The Role of a Museum Editor
Megan Eves’ Interview with Richard Price, Museum Editor at the Corning Museum of Glass
Recently retired at the end of September Richard Price has worked at The Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) since April 1985. As the Head of Publications, Price has edited every edition of the Museum’s annual publication including prestigious Journal of Glass Studies, Notable Acquisitions, and the contemporary glass exhibition-in-print, New Glass Review. Additionally, Price edited every catalog for Museum exhibitions and other publications among the best known: Glass from World’s Fairs, 1851-1904 (1986), Drawing upon Nature: Studies for the Blasckas’ Glass Models (2007), and Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics (2017) which won the W.E. Fischelis Award from The Victorian Society in America.
I spoke with Price to learn more about how he entered the museum field, his time as Museum Editor at CMOG, and reflected back on some of his favorite projects.
Richard Price, Head of Publications at The Corning Museum of Glass poses with a few of the publications he has worked on throughout his thirty five year with the Museum.
Megan: Describe what you did as a museum editor at CMOG. What are the main roles/responsibilities?
Price: I edited the manuscripts for the publications from academic journals to annual reports to collection and exhibition catalogues. I worked closely with curators and with writers for our academic journals who came from around the world. I enjoyed learning about these different subject areas that were sometimes very different from what the museum was pursuing but they gave me an opportunity to learn from these scholars. I enjoyed encouraging help these young people to get their work published, get it up to standard, and I thought that was a very useful thing to do. I was very touched by these people who when they learned I was leaving they took the time to write and thank me.
How did you enter the museum field? How did you end up being CMOG’s museum editor for over thirty years? What were you doing before?
When I went to journalism school, I learned that I wanted to be an editor so I took those classes out of sequence. I jumped all news writing prerequisite to take editing. I had a wonderful teacher who worked with me and really taught me my craft. I worked for our local newspaper on and off for ten years. I also worked in the local library. I started at the museum in 1985 so I already had experience working with the local newspaper The Leader in Corning and what was then the Corning Area Public LIbrary and those were good stepping stones to what I ultimately did.
I left The Leader in 1984 and basically was between jobs for a year. My mother ran a store on Market Street in Corning and put me to work. Someone let her know that the person in charge of publications at the Corning Museum of Glass was going to retire and my mom said “you need to apply for this.”
I was familiar with the museum because of our four generations of family connections. Starting with my grandfather who designed the 200-inch disk for the reflector telescope for the Palomar Observatory. He worked for what was then Corning Glassworks. who designed the 200-inch mirror blank for the Hale Telescope—the single largest piece of Pyrex ever made—which allowed astronomers to see farther into space than ever before. Still today, it resides at the Palomar Observatory in California. The first, failed attempt at this giant piece of cast glass is a staple of the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass. My dad was an othormic engineer. He worked on what were then photoray lens that darken in the sunlight. He would travel to Arizona with a colleague and they would put samples on a roof of a motel and test them for how quickly the lenses would darken and then fade. So I’m the third generation and my daughter works here now as the Media & Public Relations Manager. My son worked he for a number of years as a security guard, so the family is well represented here. It’s a wonderful place to work and it’s given me the opportunity to learn more about a subject that connects with a lot of people in my family. So I’ve had the opportunity to put out publications for the museum that is probably at the forefront of its field which is a humbling experience from time to time.
Rick with his wife, Sheila, and daughter Kim Thompson
What made you excited about editing catalogs for CMOG?
I feel that it is a very important role that you are backstopping the institution. You’re trying to prevent the material misstatement. You're trying to prevent errors of any kind and it’s a big task but it’s rewarding.
Can you share a favorite project?
One of my favorite projects was Cage Cups: Late Roman Luxury Glass by the late Dr. David Whitehouse, a former director of the museum. This was a project of which I was blissfully unaware until one day Whitehouse called me over to his desk and let me know that he had been working on this publication quietly for years. He shared that he had recently received an unfortunate diagnosis and would die within months from the time we met. He asked me if I could handle it. Of course I said yes. I knew that cage cups where the luxury glass of the Roman Empire. There are not many of them but they are phenomenal pieces. There are some disagreements about how they were made and so Dr. Whitehouse wanted to produce a book that would bring the findings of the day that would give a good context and make it a very readable book.
After he passed, we learned of some cage cups of which he was unaware. I started digging around with help from one of the former curators and we were able to identify and locate thirteen additional cage cups. We went to publication with over eighty cage cups identified. The discovery of these cage cups gave me the opportunity to interview excavators, curators, museum directors and others who had a hand in finding these things. It was really gratifying and because in some cases people were so excited to be part of the book that they provided photographs free of charge, they gave us copies of documents that helped that section come alive. I know that a lot of people in the curatorial world were aware that he [Whitehouse] was writing the book but I was not until he gave it to me about six/eight months before he died and I just took it as valedictory work. Dr. Whitehouse was one of the leading scholars of ancient Islamic glass in the world. I was very honored to work with him and edit his exhibition and scholarly catalogue. It was a great joy for me to bring Cage Cups to publication in late 2015.
A favorite project of Price’s was his work on the publication Cage Cups: Late Roman Luxury Glass by the late Dr. David Whitehouse, a former director of the Museum. Whitehouse’s book was incomplete at the time of his death, and Price continued his research, talking with curators and excavators around the world and uncovering a number of additional masterpieces which were included in the publication.
What did you learn from editing your first catalog to the most recent?
I learned as you went. One of the things that I did was put together a museum style manual that I had originally intended for my own use. I used it for the academic and popular adult publications. I put it together over the years as I learned different things. I built a fairly long vocabulary list and needed to know how these words were spelled, what they meant and how they were used.
Every project was different. It wasn’t a case of becoming more and more confident in a particular area because people were writing about different things and you had to familiarize yourself with everything but you learned from each and every one of them. Because I was focused on one thing at a time, I were able to devote more time to digging deeper and make suggestions to authors such as “should we include something like this?” or “is that pertinent?” I was able to engage in a dialogue with them more by virtue of the fact that over the years I have learned cumulatively from a number of projects.
What advice would you give someone looking to do something similar to your position?
I think that the only thing you can do it that’s the kind of thing you want to do is to make inquiries to museums. I know that there are a number of museums that do some publications, some more than others, but some of it is freelance work and some of it is staff. I don’t know that you can study it in an academic environment but you get involved in museums and express and interests and if you've studied journalism or have taken courses in editing like from the American Society of Copyeditors that would be a good stepping stone to get into this kind of work.
As you retire from your position, what else stands out about your time at CMOG?
Every project has been important to me, we have put out a number of books either as catalogues or as adjunct materials for an exhibition, some of those are more popular books, others are more scholarly but each one I have felt has been very important. It’s one thing when you’re working in the field of newspapers and magazines, those things are here today and gone tomorrow but in the world of glass and particularly glass scholarship I have been very mindful of the fact that our books are meant to last generations. It was vitally important that we devote the time and effort to make these things free of misstatement or free of factual errors and getting them right for scholars for generations to come.