Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Curatorial Voice

The other week, I read an interesting article on AAM's website, from their March/April 2001 issue of Museum News. It was called "Reports of our Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Reconsidering the Curator" and it was written by Nancy Villa Bryk, a curator at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village.
In the article, Villa Bryk traces the evolution of the curatorial role at Greenfield Village, based on her own experiences, in the hope of finding something meaningful and helpful for the field at large. I think her analysis of how curators have moved with the tide (or not) is very interesting. It reminded me of the NEMA curatorial session I attended in November.
In the end, Villa Bryk leaves the reader with some solid advice given by a group of curators at a Michigan Museums Association Conference in the early part of this decade. I've listed that advice here and taken the liberty of bullet pointing some of the separate ideas, for clarity. Food for thought, indeed.

  • Be a superior communicator; listen respectfully and speak effectively with everyone—donors, administrators, visitors, your colleagues—even if you disagree with them.
  • Familiarize yourself with financial planning and marketing.
  • Get to know your visitors better by learning from educators, visitors studies staff, exhibit developers, and the front-line staff. Better yet, get out of your office, help deliver a program, and discover how well it works.
  • Embrace social history and think broadly about interpretation; dig deep to find objects that tell important stories about people and their experiences.
  • Do not hold tenaciously to traditional roles; by moving outside of them you just might wander into exciting new ones you never thought about before. Remember, as you teach others roles you have held fast, you are infusing those skills even more deeply in the organization.
  • Finally, the curatorial role will undergo more change as history museums are reshaped in this next century. Try hard not to take these changes personally.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Paris - 1962

Now, I'm not a huge Francophile. But. This set of photos, taken in Paris in 1962, is amazing. The mix of lowbrow and high fashion subjects is poignant. The set, taken as a whole, has the uncanny ability to place you in the Les Halles district of Paris almost fifty years ago.

Which is something else I love, in and of itself. As a historian, I appreciate and value old photographs. As a museum professional, I love, love, love when said photos are preserved in a way that maintains their condition but allows the public easy access to them. A Flickr photo set of scanned originals seems a perfect way to marry these two ideals.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Year Anniversary

As of today, it's been two years since I began Museophilia. My first post was January 23, 2008. The occasion inspires me to consider some of the following questions:
  • What have I learned?
  • What has changed in that time?
  • My training in 2008 (and part of 2009) was a complementary blend of the practical (internships & part-time work) and the theoretical (graduate classes)
  • What have I lost or gained now that my work is nearly all practical?
I'm going to ponder these questions over the next couple of days and come back with an answer. Feel free to weigh in if you want in the meantime!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ten Percent Remains Unwritten

Upon reviewing my various published and drafted posts, I realized that I am getting behind on making post ideas into realities. At the moment, there are 95 posts of various kinds associated with this blog, but only 85 of them are actually published.

My goal in the next few weeks is to revise/edit/actually write those other ten posts and get them up here. It's not quite a New Year's resolution, but hey - it's something.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Philly Museum of Art (PMA)

A few photos from my trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wedding History

My apologies for not checking in for awhile. After my last post, I spent a couple of weekends away, in New York and Philadelphia. I had the chance to visit the Philly Museum of Art, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell, so I'll share my impressions and photos of those places soon.

In the meantime, I found something interesting closer to home. This Sunday, the University of New Hampshire Museum is putting on an exhibit of historic wedding dresses to complement a bridal show being held on campus. According the university's press release, the exhibit was created from the Irma Bowen Textile Collection, a collection of more than 600 samples of women’s and children’s clothing from the 1700s through the early 20th century.

According to the university's press release, the dresses on display this weekend will include a "wool designer gown covered with hand stitched lace and netting from the house of Maison Rouff in Paris and a burgundy long sleeve silk taffeta. Both dresses are circa 1890." They will also include an orange flapper-style dress. As UNH Museum Curator Dale Valena says, "“The exhibit helps to show the history of wedding dresses. I think people will be surprised to find that they weren’t always long and white."

You can read more about the exhibit here and here.