Fellowship Opportunity: Kress Interpretive Fellow, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

Scope of Position

The Gardner Museum seeks an individual interested in learning how art history scholarship can inform new interpretive strategies for museum visitors that leverage the potential of digital technologies. The Gardner is embarking on a new phase of audience research and interpretation via two major projects in the next year: an evaluation of our current visitor resources including the audio guide, videos, and printed resources; and the creation of a foundational digital interpretive prototype that uses collections-inspired storytelling to unlock the rich content of our collection for visitors. Both projects will incorporate audience-centered research and feedback regarding the visitor journey and experience in the museum.

Collaborating with staff in Education, Curatorial and Digital departments, the Kress Interpretive Fellow will combine research about the Gardner’s collection and upcoming exhibitions for interpretive planning with data gleaned from audience research on-site as well as digital.

The schedule will be 40 hours per week, with some evening and weekend hours as needed. This position is funded for 8 months, from September 22, 2016-May 25, 2017.

Institutional Background and Mission

Opened to the public in 1903, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum houses a renowned collection spanning thirty centuries and a world of cultures. Distinguished among American museums in that the architecture, installations, and garden courtyard may be regarded as a singular work of art, the museum contains more than 10,200 objects. Masterworks by Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Sargent were installed in a complex, multi-disciplinary curatorial scheme that also encompasses carefully selected decorative art objects, furniture, architectural elements, textiles, books, and manuscripts from many corners of the globe and thousands of years of human history. The historic Palace building, an intimate, Venetian-inspired palazzo in the heart of Boston, was complemented in 2012 by the opening of a new wing designed by Renzo Piano that provided new purpose-built spaces for exhibition, performance, and education and community engagement activities.

True to the ambitious vision of its founder and her spirit of creative risk-taking, the mission of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is: to bring to life and preserve the rich historic collection; to cultivate talent in the pursuit of knowledge and acts of creation in the arts and humanities; to support artists, landscape architects, musicians, scholars and students; and, to engage local and global audiences in a sanctuary of beauty and the arts where deeply personal and communal adventures unfold. The museum’s historic and contemporary exhibitions, performances and lectures, and community engagement programs draw more than 250,000 visitors each year.

Responsibilities

The Fellow will play a key role in a cross-departmental team that includes experienced professionals in the museum’s Education, Curatorial, and Digital departments, and will also work collaboratively with outside experts in audience research, digital content development, and digital technology. This team will audit our current interpretative materials and develop and test a prototype for a new public-facing digital interpretive tool for the museum’s galleries, with an emphasis on letters, books, and other artifacts arranged by Gardner throughout the museum in thematic cases that explore literature, history, and the arts, as the ideal source material with which to re-introduce the fine art and the hidden stories of our collections.

1) Working with the Gardner’s Assistant Curator of Education, Director of Visitor Learning , Director of Digital, and an audience research firm to create a framework for collecting and analyzing audience data. This process involves working with small groups of first-time museum visitors to collect and analyze key qualitative and quantitative data and then analyzing data to understand how digital interpretation can help meet the needs of on-site visitors.

2) Working with Assistant Curator of Education and Director of Digital to use audience research to test assumptions about content, format, and product platform to inform the development of digital prototypes as well as develop a plan for ongoing qualitative and quantitative assessment and criteria for evaluating the prototypes.

3) Working with Assistant Curator of Education, Director of Visitor Learning, Curator of Collections and Director of Digital, to create an iterative process of prototyping and evaluation that incorporates audience feedback at every stage.

4) Assist Director of Visitor Learning to review and evaluate existing interpretation resources, including audio guide, videos, and printed materials.

5) Working with William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection, curatorial staff as well as the Director of Visitor Learning to apply art historical research and audience learnings about the thematic cases in the historic collection to the shaping of interpretive content and digital engagement.

We anticipate that this fellowship will allow the Kress Interpretive Fellow to gain skills and build relationships that will be pivotal for professional development in museum education and/or curatorial fields.

Qualifications

The most qualified candidate will display a keen interest in art museum education and digital initiatives, an understanding of the unique nature of the Gardner’s collection, exhibitions and approach to visitor engagement and museum learning, as well as a sense of what the fellowship will add to his/her overall learning and career goals.

Required:

  • Bachelors of arts (Masters preferred) in museum education, art education, art history, or studio art
  • An interest in intersections between art history, education, visitor experience and digital projects
  • Experience with collecting and analyzing visitor data
  • Outstanding verbal and written communication skills (the Fellow will interact with general visitors on a regular basis, s/he must be comfortable approaching and speaking with others)
  • Prior art history knowledge, particularly 19th Century American Art
  • Familiarity and confidence with visitor-centered interpretation and teaching approaches, including Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
  • Ability to work well both independently and as part of a team
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Flexible schedule

Preferred:

  • Special consideration will be given to candidates who demonstrate passion for audience research and data analysis and innovative ideas about digital interpretive tools for museums
  • Experience interacting with visitors of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds
  • Ability to speak Spanish

Application deadline: August 10, 2016, including 2 writing samples of less than 300 words each, and/or an example of an evaluation report, and/or link to a museum digital project.

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