Tuesday, December 29, 2009

California Science Center sued for canceling a film promoting intelligent design -- latimes.com

An interesting legal battle over a museum's right to protect and serve its mission and the Constitutional right to freedom of speech is heating up in California. The California Science Center in Los Angeles is being sued by the American Freedom Alliance, a self-described think tank promoting "Western values and ideals." The AFA is suing over the museum's cancellation of a scheduled showing of the film "Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record," an intelligent design documentary film attacking darwinian evolution. The AFA alleges that the Science Center violated its constitutional right to free speech by revoking the AFA's rental of the Center's IMAX theater.

It seems that a carefully crafted rental policy outlining the museum's right to refuse rentals to groups or individuals planning educational programs that conflict with the museum's own educational goals or stated mission, and a bit more oversight during the initial stages of the rental process might have avoided the whole legal mess, but perhaps not. There is no doubt that the Intelligent Design camp loves controversy and delights in dragging the evolution "debate" back into the news. The AFA may have planned a media assault on the scientific community even if the film showing went off without a hitch.

In any case, the current legal woes of the California Science Center certainly provide a cautionary tale for the rest of the museum community. It might be time to reconsider policy guidelines and review your rental agreement in light of these latest legal challenges.

Click here to read the article about the lawsuit in the LA Times:
By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
December 29, 2009
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Image of Cambrian trilobite fossil by kevinzim shared via flikr

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chagall exhibit pulled from the Fresno Met

It is tremendously sad when you read a story like this one. On Sunday, the Fresno Metropolitan Museum was forced to close one of its exhibits two weeks early, as a representative of the lending institution reclaimed the artwork off of the gallery walls. The unannounced seizure was due to nonpayment of exhibition rental fees and in hopes of heading off complications from the potential closure of the museum itself.

I cannot imagine how demoralizing this experience was for the museum staff present during the unceremonious removal of the 65 Chagall etchings. It must have been terrible trying to maintain an air of professionalism in light of the embarrassing circumstances that precipitated the reclamation of the exhibit.

Although I do not personally know any of the staff at the Fresno Met, I was contacted by the Museum in the summer of 2008 as their renovation project was drawing nearer to completion. We had a very positive conversation about the forthcoming installation of their new galleries and potential programming to coordinate with their new exhibits. I was disappointed that I could not help them with their project (I was far too pregnant to fly from Ohio to Fresno), because there was so much excitement and energy around the culmination of years spent planning, preparing, and undergoing the renovation. Now, just a little more than a year after the building reopened to the public, things have come to a tragic climax, and it is indeed very sad.

I remember the experience I had seven years ago, working for a museum that was in danger every day of closing its doors for good. Eventually, I was laid off, along with the rest of the professional staff, as only a bare-bones operations crew remained to help the organization limp along until things turned around. Truthfully, that museum is still limping along, but it remains open, and the visitors keep coming. It was incredibly humbling to walk out the door of the organization I had served with such dedication, knowing it was for the last time as a staff member, but the tough times teach us a lot about how to regroup and rally.

I hope the staff at the Fresno Met eventually finds a way to turn this unfortunate experience into a professional positive, because I have no doubt that packing those crates on Sunday afternoon really sucked.

Use this link to find the complete article, which appeared in the Fresno Bee.

Posted at 10:13 PM on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009
By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee

Monday, December 21, 2009

Temporary position in exhibits department at the Rock Hall

Today I heard from my friend Christie Lucco, Director of Exhibitions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that she is currently seeking candidates for a Temporary Preparator/Exhibit Installer position, which will begin in February, 2010. Knowing that many museums have been forced to reduce staff during these tough economic times, I am posting the details and encourage everyone to share this information with those you may know who are currently looking for work.

  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to the living heritage of rock and roll music, is currently seeking candidates for the position of Temporary Preparator / Exhibit Installer. The individual will work with the exhibits team to design and prepare artifact mounts, and to install/deinstall collections-based exhibitions. This is a temporary, full-time (40 hours a week, Monday-Friday) job that begins on February 15, 2010 and ends on May 14, 2010. The wage for this position is $15.00/hr.
  • The qualified candidate must have previous experience with proper handling and care of museum artifacts, exhibition installation techniques, mount making and framing. Requires knowledge of basic carpentry tools and machinery and an understanding of materials used in the construction of museum exhibits.
  • Candidates must successfully pass a background investigation, drug screening and reference check. For consideration send resume and cover letter detailing your qualifications to: Christie Lucco, Director of Exhibitions, clucco@rockhall.org.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is an equal opportunity employer and a drug free workplace.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Please excuse the holiday hiatus, I had it coming

Three weeks ago, after planning and preparing a Thanksgiving feast for thirteen at my home, only to turn around and find it was the first Sunday in Advent with less than 30 shopping days until Christmas and I was already exhausted, I decided to take a step back and enjoy the remainder of the holiday season, taking an unplanned, unannounced, and indefinite hiatus from being the Museoblogger.

