This month, I had the privilege of interviewing Marjorie Johnson, the Wellin’s new Museum Educator and Docent Program Supervisor. As an experienced professional in museum education through her past experiences at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, and the Louvre in Paris, Marjorie brings a wealth of valuable knowledge and experiences to the Wellin.
What is your role at the Wellin?
M.J: I am the Wellin’s Museum Educator and Docent Program Supervisor! That means that I hire, train, and supervise the Wellin Museum Greeters, the Tour Docents, and the Museum Education Docent Pluses. I also develop and implement programming for community groups and K-12 school groups of all levels, and I also do family and youth programming like Wellin Kids, Middle School Makers, and extracurricular social events for the college.
Can you talk about some of your past experiences and how you ended up in this role?
M.J: Sure! There are three main steps that I took to get here. Most recently, I was a Museum Educator at the National Gallery of Art. In that role, I did administration and teaching for high school programs and developed art historical workshops and art-making programs for high school classes based around exhibitions and the permanent collection. I was in that role for four and a half years, so I really learned a lot and got to work on a variety of exhibitions like printmaking, sculptures and folk art. I also did an internship at Mass MOCA, where I got to work on their school programming. Mass MOCA is a leader in helping community-school partnerships, and they work with students at schools in the surrounding area to do in-school visits, have children come to the museum, and are all about looking and making connections with art. That made a big impression on me. Before that, while I was pursuing my graduate degree in Paris, I worked with a company that leads private tours of the major museums in the area. I got to lead tours for this company in the Louvre, and that was my first time doing museum education. The Louvre has artifacts from all over the world representing a wide range of art history, so I really learned my art history there.
What is your favorite go-to spot in the Wellin?
M.J: My office is my favorite spot in the museum, but I really like the lounge and Jeffery Gibson’s screens!
What is your favorite artwork in the Wellin, either in the permanent collection or the current exhibition?
M.J: What spoke to me right away was the fragment from the Palace of Nymrad, which shows the feet of a walking guardian figure. It is really interesting to think about how these fragments got to a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, but also, that was one of the sites that I worked on when I was working in the Louvre. They have a reconstructed room of the Palace of Nymrad there where all of our tours began.
Do you have any advice for students looking to work in museums in the future?
M.J: I would say always try to get paid. It is not always possible, but if you have a choice in where you’re working, choosing between volunteering, part-time work, or internships that might be unpaid or paid, try to earn something for what you are doing. It’s important as students and as people who are emerging professionals that you advocate for pay. Anything you can do to speak up about that is productive and constructive. I would also say try to work on different types of things in museums. If you’re drawn to art history, curatorial projects are always exciting, but there’s also a lot of cool work to be done in terms of archiving, education and public outreach, etc, so try different experiences and look for internships in small museums where you could work on different types of projects.
Do you have a go-to opus order?
M.J: I’ve only eaten opus once! But I had their Mango Brie Panini and it was messy but delicious.
What are some of your hobbies?
M.J: I love yoga, hiking, knitting, and cooking!!
What shocked you about Hamilton when you first came here?
M.J: I was shocked by modern architecture! I thought everything was going to be stone from the 1860s.
What is one thing you’d want the campus to know about you?
M.J: I would like everyone to know that I am friendly and I really want people to push the Wellin with ideas. Even if they have never come here for anything besides class, there are lots of ways for them to connect with the museum
Three words to describe you?
M.J: Curious, patient, adventurous
Image Credit: Graphic portrait by Nanka Suzuki '20.