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Dustin Faulkner

Location: BOERNE, TX
Joined: 20 Jul 2008

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 118

PostPosted: Fri 27 Aug, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject: Museum etiquette question         Reply with quote

Hello Everybody:

Someone's thread about sword etiquette reminded me of a question I wanted to ask about good manners too.

One of my goals now is to visit the Higgins Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. I live in Texas so I would want to make the most of my visit. At the least, I'd like to have Dr. Forgeng autograph a copy of his book for me, and thank another member of the staff for helping me get photos of one of their Lucerne Hammers for a replica. I am very interested in polearms and I am aware that not all weapons are displayed. Some are stored behind the scenes in special rooms. I have seen youtube footage of Dr. Forgeng in one of these rooms showing undisplayed swords.

My question is how does a person ask for permission to visit with someone like Dr. Forgeng and view (maybe even handle) undisplayed items? I assume Dr. Forgeng is a busy man, but it would be an honor to meet him and learn more about polearms from an expert like him. It would be a thrill to learn more about polearm evolution and the provenance of certain pieces directly from Dr. Forgeng himself.

The same inquiry applies to other museums I hope to visit too one day. I wonder because I have seen pictures on this website of others getting to handle actual historic weapons at various museums. I assume there is a proper procedure or protocol to follow.

Thank you! Big Grin

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Glen A Cleeton

Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,963

PostPosted: Fri 27 Aug, 2010 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Email him directly, as he has gotten back to me pretty quickly regarding less topical museum interests than stored arms and general arms discussion. I have also literally bumped into him on weekends there and have visited him once regarding a curatorial appraisal for a couple of items. Those take it to the curator days are a couple of times a year but he seems to have pretty much always been around on weekends.

I don't remember if it was just the feature article from Alexi here

or if there was another fairly lengthy thread that regarded his visit to the vault.



here you go

(hah more fours for Nathan)
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Eric Allen

Location: Texas
Joined: 04 Feb 2006

Posts: 208

PostPosted: Fri 27 Aug, 2010 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I deal with museums and museum collections regularly in my field (paleontology, not history or art, but the protocols should largely be the same).

If you want to gain access to a particular museum's collections, the first step is to contact someone at the museum. If you want to specifically talk to Forgeng, contact him directly, and he might be able to help you set up a visit. Tell him you want to meet with him, and ask if it might also be possible to visit the collections.
In fact, if you are not a "professional" (i.e. you are not a university student or a professor or such), contacting someone like him first is always the best bet if you want to get into the collections. Sometimes they can get you in even if you otherwise might find gaining access difficult and can walk you through who else to contact to set up your visit)

When setting up the actual visit, generally, you're going to want to contact the collections manager (their title could be "collections manager" or "curator" for a certain collection--your contact might take care of this for you, or can tell you who to contact).
When you make your inquiry, be sure to tell them who you are, for what purpose you are visiting, indicate the date(s) of when you want to visit (you want to be specific enough to narrow it down, but flexible enough to allow for issues on their end--"this summer" is not as good as "around July 21-23". Hopefully you've discussed this with your contact beforehand), and tell them exactly what you want to look at. "I want to view the polearms" is not sufficient. "I am interested in polearms, and in particular would like to take a look at the following specimens:" is good.
Approving a visit, even for a well-known professional, can take a couple days sometimes to clear with the museum's administration (depending on the museum). Don't get discouraged.

Be aware that many museums are squeamish about opening up their collections to just anyone. Even once inside, you might not be able to handle, or even see, some specimens (especially if said specimen is particularly delicate). Some have the nominal requirement that inquirers be engaged academia (i.e. a student or a professional researcher). However, there are ways around this for "interested laymen", such as simply being invited in by someone who works at the museum. It pays to ask.

When you go, you'll likely be asked to sign in at security. You'll get more specific instructions once your visit is approved, but generally you'll tell them "I'm here to visit so-n-so". They'll give you a temporary badge and phone down to your contact. Your contact will then come to meet you and escort you into the collections. When in the collections, be efficient. If there is anything in particular you want to see, ask.
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