A Surprising Trip to the Angel Museum

Recently some of the class went on a field trip to the Angel Museum in Beloit. The museum is housed in a historic church, built in 1914, and is run with the help of Joyce Berg. The majority of the objects being shown are from her own collection, and that’s why she wanted to open the museum, to show the world the largest collection of angels. Though it might seem like an odd theme to focus on with a museum, the collection shows such a varying amount of angel figurines that it becomes a fascinating place to explore.

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As we walked into the museum we were greeted by Joyce Berg in an angel costume. This is her typical attire, and as she later explained, she’s gone through numerous costumes- all including a halo, wings and dress.  The museum is one room with around 6 x-shaped display cases, all sides showcasing shelves of angels in all shapes, sizes and materials. The collection ranges from angels of the month to an angel smoke alarm to a garfield angel. Each shelf holds,depending on size, 25-40 angels. Towards the front of the room was the donated collection of Oprah’s black angels. This is one of the more popular aspects of the museum, although Oprah herself has never been there. She also has a collection of magazine and newspaper articles about the museum- all focusing on the odd idea of housing an angel collection.

After visiting the museum I decided to look at the website to see how the it was represented on the internet. I was unable to see many pictures of the collection and the website mainly focused on events that are held at the museum as well as ways to volunteer. There is also a video of Joyce Berg talking about the museum and it’s start, but again there is hardly any footage of what the museum looks like. I would suggest adding some pictures or talking about some of the odd items that are housed to attract more visitors. It’s hard to draw attention to a museum that houses an odd collection. It’s more of a tourist destination than a place to visit often for townspeople. Joyce Berg mentioned how the majority of their collections are out on display so there aren’t really new items to see each time one visits. It’s good that the website focuses on events though, being that this is a good community draw to the museum.

While the museum might sound like an odd stop for some, I think the visit was definitely worth it. I had no idea how many variations of angel figurines are out there and it was surprising to see them all in one place. This museum is unexpected- which is a great way to reel people into visiting. So many times you go to a museum and you know exactly what art pieces you’ll be seeing or what kind of science you’ll be learning about. collector museums ultimately make you interested in the variations of stuff that is out there. It makes you take a second look at objects you might normally see as junk or clutter. That’s what makes this kind of place special, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Learning about Conservation through the Minnesota Historical Society Website

In class we’ve discussed the importance of different conservation and preservation methods and when it is best to use these methods. I was interested in seeing if specific museums would have similar information on their websites or information on their own conservation spaces. The Minnesota Historical Society has a great website with detailed information on their conservation facilities and the projects that have been done there. The museum was started in 1849 and after a long history of moving facilities, found it’s home in St Paul in 1992.

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The website’s homepage has a specific tab for ‘Preservation’ which includes a section on ‘Conservation’. The first item on the page is an advertisement for touring the museums conservation department. This would be an easy way to see their conservation space in person and ask any questions about their techniques face to face. If someone can’t get to the museum, they have a link for taking virtual tours. It’s a simple panoramic view of three different conservation spaces: the Harold and Ebba Hoffman Book/Paper Laboratory, the Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory and the Textile Conservation Laboratory. This is an interesting feature to have on a museum website and I haven’t come across it before. It’s a great way to get a quick behind the scenes tour and see the differences between each laboratory.

The site features an assortment of conservation care resources connected with the museum. This includes information on how to care for collections, both in written form and via podcast. The podcast page hasn’t been updated for a while but there are multiple 10 minute long videos on how to take care of textiles. This part of the website seems to be geared towards people in this field trying to learn techniques for their own collections. There is also a video on the site that is geared towards families or non-academic people who are interested in taking care of their own collections. It discusses the Minnesota Historical Society’s facilities and certain ways one can preserve their own valued objects. It’s good that they have material on their website geared towards different groups of people, as well as putting that information in different formats like text or video.

Another interesting link on the page is ‘Treatments and Projects’. This has a list of different conservation projects they’ve completed and information on the techniques used for the items. It’s really cool to read about the different projects that have been done and the varying amount of objects that they’ve worked on. At the top of the page they note that volunteers are an integral part of this process and that some of the listed projects were done with the help of these volunteers.

Towards the bottom of the website there’s a survey visitors can take in order to tell the staff what was enjoyable or not on the website. I think this really sums up how user friendly this page is. Through the survey you can provide contact information if you have any specific questions. You can tell that this site is truly for the public being that they have so many sources rather than just featuring information about their own facilities. There’s really nothing else that I could imagine them displaying online. I think they do a great job getting as much valuable information to their audience as possible and I’m sure if someone had suggestions, they’d take them into account.

University Museum Websites- Weisman Art Museum

Over the last couple of weeks in class we’ve discussed what works and doesn’t work for a museum website, as well as what it means to have a good, in-depth collections page. Many of the students (including myself) have focused their attention on internationally known science or art museums, but for this post I’d like to focus on a university art museum, specifically the Weisman on the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis/St. Paul) campus. The museum resides on the Minneapolis side of the campus and the architect who designed the expansion of the building is Frank Gehry. The museum has existed since 1934 and the website says that part of their mission is to be a teaching museum for the university students.

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The website is easy to use with tabs at the top of the page, which includes information on the museums history and its collections. The main page focuses on current exhibitions and events that are upcoming at the museum. The logo for the U of M is located clearly at the top left side of the page, so visitors immediately recognize the affiliation the museum has with the campus. It’s an informative page although I wish there was something a bit more eye catching for visitors on the site. There needs to be pictures or some kind of visual that makes people attracted to the idea of attending this museum. It’s best to give a hint at what’s in the museum so people feel the need to visit the physical location in order to see the rest of the galleries.

The Collections tab on the top of the page leads site-visitors to a page with links, each highlighting a focus in their collection. According to the website, their collection contains a large amount of American Modernism, ceramics, Korean furniture, and Mimbres pottery. When you click on each link, you are then taken to a page that has a couple photos of certain items in those collections and information on that specific grouping of art. The only information given on the specific highlighted pieces are the title, artist name, date, materials, and how it was acquired. The site is much more friendly to the general public instead of focusing on the needs of researchers. The museum’s site doesn’t offer specific information on the rest of their collection, except that their entire collection contains over 17,000 pieces. The collections part of the website could definitely be updated to provide more information on what specific pieces they own. Because they’re a teaching museum, this is something that could probably be worked on by student helpers. Even if it’s just a semi-slowly updated database on the most popular pieces in the collection, it’s still a step in the right direction. The website would be much more researcher friendly if they had more information on the collections that they hold.

Part of the website that I found to be a really good idea was the virtual tour of public art on the campus. While the technical aspect is a little confusing when your cursor goes over specific dots on the map, it’s a good attempt at showcasing the art around the U of M campus. For each piece you can click to get more information and more pictures of the pieces. It also tells viewers about specific installations near by. I’m unaware if they have a phone app with a similar concept, but this would be a good application to refer to when walking around the campus.

While the website is not perfect, it has a good amount of updated information being that it’s a university run museum. My main criticism would be updating the collections page and adding a little more pizzazz to the site as a whole to compel visitors to keep coming back. The virtual tour of public art shows that they are considering new ways to focus on art on the campus and adding ways to learn about their art through technology. University and college museums have a lot to focus on with typically a small support staff but as technology becomes more of a focus in our lives, these museums will need to give more attention to their websites and social media sites to gain more visitors.