Museums

I’ve always enjoyed museums. I love history and art, so museums are right up my alley. I guess it’s a good thing since I now work in a museum. Before I started working full-time at my current museum, I don’t think I’d really ever thought about what went into the exhibits that you see in museums. Most museums have permanent exhibits that rarely change, but most also have changing exhibits. Those changing exhibits are a lot of work, something I had realized before I started helping install them.

What I really never realized is how much planning goes into creating an exhibit. Once you have a topic, then there is a lot of research to be done on both the topic and the objects to be put on display. Then the labels telling visitors about what is on display have to be written. Sometimes, those labels are what we call tombstone labels: object name, material, collection number, and how the museum acquired the object. Other labels are longer, interpretive labels which tell a fuller story of the object. These labels can be the most fascinating, but a lot of work goes into writing and researching them.

Until the current exhibit that we are installing, which will open early next month, I had only conducted minor research, written interpretive labels, and assisted with the installation. While our upcoming exhibit is mostly art and contains only a few interpretive labels, there is still a lot of work that goes into planning. Most of that work has fallen on me because the topic of the art in the exhibit is very similar to my dissertation research. Also, our other curator had left and our new one did not start until two and a half weeks ago. So, I’ve been planning paint colors for the gallery, choosing artwork to be featured and the frames for that artwork, and designing the layout of the exhibit. All of that has been in the planning stage for months. Now, comes the harder part: putting it all together.

Last week, we decided what paintings would go where, and yesterday we began hanging the artwork. By the way, there is a lot of math involved in hanging artwork, something I’m not good at. Thankfully, our new curator is. She is very precise, and she knows what she’s doing. It’s now all coming together, and it’s nice to see what had been in my head for months now in reality. There is still a lot to do, but we seem to be mostly on schedule, as long as we don’t get another 11.5” of snow that prevents most people from making it in to work. (knock on wood)

If you’ve never thought before about the installation process for the exhibits when you visit a museum, look around the exhibit and try to understand just how much hard work went into installing the exhibit that you are admiring. There are a lot of jobs out there that we don’t often appreciate how much work goes into them, which is why I am always as kind as I can be to waitstaff at a restaurant. I know they are working hard. This is alao why I hate the saying, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach.”

Teachers do far more work than most people think. A good teacher is always trying to anticipate their students needs and are constantly planning for their classes, and while most people think that teachers work from 8 am to 3 pm, the average person (and student) doesn’t realize that a teacher’s day begins well before they head to school and continues long after they get home. Most teachers get a one hour planning period each day, and while you can grade papers and prepare assignments during that hour, an hour is nowhere near long enough. Teachers often work well into the night getting everything done, and they often do it with low pay.

In other words, look around you today and realize just how much work the people around you are doing so that your day is a bit more enjoyable. Be considerate to others and appreciate all the people around you.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “Museums

  • Beau

    My mother was an elementary school teacher. One hour planning never happened during her working years. Many mornings she had bus duty, teaching, lunches were fast because order had to be maintained at the cafeteria, then bus duty many afternoons. parent meetings, grading papers well into the night. Her job required a bachelor’s degree and paid $1,200 a year in 1969 because teaching was “women’s work.” (She later earned her MEd and pay did improve.) Her last 15 years of teaching were part-time and when she retired, the school system hired 2 teachers full-time and one half-time to replace the work that she was doing part-time. Teaching was a hard, hard life and often thankless. She was really good at math and probably would have been a very good accountant, but teaching was her calling. Yes, be grateful for those whose giving is usually unacknowledged.

    • Joe

      While I know firsthand how difficult teaching middle and high school can be, especially with the behavior of teenagers these day, I have always been in awe of elementary school teachers. They usually teach every subject in a day, rarely get a break, and often have so many other duties that I can’t even name. Teachers are a precious asset and people should recognize that.

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