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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Warehouse 13 as a Museum #1

It’s no secret that one of my favorite television shows is Warehouse 13 (just read my first post, Wonder). It is smart, funny, has a heart, and often leads me down the history nerd rabbit hole. Warehouse 13 has an interesting way of presenting history — it does not always adhere to actual fact, but uses an empathetic fact and object lessons to help viewers feel the historical emotional truth that lies underneath.

Warehouse 13’s first episode starts off with an introduction to its two leads, Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), “coincidentally” inside a museum. They both work for the Secret Service, and are there to protect the President. I don’t want to spoil the whole story, but I will tell you that the events send the two agents to a new job — working for Warehouse 13.

The Warehouse is a repository of objects that have been effected by the historical people and events that they are connected to. From ancient history to modern history, from folklore to literary figures, if you like a period of history, it’s probably been mentioned in the series. Every object has been collected because it does something weird. From a chair that makes people act out their deepest (angry) desires to a teapot that puts people inside of video games, to a kettle that grants wishes (or creates ferrets), every object does something. Artie, the agent in charge of the Warehouse, describes it like this: imagine giving Thomas Jefferson a radio. What would he have done with it? Artie says that after studying it, Jefferson would have probably locked it away. This is what the Warehouse agents do: snag (collect artifacts), bag (diffuse them) and tag (basic accessions), the unofficial catchphrase of the series.

This leads to a few of my own wonderings about museums.

When we put objects inside of our museums, why are we putting them there? To protect them? To protect the story they tell? To retell their story? To share them with the public (obviously not what the Warehouse agents are doing)?

What do you think? What is the function of the museum in this day and age?

Warehouse 13 Returns Today!

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Warehouse 13 Returns today, so I am going to do a weekly post series about how the series talks about museums! See you later in the week!

Friday Finds (#9!)

This week, I’ve found:

1. Random Fact Collectors

At work we need to keep occupied when it’s slow. Recently we’ve kept busy through trivia questions. Hooray for trivia! I’ve discovered that I’m not the only random fact collector, which is great.

2. Interesting Marketing

I’m writing this post on the Metro, which means that I see a lot of ads. I’m fascinated by the National Aquarium’s tactics, which are semi-romantic in flavor. They say “Find someone special” and show two butterflyfish “kissing.” I’m now considering doing another date night there. Heh. I really like the National Geographic’s Birds of Paradise ad, because it has the same tone as the exhibit: scientific, but goofy.

3. Feathered Friends

I’m a big bird nerd, so I was very excited when I spotted a pair of house finches nesting at the museum.

4. Puppets

I am also a fan of Folkmanis puppets. The company’s puppets tend to be well made and very detailed animals. One of the nature centers I grew up in used them regularly. What a way to teach about nature! Five out of my seven were bought in museums.

What did you see in museums this week?

Found Things Friday (#8)

Spring break season is upon us now, which means lots of visitors, cute kids, and for my museum, a new entrance/ticket booth!

1. Open Hands, Open Heart

“Open hands, open heart” is my life’s philosophy. If my hands are open, I can help, which also opens them for receiving. This can be exemplified in a small moment that I had in the museum on Monday. One of my main responsibilities inside our Pirates exhibit is to keep visitors from touching the cannon. I saw an older couple with their hands all over one of the four cannon. Instead of immediately reprimanding them, like I usually do, I tried a redirect. “Are you looking for the F?” (there is a letter F on the trunnions of the first cannon). “Yes!” I showed the visitors where the F was, saying out loud that I was not going to touch the cannon because we are not supposed to. This then sparked a few questions, then a full conversation. I will not forget that moment because it exemplifies the open hands (helping them find the cannon), open heart (learning about redirection and appearing more open to the visitors while enforcing rules) philosophy.

2. Fear-Fighting Friendship

The biggest problem we have in Pirates is the fact that the exhibit is a bit scary for small children. On Wednesday, there was a little girl that was scared of part of the exhibit and didn’t want to enter it with her grandma. I waved, and offered to join them in their walk through the exhibit. The little girl was hesitant at first, but soon she was walking alongside me through the exhibit, and even waved to the mannequins when I waved to them (I greet them like old friends because they’re less scary that way). Once we passed the mannequins, she showed me her necklace — it was from her great grandma. I hovered as the girl and her grandma finished the exhibit, but they didn’t need me. The little girl had a brave companion, and I did, too.

3. Appearances

To tag along with the previous thing, I have used the appearance of bravery to help other small children be “brave” in going through our exhibits. If I am brave, then they wan to be, too.

Likewise, if your ticket booth looks professional and friendly, your visitors will treat you in a professional and friendly manner. We went from an outdoor plywood box to an indoor wood (bamboo) desk at work, and I cannot believe the difference! There are fewer complaints about prices (and they went up) and the museum in general. It feels like a museum, it looks like a museum, so by golly it must be a museum!

4. Spring Break!

In Washington, DC, if we’re lucky, spring break and the Cherry Blossoms appear around the same time. We’re lucky this year, which means that we’re topping 1000 visitors almost every day this week. It’s exhausting (500 on a weekend is a good weekend), but so fulfilling. The best part about spring break is that it’s short, meaning families are being much more intentional about their plans, which means that most of them already know about our exhibits (score!).

How has putting on brave appearances helped you at your museum? How do you help scared kids?

What have you found in a museum this week?

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