I'm A Museum Person

I’m A Museum Person: Lisa Junkin

Jane Addams by bluebike via Flickr.

My name is Lisa Junkin, and I’m a Museum Person.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I work at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, IL. I manage a staff of museum educators and organize public programming and special projects. My ongoing projects there include a film series about sex, tours of an urban farm, facilitated dialogs about immigration, and a history project with a local gang. I hail from Virginia, and I worked at a few great museums in Washington D.C. before completing a master’s degree in arts education here in Chicago.

When I’m not thinking about museums (rare), I’m volunteering with a food co-op and making ceramic sculpture. I sporadically tweet about museums @ljunkin

Why do museums matter to you?

Museums are special places. We go to socialize, to learn, and to be exposed to new ideas. For me, museums are communal spaces, where I interact with the ideas of others through art, history, science, and more.

Part of what makes museums invaluable is what I call “the thrill of the real”… the experience of visiting a museum is something different than what can be offered by schools, digital media, most other sites of learning. That said, I think museums have done a poor job of making themselves available to broad audiences. I would like for more museums function as thrillingly accessible spaces for talking, eating, playing, thinking, and making, in addition to looking and learning.

What is your favorite museum memory?

During high school I spent some Saturdays wandering the galleries at the Hirshhorn Museum (where I later interned!) just to be surrounded by weird art that I didn’t understand. I also have an early childhood memory of seeing that giant whale on the ceiling at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum and feeling really small.

What museum would you love to visit?

I’ve heard wonderful things about the District Six Museum in Cape Town. Like Hull-House, they are a member of a neat organization called the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

District 6 Museum by thomas sly via Flickr.

What is your dream museum job?

I always wanted to become a director, though once I learned how much fundraising is involved, the novelty wore off.

When you think of the perfect exhibit, what is in it?

Something that surprises the audience and gets them talking. Some kind of participatory activity. Links between past and present. Poetically written labels. Fabulous design. And cool artifacts! Perhaps supplemented by a tour, led by a clever docent?

What is the most random item you have bought from a museum gift shop?

I’m a sucker for weird postcards. Recently a friend in London bought me the perpetual postcard calendar and a carefully curated selection of postcards from the Tate Modern. Some are mildly inappropriate. I love them all.

Romanian Stamps Postcard by KLMircea via Flickr.

To test your museum knowledge, what cities are the following museums in? The High Museum of Art, the Experience Music Project, Musee de la Civilisation, the Courtauld Gallery, and the Kuntskammer.

  • High Museum of Art: Atlanta!
  • The Experience Music Project: Seattle!
  • Musee de la Civilisation: I said Paris. Google said Quebec.
  • The Courtauld Gallery: London!
  • The Kunskammer: Apparently St. Petersburg. I’m feeling like I should have known that one.

You may have heard of the Month at the Museum contest recently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. What museum would you move into for a month if you could?

The Louvre. Though I probably came close to that when I lived in Paris for a few months and spent serious amounts of time there.

Out of all the museums you have visited so far, which is your favorite?

There’s a special place in my heart for the Musee d’Orsay.

What is the most bizarre museum you have visited?

The Museum of Holography (Chicago) is on my list to visit. Who’s in?

There seem to be a million books and movies set in museums. Do you have a favorite?

Are there? Well, it’s definitely not Night at the Museum.

Photo by gracewells533 via Flickr.

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Thanks to Lisa for sharing her experiences. If you’re interested in participating in the “I’m A Museum Person” series, send us an email at editor@museumist.com, and we’ll get your story up on the site.

This Week in History

I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

The year is 1886, and a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia decided March 29th would be a good day to make history. The pharmacist’s name was John Pemberton, and he made history by brewing the first batch of that bubbly beverage: Coca-Cola.

