Projects that inspired…

Karyn Tufarolo
As a student in Museum Communication, I have gained so much from the courses, faculty, guest speakers, museum visits, experiences and overall network of like-minded colleagues I have been fortunate to meet over the past few years.  It is difficult to select one project that stands out  — there are many that I truly enjoyed. (And yes, some were challenging and frustrating and will not be mentioned here).  In the end, it is the bright moments that stand out.  

National Civil Rights Museum, Copyright © October 22, 2008 Amie Vanderford.

In my first course in Museology, I analyzed the exhibition spaces and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.  That exercise made me think about the process of exhibition choices in a new way and brought the visitor experience to the forefront of my mind in a way that is now integrated completely into my overall frame of reference. 

Guggenheim Museum, Courtesy, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

In one seminar class, I remember heated discussions about Tino Seghal‘s work at the Guggenheim… is it art? How do we know?  Of course, that remains a philosophical question which cannot be answered, but I loved having the opportunity to be in an educational environment where one can consider those big ideas.  As future cultural leaders and stewards, all of us in the program gain from these moments to step back and consider these big ideas as we have a responsibility to be aware of the many positions and viewpoints and know how to discuss them with candor and intelligence.  

A page from my design portfolio – Museum Postcard project.

Museum Graphics design project.
In my Museum Graphics course, I designed what I still consider a darn impressive oversize mid-century modern calendar, complete with object history information and designer history.  As my first comprehensive Creative Suite-integrated project, it was so rewarding to pick it up bound at the printer and see how far I had progressed in using digital design software to communicate.  In addition, I created a series of logos for a museum exhibition, a gala invite, a newsletter and a postcard all based on the types of materials that I know museums and other non-profits often need to produce in-house. 

Finally, I think the one project that truly stands out is the assignment for my spring 2012 Museum Issues course (MSEM 702).  In this assignment, each of us focused on a museum and a city and looked at finding new target populations to reach to build the museum audience.  We considered a lot of demographic and cultural data, talked about museum trends, researched the museum in depth and created a case study and recommendation that felt very real.  I chose to work with the National Building Museum in Washington, DC and I discovered some unique demographic data about the “New American” population of highly educated immigrant families re-locating into many of the jobs within the DC  metro region.  By drilling down into the information, I was able to find areas for potential outreach, recommend strategies for programming, and build a strong case towards how to build a future, sustainable audience for the museum, including funding sources.  It was an exciting and rewarding process as I could envision my work being directly implemented and having real impact. The project allowed me to develop my analytical skills, but it equally allowed me to be creative and innovative in finding solutions. 

Slides from National Building Museum Appeal Presentation
And in addition to the specific case study, which I loved, throughout the course we paralleled our research with similar data and discussions regarding museums here in Philadelphia and I gained a deeper understanding of the larger trends facing the many museums here.  I gained a valuable portfolio piece and a vast body of general knowledge that I know can be applied in the future.  It was useful to see the nuances in understanding our city as well as another site simultaneously in order to best articulate the cultural landscape and broaden our view.

These are a just a few highlights. I know it is becoming very common right now to be quite linear in education, which makes sense when thinking about the current job market, the investment, and making sure that one has the skills to be competitive upon graduation.  In the end, I’ve gained so much from the journey (and as a part-time student, I get to take in the education in sips which allow for some contemplation and thought rather than in a giant gulp in a short time).  I’m not sure I care about the credential or the items that I will collect in a portfolio necessarily, (well, of course, actually, I do care about those things), but I care most about the connections across courses and the overall body of knowledge I’ve gained in terms of better understanding the cultural sector and how to serve audiences through thoughtful management — by far that is the key thing that I know will serve me well in a range of career paths.