Behind the scenes with MAP

Posted on July 14th, 2012 by

A blog post by Sr. Collections Manager Jobi Zink

In late June I went to Milwaukee as a Peer Reviewer for the MAP program. MAP is a museum assessment program offered through AAM for small to mid-size museum of any variety to help them strengthen operations, plan for the future, and meet standards through self-study and a consultative visit from a confidential peer reviewer. Since 1981 over 4,300 museums have gone through MAP in order to increase level of professionalism among museum staff; improve communications between staff, board and constituents; gain a clearer focus on the museum’s mission and planning; gain greater credibility with potential funders and donors; and receive national recognition of the museum’s desire to achieve excellence through self-improvement. MAP is also a first step toward AAM accreditation. (http:///www.aam-us.org/museumresources/map/index.cf) My peer review focused on collections stewardship.

In the months prior to my visit, the Museum conducted a self-study, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, and outlining their overall concerns. I received an enormous notebook of information and began reviewing the material a few weeks before my trip. I also evaluated their financial records, collections management policies, and print material. Naturally, I took a lot of notes and wrote down questions to ask in-person. Once I arrived on-site, I had to make sure that everything described in their assessment was indeed what is happening in real life.

Tools of the trade: Registrar’s Committee & PastPerfect pencils, plus the official MAP handbook

So what did I do on my assessment? First, I met with the museum Director to find out if there were any problems or concerns that stood out. This could be anything from staffing issues and security concerns, to HVAC and expansion, or and the quality of their programs. Next I took a full tour of the museum. That meant from that attic down to the basement I got to go in and see every nook and cranny, closet and floorboard, and the museum grounds—as well as the galleries and public spaces.  Then it was into collections storage — the main thrust of my assessment! I was given a pair of white gloves in order to handle the artifacts, but I asked the registrar to do most of the object handling for me (which took a bit of restraint on my end.) And of course I poked around in their database to make sure that everything was cataloged properly.

Why yes, that is a pair of white gloves conveniently tucked into my belt. The Burke Brise Soleil , a moveable sunscreen, is one of the highlights of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

I also met with the board members of the Museum to see what their perception of the museum was and to understand their plans were for the museum. The board also had a lot of questions for me: How was I qualified to assess them? How many assessments have I done before? How are they doing? In order, the answers are:  1) Anyone with 5 years of museum experience including extracurricular experience in the field (such as sitting on a board, being involved in an association, presenting/publishing, etc.) can apply by submitting their resume to MAP, identifying areas of specialty, and then waiting.  Why wait? Generally, there are more assessors than there are museums asking for assessment. Once museums turn in their self-study evaluation the MAP creates a list of several candidates who would be appropriate to assess the museum. The Museum then ranks the assessors in order of preference (usually based on relevant experience) and the MAP team makes an offer. 2) This is my first official assessment as a MAP Peer Reviewer but taking behind-the-scenes tours of museums as a major part of the JMM internship (and staff development) program. 3) You can read all about it in my final report!

Speaking of reports, in addition to a 1-2 day site visit, the reviewer has to complete their report and assessment within 30 days. The report details my observations about the Museum, confirms that the answers provided in the self-study are accurate, and provides tangible, actionable suggestions for improvement. Writing the report is a bit daunting, but MAP provides a template to follow and I can consult my notes and the self-study. Once I submit the report, my work is officially done. It will be up to the Museum to implement the changes and improvements that I recommend. Fortunately for them, there is no deadline.

Once all of the on-site work was done, I went out and explored a bit of Milwaukee.

Summerfest is the World’s Largest Music festival: an 11-day concert event at the Waterfront Park.

Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural experience as well as a trove of art. I loved the Toulouse-Lautrec poster exhibition and came back to see their permanent collection.

I always make a point of finding the Mark di Suervo piece in any city that I visit.

Did you know Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was from Milwaukee? I learned that at the Milwaukee Jewish Museum. Also, The Settlement Cook Book was first published in Milwaukee.

The original Pabst Pavillion created for the 1893 Chicago World’s Exposition is now part of the Pabst mansion,

though the stained glass inside reflects its time as the chapel for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Follow up the Pabst Mansion tour with a Best Place Brewery tour (ticket combo pack available!) and see where Pabst was brewed.

Or try some of the beer offerings at any of the local brew pubs.

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Greetings from Minnesota!

Posted on May 11th, 2012 by

 

 

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Last week I went to Minneapolis, MN for the AAM Annual Meeting.  This 4-day conference is a gathering of museum professionals from museums of every size and type. Ideas are exchanges, best practices are explained and innovative approaches to keeping museums relevant to audiences are bandied about!

