Sometimes I am aware of moving in two worlds: the one inhabited by the vast majority of the world (Normal People) and the one inhabited by people I work with (
ONLY for the purposes of this post, ‘Normal People’ refers to people who don’t work in museums. I know good and well just how ‘normal’ that makes some of you, but that’s a discussion for another time. Right now we’re talking about the weirdness particular to the insular world of museums.
At a national conference a few years ago one of the speakers gave a speech that mimicked Jeff Foxworthy’s famous “You know you’re a redneck if…” riff, but instead went, “You know you’re a museum person if…” The following list is a partial recount of that speech, with some additions of my own. The crowd at the conference thought it was hilarious, but I’m willing to bet most non-museum people will just think it’s odd.
This should give you a glimpse of the
You know you’re a
- You complain about the ‘signage’ in your local grocery store.
- You use the date estimate ‘circa’ in everyday conversation.
- Your office contains at least two of the following: a taxidermied animal you did not shoot or catch yourself, fire proof filing cabinets, an enormous quantity of white gloves, a Brother P-Touch label-maker, an eyewash station, dozens of pantone color chips, yellowing catalogue cards, a space-aged vacuum that looks like R2D2, a reproduction of a Sears mail-order catalogue c.1905, or an Underwood typewriter c.1910.
- You would be upset to receive fresh flowers at work – and bring in pests!?! The horror.
- Your own personal thermostat is so perfectly calibrated that you can immediately tell when you’ve walked into a room that has cooled or warmed a whole two degrees away from its usual temperature.
- Most things you encounter can somehow be tied to the state education curricula for grades 2-5.
- Your friends bring you baggies with bug carcasses in them, asking for your expert advice: what would you do if you found one of these in your sweater drawer? (‘Scream’ is apparently not considered a ‘professional’ answer.)
- You’ve ever followed a list serve discussion on how to catalogue Dentist Barbie, how to rephrase the command ‘Please don’t touch’ or what were the best Christmas gifts of the 1950s.
- People assume you’re on a first-name basis with Tutankhamen, Claude (Monet), George (
- Anyone at any time has recommended that you or your workplace should appear on Antiques Roadshow.
Now I’m sure few of you are actually rolling around laughing, clutching your sides, begging for mercy and oxygen. But really. That’s just about the acme of museum humor. I find it pretty amusing, but will understand if you don’t.