Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Day In The Life of a Museum Ed. Intern

(Mary H. using our powerful Prox card)

(click on the pictures for a larger view)

9:00 AM: Our day begins in the Student Programs and Docent Room in the basement of the Modern Wing - we lovingly refer to our windowless domain as "the dungeon" - though it's quite nice and comfy inside.

Our 'Prox' cards are the magic keys to the Staff Only doors. Forgetting your Prox card makes for a miserably tedious day of inaccessibility... I learned this the hard way.

9 - 10:15 am: Here in the Docent Room we conduct a lot of SERIOUS RESEARCH to come up with great tour ideas such as: Storytelling in Art, Travel and Transformation, Technology and Innovation, Movement and Music, Ritual and Celebration and of course, my tour partner Mary and I's favorite, EXTRAORDINARY TRANSPORTATION!

(NOTE the breakfast muffins in the foreground - early on we realized that something about this job made us hungry as soon as we stepped in the door regardless of how large our breakfast was - thus, we instated a breakfast schedule.)

At 10:00am we also have a morning meeting so we know where everyone's tour is going - though even with this kind of preparation we still find ourselves in traffic jams every now and then.

10:15 - 10:30 am: We meet our little tour participants (who are not always as little as seen here - the group here is Pre-K and ADORABLE!) in the orange floored Ryan Education Center just off the Modern Wing Entrance.

Here we introduce ourselves and introduce them to the museum rules. The question, "Does anyone know some rules we have here in the museum?" has produced a wide range of odd and adorable answers such as:
"No hurting" or "No choking" or "No stealing"

(left to right: Jen leading the little ones through Griffin Court, Maya and Natalie going into the closed Modern Wing galleries in the morning)

10:30: Annnnd...we're off! At 10:30 we can officially let our groups into the museum. A guard tails each group so that we can bring them into the galleries that are closed due to the rotating closures.

(left to right: Mary D. and I (Adrienne) going to the Alsdorf Galleries; David and Sandy in the Rice Wing; Mary H. and Jen in the Alsdorf Galleries)

10:30 - 11:30:
Chaos in the museum! Ok, not really - but for an hour there are multiple student tour groups weaving in, out and around galleries.

(left to right: Me (Adrienne) have an impromptu story time, Mary D. in front of the Seurat, Jen using her teacher tricks in the Chinese galleries)

We try to see 6 works on an Art From Many Places tour (meant for student groups above 1st grade) and 4 works of art for the ABC's Tours (meant for the little ones with a shorter attention span) - but sometimes you have to improvise.

Pre-K kids are adorable, but if they aren't paying attention to the artwork as much as you'd like, sitting them down for a story might help corral them in.

(left to right: Mary D. using the key to get back into the Modern Wing, Mary D. and I about to take kinds into the Sagmiester, Natalie leaving the modern galleries)

Mary and I took the Pre-K tour to "Being Not Truthful Always Works Against Me" by Stefan Sagmeister - this is an interactive piece which kids LOVE.

They jumped, they played, they ran, they yelled - they pretty much broke every rule we introduced to them that morning and they loved every second of it.

(left to right: Maya and Picasso, Natalie with Shiva, Natalie and Mary H. talking to groups in the same room, Mary H. at Doris Lee's "Thanksgiving")

One problem we occasionally encounter is the tour traffic jam - however a skilled docent can maneuver through this problem with ease like Natalie and Mary H. did today. By crouching down with their groups and keeping their voices low they masterfully engaged two young groups in an American art gallery.

(left to right: Sandy and David leading their group down the Grand Staircase at the end of the tour)

"Oh my god, there are so many stairs! I'm going to be so tired! (after 3 stairs) I'm already SO tired" - 7 year old boy
- Quotes like these and many others on our intern Twitter: Overheard at AIC

12:00 pm: We like to attend the noon-time gallery walks led by other experienced docents in the museum. We went to a Highlights tour to get ideas for future tours.

She was great! What I learned: Doing extensive research really helps to keep people engaged on a tour. The public (and we interns) LOVED the little anecdotes found in original letters and other obscure research material that the docent shared with us.

Some of the regular docents have been doing this for as long as 30 years! So, needless to say, we have a lot to learn from them.

LUNCH (1:15 pm): We tend to rotate our lunch locations depending on the weather - which in Chicago can change dramatically in seconds. On nice days we like to sit outside at the museum cafe, sometimes we dip our feet in the river at the Lurie Gardens and on miserably humid days we admire the view from inside one of the studios in the Ryan Education Center.

2:15 - 5:00 pm: (Imagine more research and tour planning here - it pretty much looks the same as the morning except we may be spread amongst The Education Resource Center, Ryerson Library or walking around the museum)

5:00 pm: On our way to have happy hour drinks with some other Museum Education staff. One of the best parts of this job is liking the people we work with.

5:30 - whenever: Drinks at Midtown Bar.

The day is DONE...well not really...most of us are doing multiple things this summer - whether it's another job, school, one of the many Chicago summer festivals or just making sure we see our non-museum friends - we all keep pretty busy.

After a long day, we go home, sleep and do it all over again tomorrow :)

1 comment:


    thank you so much for your diligent photo-documentation and editing.