My first task at the Adirondack Museum? Read every single label and record how long it takes to go through each exhibit. At first thought, this appears to be a silly task that would only be assigned to an intern. On closer inspection, you may change your mind.
Reading every label at the Adirondack Museum is no small task. The museum campus has 26 buildings. Of those 26 buildings, 22 house one or more exhibits.
(See the Museum Visitor Guide here: http://www.adkmuseum.org/resources/documents/ADK_Visitor_Guide.pdf)
Additionally, there are labels scattered outdoors throughout the campus. If a visitor entered the museum and read every single label on the campus, it would take them 13 hours and 10 minutes (or at least that is how long it took me). Although I did take breaks from the activity to fulfill other tasks, it took me four days to read every single label. It was an excellent way to familiarize myself with the institution, especially since my summer will be filled with evaluating and suggesting improvements for visitors’ experiences in exhibits and programs.
This activity got me to thinking, how many curators have taken the time to read every single label in their exhibit. Yes, they proofread labels over and over again before mounting the exhibit, but do they ever go back through and read their work? Do new curators take the time to read all of their predecessor’s work in the institution’s permanent exhibits? If you don’t truly know what is on the gallery walls of your institution, how can you improve? If it takes three hours to read every label in an exhibit (whether or not it is one of many exhibits within the institution), don’t you think it is time to do some editing and weeding out?
I challenge you to go read every label in your exhibits. You will learn a lot, if the fatigue doesn’t get to you first!