Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Museum 2.0: Six Museum-Related Blogs You Might Not Know About That Are Really Good

Blogs GALORE Four

Museum blog-o-rama . . . 
One of my massively favourite museum blogger chicks is Nina Simon with her awesome Museum 2.0 blog. Here's her latest post talking about some of her recommended museum-y blogs:
Museum 2.0: Six Museum-Related Blogs You Might Not Know About That Are Really Good
I know, it's almost too much. But oh what fun!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Working for Small Museums

Heart & Soul . . .
I was lucky enough recently to sign another contract, this one with a small historical society that wants to conduct a complete inventory of their collection. The members of the society know the objects' stories, but they're not written down. They want these stories and all information associated with their collection recorded before it is lost, and so there is a sense of urgency to the project.

What I hope to be able to provide is a clear set of instructions, based on best practices, on how to physically inventory their collection. I will also create a set of collection management forms for the society that will guide in the tracking and development of the intellectual as well as the physical care of their collection. Additionally, I will set the society up with a foundation-building database that will help transfer their collection information online.

I am very excited about this project. I am aware of the trepidation that is associated with trying to figure out all the policies and procedures of collection care, and so I plan to guide the process in a way that is thorough yet intuitive. I truly believe that it is the small museums that hold the core of what museums are all about: although my heart often lies with the larger museums and the complex work they are able to do, I know my soul lives in the small, volunteer-run museums, with all the community stories that exist there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Owl

The Owls are not what they seem  . . . 

. . . or are they?? With apologies to Twin Peaks, I must mention the whole BCMA Conference 2010 Owl-stravaganza before it all flies out of my mind! 

BCMA Owl, as last seen in Richmond 2007
As I mentioned earlier, Owl is the beloved mascot of the BCMA and s/he has been missing since the Awards Night of the 2007 BCMA Conference in Richmond. One of my own personal goals as Program Chair, being the crazy owl lady that I am, was to see that Owl returned during the conference when it was in Nanaimo last month.

I sent the question "Where is our Owl?" out to the BCMA listserv, and got a lead the the old Owl was likely up north in the province. When I sent a follow up email, it was not answered . . . and all leads ended there.  So although I was not successful locating this last Owl, I worked with the Program Committee to do what we could to conjure up the spirit of our fella.
One of the committee members, Buddy Williams, was willing to put part of the Owl effort together. He and I identified that there was an animal rescue agency near Nanaimo called The North Island Wildlife Recovery Association. This fabulous group of people work to protect and rehabilitate wildlife that have been injured, and have public programs that help build awareness about the mighty creatures around us. It just so happens they have two barred owls that they use in their program, and that we could hire them to attend our BC Reports evening in the conference.

They. Were. Majestic. 
Bardo at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre

Bardo greeted people as they went towards the main gathering area, creating quite a bottleneck of adoring fans. We were also lucky enough to meet Oliver, later joined by Bardo, in a quiet room where we could get a little closer, and find out more information on the organization as well as the owls themselves.  (Bardo and Oliver nearly brought tears to the eyes of one of my colleagues, for they have such a presence!)
Bardo looked into my soul so intensely that I had to turn away!
. . . and take off my hat. (gulp - he got so wincey-eyed!)

Yes, for me, Owl was with us in these beautiful birds!

We had more than our fair share of BCMA fun with the Owl sub-theme, as Program Committee members Kate Kerr and Kristin Fairbairn made sure of it! Kristin brought a lot of energy, plus owl mask-making material for the Awards Dinner. Kate, who is an exhibition tech at the Royal BC Museum, made an Owl form and brought a whole lot of glue, glitter and art materials for us to decorate our new Owl 2.0. We set him up in the gift shop in the Nanaimo Museum from the opening reception on the Wednesday night until Awards night time, when he was moved up to the party. This is how he developed:
The plain form.
The beginnings . . .
.... interesting....
Getting dressed for dinner!
Owl 2.0 at the BCMA Awards Dinner 2010

Now maybe it's just me, but I thought this was a lot of fun to do these crafty things. : )


I am not sure this is The Next Owl for BCMA.

It was declared in the AGM at the conference that the Spirit of Owl had definitely returned / was here in Nanaimo. But as I was helping pack up our Owl 2.0, I was a little distressed that maybe he wasn't going to make it home. A colleague (actually the same one that was so moved by the live owls) assured me that Owl 2.0 would be safe, and that the next conference would have an Owl of sorts - maybe this one, maybe not, and that's okay.  She wisely told me that Owl will be what Owl needs to be for where the BCMA is at the time of conference - and to rest assured, s/he was here this year. And so with that, I let Owl free . . .
Me & Bardo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blogs Galore Three

I know, it's lame to have two of these posts in a row. . .