My first order of business was attending the Professional Networks Program Chair Meeting. That’s right! We’re planning for year’s conference in Baltimore. As the Registrar’s Committee representative,I want to be sure that there are sessions focused on collections. Fortunately, luncheons were a great place to talk about ideas, and learn what people liked (or didn’t like!) at the sessions they attended this year.

I enjoyed the many sessions I attended at the conference: Collections Conundrums; Keeping Safe: Discovering and Handling Hidden Collection Hazards; Out from Behind-the-Scenes: Bringing Our Work Forward; Copyrights, Wrongs and the Creative Commons: Current Practices; Out of the Vaults and onto the Web: Models for Collections Access; and Free vs. Fee: How Admission Ticketing Impacts Membership and Annual Giving. I am excited to share all of the information that I learned, since so much is applicable to the JMM.

Minnesota History Museum opened their in-progress exhibition and allowed the museum community to leave their comments on post-it notes. The suggestions may be incorporated into the final layout.

Fortunately, AAM staff knows that when museum professionals get together, they really want to do is see each other’s museums. On-site insights (small tours with a specific curatorial or educational focus) and evening events are a perfect way to see behind-the-scenes.  The Asian art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art is quite impressive.

The Minnesota History Center sponsored Beer, Burlesque, and Babe (the Blue Ox). I don’t know which I enjoyed most—Summit Porter beer, the fashion show based on their Musingwear underwear collection, or hanging out with former colleague Lauren Silberman (and our new friend, Paul Bunyan!)

Claes Oldenberg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry are the highlight of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  It was lovely to walk through the gardens at twilight!

The hit exhibit at the Walker Art Center is Absentee Landlord by the Baltimore filmmaker John Waters,  but the rest of the museum collection is not to be missed either!

I came all the way to Minneapolis to see John Waters?

Not to worry, I did visit Minneapolis icon Mary Tyler Moore on my way to the airport!

 

 

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A Visit to the MET

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by

A Blog Post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink

While I was home for Passover, we went to New York City to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My AAM card got me in for free (saving $20 suggested admission fee). My dad used in old teacher’s pass and he, Jordana and Eric also got in for free.

We specifically went to see The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Paris Avant-Garde. This temporary exhibition occupies nine galleries on the third floor and is absolutely amazing! Gertrude Stein and her brothers Leo and Michael, and sister-in-law Sarah lived in Paris during the early 20th century. Although they did not have a lot of money, they were interested in purchasing art. They amassed a tremendous collection of works by young, talented, and virtually unknown artists including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

The Steins hung the works salon-style in their 460 square foot studio in Paris at 27 Rue de Fleurus, represented in a full size at the beginning of the exhibition.  In order to accommodate new acquisitions, they frequently moved and rearranged their artwork. Fortunately, the Steins also took photographs of their various installations. The curatorial team relied on over 400 photographs to curate the exhibition. Eric particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the exact paintings that were documented in the large photomurals in each of the galleries.

The Steins opened their apartments on Saturday afternoons, allowing visitors to see their collection, shaping art appreciation for future generations. When the Steins found themselves low on funds to buy more art, they would sell pieces of their collection. Clara and Etta Cone of Baltimore were frequent buyers, and thus it was not surprising that several pieces on display were on loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art.   http:///www.artbma.org/collection/overview/cone.html 

Picasso’s famous portrait of Stein reminded me of a line from The Paris Wife by Paula McLain where Gertrude Stein plays prominently in shaping Ernest Hemingway’s writing career. In the book Hadley and Ernest wonder, “How much do you think Gertrude’s breast weigh?”  My father used the audio tour and found that it provided more information than the text panel about the rift between Gertrude and Leo.

Photography is not allowed in the exhibition, but the link below will provide you with highlights from the exhibition.

http:///www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/steins-collect/images 

After the signing exhibit me I’ll when I separate ways and explore different parts of the museum. My dad was enthralled with the painting of Napoleon at battle.  http:///www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/110001498 

Eric spent two more hours in the hall of armor.

Eric poses with Henry VIII armor

My sister and toured the American Period Rooms –installations of original furnishings and structures from of the most impressive homes in the country. My sister was particularly taken by and tables and other large furniture created by the Harter brothers, well I enjoyed paintings by Thomas Dewing, Tiffany lamps and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style home.

This is the side of the Vanderbilt library table with mother-of-pearl inlay by the Harter brothers.

We all enjoyed the temple of Dendur installation – an actual in Egyptian temple that was saved in 1965 before the Nile River was intentionally flooded.

Dendur.

As you can see, even if you don’t have a free pass, the museum is well worth it!

 

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