Besides the shopping and the wrapping, I needed more time to handle the increased workload I was receiving from my clients, and I wanted to have the free time and energy at the end of each day to play with my children around the Christmas tree, time to see the season through their little eyes, full of wonder and anticipation, not resentment and frustration. I have spent my days working, and my evenings and weekends baking with family, visiting with friends, unhurriedly shopping for my loved ones, and truly feeling the joy we are supposed to experience in these pre-holidays.

I needed a break, to excuse myself from my weekly posting just long enough to catch up and breathe. I have, and now I am back.

In my absence, exciting things were happening in museum news, and I have been keeping up. However, these last three weeks I allowed myself to read, contemplate, form an opinion, and then move on to something else. Now, I am ready once again to comment and share my musings. My virtual pen is poised for the next museum-related posting coming very soon. In the mean time, a very happy holiday season to you all, and my best wishes for a prosperous new year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

American Museum of Natural History gives a nod to another evolutionary revolutionary

Just as the world marked the sesquicentennial of the publication of Charles Darwin's landmark text On the Origin of Species this week, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is honoring Darwin's colleague, who also did groundbreaking biological research in the mid-nineteenth century and came to many of the same conclusions. In fact, Alfred Russel Wallace independently conceived the idea of evolution by natural selection, but he is a much lesser-known figure because of Darwin's successful publication of his On the Origin of Species.

The New York Times has a nice article about Wallace's natural history collection cabinet, which is currently on loan to AMNH and is being exhibited in conjunction with their celebration of Origin's anniversary.

Museum Is Displaying Treasures of the Other Evolution Pioneer

Museum Is Displaying Treasures of the Other Evolution Pioneer
Published: November 24, 2009
A piece once owned by Alfred Russel Wallace will be on display at the American Museum of Natural History.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Galileo's missing fingers found in jar | CNN.com

Galileo's head was on the block
The crime was looking up the truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth…

How long till my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision
King of insight
** Galileo, The Indigo Girls, 1992

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
November 23, 2009 -- Updated 1405 GMT (2205 HKT)

To me, it seems kind of ironic that a man who was excommunicated by the Catholic Church should have had three fingers (and a tooth) stolen from his corpse as was widely practiced by clergy salvaging pieces of their saints. In any case, all three of his remaining fingers have now been reunited at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy.

** Pardon the gratuitous musical reference, but Galileo is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Moment: To the MAXXI | Zaha Hadid’s Museum in Rome

The New York Times' The Moment blog has a great review and some compelling photos of Rome's haute new MAXXI museum.

Published: November 16, 2009
Opening festivities at the National Museum of the XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Investigators Use Insect Experts to Search for Clues at Cleveland House of Horrors - ABC News

Investigators Use Insect Experts to Search for Clues at Cleveland House of Horrors - ABC News

Joe Keiper, Director of Science and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, is once again helping police investigators at a grisly Cleveland crime scene. From my days on staff at CMNH, I remember Joe being very fond of flies, but not half as charmed by some of the places his expertise about those animals took him. Nonetheless, Joe is a great scientist and a consummate professional, so when the Cleveland Police and Coroner's office need a forensic entomologist, they find one of the best in Joe.

"Jackie Curtis and Rita Red" painting by Alice Neel coming back to CMA

Steven Litt of the Plain Dealer has the complete story of how the Cleveland Museum of Art made sure this contemporary classic would find a permanent home in their museum.

By, Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer
November 12, 2009, 7:00AM

Image: Plain Dealer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Metropole to become world-class 21c Museum hotel | cincinnati.com

I had never heard of the 21c Museum hotel in Louisville, Kentucky before reading about their planned renovation of the old Metropole Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. Currently, the Metropole apartment building serves low-income tenants, but soon renovation will begin to transform the site into a lavish hotel featuring the finest contemporary art.

Apparently, the Louisville 21c Museum Hotel ranks among the best in the in world. As quoted on the hotel's website, William Weathersby, Jr. of Architectural Record describes the 21c Museum as "creatively balancing art and commerce," going on to say, "the hotel is a community crossroads that breathes new life into a rebounding urban corridor." I must admit that the idea of housing a contemporary art museum within, and throughout, a hotel is innovatively compelling, but I cannot help but wonder how the free museum might be impacted if the luxury hotel ever fell upon hard times. Cincinnati, like so many cities in Ohio and the rest of the Rust Belt, has certainly seen its fair share of hard times and lagging tourism, but kudos to them for investing in a brighter future.

For now, it seems the arts district in downtown Cincinnati will be receiving a very high-end shot in the arm from the new 21c Museum, while at the the same time the current low-income and less fortunate residents of the existing apartments will have to relocate to a no doubt less up-and-coming address.

