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'A Day at the Museum' Lectures Series lifts the museum's curtain

BY HEATHER POOLE
Daily Arts Writer
Published March 14, 2010

When most people walk into a museum, they see only the work on display rather than the labor and preparation behind exhibits. In accordance with the current theme semester, “Meaningful Objects: Museums in the Academy," the “A Day at the Museum” lecture series, presented by the school of Literature, Science and the Arts, is intended to associate the bland titles and broad institutions of the museum world with individual faces and colorful personalities who work behind the scenes of University museums.

The lecture series will include speakers from nearly all the museums on campus, ranging from Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry to the Bentley Historical Library to the University Herbarium. It was launched this January due to the efforts of Karen O’Brien, Collections Manager at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, and Carla Sinopoli, professor of Anthropology and director of the Museum of Anthropology.

O’Brien and Sinopoli originally wanted to organize their idea into a class with readings on the different positions found in museums. However, O'Brien said that after its rejection by the University, they transformed the class into a lecture series.

“A Day at the Museum” will feature speakers from a variety of professions in museum work, including conservators, collection staff and curators.

O'Brien described the series as informal. The museum staff speakers will speak for only 10 or 15 minutes before the floor is opened up for questions, maximizing the amount of the presentation that can be devoted to where student interest really lies.

Last Thursday, exhibit preparators John Klausmeyer of the Exhibit Museum of Natural History and Scott Meier of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology discussed their backgrounds and careers.

Both Klausmeyer and Meier emphasized the diversity of studies that led them to their career in museums.

“One thing I do want to discuss is that there is no set career path,” Meier said. “Get experience everywhere because you never quite know where it will lead you.”

With a background in art, Klausmeyer has worked in medical illustration and moved on to exhibit preparation at natural history museums.

In addition to their personal accounts, both exhibit preparators discussed their everyday work.

“Our jobs are sort of the interface between curators and researchers and the public,” Klausmeyer said.

As a whole, “A Day at the Museum” lecture series aims to give students a realistic view of museum work.

O'Brien said that a major focus will be "the impact museums have on communities, and understanding more about the concepts of museums,”

O'Brien also hopes that the series will give any students with aspirations in the museum career field a realistic look at what the work will actually be like.

Like Klausmeyer and Meier, O’Brien emphasizes the various disciplines that can be applied to a profession in museums.

She said there was a considerable "cross platform of degrees that students might be getting here at the University that can translate then into museum work,” O’Brien said.

This interdisciplinary nature of the museum field has been conveyed through the diversity of lectures in the series. Previous lecturers have included Natsu Oyobe, curator of UMMA, and Amy Harris, museum director of the Exhibit Museum of Natural History.

Klausmeyer’s and Meier’s lecture aims to exemplify the type of museum work that can be overlooked and will give attendees a different perspective of the complex world of museums.

This Thursday, the series will feature speakers involved in conservation, including Ann Flowers of the Bentley Historical Library, Cathy Baker of Hatcher Graduate Library and Suzanne Davis of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.


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