Apparently, Pemberton (who was wounded in the Civil War) had a taste for morphine, and his addiction led him to experiment with coca. Eventually he was marketing coca-infused wine for ladies with “nervous dispositions.” Since, Pemberton wasn’t the only addict floating around the Atlanta area, the government in Fulton County decided to enact prohibition laws to nip that problem in the bud. Ever the enterprising fellow, John went about adapting his coca beverage into a non-alcoholic drink, and Coca-Cola was the result.

Photo by KB35 via Flickr.

Now, the easiest way to celebrate Coke’s birthday is to scoot on over to the vending machine and have one for yourself. But, I’m not much of a soda pop drinker, so I thought I would offer up some museum offerings for carbonated beverage enthusiasts.

  • The World of Coca-Cola is one of Atlanta’s top tourist attractions, and it’s filled to the brim with Coke memorabilia, a loveable polar bear mascot, a bar where you can sample Coca-Cola products, and an opportunity to experience the bottling process.
  • Elizabethtown, Kentucky is home to the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia. The real selling point is the on-site soda fountain.
  • Celebrate another Coke landmark in Vicksburg at the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, which marks the site where Pemberton’s invention was first bottled.
  • The Soda Museum (formerly known as Butch’s Coca-Cola Museum) in Marietta, Ohio has a Coke memorabilia collection dating back to the 1920s.
  • Finally, although not specifically dedicated to Coca-Cola, the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising in Millersville, Tennessee is quite the destination. They boast to having the world’s largest collection of beer and soda cans.

I'm A Museum Person

I’m A Museum Person: Sarah Stierch

The National Mall. Photo by Rob Shenk via Flickr.

My name is Sarah Stierch, and I’m a Museum Person.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m currently a Masters student in George Washington University’s Museum Studies program, slated to graduate in 2012. I arrived in the museum world after working many years in the retail and cosmetics industry, deciding to obtain my undergrad and explore opportunities in history, art and culture – three things that often culminate in the museum world. My interest and passion lies in research – I have a curatorial background working in the private sector of fine art and I love sharing of information and working to provide opportunities for those who have not had the chance to have their voices heard.

Work wise I provide historical and cultural research services for private and public institutions. Currently I am providing research services to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, working with a remarkable team to research and utilize the great fine art collection that will be exhibited upon opening on the National Mall in 2015.

My main research work involves Wikipedia and opportunities to utilize the free encyclopedia and other open-source web 2.0 interfaces in museum, curatorial, cultural, collections and conservation practices. Specifically in public art and Indigenous communities. My current goal with my research is to become the first Wikipedian-in-Residence in a Washington based institution.

I live and work in Washington, D.C. and when not geeking out over research I love traveling near and far, eating and drinking great things, collecting art by emerging artists, exploring the monuments, museums and landscape of the District, taking photographs and listening to tons of music…oh, and I live with a fabulous cat named Mersey.

Why do museums matter to you?

Aside from playing the role as repositories for cultural objects and ideals, museums have provided myself and so many others rare opportunities to explore art, history and culture in many arenas. As a young person born and raised in Indianapolis, a city with amazing institutions such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (among others), I was lucky to not only have internationally acclaimed institutions at my reach, but, a family who loved to travel to historic sites, museums and places. These trips and places helped shaped not only who I am and how I think as an adult, but, provided the influence for me being where I am in my life – which ten years ago I never thought would be possible. And now I have the opportunity to do with museums for others what museums did for me, or, at least I hope.

What is your favorite museum memory?

I have a few…

1) When I was a kid I was in the Museum Apprentice Program at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. This experience changed my life – I worked in the nature area handling snakes (I remember the king snake named Elvis!) and other animals for visitors to pet, then, when that area closed I got to open the exhibit called “What If…?” (it no longer exists). That area had an oceanography themed area, and two of my favorite “kid topics” – ancient Egypt (with the mummy Wenuhotep) and dinosaurs. It was the coolest thing ever in my mind, and I got to meet one of my idols – paleontologist Jack Horner. He autographed all my books. That MAP program and the opportunities it gave me as a young person changed my life, and I credit it for being one of the reasons I’m in the museum world today.

