There are a couple conversations that I feel like I have on a loop. Whether at happy hour, at a networking event, meeting friends of friends, I can almost predict what the opening of any new conversation will be. It sounds a little something like this:
Person A: What do you do? (Side note: the classic DC conversation opener)
Me: I’m in graduate school, I am getting my masters in Museum Studies
Person A: Oh wow! I didn’t know that was a thing. This is a great city to be in for it.
Me: Yep! I didn’t know it was either until I decided I wanted to do it! And I know, so many great museums.
Person A: So…do you want to be a curator for the Smithsonian?
I cannot tell you the number of times I have had this conversation. And its not a bad thing! Before I had my first internship in a museum after sophomore year of college, I truly never thought about all of the people and job positions that go into a museum. It is a business, that functions on many levels outside of what you just see in the galleries. But that’s just it, all the visitors see are what is in the galleries. So, it makes sense that a curator is the first job to come to mind. It could also be perceived as a potentially glamorous position, although I am not sure all curators would agree.
But there is a predicament, how can we get the general public to see all that goes on behind closed doors? There are programs set up such as tours of the conservation spaces, or potentially into storage. But these can be risky, and an institution does not want to put their objects in danger. And a museum can’t just invite visitors into the office space – frankly it would be boring and we do have work to do!
This week I came across an interesting take on bringing visitors behind the scenes, so to speak. The Getty in California is using their Instagram account to feature #TodaysDesk. This series features a birds eye view of different staff members desks. There is a brief bio, a description of a recent project they worked on, and a quote from the staff member about why they love working at the Getty. While I personally find some of the posts a little corny, and almost like a gimmick to come work at the Getty, I understand their motives. Social media is a way to bring the outside in without physically opening the doors. It is a way to humanize the people that are behind the exhibits, and give them a voice. In this case, it is also a way to show all the different jobs that are behind the museums closed doors. See below a collage of the three most recent photos in the #TodaysDesk series from the Getty’s Instagram feed.
While I understand the motives and value behind these posts, there are always questions concerning the publics reception and interaction. On average, these posts are receiving about half the amount of likes as other content (about 500-600 likes per photo). And there are much fewer comments. There is a multitude of reasons why this could be the case – not as visually stimulating enough, people don’t want to read captions, maybe they were posted a different times, etc. But, I would be interested to know if the Getty has any data concerning the reception of these posts, outside of what can be seen to me.