Author Topic: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff  (Read 11170 times)

Offline Mike

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Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« on: July 16, 2014, 12:26:17 AM »
It's past my bedtime, and I'm reading Seth Weiner's dissertation - "Save Our Ships: The Viability of Naval Vessels as Museum Exhibitions" - when I come across the following passage on page 26:
"Currently, no member of the Board of Trustees of the SMA I New Jersey Naval Museum is a trained museum professional, nor does any member have specialized knowledge of, or training in, 501c3 regulations or museum ethics."
http://scholarship.shu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2835&context=dissertations

Now, I am more likely going to have a LOT more questions later, but this intrigues me.
What exactly are the qualifications that most Board members have on the ships currently around? Curators? Directors?

Perhaps, the implied question I have is more along the lines of "what would I need to have to fill one of these positions?", as the end of my time wearing the Uniform is getting shorter and shorter and my question of "what next?" is a personal answer of "what is my passion - what is my interest?".
Is it an intangibly pertinent degree in something loosely associated with History? Or would it be the laser-beam focus of a degree in Museum studies? Both seem like they would be more helpful than nothing at all. Might it be merely a "drive" as one answer was recently returned?

The responses, I think, should be enlightening and will always be appreciated... :)

"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins

Offline MWALLEN

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2014, 08:40:28 AM »
It all depends on what your passion/interest is.

Do you want to manage?  Would you prefer a curator or director position?  Staff historian?  Answers to those should direct your degree program.  Here is my take and I'm not qualified beyond having some experience in volunteering at a museum...so here is a ground floor looking up view.

Manage/Director:  I would say museum studies + a healthy dose of business.  Sprinkle in some history classes.  Museums are a business designed to educate, but also to make money.

Curator:  heavy in museum studies + topical history in the field of your target museum.  Your job should be displays and acquisitions.

Staff Historian: Heavy in history, directed at what type of museum.  You don't want 18th Century European classes if you want to work at a WWII type museum.

More ramblings from the ground floor.  Solid education is key.  So is vision.  Throwing stuff out on a floor and calling it a museum doesn't work.  Not having any type of plan doesn't work either.  Having people call themselves "historians" without any formal education is deceiving.  Yes, anyone can read and thoroughly learn a subject.  I know many who are VERY knowledgeable because they made the effort to learn the subject.  But in today's world, credibility begins with education.

It all boils down to what you want to do...then research universities that offer what you want.  Again, this is just my perception.  I've been to all types of museums (mostly WW2 ship types and Civil War battlefields) and I can tell the ones with solid leadership and ones without.

My 2 cents...others may/will disagree...
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

Offline Mark Sarsfield

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2014, 10:23:10 AM »
Oh, you're definitely spot on, Mark.  I've been to good naval/maritime museums that have their stuff together.  It's all the more heartbreaking when you see the potential just wasting away at your museum... literally, in some cases (anything metal left out in the elements).

Regards,
Mark Sarsfield
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"If you have one bucket that can hold 5 gallons and one bucket that can hold 2 gallons, how many buckets do you have?" - IQ test from Idiocracy

Offline Evil Tracey of Torsk

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2014, 11:04:02 AM »
Just to underline what has been said here.

There actually is a degree in Museum studies.  A lot of it is about how people take in and process information, such as they would encounter in museum displays, etc. 

It's how you use space and direct museum patrons through a display.

These are things we all take for granted until you encounter a poorly-planned museum or display. 

For example, on TORSK, we have long wanted to have some signs explaining some of the basic things about the boat.  I had a group of close friends who are bright/alert folks go through TORSK and told me after how they had NO clue what much of what they were seeing was about.  It was a true failing of our previous 'management' the Baltimore Maritime Museum, that they did not want signs in the boat for fear of slowing down foot traffic, but my friends' experience was a real light bulb to the TORSK Volunteers.  Our new management 'Historic Ships in Baltimore' went along with our suggestion that signs were needed, so, the Volunteers distributed responsibility for write ups about different compartments to different Volunteers.  Other sub-qualified Volunteers whittled down the verbiage to make it briefer than - this is important - we had Volunteers who are not sub-qualified read it to make sure the information was accessible to the layman.  The Museum, to its credit, used a lot of the text we gave them.  Too bad they accompanied the text with photographs/diagrams of a different class of subs.  But there you go.

But credit to the Museum for wanting to better accommodate the science/technical geeks that tour the sub.  This constituency of patrons had been ignored for FAR too long.  Then, late last year the Museum authorized a guy to volunteer - put him in an official Historic Ships in Baltimore shirt - to explain subs to tourists coming through the boat on Saturdays.  The Volunteers had always been told - with good reason - not to do so once the boat got crowded because it backed up the tourists.  Anyway, this guy brought huge diagrams into Control and began giving talks and answering questions.  And the line up of tourists backed up into Crew's Mess.  Worse, still, it soon became clear that he knew little about TORSK and was giving fanciful answers to questions about the boat.  Ends up, this fellow had written some kind of book on subs [they're all alike!] and the Museum, clearly, did nothing to vet this guy's bona fides to do the job.  A nice fellow, he admitted to us he didn't know much about TORSK.