2) From day one of getting a car at 16 I practically lived at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, up until leaving Indianapolis. One year about 50 of us gathered on the grounds, having a picnic surrounded by the gardens and sculptures. Playing bocce ball in front of the Lilly House is a memory I’ll never forget.

3) There’s also the first time I went to the Phillips Collection. It was a religious experience. The Rothko room and Miro’s The Red Sun. Just remarkable.

Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo by Serge Melki via Flickr.

What museum would you love to visit?

The Heard Museum in Phoenix.

What is your dream museum job?

Curatorial work. Again, I love sharing information and working with others to examine and exhibit that information with the public. I also do not want to weigh out opportunities in higher level administration or perhaps working at a non-profit gallery environment as well.

When you think of the perfect exhibit, what is in it?

That’s a rather broad question, I really can’t give a solid answer without getting overly theoretical or frustrated. I must say, in regards to the art world – we now have Thornton Dial feet away from Alexander Calder, things are changing, albeit slowly. I hope I live to see the day when Rick Bartow hangs next to Cy Twombly at a major institution. Overall, there can never be a perfect exhibit, in my opinion.

Who is the funnier museum twitterer…@SUEtheTrex or @NatHistoryWhale?

I don’t follow either. Guess I should now! Museum geek #fail!

What is the most random item you have bought from a museum gift shop?

Historical societies and county museums generally have some weird stuff. I bought a postcard of the world’s largest oldest edible cured ham at the Isle of Wight County Museum and a stuffed pig made out of Smithfield Ham packaging.

Cured Ham. Photo by WordRidden via Flickr.

To test your museum knowledge, what cities are the following museums in? The High Museum of Art, the Experience Music Project, Musee de la Civilisation, the Courtauld Gallery, and the Kuntskammer.

The High is in Atlanta. EMP is in Seattle. I have no clue about the other three without cheating. Boooooo….guess I need to revisit “Museology 101.”

You may have heard about the Month at the Museum contest recently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. What museum would you move into for a month if you could?

I always wanted to be like Lisa Simpson when she runs away from home and lives in a museum. I’d say the Exploratorium. Those poor people would come into the museum and find crazy interactives that have little scientific value built by yours truly. Or the Met, so I can photograph everything they have and persuade them to release the images into the Creative Commons world.

Out of all the museums you have visited so far, which one is your favorite?

Evil question! Just one? HA! I spent a month interning at Colonial Williamsburg. My internship there changed my life, and makes major impacts on peoples lives in so many ways. I love that place. The American Indian Initiative is groundbreaking and the memories I have from there are invaluable, while there is always room to critique, there are efforts to make a real difference in public history, programming and community involvement. And from a purely fun stand point – an excuse to drink beer out of giant stoneware mugs, say hello to Martha Washington and boo Benedict Arnold is totally awesome. Then, there is the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Whitney. I love those places.

Colonial Williamsburg. Photo by Serge Melki via Flickr.

What is the most bizarre museum you have visited?

I suppose the Mutter, at this point. That place is educational and nauseating at the same time. They also have a great gift shop.

There seem to be a million books and movies set in museums. Do you have a favorite?

I don’t really read much fiction…but oh man, I love Woody Allen films, and in Manhattan.. it’s so classic. I wonder if Woody Allen is a member of the Guggenheim?

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Thanks to Sarah for sharing her experiences. If you’re interested in participating in the “I’m A Museum Person” series, send us an email at editor@museumist.com, and we’ll get your story up on the site.

Marketing

Museums Hardcore

This clever Museums Hardcore campaign is making its way around the Internet. It compares our modern day celebrities to figures from the past, when men were men and parrots were vulgar. Besides the Andrew Jackson offering above, there are currently only two other posters in the Cargo Collective series: Teddy Roosevelt vs. 50 Cent in the Battle of the Bullets, and Genghis Kahn shows Bret Michaels that the Rock of Love Bus is nothing compared to a couple continents of women.

