To the Editor:
We were delighted to see the editorial about the WALLS selection process (“Another brick in the WALLS,” Feb. 18, 2015) and pleased that the Record understands that the museum has been experimenting with different systems for Pick Up Day. With three semesters under our belt, we have tried three different approaches. Our goals in designing each method have been to gauge the demand for works in the WALLS collection, expand overall student excitement and develop an equitable system for students to choose an artwork for the semester.
In the inaugural spring semester last year, 45 students lined up to choose their work and 45 spots were drawn by lottery. This hybrid system had pros and cons: overall excitement was high, but we found there were many no-shows amongst lottery winners. Students also told us they were confused by the two systems. Perhaps the biggest con was the very cold temperatures, which exposed our lucky winners to difficult conditions.
In September, more cooperative weather allowed us to request that all interested students line up. As was noted in the editorial, our strong initial showing at 5 p.m. the night before prompted an email encouraging other interested students to come early. As we learned, we may have inadvertently scared students away by giving the impression that the line was already full. This February, we tried the lottery-only approach, sensing a lottery might be preferable to a line in which students are required to form a line in the frigid Berkshire weather.
WALLS is still an exciting new program, and we are honing it to perfect it. We haven’t decided yet which of these methods we will use going forward or if we will try something new next time. We do know that we really appreciate the feedback the Record editorial offered. Our student engagement group Think Tank drives these Pick Up Day experiments, and in the next few months, they will explore the question and discuss options with student focus groups. We would be thrilled to include any interested students in those groups. For more information on Think Tank or to take part in a focus group, contact Nancy Zhong ’15, president of Think Tank.
Christina Olsen ’56, Director
Williams College Museum of Art