Meet the Team: What Does Museum Visitor Service Look Like?
Judith Siu, Visitor Services Manager, answers five questions about her job at M+!
1. 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.
2. Describe a typical day for you.
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.
3. What’s a moment at M+ that you’ll always remember?
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.
4. Choose an object from the M+ Collections that you like or feel inspired by.
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.
5. Name one thing you don’t think your co-workers know about you...
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).
The above interview has been edited for clarity.
Image at top of post: Judith Siu in front of the M+ Pavilion. Photo from M+, Hong Kong