I like social media. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a social media junkie, but I definitely enjoy keeping up with friends, voyeuristically connecting with acquaintances and curating what I share with others. Facebook is my primary platform of choice, but I also use LinkedIn to showcase my CV. Pinterest is mostly for collecting recipes and pictures of Memphis murals, an odd, but real, passion. I initially stayed away from Twitter because it confused me and from Instagram because I came late to the smart phone revolution. Subsequently, I realized that I need to not be connected all the time and decided three social media profiles are enough. Too much “connection” feels alienating.
Nevertheless, I do think that social media platforms offer a real opportunity for nonprofits in general and museums in particular. Some places do it exceptionally well—like @SUEtheTrex (The Field Museum) on Twitter and The Charleston Museum on Tumblr. In fact, my favorite class to teach in museum studies is the afternoon we spend talking about social media and other marketing. I always ask my students to think up a broad based marketing campaign for one of the university’s museums, and the results are always better than I expected.
The past couple of weeks have seen a few crowd sourced, hashtagged shout outs to public history institutions. January 21 was the second Museum Selfie Day, which was inaugurated last year by museum blogger Mar Dixon. Today is #libraryshelfie Day, which also started in 2014 and was instigated by the New York Public Library. I took part in both because they were fun and got me out from behind my desk. Museums and libraries are interesting places, and the more that we do to encourage our patrons to visit, linger and make the place their own, the better off we will be.
Other than questions about how old my baby is, the most frequent thing I get asked is, “What do you do?” I generally assume that people mean “what do you do to make money” so I generally leave out the part about being a mom and cooking and raking leaves and reading books and playing peekaboo.
I do a couple of different things. Sometimes I teach classes. I’ve taught history and museum studies classes at three of the universities in Memphis where I’ve taught online and in the classroom. My favorite class to teach is introduction to museum studies. It’s one of my favorite subjects, my students generally have great ideas and it is lots of fun to share something I’m passionate about with people who mostly feel the same way.
My main money-paying gig is as a museum professional. I work in exhibits, and I’ve spent the past several months doing primary research for a major redesign at my museum. I’m compiling a massive narrative that we will use to write the panels and labels. I also find photographs and other images that we can use and secure the use rights for them, which includes figuring out who owns them. As an offshoot of this ongoing research, I’m reorganizing our staff library and museum archives and digitalizing the card catalog so that it’s usable. (I say “I,” a volunteer and amazing intern are helping tremendously.) I also use a lot of my research to write the museum’s blog, which I repost here when the posts go live because I’m proud of them.
I also help install and deinstall exhibits. Since I’m not super strong and my coworkers are much better at using power tools, I tend to help condition report artifacts when it’s time for a new exhibit. I can mount labels, and I’ve been known to have curatorial input. I firmly believe that I have the best job in the museum.
While both of those jobs are personally and financially fulfilling, I also love the job that pays in smiles, slobbery kisses and drool. Museums are great. And so are babies.
October 24, 1950, started as a normal day at the Memphis Museum. Visitors explored the galleries and looked at exhibits of animal heads, glass, documents and fossils. One of those afternoon visitors was James Eddington who made a trip to the museum as part of his vacation to Memphis. Eddington lived in Kentucky and worked as the farm manager at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange, KY. As he walked through the exhibits, he noticed another museum guest who looked familiar. He recognized the man as an escaped prisoner from the Kentucky Reformatory.
Chester Merrifield was serving prison time for robbery when he decided to make an escape. He had been in Memphis for a few days and struck up a “close friendship” with a Memphis businessman. The police elected to withhold the name of the “well known Memphian” who drove Merrifield to the museum. When Eddington recognized Merrifield, he…
In museum-related, crowd sourced history news, I submitted the Pink Palace’s PWAP murals done by Burton Callicott to UC Berkeley’s Living New Deal site. While you’re there, poke around and see the long reach and legacy of FDR’s federal programs:
The first museum in Memphis was a room on the second floor of the tower over the entrance to the Cossitt Library. The Cossitt Library was completed in 1893 and was funded though the bequest of Frederick Cossitt. Cossitt was a Connecticut born entrepreneur who maintained a wholesale dry goods business in Memphis until the Civil War. He promised his friend Carrington Mason that he would make a gift of a public library to the city. When he died in 1887, his will did not include the Memphis library, but his heirs decided to give money for the building anyway.
The library’s statement of purpose specified that the Cossitt Library was “To establish and maintain a free public Museum…” As part of this objective, after the 1897 Tennessee Centennial celebration, the elite Memphis women who had composed the city’s Centennial Board and the wives of the library’s board of directors…
Our air conditioner appears to be circling the drain. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that our house is very warm and the last thing I wanted to do was spend the heat of the day in our many square foot oven.
The baby and I took advantage of Dixon Gallery and Gardens’ pay what you can day to go and see the Memphis Milano exhibit. The pieces in the show all come from the personal collection of a Memphian, and the 1980s furniture is fun but not exactly functional. They are full of bold colors and patterns and combinations of various geometric shapes.
The exhibit is well laid out with the first gallery being chronological and the subsequent ones being thematic. My favorite touch was the use of one of the geometric prints along all of the door frames. It really tied the galleries together visually.
If the baby was a few years older, we would have had a blast in the participatory gallery that gave families the opportunity to “experience” the 80s. I wish I could have dressed him up in the blue jean vest, but he was not feeling it.
I wish I had had more time to read the text, but kid was hungry. My main criticism is that they included wall text in the first gallery that told the major events in each year the Memphis design group was active. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but they used the same technique in last year’s contemporary Memphis art exhibit. It felt recycled.
Overall, I enjoyed the exhibit. I don’t care much about furniture usually, but the Dixon and the Memphis group made me think about it differently, which is basically the point of museums. At least to me.