Walking into Duke University’s Nasher Museum, you get a feeling of effortlessness. It seems as though the simple, clean exhibitions fell into place naturally or out of thin air perhaps. You enter through the front and see the receptionist, and as you calmly observe the Nasher Museum’s eclectic mix of works, you might even see a few security guards. Taken at face value, it seems as though there is no behind-the-scenes. But as my internship experience has shown me, there is a lot more to a museum than meets the eye.
When I first started my internship in the development office, it all seemed foreign to me. ‘The Nasher Museum has a second floor?!’ I thought. There were employees going in and out, busy with their respective responsibilities. And as my supervisor ran over the high-level basics of development, it all started to fit into place. I should have made sense of it earlier. I had been studying economics for the past three years, and you would think that connecting the finances to the operations would be easy. Development, in the museum sense, refers to the growth of the museum through financial lenses. That part I got, but what surprised me were the amount of methods and tactics used to garner such funds. If anyone has ever had a sales job, getting someone to part with his or her money is no easy task. The Nasher Museum is lucky to have a supportive parent in Duke University, but the other half of the heavy lifting is done by the greater community. In assisting the development office, I have learned that much of the work is figuring out how to reach out to members and potential members in a deeper way. On the surface, the perks of exhibition tickets are nice, but developing relationships for a long fruitful partnership between the museum and member is key to the Nasher’s long-term success. As my internship winds down, I hope that through my assistance, the development office will have found a new way or two to begin that dialogue with their patrons.