In the last several weeks, I have noticed something during my weekly building inspection at the Museum of the Aleutians that has made me think a lot about design, facilities maintenance, and the "real" job at most museums.
In September, I participated in a conference session at the Museums Alaska conference in Juneau. The session was called “Working with the Architect.” The session was a lot about bashing your architectural services provider over poor decisions made during the design and construction process of building a new museum. I became part of the session after two other presenters were not able to make it. I am pretty sure they did not know I have a degree in architecture and was coming at the topic slightly differently than everyone else. Though, full disclosure, I also have my issues with the architectural services provider at every museum I have ever worked at.
The session was really about small decisions. The big decisions in most cases are cool. They result in spaces and places that visitors think are cool. The reality is that architects design spaces where people want to sit and drink a cup of coffee. Well, good architects design those spaces. I showed images and talked about the new museum in Nome, Alaska, the Snohetta designed museum in the Turks and Caicos, the Wexner Center on the campus of The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Village Church at the Ohio History Connection.
When it comes to the architect and facilities maintenance issues, the devil is in the details. At the Museum of the Aleutians, the problem is the detailing and specification of the men's urinal. This Kohler urinal is designed and mounted in such a way that everyone urinates on the floor when they use it. At first I thought is was the average age of cruise ship passengers. Then, I thought maybe it was just me. Now, I blame the architect.
I have to mop this floor every two days, and immediately after a cruise ship visit. It is a combination of a poorly designed fixture mixed with a poorly specified floor tile. But, it is a facilities nightmare. I have not come up with a solution, and it makes me wonder if someone has been mopping the floor every two days since 1999, when the building was completed.
There is a joke about the getting a job as the Executive Director of a small museum. It means you get to clean the toilet, I guess this is no joke. This week we hired the fourth staff person. In the last three months we have gone from being closed to having four people hired on staff.
But I am still cleaning the toilets.