Our job is to inspire visitors - Interview with Dr Alexander Klar (Part 1)
Dr Alexander Klar is what is commonly called an alert and restless mind. After several professional positions that took him to, amongst others, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, as well as London and Venice, he took over as Director of the Landesmuseum (State Museum) Wiesbaden in 2010. We met the energetic museum director in the in-house cafeteria for a fascinating conversation.
Dr Klar, every director brings their own profile with them when they take up their post. Your professional career has certainly given you a very multi-layered view. What was ultimately the main influence that shaped your image?
I am really rather Anglo-Saxon. The most important thing for me - apart from what's hanging on the walls here - is what's known in English as "visitors' service"; being there for one’s visitors and designing the museum through their eyes. My goal is to open the doors of the museum wide and to dismantle fears of entering it. This is why it's important to me that the staff here at the Landesmuseum Wiesbaden radiate the greatest possible amount of friendliness and provide visitors with a pleasurable visit and a high degree of information. This starts at the ticket desk and extends throughout every area.
That’s essentially what every employer wants. How do you achieve it?
By setting an example and having conversations with staff. I simply make sure that our workers are happy. It doesn't hurt that I've been a supervisor myself and know how it feels to stand around between the paintings all day. You know, our staff is what people see next to the paintings, and who they communicate with. If a supervisor is brash, grumpy or indifferent, then as a visitor, you won't enjoy the paintings. In the end, for me, before the work of the art historians, scientists or natural historians, there’s the service operation with everything that goes with it: clean toilets, a complaints book or simply a café...
This service concept extends across every area of the museum. It has its own regularly-updated Instagram account, and you ask visitors to take photos in your museum and tag the photos with specific hashtags. That's not exactly usual in the museum sector...
Instagram is a great discovery because in my eyes, it is a good way of regulating things. I can see from people's hashtags from what point of view they’re walking through our museum, and what interests them. You get to know the visitors better, and in particular their needs. For me, Instagram is a credible medium that is far from being a crazy idea. What makes me particularly happy is that visitors get quite creative with it. You know, in American museum culture, museums use the phrase "to inspire" as a definition of their function. It doesn't work quite as well in a direct German translation, but I like the idea that it's our job to inspire visitors. So, if you are inspired to take photographs here in the museum and visitors then translate this artistically then for me, that's a perfect use of the medium.Next article in the series:
Our task is to inspire visitors - Interview with Dr Alexander Klar (Part 2)
Published on 15.03.2017