Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Behind the Display Cases of the Museum

This week, two members of our Collections and Exhibitions staff, Jennifer Roberts and Rachel Goldstein, take us behind the scenes – and behind the display cases. For more from our C&E staff, you can follow them on Twitter (@MJHREG) where they tweet all about collecting, rotating, and preserving.

Have you ever been to a museum only to discover that your favorite objects were no longer on view? There are many reasons why museums remove items from display. At MJH items are removed most frequently due to a process we call rotation. 


Though our galleries are maintained according to museum standards, it is impossible to avoid exposure to light and changes in temperature and humidity, which over time can adversely affect objects on display. Museums combat this continued risk by frequently rotating objects on view. You’ll find us in the permanent collection every few weeks installing new objects and returning displayed items to storage. Because light and temperature damage accumulate over time and cannot be reversed, we store items in boxes that help protect them from light and in a climate controlled space.
The rotation process involves many steps and the cooperation of the curatorial and registration staff. Our collections curators begin the process by deciding which case in the permanent exhibition to rotate. Using MIMSY, our collections database, they compile a list of potential objects that fit – thematically, aesthetically, and physically – within the chosen case. This list of objects is then sent to our registrars who condition report each object. Condition reporting allows us to document the objects’ current physical state, including any damage, wear and tear, and areas of concern. If it is determined that the objects are suitable for display, we will consult our preparator, who makes recommendations for mounting and display.
While our preparator is busy making mounts for the objects, our curators design case layouts and write label text. Once the text and layouts are finalized, we produce our own labels and make sure everything is accurate, complete, and ready to rotate.

Installation usually occurs during early morning hours prior to the museum opening to the public. Once the case is open and the current objects have been removed, we take the opportunity to clean and dust inside the case. The new objects are installed along with their corresponding labels, and the physical installation is complete. Photos help document the newly rotated case, and our database records are updated to reflect the many changes. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Monkey Around with Us This Fall

While we usually frown on mischief-making exotic animals in the galleries, this fall, we’re thrilled to welcome everyone’s favorite monkey, Curious George as NYC’s Official Family Ambassador.

"With the help of the Official NYC Family Ambassador, Curious George, we are pleased to welcome even more families to discover the endless urban activities in New York City's five boroughs," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. "Curious George is a beloved and amiable character known for his adventures, and we look forward to working with him to encourage family travelers to have an enriched vacation experience in New York City." 

At the Museum, we have another connection to George. His creators Margret and H. A. Rey were German-born Jews who fled the Nazis in Paris on their bicycles, carrying their drawings. George even managed to save his creators. When the Reys were stopped and questioned by authorities suspicious of their German accents, they were let go once they showed what they were really doing—writing children’s books. We can’t help but be inspired by George’s narrow escapes and optimistic spunk, and hope our littlest visitors will be, too.

Starting today on nycgo.com/family, Curious George will encourage family travel with editorial content that features family-friendly activities and destinations for visitors as well as New Yorkers to enjoy. The editorial content includes kid-friendly NYC travel materials; guides to NYC's beaches, zoos, aquariums, and museums for children; must-see green spaces such as Central Park and Prospect Park; and more.

NYC & Company is collaborating with 16 cultural institutions throughout all five boroughs, including our Museum, to distribute a Curious George activity sheet that encourages kids and parents to use their five senses to explore each attraction and destination. Participating cultural institutions include the Louis Armstrong House Museum, National Museum of the American Indian–NY, New York Botanical Garden, New York Transit Museum and Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. 

The family ambassador program is a joint effort with NYC &CO., NBCUniversal, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and PBS KIDS. 

The hit television series Curious George airs daily on PBS KIDS (check local listings). Digital games and activities from the series are also available at pbskids.org/curiousgeorge.

Image courtesy of PBS KIDS and NYC &CO.