Today we visited Rough Point, the English Manor style home of Doris Duke on Newport’s Cliff Walk, owned and operated by Newport Restoration Foundation. While the collections, wall treatments and furniture compete for the eye on a tour of this romantic house, our attention was focused on two particular aspects of the house museum that juxtapose the balancing act such an institution must undertake to remain vital: exhibits and physical plant.
Special exhibits keep the public audience of an institution coming back for more, and the physical systems of climate control, security and lighting keep it all running smoothly and safely while maintaining a desirable environment for fragile collections.
Our class from Portsmouth High School is large, so we split into two groups. While upstairs the students were touring the newly opened exhibition, “No Rules: The Personal Style of Doris Duke” with Education Director Lisa Dady, downstairs in the basement level the other group got an up close look at the furnaces, fire suppressant and alarm systems, and panels guided in person by Marc Lennon, the Systems Manager who keeps it all orchestrated. Students learned the meaning and reasons behind redundancy of systems, and just how robust those systems must be to keep the house and collections safe. Conversation also veered to the high costs of running it all and paying for the necessary utilities and services.
MUSE demonstrates to these high school seniors the breadth of talent and training needed to operate museums and historic sites.