Metropole to become world-class hotel | cincinnati.com | Cincinnati.Com

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is your local museum doing this Halloween?

My husband and I will be out tonight gathering the final supplies needed to finish this year's Halloween costumes. After the neighborhood kiddie party, passing out candy, and trick-or-treating with our girls, we will be heading to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's "Bones, Bugs & Dead Animals" grown-up party this Saturday night.

Don't have any plans for All Hallows' Eve yourself yet? Check out the website of your favorite museum to see what they may have planned. Many museums host boo-tiful bashes featuring their creepier collections, and the costumes are always among the most interesting in town.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Sea Monster" skull to go on display at museum in Dorset

Look out Nessie, there's a new sea monster on the block in the UK.

Fossilized skull of sea monster found on UK coast

(AP) – 4 hours ago

LONDON — British authorities say the fossilized skull of a giant sea monster has been found off England's southern coast.

The fossil came from a pliosaur, a ferocious predator that lived in the oceans 150 million years ago.

The skull was discovered in Dorset by a collector and measures 2.4 meters (8 feet) in length. The discovery was announced Tuesday.

Scientists believe the creature would have been about 16 meters (52 feet) long.

David Martill, a paleontologist from the University of Portsmouth, says pliosaurs had short necks and huge, crocodile-like heads with powerful jaws and a set of razor-sharp teeth.

He said they used paddle-like limbs to propel their bodies through the water and were generally carnivores.

The skull will be put on display in a Dorset museum.

Photo: Paleontologist Richard Forrest with the jawbone of a fossilized pliosaur found in Dorchester on the southern coast of England.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More behavioral innovation from the folks at TheFunTheory.com

As promised, TheFunTheory.com has posted a new video in their series of interactive studies in fun. The Bottle Bank Arcade is the latest of Volkswagen's creative attempts to get people to do the right thing by making it much more fun than the alternative. They make it look so easy!

I know from my own experience in exhibition development that a fun and meaningful museum interactive is not always easy to create, but here's a little inspiration toward finding new ways to add a little more fun into our galleries and public spaces.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Smithsonian researchers discover a giant new species of golden orb weaver spider

Just in time for Halloween, researchers from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History have described the largest known species of golden orb spider. Click the link below to visit the Smithsonian's website for the complete story.

The image is from the Smithsonian article and depicts the huge body of a female N. komaci spider. Bodies of the females can reach up to 1.5 inches in length.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Earhart hair at IWASM turns out to be thread

The discovery that IWASM's hair sample is actually just a bit of thread may be sad news for Earhart fans, but on the bright side, the Museum has extended the run of its exhibit "The Life and Legacy of Ameila Earhart" through November 15th so you can head down to Burke Lakefront Airport and check out the sample for yourself.

Cleveland museum's Earhart 'hair' just thread

A group looking for DNA evidence of the pioneer aviator on a Pacific island recently asked the International Women's Air and Space Museum for a sample of the "hair" for comparison. Museum executive director Toni Mullee says an analysis determined the specimen was thread that looked like hair.

Mullee says the museum acquired the artifact 20 years ago from the Smithsonian Institution, which had gotten it from a Pennsylvania man. The museum has had it on exhibit next to a book with an anecdote about a White House maid who saved some Earhart hair from a wastebasket.

Mullee says the thread will stay on display, with a full explanation.

Information from: WJW-TV, http://www.fox8cleveland.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fun Theory: museums take note, fun makes a difference

The Volkswagen company has a come up with an incredible new website featuring videos of behavioral experiments in fun. In the short videos we observe people making simple decisions in everyday circumstances, such as whether to take the stairs or the escalator, and whether or not to throw their trash in the appropriate bin. At the beginning of the videos we witness the less desirable behavior, but a remarkable transformation occurs when the element of fun is added into the equation.

Museums, here are two great examples of the value in employing the fun-factor when trying to engage our visitors. Watch the videos below and be sure to check in periodically at www.thefuntheory.com as the experiments continue.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Desperate for attention, museum calls upon star power to plead its case

Eva Longoria Parker, who plays Gabrielle Solis on ABC's Desperate Housewives, was in Washington today lobbying Congress on behalf of the effort to bring a National Museum of the American Latino to our nation's capitol. This comes just a day after Tom Hanks appeared here in Cleveland in a special sold-out performance to raise money for the Great Lakes Theater Festival, where he got his dramatic start as an intern in the late 1970s. If only all worthy museums and arts organizations could find such glamorous, popular, and altogether compelling spokespeople we might not have so many institutions with lagging annual fund campaigns and dwindling endowments.

It must be really nice to find someone rich and famous to champion your cause, but if your organization is like most of those I know and you have to beg for every nickel, I have found some great common sense ideas for keeping a fresh approach to fund raising at www.nonprofitlocal.com. I particularly enjoy their "tip of the day" on the homepage, and have also found the aggregated NPO news in their "Stay Current" section to be a convenient place to start digging deeper for information on trends and tactics. If you choose to join the site (it's free) you become part of their international, online, nonprofit forum and can submit your own tips to the community.

