Tag Archives: Museums

Unlicensed Professionals

If there is one shared belief amongst history and museum professionals it’s that we do important, if at times unrecognized, work. We’re stewards of priceless, irreplaceable collections, we engage, educate, and entertain a broad range of the population. We are keepers and sharers of culture and history. Truly important work.

At least to us.

It can be difficult to know how important we are perceived to be to the general citizenry. Attendance numbers aren’t trustworthy. Besides, every museum has a fan-base (however small) which can lead us to believe we’re relevant. History books are judged by how “important” they are, not how many copies are sold. And, for both historians and the museum professionals, there’s always the belief that it’s not us; that people just don’t get how essential we really are.

One way to gauge importance is to look at how regulated a field is. Usually that comes in the form of professional licensing. Licensing advocates argue that it protects the public interest by keeping incompetent and unscrupulous individuals from working with the public. In the rather open fields of history and museum work there is no mechanism to ensure such performance. Anyone can walk on and call themselves a historian, curator, or educator. Even the incompetent and unscrupulous.

To put it another way, there are more legal requirements for a nail technician to give French manicures than than there is for a CEO to direct a museum. In museums there are laws regarding the appropriate use of our collections and money, but there is nothing governing the professionals. In the eyes of the law, our stuff is more important than our staff.

Not a license to curate.
Source.

You might be thinking, “what about the degrees needed to get the job?” A degree in a history- or museum-related field is not a license. Employers may make it a requirement for a position, but not having it does not automatically exclude anyone from claiming and being recognized as, for example, a historian. Some museum folks might point to accreditation as such oversight. However, AASLH’s accreditation is not a license or a guarantee of staff competency. Accreditation is all about collections management and governance. It’s still about the stuff.

What does all of this mean? It may be an indication of why we are an underpaid, underappreciated field. Not enough people take history and museum work seriously or believe our contributions are important enough to their (and, as will be seen, their pets’) finances, health, safety, and sex lives to try to weed out the incompetents. But evidently these fields (licensed by the State of Illinois) are:

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A Day in the Life of an Art Museum Phone Operator, in Haiku

Actually By Maia Brown-Jackson

From The Toast

Are you real? Well, yes.

Is it raining outside now?

…I’m in a basement.


The Dali show, from

seven years ago, I missed.

Can I still go now?


Who replaces your

American flags? May I

speak with them? URGENT.


We close at five. If

I arrive at five, when would

I need to leave? Five.


I found a Miro

in my attic. Can you buy

it? Not at all fake.


Picasso found in

gated community yard.

Definitely real.


Dental assistant

calls about tooth art that should

be in the museum.


I want to bring my

mini horse to the museum.

That should be fine, right?

Read the Rest


Exhibit Label Lessons, or Be Like Liedtke

Curator’s Comment, Part the First: Beverly Serrell, in her opening paragraph to Chapter 6, said exhibit labels should provide, “information about objects accessible to visitors with different backgrounds and interests.” This may not be what she had in mind (even if it might be effective):

'Art rhetoric' - 'Normal language'

 

Curator’s Comment, Part the Second: Or you could skip all that layering and just write compelling, provocative labels, like Walter Liedtke, who died tragically last year, did. Here’s his label for the Merrymakers at Shrovetide:


Interactive Museum Hologram is Too Historically Accurate

Fine for late-night NBC, but maybe a wee NSFW


Dean Swift on the Secrets of Interpretation

His digressions are more eloquent than most days-long conferences.

To those museum professionals who think they have discovered a new way to engage visitors, that is to entertain them, we offer the following.

And to those professionals who say education is the sole and perpetual purpose of museums, until those others dumbed it down, we offer the following.

The following is Jonathan Swift’s “A Digression in the Modern Kind” from his 1710 work A Tale of the Tub. It seems your arguments and the thought that your thought is new are nothing new.

 

We whom the world is pleased to honour with the title of modern authors, should never have been able to compass our great design of an everlasting remembrance and never-dying fame if our endeavours had not been so highly serviceable to the general good of mankind. This, O universe! is the adventurous attempt of me, thy secretary;

“Quemvis perferre laborem Suadet, et inducit noctes vigilare serenas.”

To this end I have some time since, with a world of pains and art, dissected the carcass of human nature, and read many useful lectures upon the several parts, both containing and contained, till at last it smelt so strong I could preserve it no longer. Upon which I have been at a great expense to fit up all the bones with exact contexture and in due symmetry, so that I am ready to show a very complete anatomy thereof to all curious gentlemen and others. But not to digress further in the midst of a digression, as I have known some authors enclose digressions in one another like a nest of boxes, I do affirm that, having carefully cut up human nature, I have found a very strange, new, and important discovery: that the public good of mankind is performed by two ways–instruction and diversion. And I have further proved my said several readings (which, perhaps, the world may one day see, if I can prevail on any friend to steal a copy, or on certain gentlemen of my admirers to be very importunate) that, as mankind is now disposed, he receives much greater advantage by being diverted than instructed, his epidemical diseases being fastidiosity, amorphy, and oscitation; whereas, in the present universal empire of wit and learning, there seems but little matter left for instruction. However, in compliance with a lesson of great age and authority, I have attempted carrying the point in all its heights, and accordingly throughout this divine treatise have skilfully kneaded up both together with a layer of utile and a layer of dulce.


A Visit to the Barbie Museum

Because of one’ girl’s excitement (and the need for bathroom breaks) one family stops at the Barbie Museum where they get the full museum experience – discussions on revisionist history, animated interactives, even a gift shop!


Comedians Give Tour of Portland Art Museum, or This is the Next Room Full of Paintings


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