Sunday, December 22, 2013

Attending a Museum

Hi, Benjamin here. In this very conclusive time of year, I have another retrospective blog post topic: my job as museum gallery attendant. It's a work-study position that I'm very happy to have gotten, and for the first few weeks of work at the beginning of the semester, I thought it was pretty intellectual to have a job as a 'gallery attendant.' Over time, though, and as I got tired of always being around the same old sculptures and artifacts, I realized that I was actually just a museum guard.

I wondered briefly if the displays would come to life in the night, but I soon became engaged with the 'game' that all of us museum guards played. The thing is, when nobody is in the gallery that an attendant is in, the attendant is allowed to sit down. Whenever there is a guest in the room, though, the attendant has to be standing up.

I found myself learning to stand up and adopt a blank, yet slightly intimidating gaze in about two seconds, and to tell by the volume of footsteps on the stairs how soon visitors will be entering the gallery. I would adopt a strategic position that allowed me to rest against a wall while not getting in the way of any visitors or blocking the view of any display. The sitting down periods mostly involved reading while making sure there were no visitors about to walk in on me.

There were three general sorts of day at the museum-- days with visitors all day, with hardly any visitors at all, and days with visitors on and off. The alternating on-and-off was probably the most stressful, with constant changes is stance. Days with no visitors were the best, basically getting paid to sit and read, but it was actually days with visitors all the time that I think were the most interesting. Standing in one place for an hour, then moving to a slightly different spot for another hour because some inquisitive patron wanted to see who contributed money to the exhibit. I would enter a sort of higher state of daydreaming, thinking about all that was going on in my life and planning out the rest of the day. I would lose track of time until some Art History student would start taking pictures of the maps of Rome and I would have to go over and say, "Excuse, me, no photos in this gallery, please."

I feel like I've learned a lot from my work at the museum. It's an interesting job about only about once every other day, but there's something to be said for learning to stand motionless for long periods of time.

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