I’m once again so backlogged with numerous museum stories, that I could easily fill a month of posts. I could, but I won’t. I know how hard it is to keep on top of all the reading that’s required of us bloggers.
Don’t worry I’m not going to tell you how bloody awful it was to have to give out plastic bags on Earth Day, or that Richard Gere popped in last weekend, that’s too boring. This post is about the invisible people at the museum – people I’ve wanted to tell you about for a long time – and because this is the last day of National Poetry Month, I end with a poem.
Tell me, when you go to a Museum do you ever notice the men and women patiently standing to the side watching-you-watching-the-art?
A Museum cannot function without those invisible folks.
Have you ever spoken to a security guard in a museum?
I don’t mean yell at them because they asked you to please not stand so close to the art, or made you take your large backpack to the coat check, or reminded you that you can’t drink your coffee in the museum.
A large percentage of the guards at our museum are artists, and musicians; many are studying for post-grad degrees; some who worked in highly skilled jobs in their birth countries discovered that their work experience doesn’t count over here.
Meet a few of them:
Justice, a female guard in her thirties who previously just sang in her church choir, was accepted at the Julliard school in New York last year.
This is Shel.
His wife, sister-in-law and her three-year-old daughter were in the Air India plane (from Canada to England) that blew up off the Irish coast in 1985.
Many years ago Shel and I had a lovely “visit” with Ben Kingsley at my cash register, and later that month we did a puppet show for Axel Rose.
In an earlier post I mentioned Wazir, who was a linguistics professor in Afghanistan.
You’d love his stories: “When I told the man, ‘Please don’t touch the art,’ he said, ‘Why not? My hands are clean. I just washed them with soap.’ “
One day an American tourist told him “You’re not pure American if you speak more than one language.”
Martha and Irma (on the left) have both worked as security guards for about eight years.
Martha was a hairdresser for thirty years, but had to retire because of problems with her thumbs [from repetitive use]. Irma was a stay at home mother.
They met at the Museum. “We’re best of friends, who feel like sisters.”
Another guard who tells wonderful stories, is Ajit. His family home in India is a large fort with a moat around it.
“My great-great-great grandfather, Maharaja Singh, made a treaty with the Britishers in 1750,” he told me.
Ajit joined the Indian army in 1963, and was Lord Mount Batten’s Liaison officer in 1966.
and finally the poem, Museum Guard by David Hernandez
My condolences to the man dressed for a funeral, sitting bored on a gray folding chair, the zero of his mouth widening in a yawn. No doubt he's pictured himself inside a painting or two around his station, stealing a plump green grape from the cluster hanging above the corkscrew locks of Dionysus, or shooting arrows at rosy-cheeked cherubs hiding behind a woolly cloud. With time limping along like a Bruegel beggar, no doubt he's even seen himself taking the place of the one crucified: the black spike of the minute hand piercing his left palm, the hour hand penetrating the right, nailed forever to one spot. From A House Waiting for Music by David Hernandez. Copyright © 2003 David Hernandez who teaches at the University of California, Irvine, is the recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry. You may recognize his name. Last year I shared his poem Mosul which begins: "The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart"