A Day in the Life of a Gallery and Visitor Services Officer (GVSO) at QAGOMA
As a GVSO the day starts either at the QAG or GOMA building with a group briefing by the Duty Team Leader. The briefings incorporate the day’s events, roster updates, information on any special exhibition requirements and training tips in customer service, security and emergency management.
Briefings are informative on many levels so it pays to listen well in order to best extract and apply the information when it’s needed. It does help to build the 'Team spirit' and it is good to know who you can rely on for that day. Then it's off to your rostered area, a visual check of the general condition of the gallery space (clean), the Artworks (in place and undamaged), the artwork labels (readable) and the emergency equipment and lighting (working)
Visitors and the Artworks
Once the doors open, depending on your rostered position, you’re either extremely busy, (Main Entry/Cloakroom/Information desk), or you find a moment of calm as the Visitors make their way through to your Gallery space.
You should always be prepared for the questions, from the common place (where's the toilet?), to the unusual (My Aunt came here four years ago and saw the “Swelling Vase” by L.J Harvey...). It’s important to know the Collection. GVSO's know the artworks, where they are located and the necessary information for Visitors to appreciate and enhance their understanding of the works.
One of the main skills for GVSOs to apply is being able to read 'body language' and adjusting your behaviour accordingly. Some Visitors are seeking assistance, some want to be left alone. Just being able to read a visitor can make all the difference to their visit and day. Remember to SMILE.
Often school groups will charge through your area under the 'control' of a teacher. You usually hear them coming and being prepared is essential. It’s quite useful to quietly engage with the students speaking calmly and firmly reminding them of the Gallery rules in a positive and friendly way.
Knowing what's going on, where things are and how to 'behave' may seem ordinary, but surprisingly, it's the most common types of questions and topics that drive the interactive experiences you will have with the Visitors. Adjusting to Visitor's behaviour, guiding and smoothly informing them about the Conditions of entry without appearing dictatorial or rude is a skill you will need often.
Rosters and breaks
GVSO's are required to move from area to area throughout the day. This also allows for lunch breaks and afternoon tea breaks etc. You rely heavily on your teammates so good timekeeping is essential. You are not allowed a mobile phone on duty so a watch is necessary to keep pace. Lateness isn’t an option. That said GVSO’s are friendly understanding folk. Be prepared for the odd roster/position change.
You will spend a great deal of time standing and walking. Once you get used to strolling it’s quite easy to cover 10 kms in the day. It’s better to be moving than hunched over a desk staring at a computer and you can chose your path. Try reading the art work labels, then you get a free art history lesson whilst helping you to stay physically and mentally fit.
GVSO's are required to supervise the information desk, answering and transferring telephone calls and dealing with face to face enquiries. It’s usually the first point of contact with the public. This can be a challenging place especially on certain days when we have exhibition openings, VIP visits, managing lost property enquiries and lost people or just conveying the Gallery rules.
Most of the demanding Visitor interactions will be here. Knowing the Gallery's Policies and Regulations is important for safeguarding people and works of art.
Announcements and Closing Time
Gallery wide announcements are made by the GVSO's over the intercom system, providing information throughout the day.
One of the most important stages of the day is at closing time when you need to assist in clearing the Gallery spaces as a Team, efficiently and politely asking Visitors to vacate the premises. It’s at this time that the GVSO's search all public areas, reporting back to the Team Leaders that their Gallery space is cleared and secure. Probably the most serious part of the day. Communication is very important. Learn to use your two way radio efficiently and effectively.
The GVSO role is not a job with a particular career path. It may not suit all people, but if you enjoy assisting people of all ages from diverse cultural backgrounds within a Gallery environment and experiencing the audible gasp that some visitors give when they see an artwork for the first time is incredibly satisfying.