Free news, forums, and advice may not be as sexy as Eva Longoria, but when you're desperate for inspiration, or a fresh idea it is a real-world resource.

Photo from Planet Photos/ABC

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Does McDonald's in the Louvre assault the Museum's integrity, or broaden its audience?

Maybe it is just me, but the fact that McDonald's will now be serving Le Big Mac in the mall below the Louvre, does not seem like that big of a deal. In fact, the uproar among both museum professionals and frequent visitors seems like yet another example of the museum faithful giving lip service to the idea that museums are for everyone, while actually preferring to keep their favorite museums as high-brow and inaccessible to the average Joe as possible.

The mall beneath the Louvre is operated by a property management company completely separate from the Museum's administration. According to Louvre officials, it was the property company's decision to let McDonald's in, not the Louvre's. They already had a Starbucks, why not a McDonald's?

Rather than haughtily distancing themselves from this development, the Louvre should be taking a long hard look at the audience they most need to serve going forward, identifying that portion of reluctant visitors whose only obstacle is seeing the Museum as a place truly interested in them, and then embracing the fact that a new McDonald's in the existing food court may be a convenient and reasonable way to make those people feel more comfortable.

So, now there are going to be greasy burgers and fries in the adjacent, subterranean mall, so what? No one is requiring the deeply cultured museum elite to eat at McDonald's. Visitors may still choose from several other eateries in the mall, or head out to the nearest Paris bistro to enjoy a delicate foie gras and salad. Has that much truly changed?

I can understand that McDonald's does not fit within the traditional mold of the exquisite museum brand administered by the Louvre. However, instead of condemning McDonald's as an icon of bad taste, perhaps the Museum should think outside of the velvet-lined box, deciding to see this as an opportunity to serve the ideal of being a museum for all. Call me pollyanna if you like, but I learned something about the essence of public museums in my very first job out of college. As I mentioned in my first post to this blog, I worked on the Artrain, traveling the country bringing art to communities without art museums. It was during our stop in Williamson, West Virginia when I met a little boy who forever changed my perspective.

We were stationed for a week in Williamson, the largest town in an area known mainly for the rivalry between the Hatfields and McCoys. During that week a certain little boy about seven years old visited us every day, waiting in line for up to an hour and half to gain free access to the museum. I can no longer remember the boy's name, although I knew it at the time, but I can see his sweet, dirty, little face in my mind as clear as the day I met him. Each of the first four days he came alone, wearing tattered clothes, and always barefoot. Despite his rough appearance, the child was pleasant and mannerly, and always behaved himself inside the galleries. On the final day of our engagement in Williamson, our boss from HQ in Ann Arbor traveled down for a visit. Just as he had each of the previous days, the little boy arrived mid-afternoon to see the artwork, but that day was Saturday, and he brought his parents and baby sister along with him.

For all of the young staff he was a triumph-- sharing his passion with his parents! Unfortunately, to our uber-administrator boss, he was unacceptable-- barefoot. She walked straight over to him, addressed his parents, told them to get out of line, and said they could return when he was properly attired. Barefoot children would not be permitted in the museum. I was horrified. As staff, we all were. With a brief look around at each other, a reassuring nod, and a swift step in the direction of the little family beginning their walk home, we sought to make amends. Two of us apologized to the boy's parents, explaining that our boss had not been there all week, and thus had not been properly introduced to their son. We called him our biggest fan, and invited them to step back into the line. It was clear that the boss lady was ticked at our insubordinate response, but the tough coal miners in line were angry too, just not at us. She backed off and the family went through the Artrain without another word.

It sounds like a story you would read to a child at bedtime, too sentimental to be true, but it is true, every word. I have no idea what happened to him and whether visiting the Artrain changed his life in some meaningful way, but he certainly changed mine. He instilled in me a greater sense of what it means to serve an ideal, to be mission-driven, to be visitor-focused.

I was outraged when I read that Jean-Michel Raingeard, President of the Federation of French Friends of Museums and European Vice President of the World Federation of Friends of Museums, is worried that "museum directors seem to care more about the number of people they attract rather than the quality." Wow. It takes an enormous amount of hubris to be so incredibly frank and openly elitist with CNN. Let us hope he does not speak for the majority of museum "friends," or the rest of us may wonder if we are even worthy of admission. If I am not on the major contributors list, am I not of sufficient quality? Certainly, the Louvre will remain at the pinnacle of art historical excellence with or without a McDonald's in its basement, but query whether or not it can truly be one of the best museums if it only serves the world's consumer elite.

Please click here for a link to the story on CNN.com.