So, sometimes, with the Museum it's been one step forward, two steps back.  Perhaps their spotty record is a function of pressures from upper management, or departmental rivalries, or, perhaps, they're wooden boat folks who just don't care.  I imagine all explanations are true at some point. 

But, knowing a lot about the subject of your museum is not enough to run a good museum.  In fact, it's often an adverse factor.  It's one thing to know a lot, it's another to make that information accessible - and attractive - to the average museum patron.

There are a world of reasons to tour a museum submarine:

You're a history buff.
You're a naval history buff.
You want to use them to learn more about how modern submarines work.
You're a technology buff.
Better appreciate the Second World War.
Know more about what Uncle X did in the Navy.

A good museum can accommodate them all to some degree. 

Offline Mark Sarsfield

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2014, 12:29:08 PM »
Good write-up, Tracey.   :)

Regards,
Mark Sarsfield
USS Batfish reenactor



"If you have one bucket that can hold 5 gallons and one bucket that can hold 2 gallons, how many buckets do you have?" - IQ test from Idiocracy

Offline Mike

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2014, 12:37:41 AM »
Whoa… when I originally joined, it looked as if the postings had tapered off. Glad to see I was wrong.

There has been a lot of good information shared thus far… A couple of noteworthy ones:

MWALLEN:
“It all depends on what your passion/interest is.”
Manage or direct? Curator or Historian? I have told many that my best utilization is where I am needed most – where I can do the most good. From the sounds of things not just here but across the professional spectrum, effective leadership is becoming a rare commodity. Now, do I have a backing band of crazed kazoo-playing maniacs to herald my theme song as I arrive to save the day from the nefarious efforts of evil super-villan, “Ms. Management”? No. I do, however, know from experience that I am far better than a lot of people who fancy themselves “effective leaders”.

“Museums are a business designed to educate, but also to make money.”
I just finished elaborating this point to the wife and began to think of all of the examples where they overcompensated one at the sake of the other with no regard to preservation. It is a very good point that seems to be missed by more than a few.

“But in today's world, credibility begins with education.”
As much as I want to hurl curses and the latest experiment with stir-fry at that statement, it is the sad truth. Funny, though, how most of the most incredible and unconscionably self-centered examples of poor management/leadership are also some of the most educated…


Mark Sarsfield:
“It's all the more heartbreaking when you see the potential just wasting away at your museum…”
I just read about the Clamagore, and this came to mind. It also brings to mind the Tu-4 (as well as others) sitting out in the elements at Monino…

Evil Tracey of Torsk (I actually did laugh out loud and think "Muahhaha!" at the name):
“Perhaps their spotty record is a function of pressures from upper management, or departmental rivalries, or, perhaps, they're wooden boat folks who just don't care.”
Management pressure. Two words guaranteed to make me cringe. Oy. Luckily, I’ve spent the last 18 years looking at those two words while I practice my smirking response of “A new target for my Jedi Mind Trick training…” Ok, I’m not that cool and composed, but once the initial anger subsides, I tend to look at it along those lines. It’s a challenge to deal with MP and the inevitable departmental rivalries, but there is no growth without external stimuli, right?

“It's one thing to know a lot, it's another to make that information accessible - and attractive - to the average museum patron.”
Again, it’s about balance. You can even have people accessible throughout the sub, but if they have no clue as to what it is you are talking about, then they will see through you and smell your fear. Or not – I sorta love the fact that the Bowfin could linger in clothes for the rest of the day. Poor choice for an eau de toilette, but it makes the ones it matters to smile…

Again, all very insightful responses (I’m sure that there will be more).

For the moment, the very lovely and patient Russian is quietly watching yet another episode of “The Office” and undoubtedly wondering if I am done typing about subs yet…
"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins

Offline MWALLEN

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2014, 08:28:31 AM »
Quote
Now, do I have a backing band of crazed kazoo-playing maniacs to herald my theme song as I arrive to save the day from the nefarious efforts of evil super-villan, “Ms. Management”?

I was in kind of a bad mood until I read this...that's pretty funny.   ;D
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

Offline Mike

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2014, 05:43:06 PM »
I've been known to be funny from time to time...
Thanks! :)
"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins

Offline Mike

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2014, 05:16:12 PM »
Perhaps I’m just incredibly naïve, but can someone explain the apparent and unfortunately common vendetta some museum staff has against volunteers?

That sentence has been weighing on me for quite a while in reading what is posted here, and I’m sensing a very swift undercurrent that is somewhat… precarious.

