The Ladies’ Monthly Museum


Ah, the Magazines section of a bookstore is a beautiful, wonderful place. Beautiful in the sense that you can read about wolves in National Geographic, then hop over to HOW Magazine for a tutorial in current typographical trends. There are pretty clothes, muscle cars, floral arrangements, and heated political debate all in one place.

In a perfect world, I would be the proud possessor of a gagillion magazine subscriptions. I would have my own bookstore Magazine section in the comfort of my home. But, this is not a perfect world. I am on a very tight budget and have a fear of being featured on that depressing Hoarders show on A&E, so only a handful of subscriptions is feasible.

Today, as I was debating which publications to subscribe to, I came across a delightful intersection of magazines and museums. Bearing the lengthy, but ambitious, title of The Ladies’ Monthly Museum, Or, Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction, I had to know more.

Turns out, The Ladies’ Monthly Museum was a leading women’s periodical published between 1798 and 1832. During its tenure, the New York Stock Exchange was founded, the Reign of Terror started and ended, the Louisiana Purchase was purchased, the slave trade was abolished in Britain, and Napoleon rose and fell from power. In other words, it was a busy time and an important time in world history.

While I don’t know if The Ladies’ Monthly Museum dove into these domestic and international events with any depth, I do know that they were making history in their own small way. The Monthly Museum was the first women’s periodical to feature colored engravings, which appeared in their “Cabinet of Fashion” section (the name was drawn from the term “Cabinet of Curiosities” that was the popular phrase for museum collections of the age). In addition to fashion, the magazine also published short stories and poems by female authors, profiled celebrated British women of the day, featured articles on such topics like the founding of the Bluestocking Society, and provided entertaining and educational tidbits to turn avid readers into exceptional conversationalists.

Unfortunately, in spite of over three decades of successful publication, The Ladies’ Monthly Museum underwent a series of mergers with other periodicals before eventually disappearing altogether. Nevertheless, 178 years after its final issue, the magazine still resonates in the fields of publishing and women’s studies. It even has connections to the museum world, I mean, at the end of the day what museum is not a Repository for Amusement and Instruction?


Let’s Go to the Movies


The Oscars are over. However, even though the awards have all been given out and Best and Worst Dressed have been announced, you might still have movies on the brain. Well, fear not film fanatics, your need for an Oscar fix can still be satiated – at least through April 18.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka the Folks Behind the Oscars) was founded in 1927 and has grown from 36 founders to over 6,000 honorary members. Bearing the mission of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures, the Academy awarded its first honorary membership to Thomas Edison. In addition to their prestigious list of members both past and current, the Academy is also the keeper of an impressive library and film archive.

How does this satisfy your Oscar fix you ask? Well, the Academy is currently playing host to two fascinating film-related exhibits at this very moment.

The More the Merrier: Posters from the Ten Best Picture Nominees, 1936-1943

If you were paying attention to something other than the dresses this year, you may have heard that it was an historic Oscars before Bigelow became the first female to win Best Director. From the Academy’s founding through 1944, there was anywhere between three and twelve Best Picture nominees at the annual awards ceremony. However, in 1944, the amount was capped at five nominees. This year, for those of you playing at home, there were 10.

The More the Merrier showcases campaign art from the films nominated during the eight consecutive years that 10 films were up for the big prize. Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, A Star is Born, and a rare original painting for Gone With the Wind are all on display in this exhibit. Whether you’re nostalgic for the “Golden Age” of film, a general movie lover, or interested in seeing some of the (arguably) best movie posters ever created, then you should really swing by.

Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward

A touring exhibition – it will also make stops in Wisconsin, London, and San Francisco – Star Quality puts the talents and tales of the playwright, director, actor, composer, and artist on never-before-seen display. Time magazine once described Coward as having “a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise,” while others praise his noted wit and charm. Even Coward himself said: “Star Quality: I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got it.” The photos, audio and visual clips, costume designs, sheet music, letters, playbills, and Coward’s famous silk dressing gown assembled in The Academy’s Fourth Floor Gallery seek to reflect and describe how the man came to be such an icon of popular culture.

So, film fanatics, get thee to Hollywood, these exhibits are too good to miss.


