Museum Monday – Most Popular Questions in the Gallery

I’m a museum collections manager. This means I handle project management and long-term preservation for the collections I oversee. While our visitors enjoy the galleries, much of my job takes place behind my computer, in our department’s storerooms, and in the hallways throughout our museum. I probably spend about 1/8 of my time in the galleries, and much of that time is checking that all is in place prior to the arrival of visitors each morning. I check to see that the labels are straight, that the climate is within acceptable range, and so forth.

I wear a badge, so when I am travelling through the galleries during open hours, visitors ask me questions – and I really try not to appear to be stupid. The truth is, I just don’t have the experience answering directional questions that my colleagues in Security do. Here are a sampling of most common questions asked by museum visitors:

“Where is the restroom?” (by far the most popular)
“Where is the exit?”
“Are you a curator?” (nope – good segue into discussing collection care!)
“What are you doing?” (a great question when I’m dusting artwork, allows me to talk about collection care!)
“Can I take your picture?” (this can be cool or not cool, depending on what you are doing)
“Where is ____ [obscure show in a department on the other side of the museum which I forgot to see]?

Museum colleague friends – what are your favorites?

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.