Running a museum takes a whole team of professionals whose different skills help make the Rubin Museum of Art one of the premiere places to visit. To get to know us a little more, and to explore different careers in the arts, each month we will be asking a Museum staffer/intern to answer six questions about their position at the Museum, their favorite artworks or exhibitions on display in the museum and other personal attributes. For the fifth installment we’re going to be introduced to David Townsend, Web Content & Strategy Coordinator!
RMA: What is your title and what do YOU do here at the Museum?
Officially, I am the Web Content & Strategy Coordinator, however I like to refer to myself as a Media Magician, as I feel that’s more descriptive. My job is to oversee the content on the website, to develop additional websites for educational and exhibition-related purposes, and to assist our Communications team with our Social Media efforts by maintaining our Tumblr blog, which has a staggering 26K followers (Follow Us)! Also, it is my duty and pleasure to help direct, edit, and archive video recordings of the public programs which take place in our theater, many of which will then be posted online.
RMA: Where are you originally from and how did you end up at the Rubin?
I grew up in Maine, where my parents had a house in Poland Spring (like the water, and, yes, it actually exists) which was a fantastic place to grow up: lots of outdoor activities to keep you busy, warm lovely people, and of course it was dramatically beautiful from season to season, from the frigid depths of winter to the (short) steamy summers.
As for my arrival to the Rubin Museum, it just so happens that the museum’s Programming Manager, Dawn Eshelman, is a good friend of mine. When my current position was first being created, she let me know that the museum was hiring and I jumped at the opportunity to work with this inspiring institution.
RMA: What is your favorite thing about your job?
It is hard to nail it down to just one thing, but I would have to say being a content producer is what I am most passionate about these days. Currently that means I am facilitating the launch of a website for a new Community Outreach program called Himalayan NYC, and I am scheduled to shoot a handful of videos with one of our curators for an upcoming fall exhibition, Modernist Art from India: Radical Terrain. Being a producer is the part of my job that varies the most depending on the exhibitions we have on view and the programming we have scheduled, so I appreciate it because it is dynamic and challenging.
RMA: What is your favorite piece of art or exhibition in the museum and why?
I was blown away by the Grain of Emptiness exhibition back in 2010-2011. It was on view the first time I came to the museum, and I was impressed with the range of works, as well as how successful they were at melding contemporary references with Buddhist notions of emptiness. I have reflected on many pieces in that exhibition since, so it had a great impact on me.
RMA: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow the same career path?
In terms of web design, I am entirely self-taught, so my advice is to learn by doing. I believe what’s most important is to be curious and to be willing to fail. Make a million mistakes, and just keep trying. There are so many incredible resources online these days; it really doesn’t take much to get you started.
I think the web/interactive media field as it relates to museums is a rich and rewarding field, since museums are able to deliver such fantastic content. Look at the Google Art Project! Never-before have people been able to view such fine detail of these masterworks, from museums all over the globe in one place online. And the project just started, so who knows what will happen in the years to come?
RMA: Do you have a secret talent or a hobby that you enjoy?
Mixology. I’ve been known to make some tasty concoctions, plus I enjoy the history of cocktails, so it’s nerdy all around.
RMA: If you could travel anywhere in the Himalayas where would you go and why?
Nepal. Every day I see photos of Annapurna that just blow my mind. Granted it would be a huge effort to hike there, but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. However, that would be part of a larger trip that I am interested in making which would include some extensive travel through India.
To see some of the results of David’s fantastic work for the museum visit the Rubin Museum’s website or stop by Himalayan NYC to find out how you can explore the Himalayan region in New York even further!