I’m in no way implying that this is an issue that plagues all boats, nor does it seem like something that has been happening ever since the Hunley… I perceive a lot of [redacted] and quite intelligent [censored], and since I’m in my “collection” mode, I thought I’d ask.

Now, having said that – I am not looking to give the impression that I’m trolling for whatever dirty laundry that is handy and incriminating, but as the old saying goes “you can’t fix it if you don’t know what is broken”…
"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins

Offline Darrin

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2014, 12:23:00 AM »
Mike,

I can only speak for myself and what I have seen over the years working with various different museums and there is no clear and concise answer as to why some museums work better with volunteer groups than others because every museum situation is different regarding staffing, volunteers and most of all funding.

One of the biggest problems that I have seen is sadly lack of common sense that is applied when running a museum and it doesn't matter if it is with monies or with volunteers or even with it's own staff, people forget the K/I/S/S Keep It Simple Stupid priciples.

For the record, I hold NO degrees in anything and what I know has been learned the hard way and not through a book setting behind a desk writing thesis' or essay's about someone elses work or how they would have done it differently.

My recommendation is for you to volunteer at a few museums and really see what happens behind the scenes because there really is a lot that goes on behind closed doors away from the public eye.

Good luck,

Darrin

Offline Fred Tannenbaum

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 05:20:59 AM »
"Lack of common sense ..." MOT, Darrell.
 >:(

Offline Jay Boggess

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 09:59:15 AM »

"Perhaps I’m just incredibly naïve, but can someone explain the apparent and unfortunately common vendetta some museum staff has against volunteers?"

Here is something with museums but not submarines but sorta on volunteers vs management.  At Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI ten years ago, they had this bartender at the Eagle Tavern, which was a preserved 1830's Michigan roadhouse.  You could get a drink there, and the bartender would talk to you like it was 1850.  You'd tell him where you were from and he'd tell you how long it would take you to travel home via 1850's transportation.  If you asked him if you could pay by credit card, he'd say "Oh yes, we have a telegraph. We will wire your bank and make sure you have the money..."   A throughly entertaining and enjoyable experience.

Well after about 2-3 years, by this time "Silas" even had a fan club and newsletter, Greenfield Village management must have been feeling threatened or something, as they came up with some dumb reason to fire him....

Perhaps when volunteers start looking too good and getting too much done, that's when "paid" management must feel they must step in...

Jay Boggess

Offline Mark Sarsfield

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2014, 04:57:19 PM »
Well, those of us at the Batfish (at least the useful, reliable ones) are finally walking away.  Time to move onto other things.  We'll keep you guys posted where we end up volunteering next.

Regards,
Mark Sarsfield
USS Batfish reenactor



"If you have one bucket that can hold 5 gallons and one bucket that can hold 2 gallons, how many buckets do you have?" - IQ test from Idiocracy

Offline Darrin

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2014, 08:47:29 PM »
For ALL whom have been watching this thread and others regarding our museum submarines and why I get so upset regarding their care... This is the best example I can find and it truly hits home in more ways than one.
https://bmorerose.exposure.co/uss-torsk-ss423




Offline Mike

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Re: Introductory Questions for Museum Staff
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2014, 05:48:37 AM »
Thank you all for giving me a lot of hard thoughts into this subject. Like I said before, there is a lot that is unsaid here, but I hear it.

I followed the link you posted, Darrin, and it was fairly enlightening toward the end. I could ask “Why? Why won’t they listen? Can’t they read the words here and elsewhere and swiftly ‘get with it’? Rust waits for no one, and really cares less about the degree on someone’s wall, y’know??

Sadly, though, I know the answer. Same one I am dealing with at my current job – watching egos within the organization corrupt the greater goal and/or cause experienced personnel to be shed with a quickness. Yeah. I have been there and have quite a few of the t-shirts…. which leads me to the idea that I might, in fact, be insane for even thinking along the lines of recklessly thrusting myself into such an environment… again.

Darrin,
“…And there is no clear and concise answer as to why some museums work better with volunteer groups than others because every museum situation is different regarding staffing, volunteers and most of all funding.”
I know that this might sound silly, but do you think location is a factor as well? Not like choosing where to put over three hundred feet of magnificent, somewhat-bad-for-delicate-wetlands history is akin to relocating a Starbucks… but location does drive visitors, funding, and volunteers, right?
 
Jay
“Perhaps when volunteers start looking too good and getting too much done, that's when ‘paid’ management must feel they must step in...”
It wouldn’t be the first time. What is it with people like that? Did they miss an evolutionary step in toughening up their fragile psyches? I liked the mention of Greenfield Village, though now you have me wanting a Coney.  :)

My thoughts on this subject are getting somewhat muddled due to it being almost 6am and I made the mistake of intending to make a witty comparison involving Lt Cdr. Queeg and the ensuing reading caused a partial meltdown due to uncanny familiarity with work.
"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins