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D&P Staff: Let’s DO This Thing!

Written by Janet Kamien

Design and Production staff were of another stripe. Though when they came on staff they might have never done an exhibit or a loan kit either, all were confident that their base skills of design, carpentry, graphics, etc., were exactly what was needed. They were concrete, pragmatic workers who wanted to get the job done.

This could create a volatile mix with developers.

In my experience this is true in every museum to some extent. Someone once asked me why all production staffs were so damn grumpy. At The Field Museum in Chicago, with more layers of staff, production people accused designers of being slow, wafflely and "airy-fairy." In The Children’s Museum of old, designers often were the production people. So these accusations went directly to the developers, who sometimes did seem uncertain, slow and changeable. Some developers were just trying to keep up and learn this new part of the business. This often put D&P in a teaching mode, which some people like Sing Hanson enjoyed and took on gracefully, while others disdained it. Other developers had no interest in building yet another set of skills: designers should just understand them and build what they thought they had described. Some developers had no innate capacity for acquiring three-dimensional skills. Still others refused to be rushed—they were working at improving the product by incorporating new D&P points of view and this needed a little time.

In Jamaica Plain, there were many small projects that went through with little to-do, such as changing out the front cases, or doing the dreaded annual "Dentists" exhibit. Sometimes there were outside artists—David Mangurian, author of the book Lito the Shoeshine Boy, upon which we based an exhibit, or the Mass College of Art professor who installed a gigantic "undersea" soft sculpture created in one of her classes—whose projects were conceived with little or no input from in-house staff. There were also some projects done almost entirely by D&P staff, like the water exhibits.

In general, projects went according to schedule and budget. I don’t remember us putting anything in late. I do remember one project that was double-spending its budget because the designer and developer each thought they were in charge of its entirety, but this kind of thing was rare. Though things could sometimes have a slightly ad hoc feeling about them, they usually went fairly smoothly, from an administrative point of view.

Next: Developer vs. D&P: Enter the Broker