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Category Archives: Found Objects

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?

Friday Finds (#4)!

Hello all! How has your week been in your museum?

One of our two exhibits, 1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization, left this past Sunday. What a weekend we had! On Saturday we had 1,500 visitors, which meant our little museum was pretty packed! Since it left (and we only have one (ticketed) exhibit), we’ve had under 100 visitors each day. Talk about variability! We’ve found ways to keep entertained with trivia and counting games, which encourage us to pay attention to exhibit content. Let’s see what I’ve found this week:

1. When it Rains, it Pours
Have you ever noticed that on the days that museums get busy, they get really busy? Ours sure did! Questions of the same kind also seem to pile up — after a month of nobody asking me for a brochure, everyone wanted one! We also have a well-known speaker program through my organization, and our spring pamphlet just went out. Tonight’s wolf program sold out two weeks ago, but everyone wants a ticket now! I love how excited people are about our programs.

2. Autism in the Museum Blog
I am super excited about a blog I found this week: Autism in the Museum I really want to make our museum accessible for our autistic visitors and their families, and this looks like it will be a great resource.

3. Quiet Exhibit Fun!
It was very quiet in the museum Monday and Tuesday and we decided to learn more about the exhibit — we pcounted the number of screens (37) and stuffed birds (14) in our birds exhibit. It’s a super visual exhibit, and actually doesn’t have a lot of text. I like exhibits like it because they’re a little less visually exhausting (but I do miss having some text).

Got a favorite way your museum staff has fun when there are fewer visitors? Let me know in the comments!

Friday Finds (#3)

It’s Friday (night!) and what a long day it has been. Between the groups (8 scheduled, 6 visited) each with 50-100 students (and in one case, seniors), the ending of an exhibit, and after a long week… I’m ready for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we expect 6 groups and over 1000 visitors, when our museum does not often have over 1000 on a weekend. Yeah, it’s going to be exhausting. The good thing is that I’ve learned a WHOLE LOT this week alone, especially from the school groups.

Things I’ve found in the museum:

1. Things in Places They Should Not Be

I found a waterbottle and a packet inside one of our exhibit structures today. I once found a kid inside of the structure (he couldn’t reach over the wall to play the game, so he climbed inside of the game) when the exhibit first opened, but I’ve never had to climb inside of it to pull something out. Now I can say I’ve been inside of a game.

2. Kids Need Structure

I admire teachers for all that they do. Many of our visiting teachers are great, and I really admire what they do with their students. I also understand that they and the chaperons are sometimes unprepared for what they are going to do with the students inside of the museum. This is something that I try to absolve by introducing the exhibit through a conversation. First I ask the kids what they should do inside the museum. They answer, and I ask until we reach the most important answers. I then ask what they shouldn’t do in the museum. This usually gets more hands… and the most interesting answers. My “favorite” answer today was that they shouldn’t fight inside the museum (fourth grade girl, which made me wonder about what has happened in previous museum trips with this school). This prepares the kids because they are hearing it from each other. I had to return to one group recently to remind them how to behave at a museum. One chaperon gathered his designated group around to hear. This was great. Then, when I started talking, I realized that I had a cluster of elementary school kids surrounding me with big grins — not just because someone was paying attention to what was going on, but because someone had decided to take charge. This experience repeated itself three times today (one child even suggested how to get her classmates’ attention). Sometimes we had extra time between exhibits, so I asked the kids content-related but easy questions. They didn’t have packets, they didn’t have anyone telling them what to do, but these kids actually learned something! Woohoo! I still  believe that structured time would have been much more successful for our hundred-plus fifth grade students. What if their groups traded places with each other at each pod (location in the exhibit) at a certain time? Most of our exhibits are interactive/video based content, so that could be easily feasible. Structure probably would have prevented the bullying that I stopped outside the exhibit today, too.

 

3. City Access New York

My dream job would be to run public programs for children and adults with disabilities, as well as working with museums to make their spaces more inviting to those with disabilities. Yesterday I discovered City Access New York (http://www.cityaccessny.org). WOW! How did I not know this organization existed? It’s an organization/group that is dedicated to bringing visitors with disabilities to the museum. Does anyone know if there are any organizations like this in the Washington, DC area?

 

4. Staff

My museum is a unique museum because it is part of a much larger organization. We often have staff walking through the hallways between the two exhibits. Some have gotten to know us, and some haven’t. Today I was approached by multiple staff members about how busy we’ve been and I have been asked about what is coming in next. I love the fact that the other staff are taking an interest. It fosters and ownership that I did not see when I started working at the museum. I recently started my own mission when it came to the non-museum/non-exhibit staff: say hello to every one that passed my spot. I’m starting to see it work. A number of staff members that I say hello to are now replying, and I’m seeing them show visitors where to go. It’s amazing, beautiful, wonderful and I love my job so much more now, because I am seeing an impact that I am making on my museum.

 

5. Conversation of the day: 

[In elevator]

Staff member: Are you busy today?

Me: Yeah, we have a lot of large groups of kids today.

Staff member: I like large groups of kids.

[Exit elevator, walk out to main hall, where a ton of students are standing]

Staff member: I like small groups of kids!

 

6. Question of the day:

“Are the female birds (of paradise) all the same or are they different like the males?”

 

What have you found this week in your museum?

Friday Finds!

Welcome to Friday!

I’ve decided to start a new tradition: highlighting things that I’ve “found” inside museums. I hope to use an interactive, strange found objects, and maybe people.

1. Riflebird Bird of Paradise Kinetic Sculpture

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I LOVE this Riflebird sculpture found in the Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. Adults love it because of the vegetable steamer and the film reels in the wings, and kids live it because it moves. I like it for both reasons… and I just love riflebirds!

2. 3 Pieces of Yarn and a Plastic Bead

Sometimes, you know that you have lots of kids in a museum because of the large numbers of leftover pencils in the exhibits. On Wednesday, I found three inch-long pieces of pink yarn (a super soft yarn that I want to knit with) and a white pony bead.

3. Diversity

Without counting the kids, we have a diverse group of visitors. On Wednesday, we had four school groups. One school group was from a private Muslim school, one was a bilingual school, and the others were from inner city DC. We had a minimum of three languages represented just by the children alone.

4. My Director

The museum director visited the floor the other day to help out with the large number of kids in the museum. She also has helped us out with our 3D movies. I see her at least twice a week and just love the fact that she is so involved. She also volunteers her son to help us. I deeply respect her for her presence.

What have you found in your museum this week?

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