Friday, 8 February 2013

An Assistant Curator's Life

Photobook storage © Foam


Last week I was mostly clearing up debris. Having just finished mounting four exhibitions the week before, I came back to a desk covered with notes to be followed up, receipts to be archived, invoices to be authorized, and a wide variety of tools and audiovisual equipment to be stored away in the museum's workshop. So I waded through it all and spent a good time tidying up. In a way, it was rather satisfying. Not only did it create space for me to work in again, it also mentally tied up a number of loose ends in my head. And it gave me the opportunity to work myself up to opening my inbox. As you can imagine, if you have spent the previous two weeks dismantling two exhibitions and installing four new ones, you don't always have time to keep on top of incoming emails. It was not as bad as I feared, but it still took me a couple of days to plough through them all and answer most of them.

It turned out that I was not the only one in an early spring cleaning mood. As the number of colleagues keeps on expanding, so does the need for additional workspace. This in turn leads to everyone going through and removing their personal piles of books and magazines adjacent to their desks. And so, with more space and a bit of a reshuffle another desk can be fitted in. However, as the museum's library is one of my responsibilities, these books and magazines then get unceremoniously dumped onto my plate. So I spent a good while of the week digging through these books to check whether they suit the library's collection's policy and whether they are already in there. Of course the upside is that you discover a lot of little gems that people have kept hidden over the years, leading to many exclamations of surprise and joy (Laura Henno! Todd Hido! Katalog Magazine! Portraits from Isfahan!) and some excited flicking through pages and getting lost in the imagery.

Books and magazines were a bit of a recurring theme anyway this week. Due to the particular routing of the Diane Arbus exhibition, the storage of the museum bookshop had to be temporarily moved to one of the conference rooms of the museum. The exhibition now being at an end, the books duly had to be moved back to their original storage space. This led to some more treasure hunting and further exclamations of joy (Bertien van Manen! Joel Sternfeld! Johan van der Keuken!), but also to some heavy lifting. Who would have thought that photography books can be so ridiculously heavy?

The week ended with some pondering the logistics of the next three exhibitions, in particular the mechanics of the actual installation. What if I plan building extra walls on day one? But then I would have to move the painters to day two. But would that not interfere with the transport of the works? And would there still be time to hang the works and install the monitors? And so I will continue to reshuffle over the next couple of weeks, until the schedule has been honed to perfection.

Karin Bareman

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