Museum Leadership

Leadership Matters


Big Data Helping Museums Gain Repeat Visitors

Interesting article about what the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is doing to help with visitor analysis and engagement for their museum exhibits. Although I have somewhat of a Data Analysis background this goes way over my head and seems like an ongoing but important process.

Museum as Creative Hotspot

Museum as a Creative Hotspot <– This article compelled me to start brainstorming about community involvement and community connection for museums. (Honestly, I’m always in a state of brainstorming it seems.)

source: flickr by trbuh

source: flickr by trbuh

So what if your museum cafe was turned into an afternoon or mid-morning think tank, or even just used for casual conversation and coffee. Either way you are making people more comfortable being there. You could offer questions or challenges that are plaguing the museum currently, like the blogger mentions – just be ready to hear what the community has to say positively or negatively. I think personally I would choose to have speakers come and touch on different topics whether museum related or not.

Here’s why – Libraries are getting it right! (or at least this one)

Of course libraries are looked at more commonly as a community gathering location anyways, but besides the extensive amount of books, museums can do the same things! Just tweak the topics a little bit to fit your particular museum if you want. I mean a Modern Art museum might not want Ancient History lectures but why limit it. I see quite a few museums already doing this in their education programs, but what about a weekly topic or even weekly networking meet-ups for the community and different career areas. I think the more and more you see certain museums adding things to their community programs, the more and more popular these museums become. And not just popular in their community, but even in the museum world as a whole, because people, museum professionals and others, ARE talking about them!

So lets start being collaborative and brainstorming together. NOTHING is off the table!

What is an Exhibit Designer?

Museum Exhibit Designer <– This post explains the basics of a Museum Exhibit Designer.


Here are some other options or areas of what an Exhibit Designer can do for a museum as well as for mainstream marketers, vendors, and even zoos. Take a Look!

Being an Exhibit Designer as a trade can sometimes mean unstable work flow although I would think the big jobs payoff well. I’ve seen a lot of Exhibit Designers own their own firm or work for a design company if they are not fulltime at a Museum.

My career path change is just in the beginning stages, but ultimately it would be a dream of mine to own my own Exhibit Design firm. I would want to encompass all types of exhibit design and be able to send out teams to brainstorm and construct what ever the particular client is needing. Having teams of designers, artists, carpenters, electricians, etc. is always helpful since I can’t possibly learn or do everything myself.


Speaking of Exhibit Designing, an update to my endeavors:

I have recently started interning at a small Art/Artifact Museum. I am helping the Exhibit Preparator with the permanent exhibits as well as with the changing art exhibits. In just the short time that I’ve been there I have already learned an invaluable amount of knowledge AND been assigned my first design/re-design project dealing with their antiquities section of their permanent collection. I’m super excited to have that opportunity so quickly! It’s such a great start to this change in my life.

Pushkin Museum – Personal Review

Pushkin Museum in Moscow –

‘While the museum lacks some of the contemporary gloss of its Western counterparts – there is no guide book at present, even in Russian, many of the exhibits appear never to have been cleaned, and the lighting and decor are old-fashioned to say the least – there is more than enough substance in the huge collection to make up for any superficial inadequacies. Underfunding and resistance to change also mean that, while a little shabby, the Pushkin is a considerably more peaceful place to contemplate great art than many of the more hyped and hectic big galleries in the West.”

It’s interesting to me that this is called a “Visual Arts” museum. I don’t remember it being ALL art. There were historical documents and artifacts also included, but it’s been 11 years since I’ve been there so maybe I just wasn’t aware or something was lost in translation because, let’s face it, Russian is hard ya’ll.

It was a small museum but honestly I liked it more than The Hermitage which you can see my post on that here. It didn’t incase EVERYTHING and even though you weren’t supposed to touch the artifacts it was at least close enough to you that you could experience some of them a little more. And I felt like the museum had wonderful lighting – natural and not.

They also have an Ancient Egyptian exhibit on permanent display there. (Psst – here’s a little secret about me – I almost did my undergrad at Brown University in Egyptology. [sigh] If I believed in reincarnation, I think I would have been an Egyptian in one of my former lives.) The exhibit is not big but was set up very well and instead of the usual white walls and bright lights it was black walls and bright lights. I liked it! It was VERY dramatic which is a common adjective that I would use for Ancient Egypt.

