Much of my career was spent working in museums. Long ago, I thought I’d made some impact in Ohio, and then in Oklahoma. The past 20 years I’ve worked in several capacities and locations in South Florida. Involvement in the International Council of Museums since 1980 expanded my field to many venues around the world – all of which added to my own practice. I think that finally, I was able to make a mark through over 10 years of teaching Museum Studies.
I tried to impart a number of messages to my students. One was that you are a member of a community and this community thrives upon networking. We do not work in isolation and can always reach out to find questions to answers, to test ideas, and just to develop relationships. Social media has so greatly increased the ability for expanded outreach and achieve these goals. I come from the age of writing letters and making phone calls and have become quite nimble with the internet!
Where is this going? Still a bit more about me. I have been fortunate to work primarily in small museums where I’ve had to do a bit of almost everything in the field – I was a museum director a few times (no matter what the actual title was). I also worked with collections, curated exhibitions, created education programs and trained docents, wrote and disseminated public relations, and more. All of this in different types of museums, in distinct communities. This intense, hands-on experience shaped the broad approach I adopted in teaching.
Teaching … I had the pleasure of teaching and then directing the Graduate Certificate of Museum Studies at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. The program was sited in the Frost Art Museum on campus. The last five years of my tenure, students in the program flexed their creativity and practiced teamwork to curate an exhibit using artwork from the permanent collection of the museum. The choices of the artwork changed from year to year – Folk Art, Jamaican Intuitive Art, Asian Art, Pre-Colombian Art, and finally, recent acquisitions of the Museum.
Everyone worked together to chose the theme or approach of the exhibit and make the initial choices of artwork. Then, they chose roles essential in exhibition development – either to expand their experience in the area in which they wanted to work or to experiment in something entirely new. Choices included: curator, designer, educator, catalog, virtual exhibit (no one chose this the first year), and marketing.
Wow … after 12 harried weeks, a coherent exhibition emerged year after year. In the process, research was done on the artwork, the artists, the material and techniques. A number of times, data on the collection pieces were corrected and updated. Collectors, professors, and others were interviewed. A single-fold illustrated catalog and, in most instances, a family guide accompanied the exhibition.
This incubator project was a rewarding and concrete classroom experience during which creativity was encouraged and, I hope in my unique style, nurtured.
Oh, and there was the Yin Yang flourless chocolate cake I made to celebrate the students’ hard work for the Asian exhibit.