Magic and the Magicians Who Work Behind the Scene At a Museum
Museums are a storehouse of magic and the museum workers hold the wands. Theres so much more than meets the eye. Explore the Magic and the Magicians Who Work Behind the Scene At a Museum
On one rainy night I plopped on the couch to watch what felt like the hundredth rerun of the 2005 version of the movie Pride & Prejudice. Voicing out the lines and stuffing my mouth with chips, I was lost in thought. When Elizabeth Bennet arrives at the grand estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, she is taken in by the beauty. She chides herself at denying an estate so grand by refusing to marry Mr. Darcy. In that moment I couldn’t help but wonder, how are random people allowed to visit households as if they are museums?
When Jane Austen wrote the novel, it was perfectly normal to visit stranger’s estates to admire their houses and collections. If you find an unknown person in your house today, it would probably be a burglar!
The concept of museums first took shape in houses as personal collections. They weren’t old objects but simply hunted stuffed animals put on a pedestal. These natural history collections were well documented by their owners. These exhibitions were open for all the upper and middle classes to see. When family heirlooms and collectables became a part of personal collections for generations, these collectables became old artefacts to treasure.
At the time of Austen, the change from household museums to the modern day independent museums started to take shape. The British Museum, Louvre all began popping up. They were open for all. People flocked to these places, eager to get a glimpse of very old artefacts.
In the 19th century, museums were regarded as the temples of knowledge. They displayed art, old culture, traditions, natural history from across the region. These items were displayed along with proper detailed explanation. You can call this an early form of visual learning. Visiting a museum was just like acquainting oneself with the place and its people. It propagated the knowledge of art and history. It also developed a flair for collecting historical objects.
Two centuries later, do you believe technology has robbed us of these methods to learn new cultures? The visuals, online repositories of artefacts, online art galleries prove otherwise.
In the US, museums employ 400,000 people and contribute a staggering $21 Billion to the economy. Small towns create museums on local history. These museums attract a large number of tourists giving a boost to the local economy- tourists need transportation, tour guides, lodging facilities, souvenir shops, restaurants and other allied businesses. That’s the real power of a museum.
Does this mean that the museum industry hires over 400,000 curators?
There are plenty of history lovers working in a totally different field, out of touch with history. They are under the impression- not everyone can become a curator. This is a false misunderstanding. Museums require people from a vast area of expertise. These people are as important as airport executives. One mistake and an entire historic object might be damaged forever beyond repair.
Who are these invisible angels who work to get us closer to our roots? Here is a behind the scenes.
It all starts when the chief curator or one of the members of the curator’s team comes up with the idea of a new exhibit. This idea is a very raw plan which is taken to the Board of Trustees and the Director of the museum. The Trustees and the director are at the apex of the hierarchy in museums. Once they give their consent, financial executives look into the budget and make a financial plan for the new exhibit. This helps them make a detailed summary of all the requirements.
Meanwhile a team is in charge to keep a record of all the artefacts a museum has in its various storages. Some artefacts are never displayed to the visitors and are stored mostly underground, away from light and dust. After a survey of the historical objects, historians are called in to inspect. They are the most important professionals in this entire process. Historians give the correct story behind the object, date and explanation of the artefact. Without historians, visiting a museum would be of no use.
Now the team knows what items will be going on display. They know the amount of money it requires and they also know what those artefacts mean. This is the time to make their raw information more compelling to visitors. This is where the creative superheroes step in.
An interior decorator gets the exhibit to look appealing and easy to navigate. They create the display areas and display boards. Here is where an electrician, painters are all needed. To top it off a technician is called to make the gallery more interactive using audio visuals.
Next comes the team of content writers. Their job is to make the information given by the historians eye catching. They play with the words and fonts.
At this stage the exhibit is ready and the marketing begins. A graphic designer adds more visual content to the exhibit and also designs more content and pamphlets.
A marketing team creates an ad campaign and reaches the audience. They pick the right places, people to advertise to. They also reach tourists and history enthusiasts who are the museum’s closest ambassadors. A social media campaign is also launched to reach a younger audience. This is not where the story ends, as visitors crowd the halls of the museum, an entire magic unfolds.
All these visitors require other facilities. A caterer, a souvenir shop, transportation, other sight seeing tours and many other businesses have wonderful incentives to set shop. Most museum visitors are tourists who are interested in food, souvenirs and tours. This creates an entire economy altogether. If this isn’t magic, what is?
All these people are responsible to get more global tourists and keep the commercial cycle rotating. They must attract more people who are interested to acquaint themselves with the local culture. This is something a new movie cannot seem to achieve on a global scale.
All this magic unfolds because of the muggles who try to get us the best of our old culture. They are all working out of the public eye trying to preserve the customs and culture. Next time you step into a museum think of all these people who work tirelessly, extra hours, behind the scenes to keep our history and heritage safe from the wear and tear of time.
In this extract, I have missed out many other professions that are connected to history and museum lovers. All these people team up to create magic. They get the old unknown articles to the world. They tell us stories of a past that we have almost certainly forgotten. Being a museum worker is hard work with more patience and long hours.
They preserve our culture and showcase it to the world. Don’t they deserve a hug this International Museum Workers’ Day?
Extra Trivia- Have you ever noticed the written content displayed beside the object or its setting? Museums have to take extra care to write and display objects in their most authentic and politically correct form. They avoid any frictions with the visitors’ feelings.
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