Best Books On Museum Life?
May 25, 2013 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for the best non-fiction books on the subject of running a large museum/art archive. From any POV, from the fund-raising presidents to the ticket takers, guards, and art history interns in the basements. I'm looking for more large, prestige institutions ("What is it like to work at the Met" for example) but smaller collections or niche museums are also good.
posted by The Whelk to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Bose is primarily about the famous art theft in 1990 at the Gardner Museum in Boston, but there are several chapters dedicated to Isabella Gardner's vision for the museum, its design/layout, security, and curation.
posted by averageamateur at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2013

Seven Days in the Art World may be close to what you're looking for.
posted by Xalf at 12:17 PM on May 25, 2013

Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art consists of interviews with a wide variety of employees at the Met and what their jobs are like day to day.
posted by psycheslamp at 1:24 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Ricahrd Fortey is about the Natural History Museum in London.

Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History is about the Natural History Museum in new York.

I found both of them very interesting reading.
posted by Azara at 4:43 PM on May 25, 2013

I second the Richard Fortey book; I read it to answer the same questions as in your post. Fortey gives you a rough history of the working practices of the scientists, from gentleman amateur hobbyists of the victorian era obsessed by logging every variation in their chosen niche to the grant hungry underpaid dna cracking lab botherers of today. I'd have appreciated a chapter clearly describing the day in the life of a scientist, a curator and researcher but his book is a more picaresque walk through the NHM. There's not much on the security guards or gift shop staff or the admin staff. The NHM website has lots of useful information about its funding, structure and the daily life of its employees to fill in the gaps. Thanks Azara, I will take a look at those books too.
posted by Brian Lux at 1:00 AM on May 27, 2013

For future folks who stumble on this, I'm going to recommend Rogues' Gallery, which I recently read. I was pleased to find this thread for other suggestions. Rogues is more about the history and founding of the Met - but covers some of the early challenges it faced.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:02 AM on February 6, 2014

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