We hope that more posters are soon to come. What two figures would you feature in a future Museums Hardcare campaign?

Photo Gallery

An Idea of What the Sun is Like

The Red Room by Henri Matisse.

“People have said of Matisse that before him all painting was dark, and this may be false and unjust, but the important thing is that they have said it, that beside Matisse, van Gogh turns black, and Renoir, and Monet, and Turner…There are painters who have had this glory, this role of dazzling men for at least half a century, men who see nothing in their work but the light. They are like a window opening in the night of humanity, and from them young men get an idea of what the sun is like.”

– Louis Aragon from the preface to the exhibition catalogue of the 1948 Matisse retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I'm A Museum Person

I’m A Museum Person: Marcus A. Harshaw Jr.

Cincinnati Museum Center. Photo by mandiraj via Flickr.

My name is Marcus Harshaw Jr., and I’m A Museum Person

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the current Manager of Special Exhibits at Cincinnati Museum Center. Prior I worked for the Indiana State Museum in Program Facilitation. I’ve managed staffing and/or programming for great exhibit projects like Speed, Dinosaurs Unearthed, America I AM, The Art of Caring, and Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt. I’ve been involved with museums since 2005.

Why do museums matter to you?

Museums matter to me because they provide the communities they serve so much more than a building full of old stuff. They provide stories, interaction, a place to be inquisitive, a place to learn, a place to enjoy with family and friends, and a place to have fun!

What is your favorite museum memory?

My favorite museum memory is seeing Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption. It is the exhibit that inspired me to get into museum work.

Scenes from Pompeii. Photo by archer10 via Flickr.

What museum would you love to visit?

The Brooklyn Museum and the British Museum.

What is your dream museum job?

Vice President of Exhibits.

When you think of the perfect exhibit, what is in it?

The right amount of artifacts, great stories, fun interactives, and engaging staff and volunteers.

Who is the funnier museum twitterer…@SUEtheTrex or @NatHistoryWhale?

Out of those two, definitely @SUEtheTrex, but the @ChicagoLions from the Art Institute of Chicago are hilarious too.

What is the most random item you have bought from a museum gift shop?

The toothpaste jar replica from the Titanic: The Exhibition when it was at COSI Columbus. I usually stick to magnets.

Toothpaste container from the Titanic.

To test your museum knowledge, what cities are the following museums in?

  • The High Museum of Art – Denver, Colorado. Get it? Mile High, right?
  • The Experience Music Project – Nashville, Tennessee. My first guess was Cleveland, but that’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.
  • Musee de la Civilasation – Quebec City, Quebec. For some reason this doesn’t sound France-French to me.
  • Courtauld Gallery – London, England. I’m just guessing, it’s spelled British-y.
  • Kuntskammer – St. Petersburg, Russia. My nickname isn’t Czarshaw for nothing!

You may have heard of the Month at the Museum contest recently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. What museum would you move into for a month if you could?

I would totally live at the Smithsonian or the Louvre for a month.

Out of all the museums you have visited so far, which one is your favorite?

My favorite! Just one? I love the Field Museum, the Museum of Art in Boston, and the National Constitution Center.

What is the most bizarre museum you have ever visited?

I visited a shoe museum in Southern France. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh can be bizarre in a good way though.

Shoe sculpture in Romans-sur-Isere, home of the International Shoe Museum. Photo by jean-louis zimmerman via Flickr.

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Thanks to Marcus for sharing his experiences. If you’re interested in participating in the “I’m A Museum Person” series, send us an email at editor@museumist.com, and we’ll get your story up on the site.

Events

Museum March Madness

Photo via Sunsurfer.tumblr.com.

It’s March. The time of year for binge drinking in Cancun, unseasonably warm days when skin that hasn’t seen the sun for several months is blindingly revealed to the world, and even the moon is acting a little wonky*. (*It’s almost in perigee and looks larger than usual, just check out the photo above). Essentially it’s a month of crazy behavior, where the coming of Spring whips everyone into a frenzy, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament affectionately known as “March Madness.”

