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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Behind the Scene Tours

The last few months have been busy ones. What with the holidays and sudden rise in people wanting "Behind the Scene Tours" of our Collections Vaults. Since moving into the new facility 7 years ago, tour requests have been steady but slow, maybe one a month. Suddenly they've just exploded. Weekly groups of 35, 60 and now 80 NEED to get into places built to safely secure art, objects, photographs, rare books, and manuscripts in humidity and temperature controlled environments.

Is anyone else experiencing this? In early January there was a flood of announcements on new exhibits, and a lengthy discussion of whether or not to allow grade-school classes into the reference rooms, but I've not noticed anyone talking about, or offering this type of "Behind the Scenes Tours".

Don't get me wrong, it's great to take them IN. It never fails to increase my appreciate for the Collections. Just this week alone I opened a random drawer and found over 30 Inuit animal carvings. They are just amazingly animated! Cute even. People are always surprised and impressed by the immensity and range of the collections, and it feels good to share, but the point of having that material is also to preserve it, and I wonder how this effects that? We've decided on a ratio of one staff member for every 10 tour-ists, but is that enough? We're also considering charging? mostly as a means of encouraging people to appreciate the experience, but do we charge everyone? What about fellow museums? etc. And what are they doing? Do other museums provide these tours? Under what circumstances? for Whom? Do you charge?

1 comment:

Heather said...

Kelly, as usual the questions you raise are fantastic. For us, the question of charging is complicated (as a federal facility) as is the question of, "Behind which scene?" Our facilities are so distributed, and we can't be the only institution in that situation.

And what meaning does the context of shared storage give to these objects? When collections are exhibited, and meaning elicited based on their context (in the exhibit), what meaning can & do visitors glean from seeing them in their storage facilities? Can that meaning be conveyed in a behind the scenes tour?

Thanks again for making me think, Kelly!