Here at the Met, no two days are alike, especially in my job as a member of the Visitor Services staff. Each new person who comes into the Museum has new questions. Many visitors feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the Museum's collections, and may not know quite where to begin. When people ask my colleagues or me for guidance, we encourage them to join a Museum Highlights Tour or to pick up helpful printed materials such as a Museum Floor Plan, a list of the day's events, or one of our Family Guides. I find the best approach is to try to imagine myself in the visitor's shoes and ask, "What might this person need to help her comfortably enjoy the Museum and get the most out of her visit?"
Our visitors come from all over the world, and for a variety of reasons. Some are traveling to the United States for the first time and, like many visitors to New York, start their vacation at the Met. Others are regular patrons who live up the street and view the Met as an extension of their living rooms. Many more are students who come to the Museum to work on school projects. Our goal as the Visitor Services team is to help all of our guests make the most of their Museum experience, no matter where they come from or what their purpose may be.
As part of this team, I wear many hats throughout the day. In the morning, I sell admissions at one of our Admissions Desks in the Great Hall or in the Uris Center for Education. As I process the transaction, I also inform visitors about what's on view in the Museum's collections and special exhibitions, let them know about tours, family programs, and available services, and answer any questions they may have about their visit. In the afternoons, I am stationed in the Great Hall to ensure that lines move quickly, to offer directions and inform parents about educational activities for their children, and to assist anybody who appears to need general guidance.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, when the Museum is open until 9:00 p.m., I sit at the Great Hall's central information desk to answer questions and provide directions to the Museum's many galleries and special exhibitions. There is a lot to keep track of, as the Met is constantly evolving through new acquisitions, renovations, temporary exhibitions, gifts from generous donors, special events, and so on, and our knowledge of the Museum and the art world as a whole has to evolve as well. My team and I do our best to keep each other informed. Many visitors actually approach me with questions not only about the Met but also about other art and entertainment recommendations in the city. I do my best to answer whatever questions come my way!
Though the Visitor Services team includes full-time professionals and managers, most of us are part-time employees; all of us represent a broad range of professional and educational backgrounds. Many have completed graduate degrees, others are working while they finish college or graduate school. Some have worked here for years and have become general experts. Still others are artists who enjoy being connected to the Museum. Our backgrounds, interests, and experiences help us assist the broadest possible audience.
The job description is wide ranging, but what remains constant about this position is the need to stay focused and attentive to the needs of the visitors and to have a diplomatic spirit and an insatiable desire for knowledge about and pride in the Museum. It also demands strong communication skills, energy, patience, and a good sense of direction! Most of all, you must be the sort of person that loves to help people. Everyone on the Visitors Services team does his or her best to rise up to the challenges of helping so many people, and we are always willing to put in the extra effort for our beloved Museum.
Claire Bowman is a Visitor Services assistant.