This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting a variety of different positions within the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education.
Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?
Our team is here to secure the people, the art, and the building – which can mean something slightly different each day. There are always different challenges to address. And, a large part of our job is also customer service: helping people to find the restroom, or locate a favorite work of art. We’re there to help the visitors.
What would be a “typical day” in the life of a security officer?
What I do first is get everyone organized, make sure that everyone is on the same page. All of my staff have to know all of the events that are going on in the museum that day – tours, meetings, events – basically, setting up the day for success, right from the beginning. We’re busy from the moment the museum opens: usually we’ll have several school groups come through immediately. The pace generally slows down a bit during the middle of the day, and then it can pick up again in the evening, if there are events that we have to staff.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with the people here, absolutely. Not just the people within the security team, but visitors throughout the building. A lot of great people come here every day, and that’s really what makes this job fun. There’s definitely a larger part of the security officer’s role that is devoted to consumer interaction than most people realize – and I’m always trying to encourage more! We can sometimes be the first or only people that visitors see, and we’re here to assist them with whatever they need. Whether it’s a specific artwork they’re looking for, or a question about an artist, we should know the answer. We’re really involved with the whole visitor experience.
What else are you working on right now?
We just recently kicked off a fairly extensive training program for our officers, which I’m happy to say that I was a part of developing. It’s very thorough, and it really helps to give everyone something to look forward to each day. They can see themselves progress and learn – and they become more skilled and efficient, as well. We try to take challenges and turn them into opportunities.
Is there something unusual or unique about your position that most people may not know?
Out team is more interested in the art than people might realize. Whether they had experience with art before they came to work at the museum, or even just by being here in the galleries every single day, we really absorb that knowledge. We want to change the perception–our staff truly does have a vast knowledge of art and of the MAM collection in particular. And, if we don’t know the answer, we’re always able to find out! We really are a resource that is available to each and every visitor.
Tell a bit about yourself–how did you come to have this position?
I initially went to school for art, and then shortly after that, I started to work in the field of retail loss prevention. So, when this opportunity arose, it really was the perfect middle ground, given my interest in art and my background in security and loss prevention. It just made sense! So, I started working here about two years ago.
Why do you believe that art and art museums are important in today’s society?
It’s all about the importance of culture. It’s about shared ideas and emotions – something that the artist was feeling at a certain moment, that they decided they wanted other people to know. And the best part about it, to me, is that there really are no right or wrong answers. You agree with it or you disagree with it, you love it or you hate it – either way, the artwork is there for you to experience.
Is there anything that you would like to tell future visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum?
There are a lot of great treasures here within the museum, which often go unnoticed. The collection is much more expansive than it appears from the outside. Many people don’t realize that they really can spend an entire day here, looking at new things and making new discoveries. I want to shift the perception away from “oh, I love the Milwaukee Art Museum, but I’ve already been” – because with our extensive collection and our constantly changing special exhibits, there’s always something new to see. Every time you come to visit, it’s a unique experience.
What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collection?
I really like the Impressionism gallery. If I had to choose just one work, I’d say it would be The Woodgatherer by Jules Bastien-Lepage. I also really like the German Expressionists, especially Gabrielle Münter. I really couldn’t pick just one piece, though – it always changes. Depending on how I feel each day, certain pieces will hit me more strongly than others. I’ve walked through these halls so many times, but the artwork still moves me in new ways. And it’s always a different experience, since the pieces are moved around throughout the Museum. The physical location of an artwork can have such an impact. If the lighting is different, if there are new works surrounding it, even if it just has a new position on the wall, it can really influence the way that a piece is perceived – even if it’s one that I’m already very familiar with. Each day, I rediscover the museum in a slightly different way.
Emma Fallone was a summer digital learning intern, focusing on blogging. At the time, Emma was a junior at Yale University, majoring in history and art history. In June 2014, she moved to Washington, DC, to work at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.