I also enjoyed the many statues they had in their collection. They were very accesible and you could stand close enough to see their magnitude of height and width. Also the white marble statues were almost all displayed with natural lighting streaming in from skylights which just added more ambiance and drama to the exhibits.


Museum Experience

In 2003 I went to The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is one of the largest Hermitagemuseums in the world and formerly was used as a palace. St. Petersburg sits on the Western coast of Russia and by far is the most “westernized” city that I visited.

This museum has wonderful online resources. Almost all the artifacts are shown through a visual exhibit medium. To me this was almost more beneficial than when I actually went. Besides getting to experience the sheer grandeur of the museum it is simply impossible to view the whole museum in a few hours or even a day probably. I The Hermitageonly visited the “Winter Palace” section, which I think was only one side and blue-ish in color. And seriously I felt like I was in The Louvre scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation. There was soooo much to look at and even if you weren’t interested in some of the rooms it still took awhile to walk through them to get to the rooms/exhibits you wanted to see.

Here’s a few that made an impression on me enough to remember:

The Winter Palace Grand Staircase….um I mean WOW! Give me a ballgown right now!

Winter Palace Grand Staircase

And here is a few of the grand carriages used by some of the Tsars of Russia.


One thing I would like to point out that they could improve on in the future is their photography. The understand that the artifacts do not do well with flash photography, but I feel that with a little sunlight, most of these museum features could be better represented in a “new light”. When I was there it was summer, no doubt their busiest time of year I’m sure, but it was wonderful to see these exhibits with more lighting. They didn’t look so drab and dirty. I think it would bump up the virtual experience just that much more if the photography was a little better and, if possible, taken at a better time of day.

They do have a mobile app for The Hermitage in the Google Play store and on iTunes and it seems very user-friendly. It’s very organized. It has an interactive floor plan for the museum as well as special collections and bios about the artifacts. You can also bookmark special exhibits, save the images, share them in an e-card or upload them to twitter. In their store you can also get free downloads or buy more content for the app like virtual tours, educational courses, or thematic excursions.

Museum Phone App 1

The Hermitage Museum App Shots

The Hermitage also has an exhaustive collection of Virtual Archives on their website. You can look at previous travelling exhibits back into the 1990’s and also see artifacts that have been digitized. The website also has a very good search function.

Check out how old and seemingly fragile this bronze sculpture is!

Bronze Sculpture  — Current Exhibit displaying Edgar Degas art.

There is so much at this museum ( somewhere around 3 million items) that I can’t possibly touch on all of it in this one post. Make sure and check out their website and explore the courtyards, theater, Winter Palace, the Virtual Academy, and much much more!


The Arch of the General Staff Building

Career Paths

I was reminded the other day of how seemingly far behind I am when it comes to chosen career paths. I honestly have the choice of 3 different paths right now:

1. Clerical Work in Higher Education or the Oil & Gas Industry (where I am currently)

2. Singing (questionable pay source and working hours)

3. Exhibit Design (still acquiring technical & professional skills)

Some of these may require more schooling which I can’t afford because I’m paying off the last bout of classes and some just require me to show up and do what I know to do.

But what I really want is to combine my love and passion for design and history into an over all human experience. Instead of people looking through the glass of a caveman exhibit at the natural history museum, I want people to be able to enter into the exhibit and experience all five senses (touch see, hear, smell, feel). Is it possible? I have no idea and I feel so behind on current technological advances that I might not be able to give more than a brainstorming of ideas, but I want to be able to come up with SOME concrete ways of how to achieve the goal of these human experience. I want to have those connections if I need someone who knows how to set up an app based exhibit, or knows how to create a holographic program. But where do I begin? I really think grad school is a far off goal due to cost and time. The only schools that offer exhibit design programs that encompass a wide variety of skill trainings are on the coasts and I can’t move right now. I have a family and my husband and I have good paying jobs to be able to pay off the insurmountable and unfortunately common school debt that we have from our bachelors and his masters. And why aren’t we using those degrees you might ask? Welllll we kind of are. Some companies just look for you to have that piece of paper to hire you. And in some ways we are using the experience and life skills that we learned in college, but maybe just not the actual focus of the degree. Anyways that’s a whole nother rant in its self for another day, another time.