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10 Sept 2018 / by Ellen Oredsson

Meet the Team: What Does Museum Visitor Service Look Like?

A woman with dark hair and black-rimmed glasses smiles at the camera while standing in front of a grey building with glass doors and a sign saying ‘M+ Pavilion’. She is a wearing a navy button-down shirt with white pinstripes, and is holding two M+ booklets with both hands.

Judith Siu in front of the M+ Pavilion. Photo from M+, Hong Kong

Judith Siu, Visitor Services Manager, answers five questions about her job at M+!

What brought you to M+?

I was originally trained as a social worker, but, by chance, ended up working in a gallery specialised in collectible Hong Kong prints for ten years. I accumulated a skill set in understanding art and heritage, and a passion for being the bridge connecting the objects and the audience. That’s why, when the visitor services post came up at M+, I was immediately interested. I wanted to contribute what I had learned from my work, continuing to help audiences understand art and visual culture and create an unforgettable visitor experience.

Describe a typical day for you.

Four women stand in a row smiling inside a brightly lit exhibition hall.

Judith with other members of her visitor services team in the M+ Pavilion. Photo from M+, Hong Kong

I arrive on site, check my email, reconfirm the day’s schedule, and look at the staff who will be at the M+ Pavilion that day. We do a briefing with everyone at 10:30am, where we talk about what exactly will happen during the day, if anything in particular will need to be considered, and how to arrange the staff to get ready for opening at 11am. Throughout the day, I’ll sometimes be at the reception or in the exhibition space, taking the opportunity to engage with the visitors! Apart from that, I spend a lot of time planning, building up the team, training the front of house staff, and getting ready for new exhibitions.

What’s a moment at M+ that you’ll always remember?

A booklet opened to a page with a photo of an angular building with mirror walls under a blue sky. Underneath are the words ‘M+ Pavilion, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2018’, as well as diagrams of the building’s floorplan and a text about the building written in Slovenian.

The M+ Pavilion page of the booklet put together by the Slovenian group of professors and students for their research trip. This copy was given to Judith as a gift

I had a group of around twenty architecture professors and students from Slovenia who were interested in seeing the M+ Pavilion. Sadly, we were closed for installation, and there was a construction site surrounding the M+ Pavilion, so it wasn’t accessible due to safety reasons. Because they were so interested in the project, I ended up finding a safe area outside of the building to give them an introduction to M+ and the West Kowloon Cultural District, what the M+ Pavilion is used for, and how it was built. One of the professors said, ‘At the end of the trip, I may not remember who the architect of the building was, but I’ll remember you providing this very personal experience for us’. It reassured me of why I feel that visitor services is important, and why I’m doing this role.

Choose an object from the M+ Collections that you like or feel inspired by.

A long, vertical paper scroll hangs on a dark grey wall in a gallery space next to the words ‘The Weight of Lightness’ and some paragraphs of smaller curatorial text. The paper scroll is blank, except for a square root symbol drawn in dark blue marker about halfway down the scroll.

Wurzel aus by Nam June Paik on display at The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+. Nam June Paik, *Wurzel aus*, 1961, permanent marker on paper, hanging scroll, M+, Hong Kong. © Estate of Nam June Paik

The work Wurzel aus by Nam June Paik, which was on display in The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+, really inspired me. Every time I introduced it for visitors, they questioned why it was displayed in the beginning of the exhibition. We would talk about why this work can be considered ‘ink art’. When they finished the exhibition, they usually had a different opinion about the work.

It inspired me because this is how I feel about my role. People think that visitor services is just about greeting people, and don’t always realise that it plays a key part in the holistic museum experience. The work inspires us to think about new interpretations of a very traditional idea—like visitor services.

Name one thing you don’t think your co-workers know about you...

A woman holds a metal box and a photograph in front of the camera, blocking her face. The photograph depicts four rows of identical apartment floors with blue and red colour blocking painted on their facades, sitting above a row of shops with a person walking in front of them.

Judith with a case containing original prints of her photographs. Photo from M+, Hong Kong

I don’t think my co-workers know how much I love photography! I used to want to be a professional photographer. Even now, I take a lot of photographs: observations of people and buildings, which I post daily on my Instagram (@picthisju).

As told to Ellen Oredsson. This interview has been edited for clarity. This article was originally published on M+ Stories.

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