Agree or disagree with me? Please share your comments below.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where do you get your local Art Museum news? Take the Twitter poll

The San Diego Museum of Art has launched an interesting poll on Twitter. Click the link below to weigh in.

twtpoll :: Where do you get your local Art Museum news? (exhibitions, new works of art, events, new hires) (via @SDMA)

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Stan Hywet hires veteran of Coke and Disney as its new chief

I wonder how the new chief executive will affect the future direction of Stan Hywet's public programming and ongoing preservation efforts. It will be interesting to see if someone with such a strong background in high-profile, commercial industry can translate her experience into effective leadership at a mission-driven, educational institution with as rich a heritage as Stan Hywet's without changing its philanthropic focus.

Crain's Cleveland Business: Stan Hywet Hall hires veteran of Coke and Disney as its new chief

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What do you think about Stan Hywet's choice for their new Executive Director? Please share your comments below.

3 days left to save 50% by pre-registering for AAM's Annual Meeting 2010

If you are still on the fence about attending AAM's Annual Meeting next spring in L.A., you have three days left to decide and still save 50% off the full price of registration. For $295, you get all of the professional development, latest research, pertinent sessions, and top-shelf networking opportunities that we have come to expect from AAM, and this year the price tag actually makes it accessible. In fact, what you save in registration fees could cover most of the cost of your airfare out to southern California.

For more information, or to register online, click this link to be redirected to AAM's website.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Trust is not giving up on the Wilderness Battlefield

For those of you who followed the battle between Wal-Mart and legions of historians fighting to preserve the area around the Wilderness Civil War battlefield, apparently the war isn't over just yet. Despite the decision by the Orange County supervisors to allow Wal-Mart to go ahead with its plans to construct a supercenter across the street from the battlefield, the historians have not accepted defeat.

Although the supervisors' ruling seemed to put an end to the preservationists' appeals, it appears they have one appeal left, to the head of Wal-Mart himself. The National Trust for Historic Preservation now has a form letter on its website that can be personalized before being forwarded to Wal-Mart's President and CEO, Michael T. Duke.

If you wish to support The National Historic Trust's efforts encouraging Wal-Mart to select a more suitable location in Orange County, Virginia for its new supercenter, click this link to participate in their online letter-writing campaign. If you cannot access the website through the link above, copy this address into your browser to reach the form. https://secure2.convio.net/nthp/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=394

Image: The National Trust for Historic Preservation Headquarters in Washington, DC
Photograph by Alan Karchmer

Seasonal creative support added to Illumine Creative Solutions' existing services

Anticipating the onset of the slowest stretch for my museum projects, from November to January, this year I am applying my creative production skills and event planning experience to the seasonal needs many businesses encounter during the lead-up to the holidays.

From planning and procuring thoughtful and artful thank you gifts for clients and employees, to designing and installing tasteful seasonal decorations and displays, I can help with those holiday projects that require a refined aesthetic and an eye for detail.

If your business, gallery, or museum store could use some help tackling these time-sensitive tasks this holiday season, give me call to see if I can help.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Visit museums for free on Smithsonian's Museum Day

This Saturday, September 26th, is the Smithsonian Magazine's annual Museum Day. Hundreds of museums across the country will open their doors for free to any person (plus one additional guest) with a Museum Day admission card, which can be downloaded from this website. Simply present the card to receive free general admission at participating Museum Day locations.

Unsure if any of your local museums are taking part in Museum Day? Check the interactive map on the Smithsonian Magazine's website here to find a museum near you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Can you say Parasaurolophus?


Is it any wonder that she loves the Cleveland Museum of Natural History more than just about any other place on Earth? These dinosaur flashcards were a gift from her cousin, and Nora loves flipping through them in her free time learning the animal names and features.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CMA Chalk Festival photos

Indeed it was a beautiful day on Sunday and the weather was perfect for the Chalk Festival. Unfortunately, I could not get my mobile blog posting software to upload the photos from my phone live that afternoon, but here they are.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

20th Annual Chalk Festival this weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art

I just checked the local 5-day forecast and am delighted to report that our resident meteorologists are predicting a beautiful weekend here in Cleveland. This is particularly great news since the Cleveland Museum of Art will be hosting its 20th Annual Chalk Festival on Saturday and Sunday, and I am heading down to the Circle with my family for all of the fun.

The Museum's chalk festival draws on a centuries-old European tradition first practiced outside of Cathedrals in Italy, where poor beggars would decorate the sidewalks with chalk and charcoal drawings of famous paintings. This weekend, you are invited to come down to the Museum and try your hand at reproducing the Old Masters, or to produce your own original masterpiece. Sidewalk squares are $8, or $16, depending on the size and come with all of the chalk needed to begin your piece de resistance.

Don't want to get your hands dirty? That's fine, you can admire the chalk drawings created by renowned artists, groove to live music, and stroll the beautiful gardens around the Wade Lagoon all for free. That's right, there is no admission fee, and the weather looks sunny, so plan to come down and join the festivities. The event runs from 11:00 to 5:00 on Saturday the 12th, and from 12:00 to 5:00 on Sunday the 13th.

