Category Archives: Museum

On the Road: Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock National Historic Site, western Nebraska.

History Nebraska (formerly known as the Nebraska Historical Society) has six historic sites, including Chimney Rock near Bayard. Growing up in California, this natural landmark figures prominently in the schoolbook history of western settlement with images of slowly moving wagons crossing empty plains accompanied by men carrying rifles and women carrying children.

As my first experience in Nebraska, my road trip showed me the physical challenges of living in the mountains and plains of the western United States. That’s one of the big reasons I love to travel because it establishes the physical context for historical events and places that can’t be adequately captured in books or exhibitions. It’s one of the reasons I’m so committed to the preservation and interpretation of historic sites—it’s where history happened.

History Nebraska debuted a renovated Visitor Center at Chimney Rock in July 2020 and received a Rising Star Award as an outstanding tourism attraction from the NebraskaLand Foundation. My chance to see it last month showed that it was a terrific experience for tourists with families from the architecture to the exhibitions to the restrooms. It’s a significant improvement from a couple years ago, as described by Karrin Doll Tolliver at A Taste for Travel.

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A Mixed Prognosis for Regional Museum Associations

In the United States, museums are served by six regional museum associations that are associated (allied?) with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM):

While AAM is doing well with about $10 million in annual revenues and net assets of $2 million, the regional museum associations are much much smaller by comparison. Their annual revenues range from $70,000 to $600,000, which is 1-7% of AAM’s annual revenues (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Chart of revenues for regional museum associations in the US, FY 2014-16.

That might be acceptable given these associations serve a few states rather than all 50, but a further analysis of their financial condition in fiscal years 2014-2016 suggests that their health is decidedly mixed: Continue reading

Delaware Historical Society Cleverly Interprets One Object Two Way

Wall between two exhibitions at the Delaware Historical Society.

Wall between two exhibitions at the Delaware Historical Society.

The Delaware Historical Society reopened their museum last fall with two new complementary exhibitions designed by the Gecko Group, one a comprehensive history of the state and the other on the history of African Americans in Delaware.  I recently visited the museum with Scott Loehr, the CEO, who pointed out a clever interpretive technique.  The two exhibitions share a common wall, which has a doorway that allows visitors to walk from one to the other and exhibit cases on either side. It’s not immediately obvious, but the objects on display are interpreted differently depending on which side of the wall you’re standing.

For example, a Crown Stone from the Pennsylvania-Maryland Border has a two-sided label. The side facing Continue reading

Video: How Collectors Influence the Art Market

Artsy: How and Why Patrons Support an Artist

In this 4:03 video, Artsy explains why a patron supports an artist and how this influences the art market. What compels patrons to support artists’ careers? How has the model of commissioning impossible ideas lasted from the ancient Egyptians until today? This short film is the third and latest in a series of four short films about the art market by Artsy.  Even if you’re not interested in this topic, the interpretive presentation may be a model for your videos.

Unconference in DC Poised to Transform Museums

Openlab is convening an unconference, talks, and a planning workshop in Washington, DC on December 1-2 to “to accelerate the speed and impact of transformational change in the GLAM (gallery, library, archive, and museum) sector” in order to “to increase and disseminate knowledge; to encourage civic dialogue and engagement; and to support individuals in their right to access and participate in culture.”  The brain child of Michael Peter Edson of the Smithsonian, much of OpenLab’s work seems to be focused on using digital technologies to solve age-old questions, such as “what needs to change in galleries, libraries, archives, and museums?” and “what is missing in the current funding and support landscape for GLAMs and the humanities?”  It’s all a bit nebulous and unclear, but that’s the core nature of an unconference. Nevertheless, it’s one of many concurrent efforts to increase the impact of museums in society (and yes, we’re still in the fragmented stage).

The first day on December 1 (today) is the unconference and a series of Ignite talks from 2-7 pm in Arlington, Virginia that’s free and open to the public.  The second day, however, Continue reading

Video: The Fairbanks House

This 2:20 video by Nick Papps provides a contemplative introduction to the 1637 Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts, believed to be the oldest surviving timber frame house in North America and now an historic house museum.  The video blends contemporary and historic images accompanied by the reading of a 1937 poem by Elizabeth Fairbank Rock.

Video: Art Splash at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Jill Frechie produced this 2:00 video explaining Art Splash, a summer program for families at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Emily Schreiner, associate curator of education, explains some of the 300 programs offered during the ten week period, which features a different object each week.  Three hundred programs in ten weeks? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Video: Bens, the Legendary Deli

Cedric Conti produced this 2:00 video about “Bens, the Legendary Deli,” an exhibit currently on view at the McCord Museum in Montreal, Canada.  Includes French subtitles!  Bens Delicatessen, founded in 1908 by Benjamin Kravitz (1883-1956), closed in 2006 after nearly a century in business. The exhibition brings together some 100 objects, including posters, architectural plans, photos, counter stools, dishes, utensils, menus, recipes and testimonials that recount the history of this landmark, the very first of Montreal’s famous smoked meat restaurants.

Video: Museum of Water at Somerset House

This is a 2:38 amateur video documenting the “Museum of Water,” an unusual “live artwork” by Amy Sharrocks at the historic Somerset House, a new arts and culture center in London.

A melted snowman. Droplets from a baby’s bath. Sacred draughts from an Indian river. Just some of the items donated to London’s newest museum. In the atmospheric underground spaces of Somerset House, Amy Sharrocks invites you to consider our relationship with the most precious liquid the world has to offer.

IMLS’ Count of Museums in the US May Be Exaggerated

LIMLS Museum Distribution by Type 2014q3ooking for museums in your county or state?  Want to know how you compare to other museums across the nation? You’ll find them in the Museum Universe Data File recently produced by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  It’s a free database of museums in the US that includes names, addresses, contact information, total revenue and expenses, and GIS data.

IMLS held a webinar today to explain the datafile and answer questions.  They constructed the list from several sources, including the Internal Revenue Service and Foundation Center,  which were then reconciled to remove duplicates. Data will be updated every six months based on continuing research and community feedback. IMLS will be using the datafile to conduct sampling surveys for future research projects, such as collections care, to inform their programs and share results with the field and Congress, however, you are encouraged to use it as well.

The big news is that of the 35,144 total museums in the US, most are related to Continue reading