Chances are you know someone currently in the throws of Bracketology, mourning the unexpected win of Morehead State over Louisville or telling anyone who will listen that Kansas has what it takes to win the whole thing this year. Chances are equally high that you or an acquaintance just isn’t into this whole basketball thing. But fear not, there is common ground for sports lovers and for those who didn’t know that San Diego State had a basketball team, and that place is the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The National Constitution Center is currently offering up a competition soaked in well over 200 years of history (take that NCAA!), and they want everyone to take part.

The Tournament of Presidents is a distinguished pool of 32 of America’s most revered Commanders in Chief vying for the title of Most Popular President of the United States.

Will we have a final matchup of George Washington vs. FDR? Or will dark horse Woodrow Wilson go deep in this tournament? With early round contests against Polk, Hayes, and Garfield, Lincoln has an easy route to the Elite Eight, and some think Reagan has the sentimental vote to make a name for himself. If you feel strongly for William Henry Harrison, sorry, he’s not in the running this year. But, Chester Arthur fans should head to the National Constitution Center’s blog to fill out a bracket of their own.

May the best president win.

I'm A Museum Person

I’m A Museum Person: Amanda Fruta

Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Photo by cfwee via Flickr.

My name is Amanda Fruta, and I’m a Museum Person.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the smiley Admissions and Membership Coordinator at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. I think art education and public art outreach can change the world, but I get distracted by my passionate mission in life when I get stuck in pile sales at vintage stores or gazing into a kitten’s eyes. I recently rediscovered my love for printmaking after dabbling in a strange collage-assemblage hybrid. In public high school, I had to choose between art and music, so I became a jazz singer for a few years. Since, I’ve returned to my first love – visual art and communication. I’m a commuter and a moonlighter (freelance personal shopping blogger).

Craft and Folk Art Museum. Photo via LA Facades.

Why do museums matter to you?

They allow lights to go on in people’s minds when they are vulnerable to open mindedness. Experiencing art in a collective space offers a special opportunity for discourse of the most important social questions. Most of all, they connect people.

What is your favorite museum memory?

It’s a tie.

1) The rushing moment of realization that I’d been at Barnsdall Art Park before. On my first day of work at age 21, I flashed back to hammering a leather bracelet on the grassy knoll of Olive Hill at the Barnsdall Art Park art festival at age five.

2) Crying at the Guggenheim, NY upon experience the full scale, grandeur, and downright divinity of Kandinsky’s Compositions.

Painting with Green Center by Kandinsky. Photo by TheNose via Flickr.

What museum would you love to visit?

All of them? Domestic: Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, and MOMA. International: I WILL see the Uffizi this fall!

What is your dream museum job?

Used to be Head Curator (surprise, surprise), now something like a Public Exhibitions Designer or Traveling Art Critic.

When you think of the perfect exhibit, what is in it?

Something that inspires a profound revelation on a personal level that connects dots I didn’t know could be connected. A wonderfully structured story is always appreciated.

What is the most random item you have bought from a museum gift shop?

A holographic deck of cat cards.

You may have heard of the Month at the Museum contest recently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. What museum would you move into for a month if you could?

Not exactly a museum, but the Gaudi Casa Batllo would be a dream come true.

Gaudi Casa Batllo. Photo by Alaskan Dude via Flickr.

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Thanks to Amanda for sharing her experiences. If you’re interested in participating in the “I’m A Museum Person” series, send us an email at editor@museumist.com, and we’ll get your story up on the site.

Gift Shop

Souvenir Silhouette

Via Country Living Magazine

It seems that silhouette art is having a bit of a comeback. Outlines of people, objects, and animals are popping up in wall art, bookmarks, stationary, and even surfboards. Personally, I rather like the trend. The images hearken back to times past and they are a blend of classy and whimsy in one. However, it wasn’t until today that I discovered that silhouette art has a museum connection.

