The Next Generation

I’ve always said I don’t like taking work home however I’ve always found saying that is easier than accomplishing it!

When I first started out in this industry, I was what you would call a backstage roadie dealing with the logistics of international exhibitions with a well known company in Spain. I found that gave me a very different perspective when I went to museums in my own free time. I’d notice if things were not hung level, when labels were missing, when the support to a piece looked funny and even when the paint job was a little off.

If I had worked on a show I’d know all the details of what really went on behind the scenes. Despite the beauty or importance of a piece, if something had delayed it’s arrival or an issue had arisen with it it’s all I would be able to focus on (though seeing it in its spot made me sigh with relief). If i hadn’t worked on the show I wondered how things had been packed, handled an transported. What crates were used/ built?

Most people don’t notice clearance levels in hallways, stairwells or door frames but I did. There was no avoiding looking at access points and loading docks differently, no matter where I went! I know what fits and what doesn’t on standard international palletized flights and whenever I’m on a plane I can’t help but wonder what that belly holds apart from luggage.

My husband likes to say I’m a little bit of a control freak so the shoe fits with this industry. When I transferred over to the museum side my experience helped me greatly and my slightly OCD side was complemented in my day to day tasks as a Collections Manager/ Registrar. In front of me I had a whole collection that needed TLC. The thought of re-organizing, re-housing and properly inventorying everything was like throwing a kid in a toy store!

I didn’t realize just how much my job influenced my life until I one day when my daughter was sorting through some stickers and did this:


It was then that I realized why no babysitter was ever able to follow my toy storage technique. All musical toys go in one bin, all sorting/ stacking toys go in another bin, toys that roll in another and so on. I was bringing work home and passing it on to my littles! Suddenly I realized why she liked to neatly stack coasters and freaked out in stores when items were off their shelf and on the floor. I knew then I had a very important responsibility: to train the next generation!

I’m hoping I’ll be able to live up to the task, at least that way her room will be clean and she’ll understand the importance of a proper IPM plan!

Maria C. O’Malley


2 thoughts on “The Next Generation”

  1. Thank you! I know my mother was fearing the worst when I arranged all of her food storage containers and lids in bins by color and type when I visited last. When I explained that I had just finished walking an intern through an inventory/rehousing project and was still in sorting mode she relaxed.
    I also find myself critiquing artifact supports, proofing label text and looking for neat id number marks on objects when in a museum exhibit. Alas, my dad now knows what to look for and will track down a curator to offer a compliment on a well-supported or well cared for object. Even to to point of calling a curator at his favorite museum at home to let her know how great her exhibit looks. Good thing she is also a good friend.



    ¡Gracias [Maria]! Sé que mi madre temía lo peor cuando la visité la última vez, y le organicé todas sus friambreras según el tipo y color de las tapas. Sólo se tranquilizó cuando le expliqué que yo acababa de terminar un recorrido con un becario para un proyecto de inventario/realojamiento [de las colecciones del museo] y todavía yo estaba en “modo clasificación”. También a veces me encuentro a mí misma criticando los soportes de algún objeto, chequeando la prueba del texto del rótulo [de la pared] y buscando el número de identificación cuando está expuesto. Por desgracia, mi padre ahora sabe qué y cómo mirar [a los objetos expuestos], y localizará al conservador para ofrecerle un cumplido por algún objeto bien dispuesto o bien cuidado. Incluso, él llega al punto de llamar al curador de su museo preferido para hacerle saber lo grandiosa que quedó la exposición. Por suerte también [ella, la curadora] es una buena amiga.

  2. You’re absolutely right, Angela. But since I’m the “Grammar Police,”
    as well as a conservator, I always read the chat cards very carefully after the exhibit is mounted. I can’t tell you how many typos, misspellings, grammatical errors and other cardinal sins are released to the unsuspecting public. If you can’t trust the writing, are the facts wrong, too?
    I think you should have a special bin for checking the written word.



    Tienes toda la razón, Angela. Pero como yo soy la “Policía de gramática”, además de conservadora, siempre leo las notas del chat con mucho cuidado después de montar la exposición. No puedo decirte cuántos errores tipográficos, faltas de ortografía, errores gramaticales y otros pecados cardinales se publican para el público desprevenido. Si no puedes confiar en lo que dicen esos escritos, ¿será que los hechos también estaban mal?

    Creo que deberías tener un recipiente especial para el seguimiento de las palabras escritas.

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