adventures in museum-going

Tag Archive: happy

  1. Day 6: Routers, printers & painters, oh my!

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    3D-printed objects at the OEC.

    Today, I walked through a wonderland of powertools, printers and substrates. We visited the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits Central, which is effectively a fabrication firm that counts all the varying Smithsonian institutions as its clients. Their workshop is a maker’s dream — or should I say workshops? Because the space is huge: it’s something like 50,000 square feet of power tools, 3D printers, vinyl in all colors of the rainbow, Plexi, plywood, shopvacs…and that’s just what I saw. The space is sectioned off by massive doors, so we couldn’t see it all.

    We could, however, see the entire exhibit development process from model to crating, thanks to a SITES exhibit that was getting ready to ship. We were able to see the maquetes that were done early in the design process, and then we got to see the real thing as it was getting packed. That’s pretty awesome, especially when you couple it with a set of full construction documents and insights from the designer herself. It really drove home a lot of what we learned in theory in the two exhibit design and construction classes.

    While I’m thinking about it, it turns out SITES needs interns. I got really excited for about a half a second — SITES seems like an interesting organization, the women we met who were crating the exhibit were energetic and enthusiastic — and then I remembered that I live on the wrong coast! But the trip through the shop left me convinced that I need to learn autoCAD, CNC software, and maybe lighting (though I have the National Gallery of Art presentation to thank for that) — somehow, I need to get into a fabrication shop!!

  2. Day 5: Air & Space!

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    Air and Space is, hands down, my favorite museum on Earth (so far, anyway). So I was really, really excited to visit today, and even more excited to meet Beatrice Mowry, the Chair of Exhibit Design and Technology. As has been the case with most of our guest speakers this week, she was full of interesting insights as to the way NASM gets the exhibits work done.

    I especially liked having her perspective as we walked through the museum. This was a different kind of tour. Unlike when we walked through Damage Control with its curator, Beatrice didn’t interpret objects for us or talk about the galleries from an object-oriented perspective. Instead, she talked about the unique challenges of getting airplanes strung from a glass ceiling and keeping the Plexi surrounding displayed spacecraft clean.

    It was gratifying to hear her talk about the many changes upcoming at the NASM — after a 30-year career in that museum, she seemed genuinely excited about what’s coming up in the next decade or so! After many people commenting on lack of funding, low visitor numbers and other realities of museum work, to hear Beatrice (who also mentioned funding challenges, to be fair) genuinely amped about her work was a nice change of pace!

    Air & Space — more specifically, wanting to work there — is how I found out about this program (digging through the Smithsonian’s website looking for ways to get involved led to a museum studies program listing) and is also one of the reasons I’m in it. So it was especially nice to revisit the museum (between Udvar-Hazy and the Mall facility, this is my fifth visit in three years) and be reminded of what got me started in the first place. In a lot of ways, it helped quell the discouragement I felt yesterday!