Tag, round three: In this series, museum staff, artists, and guests answer a grip of questions about life, love, liberty and all that magic. The featured person then tags another with five more questions. It’s like transmitting a virus, but happy and fun. Up today is Nancy Jacobs, executive assistant to the director, tagged by Ken Ikemoto, school programs associate.
Do you collect anything or any type of experience?
I have an amazing collection of stamps in my passport! I save my old passports just because the visas and entry stamps are a wonderful reminder of the trips I have taken. And when I’m travelling, I try to find small boxes and have at least one from each place I visit. I look for a box that evokes the place it’s bought, is handmade and for practical reasons, it needs to be easy to carry. (That being said, I have gotten on airplanes with boxes large enough to elicit a look of exasperation from the flight attendants!) My favorites are a mother-of-pearl box that I bought in Thailand, a beautiful handmade metal box with silver inlay I bought in India, and a box from the souk in Marrakesh that turns into a bracelet.
I also have a collection of beaded belts I bought in tourist gift shops. The best one is from the Trees of Mystery: my rule used to be that they could cost no more than $2.50; that will show you long I’ve been collecting them.
You’ve worked with many high-powered and successful people. Are there any characteristics (or eccentricities) that they have in common?
The most successful people I’ve worked for do have several things in common: They are focused individuals, have an amazing work ethic, can see the long view of most situations, and of course are very, very intelligent. They are also the easiest people to support. After those attributes, they have very different styles and have almost nothing else in common which makes life interesting for me.
In your career what are some of the strangest requests or inquiries you’ve ever received?
- When I worked at Robert Mondavi Winery, we got a letter from a woman that wanted to date Mr. Mondavi. Could our office set up an introduction: UH — no!
- A funny question at a pre-travel meeting during my days as a travel agent was whether the traveler should buy her postage stamps here before she left for her European trip.
- Could I find and buy a 500-gram tin of caviar for a picnic lunch in one hour (approximately $1500!).
- Could I arrange for street parking on Lake Street for a company picnic.
- I had to sign up at Weight Watchers for one boss and go to the weigh-in on a weekly basis to pick up food that was only available to members.
- When I worked as a personal assistant in San Francisco, buying raincoats for all the dogs almost sent me to the loony bin!
Can you tell us about one of your most unforgettable travel experiences?
This moment will stay with me forever: About 15 years ago, I had one day in Zurich all to myself with no plan and no real information about the city. I saw a church (The Fraumünster) and went in to see if there was anything interesting; Someone was playing Bach on the organ and when I turned around to sit down to listen for a few moments there were the most beautiful Marc Chagall windows which had the late afternoon sun streaming through them. I felt transported and sat there until the sun set. I didn’t take any pictures but I will remember every moment.
In what way do you connect most strongly with the museum’s collection?
There are so many parts of the collection that have meaning for me. I’ve travelled to Southeast Asia quite a lot and have had particularly wonderful trips to Vietnam and Laos. Unfortunately, I don’t go as often any more, so visiting those galleries is almost a substitute to actually being there. On a trip to India last year, a palm reader told me that my personal deity is Ganesha, the Elephant-headed God and Remover of Obstacles (and of course I believed him), so I visit his statue at the entrance to the third-floor gallery as often as I can in the hopes that he will help me remove daily obstacles. Just walking through the Himalayan galleries is inspiring for the use of color and the beauty of the Thangkas and the sculpture. The more I learn about our collection, the more I want to know still more about it and to visit countries that are represented here that I have yet to see.
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