Today, I found myself at the small but well-cared for Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, PA. Hidden amongst the period furnishings, Underground Railroad artifacts, and agricultural images was a random fact straight out of museum history.

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Charles Wilson Peale

At the beginning of the 1800s, Charles Wilson Peale opened the Philadelphia Museum, which was one of America’s first institutions of its kind. Later renamed the Peale Museum, his collection of natural history specimens was internationally renowned – the mammoth bones in particular drew significant attention. However, in spite of its popularity, America’s first museum faced the same issues that modern day organizations grapple with: lack of funding.

In order to make up for the lack of government funding, Peale was forced to resort to some creative ways of bringing in revenue (sound familiar anyone?). One such measure was silhouette art. People would come to the Peale Museum to have their silhouette taken, paid a small fee, and journeyed home with a treasured souvenir. Essentially, silhouette art was the predecessor to the world of museum souvenirs. That Mold-o-Rama gorilla you have from that trip to the zoo, a pressed penny that you had to pay a quarter for, your witty t-shirt from the science center you once visited, and even the David magnet on your fridge from your time in Florence – all of these wacky and wonderful momentos from your museum experiences can be traced back to outlines of 19th century ladies.

Museum Souvenir

Now, I am not saying modern day museum souvenirs are any less important to their owners than Peale’s offerings, but silhouette art seems much more personal than a History of Art coffee mug. Which leaves me wondering: are there currently any museums that offer one of a kind souvenirs like the silhouette art of old?

This Week in History

This Week in History: The State of Lobsters

Photo by brentdanley via Flickr.

1820 was an eventful year. King George IV took the throne in England, the Venus de Milo was found, Susan B. Anthony and Florence Nightingale were born, Daniel Boone died, and there was a revolt in Guatemala. However, on this date in 1820, there was a momentous event that changed the course of American history: the Missouri Compromise. This compromise essentially outlined where slavery would and would not be allowed in the western territories. In order to maintain the fragile balance between slave states and free, Maine gained statehood as a member of the anti-slavery contingent.

Maine is a land known for its cold winters, delicious lobster, and, as I can personally testify, a rather bloodthirsty swarm of mosquitoes. Pay a visit to Maine and you might find yourself along rocky coastline or pine-filled forests, in populated Portland or on a remote island. There are blueberry fields and microbreweries, and more than a fair few writers have called this easternmost state home.

The Pine Tree State is more than just pretty scenery, fresh seafood, and Stephen King stories, though. It also happens to be home to some impressive – and occasionally odd – museums. So, in honor of Maine’s 191st birthday, here are some of the state’s museums that should be on your “to visit” list…

Portland Museum of Art. Photo by pov_steve via Flickr.

  • Get better acquainted with the state’s history at the Maine State Museum.
  • Despite the fact that 90% of Maine is covered in forest, the water and the seafaring way of life are an integral part of the state’s identity. Learn more about it at the Maine Maritime Museum or the Maine Lighthouse Museum.
  • Speaking of the water, a visit to the Mount Desert Oceanarium is in order. It houses the Maine Lobster Museum and a lobster hatchery.

Photo by shelley ginger via Flickr.

  • Many writers have called Maine home at some point in their careers, including Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Lois Lowry, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Pay homage to the state’s literary past with a visit to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.
  • When winter lasts as long as it does in Maine, you might as well make the most of it. The Ski Museum of Maine seeks to capture the snowy athletic pursuits through vintage memorabilia and artifacts.
  • Maine started out as an exclave of Massachusetts, which means there is some Revolutionary War history in these parts. Swing by the Burnham Tavern Museum for a dose of tri-cornered hat history.

Photo by dpstyles via Flickr.

  • If you are looking for something off the beaten path, pay a visit to the Umbrella Cover Museum on Peak’s Island.
  • If 600 umbrella covers isn’t obscure enough for you, perhaps a trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum is more your style. Bigfoot, mermaids, and other (mythical) beasts are on display for your enjoyment.

 

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