I am planning to be there with my husband and our two little girls on Sunday to color a square. We plan to create an original abstract work, incorporating the prominent toddler and preschool influences that affect our creative vision during this predominantly pink period we find ourselves in right now. But, knowing how things go with small fry, it may end up as one of those unfinished classics that the artists, once distracted, never return to finish. Photos to follow next week.

For more information on the music performances, the history of the Chalk Festival, or to reserve a sidewalk square, check out the Museum of Art's Newsroom blog, or visit the Museum's website.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Scifri Videos: Space Golf, Astronaut Included

Here is a great new Science Friday video about the New York Hall of Science's innovative, outdoor science exhibit-- a miniature golf course! If only every science exhibit could be half this interactive, and come with a real, live astronaut...

Scifri Videos: Space Golf, Astronaut Included

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Enjoy the video, and a have a great holiday weekend! Maybe get out there with the family and enjoy a little mini-golf.

The photo is from a recent round of family mini-golf at Pirate's Island in Hilton Head, SC.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Picture Hanging 101 from the New York Times

Hanging artwork in a museum or your own home can be a frustrating challenge if you are unfamiliar with the best methods and materials for the job. Fortunately, in her article in today's New York Times, Arianne Cohen has taken the guesswork out of the process with an excellent how-to article containing plenty of practical tips from the pros.

Check out the article by clicking on the link below, and if you still need help installing your next exhibit, gallery show, or just hanging your latest family portrait over the fireplace, call in your own expert for advice or assistance by posting a comment or dropping me an email.

Published: September 3, 2009
How to hang pictures like a professional.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Get to know the Intermuseum Conservation Association

The Arts section of Sunday's Plain Dealer featured a great article on the Intermuseum Conservation Association and the incredible services they provide to museums and collectors alike from their headquarters on Cleveland's West Side.

In addition to all of their high-quality conservation services, ICA also offers educational programs for the general public focused on ways to improve the care of the personal collections we cherish. If you are unfamiliar with ICA, click on the link below to read the article from yesterday's paper.

Also, be sure to check out ICA's website for more information on their programming and professional museum services.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wal-Mart wins, the Wilderness will have a new neighbor

Well, the battle is over and in the end the corporate giant was just too much for the legions of historic preservationists, Civil War historians, and park rangers fighting to keep Wal-Mart from building a new supercenter across from the site of a sacred battlefield.

For some background on the controversial commercial development see my post from July 17, No Wal-Mart in the Wilderness. Follow the link below for a report from the Charlottesville News on the decision made Monday night by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to let Wal-Mart go ahead with their construction as planned.

Orange Co. Supervisors Approve Controversial Walmart
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Did the Orange County leaders make the right decision? Does the potential economic development for the region outweigh the increased traffic and noise near the hallowed battleground? Please share your thoughts on striking a balance between progress and preservation by posting your comments below.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Color choice is key in gallery design

Finally back from my vacation (sigh) and sifting through the mountains of email in my inbox, I came across the latest electronic issue of Sherwin-Williams' Stir magazine. In it there is a nice article about the importance of wall color in gallery spaces. Stir is a magazine aimed mainly at interior designers, but this article presents the issue of color choice from a museum's perspective, emphasizing the design process that takes place before gallery installations and the impact paint colors have on the visitors and the artwork.

Check out this article for important questions to ask in planning your next exhibit installation and key concepts to keep in mind when selecting a color palette.

A look at how museum exhibition designers maximize color

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Museums, please take my temporary/traveling exhibit survey

I am currently helping the Pro Football Hall of Fame develop a traveling exhibit program to integrate into their ongoing temporary exhibit development schedule. In advance of planning and producing the next exhibit, I am hoping to gather some information about what museums look for today in traveling exhibits and what they expect in the way of content, design, and facility considerations.

As a means of reaching a wide array of museums, I have developed a very simple, 10 question survey, which should take no more than 3 or 4 minutes to complete. Please follow the link below to access the survey on SurveyMonkey.com and help me provide you with high-quality exhibits in the future. Thanks for your participation!

Click here to be redirected to the survey. If you cannot use the link, simply copy and paste the following URL into your browser: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=4vZXKhz2ydsa21ULtlEVdQ_3d_3d

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Scifri Videos: Museum Artists Keep It Real

I am posting a link to another cool Science Friday video, but this one is specifically about museums.

During my tenure as Director of Exhibits at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, I was consistently impressed by the scientific reverence, technical skill, and imaginative artistry employed by our taxidermist, Larry Isard, a highly-acclaimed nature artist in his own right, and our exhibit artisan, Carl Jara, who is also an award-winning sand sculptor. Unfortunately, Larry passed away suddenly earlier this year, but his legacy will live on for years at the Museum. Carl is still busy at the Museum using his artistic ingenuity to interpret the natural world around him for museum visitors of all ages.

