If a contractor drops a tool during extensive conservation work, and there's a guided hard hat tour near by, does anyone hear it?
Someone has blamed us of “only announcing you were closed on social media when it was pretty much your opening time".
On the one hand, do you not check opening hours before driving for miles at Easter?
On the other, have we fallen down here?
Tomorrow (September 13th) is Ask A Curator Day, and it’s a chance for people inside and outside of collections, museums, galleries and heritage venues to connect and chat - with an impressive 1519 museums taking part!
It can be a good way to educate people on what curators actually do, open minds about what your collection holds and how it can be relevant. It can be a fun way to share and explore. Sometimes, the questions asked can lead to rethinking what visitors are interested in and would like to know more about.
You’ll find #AskACurator being used on Instagram and twitter, so have a look, and see what is being nattered about.
If you want to see who is taking part, or be more involved (last minute!) see the details and sign your venue up here: http://www.mardixon.com/wordpress/askacurator-who-to-ask-sept-14-2016/
Welcome to front of house work with mandatory uniform selected for you by people who don't have to wear it themselves.
A seperate issue was when new shirts were introduced.
White, sort of like school uniform, and obligating the female staff to almost always wear a jumper over, or vest under their shirt, or have their bra visible through the material.
Winter nights have drawn in, and many museums and houses are using the dark hours to run dark events - ghost hunts, bat watches, lantern making... So when a photography club emailed an "Elizabethan House" about some night time photography, staff replied to them, willing to help plan an after hours visit.
I know about this because the photography club's response to this plan was apparently so unpleasant, that the house's staff compiled a joke letter, and then wanted to share it with you all.
It is easy for us, within our institutions, with our detailed knowledge of how they function, to scoff at public misunderstanding about their inner workings. We have a duty to educate and inform the public not only about historic sites, but also the surprising ongoing costs just to maintain the status quo, let alone develop them.
Aaaaaalllthough... Staff frustration is very understandable when someone expects to bring 8 to 15 people on a special out of hours visit, paying less for the whole group than is usually paid for one person!
And they then threaten to break into your venue.
Read on to see the full image sent to me of the venue's mock letter.
And do watch out for that box hedge!
I was recently involved in a discussion about "Things no one told you before you started working in a museum”.
It made me wonder: What would I tell myself if I could go back?
I wouldn't want to put the younger me off working in museums, galleries or heritage sites, but perhaps guide them a bit in what to expect. The ten points here may not be the most vital and key things to know, but they are things I wish I'd been prepared for!
Although at least when people ask this, however daft it may seem, it's better than people in the supermarket asking us where items are - because wearing black trousers and a coloured polo shirt MUST make us staff for the venue. No one would ever pop into a shop on their lunch break from work without first getting changed into distinctive civvies!
A previous venue I worked at had some offices in the older refurbished areas of the building, as well as the newly built extension. They were cramped, but very beautiful as a work space. One staff member had regular "visitors", as her office was the first door at the very top of the main stair case.
To get to the top of the stairs, people had to actively climb over or unclip two rope barriers, and squeeze around or move a Private sign on a freestanding post.
On one occasion, she had to ask a visitor if they would delete the photo they had just taken of her sitting at her desk.
Recently I visited a lot of venues over three days. At Westminster Abbey, Apsley House, HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms we were given hand held audio guides which worked with varying degrees of success. We noticed that wherever they were being 'successfully' (extensively) used, they turned most visitors into zombies. My travelling companion made the observation in the cartoon above.
I know that audio guides are a good way to control visitor flow and visit times, ensuring people get an overview while also pushing them through sites at a suitable speed. They can provide a reliable service not always possible unless you employ a large pool of highly trained staff, such as language options, BSL on video screens, child friendly tours. They can be a flexible tool, such as at Apsley House, offering visitors a choice of tours depending on their specific interests. They allow historical venues to be free from obtrusive signs. From the visitor's point of view, their experience can also be enhanced by a good audio guide, with music, interviews from behind the scenes staff, and video clips.
However, using so many audio guides in a short time highlighted two - to me - unpleasant side effects. The first is how much people were attuned only to the audio guide, to the detriment of all else. The second was the isolation of the user.
If your venue has ever installed a cabinet large enough to fit a human being in, you will probably be familiar with the urge to "try it on for size". It's the museum and art gallery staff equivalent to a cat having to sit in a cardboard box. You're not sure why, but that cabinet calls to something in your genes, and you want to know what your exhibited artifacts feel like when they're on that side of the glass.
Since managers don't always appreciate this vital part of the installation process, and may even take umbrage at something they signed off thousands of pounds on being used to raise staff morale, the sixth sense of middle-management is key in knowing when it's safe to show off the new cabinet.
Smarter venue management know that this stage of a large cabinet can sometimes be a great opportunity for your social media and website.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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