Back to museum school

Yesterday was the first day of winter quarter at museum school.  Fall quarter ended in early December, so getting myself together and making the hour-long drive to Seattle – most importantly, getting up early enough that said hour-long drive to Seattle didn’t make me late for my first class – was something I’d gotten out of the habit of doing. Leaving in the dark and coming home in the dark.

But museum school is very much worth far more than that relatively trivial effort. My classes this quarter are collections in the morning, and exhibits in the afternoon, both held at the Nordic Heritage Museum.

I have been looking forward to collections class since last summer when I first signed up for the program, and all the way through last fall’s introductory and educational programming classes. I was a librarian for many years. This part of museum work is the part of librarian work that I didn’t get to do enough of. I enjoyed the educational programming class, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always been more interested in the materials/artifacts themselves, in collecting and caring for them to meet a library/museum’s criteria, and what they mean and what their significance is and how they can be used. Because there aren’t that many public library cataloging and collection development jobs anymore, at least not in comparison to direct educational/reference jobs, I’ve not been able to satisfy my desire to work in that end of the business the way I hope to now.

And even today’s focus on collection policies and procedures didn’t daunt me. Perversely enough, I found it fascinating. Next session we get to start handling some real artifacts. I can hardly wait.

Exhibits class in the afternoon was almost as interesting. A general introductory lecture on the components of an exhibit and the division of labor and the process involved in creating one.

At the end of the class the instructor handed each of us an artifact, bits of unrelated flotsam he’d collected for use in the exercise – I received a lime green swizzle stick from a place called the Shelter Bay Resort. He then broke us up into groups and gave us five minutes to come up with an exhibit title and theme based on our artifacts. My group’s artifacts, which also included a bamboo tea whisk and an animal vertebrae, became an exhibit on drinking accessories from around the world (the vertebrae, of course, was from some stone-age tribe, and was to be carved into a cup).

Sounds like a silly party game, but it made us think, which is a good thing as the final class project is for each of us to plan and design an exhibit of our own. I have the feeling I’m going to need to come up with a very good idea…