The Tipping Point


Over at the American Association of Museums’ Emerging Museum Professionals ListServ, there has been a debate brewing. The issue:

If a museum docent/tour guide/attendant receives a tip from a visitor, should they be allowed to keep it?

I must confess that is not an issue that I had given much thought to before. However, after reading the responses, there have been some interesting arguments raised. Most people agreed that asking for tips lacked class, while some thought tips (whether solicited or not) were completely inappropriate for a museum employee. Someone made an intellectual property argument, and others discussed the possibility of encouraging the tipper to make it a museum donation instead. Ultimately, it seemed that the very reason behind why people choose to work in a museum was at the heart of the debate.

Some interesting highlights include:

  1. “In the museum field we are usually subject to intellectual property rules and that the information you impart on your tour is owned by the museum you work for and therefore tips on such should also go to them.”
  2. “It is reasonable to assume that if a visitor wants to donate to the museum, they will do so (and may have already done so, and in turn will receive the tax deduction they would expect as a donor), and if they want to show appreciation to the guide, they will do that. It is also reasonable to assume the visitor would rather have the control over where the tip goes, and may feel resentment towards a museum that takes tips away from its employees (if they were privy to that knowledge).  So, if a museum values a donor’s intent, they would either let the guide keep the tips, or verbalize the tip-donation practice into the tour at some point.  To do otherwise would be dishonest, so my museum-going sources say.”
  3. “If I had offered someone a tip and they then handed it to the organization they worked for, I would be angry that my money wasn’t given to the person who deserved it. It’s a pretty bogus standard.”
  4. “You are either getting paid to do your tour or you are a volunteer and get personal satisfaction for doing the tour. You should do a good job because you have pride in yourself and your museum. Expecting a tip is like paying for a smile as one blogger put it.”
  5. “It seems rather unethical for a museum to let you accept tips, but then turn around and require you to donate the money back to them. And, tipping is not a matter of who owns the information intellectually, but instead is given for the quality of the delivery of the tour–it doesn’t matter if you had a script, you still have to be personable, accurate, engaging, etc.”
  6. “Generally, the guide is provided the tools (i.e. training) to make the museum “come alive” by the museum educators. Also, if monetary gain is a large incentive for someone, that person may wish to re-evaluate their choice to pursue a career in the museum profession.”
  7. “What is a typical tip? A dollar or two? Let’s not conflate thinking you might be permitted to keep a couple of dollars with being money hungry. I feel like this is a case of museums putting their mission on a pedestal. Workers in other professions can accept tips or expect pay in line with their skill/education level but if you’re a museum professional you have to be doing it for love alone. You can’t even hint you might like to keep your dollar or that you feel like you deserve to be paid well without being told you should reevaluate your priorities.”

I am inclined to agree most with #2, #3, #5, and #7. The idea that museums “own” the information in a tour bothers me a bit. Museums should not operate under the belief that they “own” the information, it is their job to hold items in the public trust and educate the public about those items.  As noted in #2 and #3, if a visitor is aware that they can leave a donation to the museum if they choose, but tip a docent for a particularly excellent experience anyway, that money is meant for the docent, not the museum. Finally, #7 strikes a cord with me, as I am sure it does with a number of underpaid museum employees out there. Yes, being an employee in a museum often means sacrificing financially for a chance to do what you love, but that argument only goes so far. If you did a great job, and a visitor chooses to recognize that, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

In the end, my response would be:

If a museum docent/tour guide/attendant receives a tip from a visitor, they should a) inform the visitor that tips are neither expected nor required and b) that the visitor can offer the tip as a donation to the museum rather than a tip to the individual if they so choose. If the visitor still insists on giving the tip to the docent, then all’s well that end’s well.

What do you think?

Check out what the ladies at Museos Unite think here.

Photo Gallery

Andrew Wyeth Is Not That Bad…

“There’s nothing like the isolating bleakness of long-term joblessness to make people finally appreciate Andrew Wyeth.”

– Samantha Park, a fictional Feed-Drier Tender in The Onion. Funny segment, check it out here.

The Collection

on demand

Architecture Now! Didn’t hear a please in there.

The Collection

beachfront history

Museum Island.

The Collection


The Art of the Steal in review.