Working in a museum is nice – Exhausting, but beautiful

Working on a museum is nice. Exhausting, but beautiful. You work in a team on the realization of an exhibition, each one is an important part of a larger process, in which ideally all tasks interlock fluently. On the home straight to the opening, all forces are once again bundled. You then experience the vernissage with a mixture of euphoria and exhaustion. Then you have to let the child run and hope that it doesn’t fall into the well. All the drops have been sucked, all the cows have eaten ice cream and cheese.

Most of the time everything goes well

Mostly. And if not? There are various scenarios between embarrassment and catastrophe that drive the cortisol level up. I want to report on some of them today [although I already suspect that I could turn the topic into a series of contributions…]. Let’s start with comparatively harmless cases that made it into the funny part of the museum anecdotes afterwards.

At that time (speaking with Timbre), when I was still a young, unstruck student, I worked as a supervisor and guide at a large historical exhibition. I learned about these two events that took place during the construction of the exhibition:

Museums are always happy to make loans available to other museums

On the one hand, you might want to borrow something yourself, on the other hand, it increases the value of your own collection when your pieces are in demand. The couriers who accompany the objects from the home museum to the target museum are correspondingly proud to present their treasures in the latter and to see the borrowers in raptures. Not so with a so-called Aquamanile* that had been delivered from a French museum. The joyful excitement about the piece gave way to a silence that had been stepped on after it had been removed from the box. No question: a beautiful piece. But not what one had ordered. Now one can say that it was hoped as if it had jumped, whether the thing is one or the other. The visitor doesn’t notice it. But it was precisely this container that adorned the catalogue as well as all the printed products for the exhibition, from posters to information flyers. And believe me, there’s ALWAYS some wiseass who’ll hold that up to your nose! So, object wrapped up again and back to France. At the second attempt it worked.

The Aquamanile had been at least still small and handy

Accordingly at least the carrying effort was small. Quite different with the model of a huge castle, which was cast out of plaster and accordingly very heavy (I don’t have the exact details here, but it was really very heavy!). That’s why it had to be transported absolutely horizontally in order not to break at its own weight. Now large, heavy objects are nothing unusual for art transporters. But the devil is known to be a squirrel and so it happened that the model could be brought to the museum door without bitching. – But then it lacked a few centimeters in width. Had someone cheated about the measurements? Of course not. But a number turner was built in. With the (wrong) measurement the castle would have just fitted through the door (which of course had been measured before), but in reality it was a few millimetres too much. The castle model was one of the highlights of the exhibition, it just had to get into the museum somehow! Fortunately its rooms are now connected to another building. At this building an entrance was found, which just had the necessary millimetres more. With the precision of a watchmaker (not to think about it, if the thing had wedged!) the plaster castle was carried in there and landed over detours but still at its place.

One of the things you learn as a volunteer in a museum is how to handle objects correctly

Gloves are an absolute must in most cases, if one transports an object within the house. And no matter how far an exhibit has to go, it can only be transported to the next room: it is ALWAYS stabilized by paper (acid-free!) and packed on a trolley. The trolley has no feet to fall over and no hands to let go of. At that time (see above) I had the great pleasure of being able to set up the Art Nouveau and Art Deco department of the house together with my colleague and fellow volunteer. There was plenty of porcelain, glass and wood. In comparison, a wide bronze plate with a minimalist but effective decoration seemed insensitive.

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