changing nature of information work in museums [pdf]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.jhu. edu/bbcwebdav/pid797871-dt-content-rid-3626942_2/xid- 3626942_2

13: Schlatter, N. Elizabeth. (2008). Museum careers: A practical guide for students and novices. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc. The Wallace Foundation. (April 2001) Services to People: Challenges and Rewards. How Museums Can Become More Visitor-Centered. The Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.wallacefoundation.org/ KnowledgeCenter/KnowledgeTopics/AreasOf ContinuingInterest/Museums/Pages/Servicesto People.aspx

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  • By: Andra D.
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  • Title: National Museum of Natural History: An Amalgamation of Professional Ministrations
  • JHU Museum Studies Project: Museum Visit Photo Essay
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  • Published: about 4 years ago

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