Click on the following link to check out the video paying tribute to the often overlooked art of the still-life diorama.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Local collaborators Tweet-up and fire up their Facebook faithful in hopes of winning the funding prize.

Click on the link below to learn about how nine Northeast Ohio collaborations (local governments, economic development corporations, nonprofit organizations, and regional partnerships) are leveraging the new social media, along with traditional means of pounding the pavement, in their race to gather the most votes for their projects in the final days of the Efficient GovNow campaign. Three winners will share $300,000 in funding from the Fund for Our Economic Future.

EfficientGovNow Blog: Leaderboard Changing

You can vote right here for your choice of prize-winning efficient government project until July 31st.

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eco-friendly favors-- building a better world, even at a baby shower

I was in charge of making the favors for my cousin's baby shower last Saturday. Instead of plastic baby tchotchkes that no one really needs, everyone received a reusable shopping bag and a yummy Kashi treat.
The handmade gift tags delivered the simple message I wanted to drive home, even small changes make a difference when we all do something. Every 3rd bag had a sticker on the tag, which meant the recipient could pick a "prize" from a grocery bag of earth-friendly items. They unwrapped the prize and read the accompanying tag to the group. Fun facts about how the item helped us go green were printed on each prize tag.

Eschewing images of starving polar bears, dying reefs, or animals choked with human trash, and doom and gloom climate predictions, I kept the facts fun and the message positive: each change makes a difference. Everyone said they liked it better than the old-fashioned, silly, baby shower games and plastic trinkets filled with soft mints. Plus, they all seemed eager to try and live a little greener, even snatching up the extra bags to put in their other family car.

Drop me an email if you would like to know more about the game, fun facts, or the products I chose to feature.

Keep our mother earth in mind the next time you are planning an event for your museum, or for friends and family. Most people will pleased by your efforts and happy to learn from your example.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No Wal-Mart in the Wilderness

If you read my last post and thought it regrettable that a museum would choose to tear down a building conceived and commissioned by its founder, how do you feel about a big box, mega-retailer like Wal-Mart paving over the blood of our forefathers to put up a parking lot?

OK, so maybe that characterization is a bit unfair, but unfortunately it is not too far off. Wal-Mart is currently embroiled in negotiations with officials and residents of Orange County Virginia, and pitted against incensed Civil War historians, preservationists, and enthusiasts as it tries build a new super center store across the street from the site of the Wilderness battlefield.

For those of us whose Civil War history is a bit rusty, the battle of the Wilderness took place in May, 1864 and was the first time forces commanded by Lee and Grant faced each other on a field of combat. By the end of the fighting 29,000 soldiers were dead, wounded, or captured. If Sam Walton's forces get their way, soon you'll be able to pick up the latest smiley-faced deal right across the street.

Follow this link to a photo story on Flickr chronicling the efforts being mounted by the Civil War Preservation Trust to get Wal-Mart to consider another site for their store further from the historic and hallowed ground.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Museums making progress for the sake of progress, at what cost?

An old building was torn down on Monday behind the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It was a carriage house-- a relatively old, late Victorian building, designed and commissioned by the Museum's namesake, the significance of which had been widely debated. Suffice it to say, the Museum owned the building and wished to tear it down to clear the way for a new addition designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano.

An article in the Boston Globe gives the account of the eventual demolition and comments posted by readers allude to the disagreement over the Museum's decision to raze the old structure to begin anew.

Gardner Museum tears down carriage house at heart of dispute - The Boston Globe
Photo above: The carriage house demolished by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff)
(Posted using ShareThis)

As I am unfamiliar with the specific motivating factors on both sides of the argument in this particular case, I'll set aside my own opinion on the demolition of the Gardner carriage house, but the incident does beg the question, when are we seeking progress for progress' sake alone? How do we effectively weigh the future cost of today's decision to sacrifice something old, to bring about something new? As museums, when are we truly improving our visitor experience, and when are we simply refreshing it? And, if all we need, or desire, is refreshment, do we really need to destroy what is old, or can we effectively repurpose it?

I am sure that in their due diligence process the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum wrestled with all of these questions and more, but how did they know when they had arrived at the right answer? In destroying an edifice conceived by their founder as part of her original museum vision, how did the Gardner Museum leadership balance their founding principles and core mission with their own vision for the museum in the 21st Century and beyond? We all hope that egos, deep pockets, and other traditional sources of power and influence will not weigh heavily upon our decision-making process, but living in the real world we have seen these forces at work in conference rooms, cocktail parties, and board meetings. Who you know and what you can bring in still makes a difference. Even when the strategic plan is specific, collaborative, and comprehensive there seems to always be enough room for individual interpretations and personal visions.

