Seven Recent Reads 1/21/14


  1. “Recent Research on Museum Worker Well-Being: Are Museum Professionals Happy?” by Paul Thistle on his Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers ~ Help for fully loaded camels working in a rain of straws blog discusses research by Andrea Michelbach on full-time museum workers in Seattle. The survey found that the respondents were overall quite happy and fulfilled, but they struggle with simply not having enough time to do everything they are expected to do. On Twitter, a couple other museum people (including Michelbach) and I tossed around nuances that would be interesting for future study (full-time versus other worker classifications, government-run museums versus private, emerging professionals versus veterans in the field). I’ve also left some comments on the blog post itself. For now, I’ll segue into:
  2. “Smithsonian’s dinosaur hall to close April 28 for five-year renovation” by J. Freedom du Lac in the Washington Post.  To the detriment to children in their “magic years for dinosaur love,” the National Museum of Natural History’s Fossil Hall will close for renovation until 2019; visitors will meanwhile have access to a temporary exhibit on dinosaurs. Yes, five years is a long time; even fixing a Metro escalator takes less time. But given how time-deprived museum workers already are (see #1 above), the improvements probably can’t get done any faster with the resources currently available. And working with dinosaur bones is not something you want to rush: if you mess up, you can’t order or print extras.
  3. “Kelpies will encourage public art” by Tiffany Jenkins in the Scotsman discusses what should – and should not – be expected of public art. These works of art “have to say something meaningful about the place or the people where the work is situated, the work has to resonate with the public,” Jenkins writes. She continues, Many art works have attempted to do this literally and unimaginatively: such as fish sculptures or bird models in a seaside town.” I confess to liking Baltimore’s Fish Out of Water and Prince George’s County’s Birds-I-View, though honestly, I tend to like most statues and sculptures and murals that make one block different from the rest and keep the scenery interesting. This article probes more deeply into the purpose of public art.

    A Birds I View sculpture at Bladensburg Waterfront Park

    A Birds-I-View sculpture at Bladensburg Waterfront Park

  4.  “ ‘Flea market’ Renoir ordered back to Baltimore Museum of Art by federal judge” by Ian Shapira in the Washington Post. This bizarre story has a happy ending for the Baltimore Museum of Art, which has been reunited with the Renoir painting “On the Shore of the Seine,” which had been stolen in 1951.
  5. “Missouri History Museum acquiring collection of gay artifacts” by David Hunn in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  When future young people wonder how people ever could have discriminated against, hated, and killed others because of their sexual orientation or identity, the students will benefit from a museum field trip as part of their learning. Museums are starting to collect relevant artifacts now, to help tell the stories of victories and struggles in movements for equality.
  6. “Guiding Lies” by Sadie Dingfelder in the Washington Post’s Express centers on an interview with Robert Pohl, DC tour guide and author of Urban Legends and Historic Lore of Washington, DC. Pohl dispels six oft-repeated myths, which you can think about when you explain to your out-of-town guests why they can’t ride the Metro to a lobby on J Street in the swamps of Georgetown.
  7. “Seven game-changers who will transform the Washington scene in 2014” by various Washington Post writers. Among these influential figures are an art museum curator, a history and culture museum director, and a zoo star.
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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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