Thursday, October 28, 2010

While the Registrar is Away, the Curators Play

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar

My three month maternity leave from the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum was a lovely escape from reality. I was due August 1st with my first child and so I decided to use my vacation time during the month of July to “nest.” Fortunately, my generous employer and coworkers thought this was a good idea and sent me off, to be seen again only after I had a babe in arms. I spent the whole month lounging around the house, and out on our boat on Otsego Lake soaking up the sun… and trying to get up and down the ladder into the water (there are some entertaining pictures of that by the way that I will keep to myself). I ate lots of ice pops, wore a flowing summer dress every day, and had no schedule. It was wonderful. Miraculously, I also didn’t think about work ….much. Being a registrar is a career for me, not just a job. I love what I do and proudly consider myself “on call” here at the museum 24/7.

Perhaps lending to this carefree attitude was the knowledge that our Assistant Curator of Collections, John Hart, would be diligently working on a list of pending projects in my absence: changing out of exhibits, arranging crating and shipping, accessioning new objects, negotiating loans and insurance. Summer is a somewhat slower time of year for me but even juggling a few projects can be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t normally do it. Additionally, it wasn’t easy for me to leave things entirely to someone else, and I may have been slightly guilty of burying poor John in the details of how to do it “Christine’s way”. Registration work isn’t for everyone and I give John a lot of credit for even attempting to take on my responsibilities (while still doing his own job might I add!).

I had our son, Shepard Franklin Olsen, on August 7th at 3:27pm after 23 hours of labor and an unplanned cesarean section delivery. I then took the next 8 weeks to recover, staying at home with the baby and learning to be a mom. Although it is cliché I dare say that being a mom is the hardest job I have ever had; but it wasn’t long before I came to the realization that I could never be a stay at home mom. I missed the challenges and demands that work provides me and I missed socializing with my coworkers (i.e. adults who spoke of things other than diaper changes and timing of naps!).

Undoubtedly knowing that I needed some socialization, John and our Curator of The Farmers’ Museum, Erin Richardson, came to visit at my home on a regular basis following the delivery. They kept me abreast of the latest curatorial department developments and occasionally solicited my advice on things registration related. During these two months exhibitions came (Picturing Women: American Art from the Permanent Collections) and went (In our Time: The World As Seen By Magnum Photographers), and our travelling exhibition, Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, was shipped to its next venue at Minneapolis Institute of Art (I found this especially hard to miss). It all went without a hitch, of course, thanks to the wonderful curatorial department at the museums, but it felt good to be in the loop none the less…and to know that I was missed by my colleagues, if even just a little.

I returned to work part time as of October 4th. I had a slow recovery from the cesarean section delivery and wasn’t quite emotionally ready to leave the baby., but, in the end it was for the best. Both the baby and I have adjusted now and everyone is doing well. John did a great job while I was gone and the transition back has been easy. I am getting ready for the end of this year’s exhibitions and preparing for the next - I am back at the job I love…only now, I get to go home at the end of the day to an awesome new baby boy that I love even more!

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