I’m not a museum evaluator, but I play one on television; at least that’s what I tell people who ask me what I do for a living. As the Business Manager at Randi Korn & Associates, I don’t have the educational or employment background of my colleagues, but I do have a long-standing love of museums – I had to name my favorite museum (and why) when I interviewed here.
So, in order to do my job effectively, I had to learn a few things about how museums operate and what museum evaluation is in order to function. Just as Steinberg cleverly shows here how New Yorkers view the world, those in the museum field may also have a skewed perception of their domain from the inside; this poster hangs on our office wall to remind us to “think outside the museum.” Here are my top 5 “surprises” from the outside.
Surprise #1: Who knew that museums had goals and objectives when they put up all that cool stuff? Laugh if you will, but before I came here, I didn’t realize there is more to an exhibition than putting like things together. Now that I know, it’s given me a whole new dimension to explore when I visit a museum.
Surprise #2: There’s a whole world of people conducting research on/in museums.
Being a process person and a big believer in constructive criticism, it’s good to know that, not only did the museum have a purpose when it put this stuff together, but someone is actually gathering information to make it better!
Surprise #3: Wow, I work with really smart people!
Not really surprising, because the museum field is loaded with lifelong learners and people who are naturally curious. And evaluators are really curious, otherwise they would not have the desire to probe and probe further, and question how and why.
Surprise #4: I was evaluating museums, I just didn’t know it.
Invariably, I always had a lot to say after visiting an exhibition: short little me (4’ 10”) couldn’t see through the crowd; I didn’t realize I was going in the wrong direction until I found the orientation panel at the end; this interactive was really cool; etc. etc. How refreshing to learn someone might actually be interested in my opinion!
Surprise #5: Gee, people have some odd opinions to share!
I keep a file of amusing interview and survey responses. The winner so far is, when asked if they had anything to add about their experience in the museum that day, the interviewee said “There were no beets in the beet soup!” You can have the best exhibition ever, but visitors will remind you how they value every aspect of their museum encounter.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my favorite museum is the Cluny in Paris. Because it has a narwhal horn on display. Go figure.