Working in the museum field for these last 13 years, I have been involved in strategic planning on staff at several institutions, and as a collaborator or facilitator at several more. In each process the details are different, but the aim is the same: let's define who we are, why we are relevant, and how we can do what we do better in the future. Along the way, some ideas are set aside as impractical, some goals are determined to be unattainable, and some buildings are marked for demolition. In my opinion, the process is most authentic and "refreshing" when there are no sacred cows, when everything is on the table and all ideas are considered and debated upon their own merits. I assume that this is what happened in Boston, and eventually the Museum decided that the carriage house needed to go to make room for a new space that will better serve their mission and long-term goals.

As guardians of the public trust, museums need to be very open with their staff internally and with their external constituents, sharing, explaining, substantiating, and even reconsidering the goals and initiatives that drive their biggest and most controversial decisions. Ultimately, the final plan and directives will, and should, still come from museum leadership, but I believe the most inclusive process would have the best end result.

The Cleveland Museum of Art exemplified this open approach in 2004-05 as they prepared to embark on their massive $300 million renovation. The Museum did an excellent job of including its members and other visitors in the planning phase, encouraging public input and gaining their trust. Some decisions were initially unpopular (like enclosing the courtyard and cutting down the towering old trees), but through open dialogue many Clevelanders were persuaded that the Museum had a clear, relevant, and important vision for itself, which the renovation design would effectively carry out.

It is a reality that in every business, even in nonprofits and museums seeking to serve the greater good, people in leadership positions must make tough calls and some people on the outside will be unhappy with those decisions. Certainly, there are angry and disappointed people in Boston this week, but could the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have avoided the current PR quagmire with some open dialogue and public briefing sessions? Perhaps. We will never know for sure, but the rest of us can learn how not to knock down an old building from their experience. May our renovations be guided as much by reflection, as ambition, and let us all be as eager to build consensus as we are to build a new wing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last Wednesday, 70 paleontologists visited the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky

After reading this article in the New York Times, all I can say is "wow."

Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh, By Kenneth Chang

70 paleontologists visited the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky for jarring alternate view of geological history.

"The real reason dinosaurs became extinct" Gary Larson's classic cartoon offers yet another possible explanation for the dinosaurs' demise.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Ohio Arts Council needs our help too.

Here is some more unfortunate budget news, this time from the Ohio Citizens for the Arts' website. After reading the explanation of what the Ohio Arts Council faces in the way of proposed budget cuts, you are hereby encouraged to add their plight to your growing list of gripes to relay to our lawmakers in Columbus.

The following was taken directly from www.ohiocitizensforthearts.org:

There are now three working versions of the state budget – Executive, House, and Senate. Each scenario is a reduction to the Ohio Arts Council’s budget as compared to the original FY 2008/2009 budget. This is not good news for the arts in Ohio.

We are all aware of the terrible fiscal situation the State of Ohio finds itself. And the Ohio Arts Council already has done its part by sustaining significant administrative and subsidy (grant) cuts through budget reductions in FY 2008/2009 and the initial proposed FY2010/2011 budget. Further cuts will cripple the Ohio Arts Council’s ability to serve the people of Ohio.

The Conference Committee (composed of three members each from the House and Senate) will be working out the final version of the budget in the next few weeks. We need your help NOW. Please take action by contacting your Senator and Representative and the Governor to request that they provide adequate funding to the Ohio Arts Council. Ohio Citizens for the Arts set a goal of $25,000,000 for the Ohio Arts Council appropriation for the FY 2010/2011 budget and we must aim to reach this goal.

Please do your part to make sure your legislators in the House and Senate, and Governor Strickland understand:

The arts mean business to Ohio and contribute significantly to the education of our children.

  • The creative industries bring more than $25 BILLION in revenue to the State which contributes to economic competitiveness and recovery for Ohio.
  • The creative industries support 231,200 jobs in Ohio.
  • The creative industries generate $1.06 billion in state and local tax revenues.
  • The arts and arts education contribute to the kind of imaginative thinking, problem solving, skills and innovation that Ohio needs to be competitive in the 21st century global workforce.

As a way to help you better understand the impact of the possible budget scenarios, the Ohio Arts Council has provided a comparison document that shows the possible funding amounts to artists and arts organizations using the final FY2009 grant amounts, and the Executive, House, and Senate versions of the budget. Please take a moment to review the reports, they are sorted by Senate and House district so that you can have full picture of the impact the various budget scenarios mean to you, your organization, and the region: Effects of Budget Proposals. If you would like to see how the Ohio Citizens for the Arts suggested budget goal would affect your grant click here.

Please pass this message on to your trustees, members, colleagues, and other interested individuals and urge them to contact their legislators and the Governor as well. For more resources and talking points visit the Ohio Arts Council’s Making the Case page.

If you have any questions please contact Ohio Citizens for the Arts at 614/221-4064 or Donna Collins at donnacollins@ohiocitizensforthearts.org

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