Museum Monday: Some Humor, and Some Food for Thought

I think I heard about this study on the Registrar’s Committee of the American Alliance of Museum’s listserve, a very long time ago. If anyone knows the source, please comment below – I’d love to give credit where it is due.

Edvard Munch. The Scream. National Gallery of Norway. Wikimedia Commons.

A museum professional did a survey of murder mysteries set in museums. They tallied which staff members were most likely to be the victim of the crime, and by what means they were offed. Directors and security guards turned out to be those most likely to snuff it. Curators occasionally were the target of mummies. Conservators usually bought it by falling into pools of acid (and you conservators know how museums love to keep open vats of acid handy). And it turned out that registrars and collections managers always lived to see another day. Why?

Because nobody knows we exist. And that’s a problem.

While not everything that goes on behind the scenes at a museum is share-worthy with our public, our visitors and supporters feel more engaged when they get to glimpse behind the velvet curtain. Gallery talks, programs, and online features can be used to share the acrobatics used to keep a museum going. In turn, demonstrating a need for support in those areas can only happen if you let people know you need help. So let’s speak up – advocate for the development of a “nuts and bolts” tour at your institution. Highlight on your website how big objects get moved – don’t tell me that some art-loving engineer won’t be fascinated.

Just for fun, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Murder Mystery app.


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.