... but I think I am driving my Facebook friends crazy reposting and raving about this particular blog. So I will put it here: without a doubt, The Center for the Future of Museums blog by Elizabeth Merritt of the American Association of Museums is absolutely essential reading for those of us who are working with and for museums today. Every post is a gem - please consider putting this on your RSS feed or Google reader. This last post, The 'Realness' of Museums' Online Communities: A Platform for the Future, for instance, includes fundamental points as:

- Social media and online engagement do not belong solely to the marketing department.
- Individuals subscribing to museums' online communities want to be educated and inspired. (In other words, don't use Facebook to only talk about the hours you are open, but as another platform to meet your mission and mandate.)
- Online communities create personal connections to the museum.

Some of these points might be very obvious to those who work and are familiar with social media in museums . . . but I am not sure if we are all there yet. And if you are still questioning where we are going with all these online relationships, check out the CFM previous post, An Alternate Future of Museums, Part II. There you can read about translating online social engagement to in-person community participation. As I said on Facebook: Bingo!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blogs Galore Two

Another Favourite . . .

I really enjoy reading The Uncatalogued Museum blog by Linda Norris, who is based in New York state. She has had some international adventures in museums, particularly in the Ukraine, which I have found to be very intriguing. Also captivating is her thoughts on county historical societies, and whether or not they are viable, or even worth saving. Thought provoking, and comment-inciting, posts make Linda's blog a don't miss for museum professionals, for sure.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The British Columbia Museum Association Conference 2010

Thoughts from a Conference Program Chair . . .

Wow. Last week - Wednesday, October 27 through Saturday, October 30, 2010 - went so quickly in Nanaimo at the BC Museums Association conference. Once home, I realized that I have never been so tired in my life, but I have to say that I think it all went well. 

Okay, there were a number of details that needed to be worked out on-site and in-person - it was not a cake walk the whole time. But the team organized by the Host Committee, lead by Debbie Trueman of the Nanaimo Museum, made it all doable, manageable and DONE. And I have to say my Program Committee - Wayne Wilson, Kristin Fairbairn, Buddy Williams, Peter Ord, Laura Williams, Carol Mayer and especially Kate Kerr - stepped in and stepped up so all the presentations went seamlessly. And the events. And the Owl fun. And the VIBE! How lucky am I - what a group I got to work with. (I just wish I had remembered to take a group photo..... dang!)

Wednesday began with a couple of preconference workshops, followed by an opening reception at the beautiful new home in the Nanaimo Museum. Those first hellos with museum people from across the province that you haven't seen in a year are always so jubilant! There really is nothing like coming together to see your museum family like at a conference.

The keynote address was on Thursday, lead by Nina Simon, and you can see her presentation slides on slideshare here. Nina spoke to her book The Participatory Museum, and gave examples of what that looks like... and emphatically stated that small museums have a greater opportunity to experiment, to be this engaged with the community, than many larger institutions. I particularly like that because the majority of museums in BC - and all over, for that matter - are the small, community museums that are run by a couple of dedicated people on a shoestring budget. That this position as a small museum has its own power is an empowering thought. Nina also made an impression on me that resonated with the I, Museum theme of identity, and took it up a notch that said what we need is for museum visitors, participants, AND staff to believe "This is MY Museum". Yes! That's the goal - to gather together to celebrate and make the most out of what museums can do - and be. 

We also had the great fortune of having the new minister, Stephanie Cadieux, come speak to the BCMA conference delegates at the Thursday luncheon. She was appointed just Monday, October 25, to the newly minted Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. She seemed genuinely glad to be there, to get a chance to meet with us. She was humble about needing
to read from notes, but I felt she had a good initial understanding of the cultural sector and spoke well. She immediately addressed the dropping of "the arts" from the ministry title, and I thought that was a very open thing to do. It was her first speaking engagement in this ministry - and the first as a cabinet member - and so she seemed sincerely touched when Debbie Trueman and the BCMA presented her with a Fred Peters image including the Bastion in Nanaimo. This luncheon was an opportunity that, I believe, really launched the relationship between the association and the ministry in a very positive way.
Of course there were concurrent sessions in there, both on Thursday and Friday. A big thank you goes out to all the professionals who volunteered their time and effort to put together and present a session. I am sad that I had to be everywhere all once, and thus couldn't attend any full sessions myself.... If you attended any sessions, or have thoughts as a presenter, please comment below to let me know your opinion.  

Thursday events were fabulously done by the host committee. BC Reports is always one of my favourite events, because I love hearing what all the museums have been up to in their five minute chat to the audience, this year emceed by Simon Radcliff of Simon Sees. This evening is also a chance to catch up, have a glass of wine, and just enjoy each other's company. (There were also some special guests - real owls! - which I will have to talk about in an entirely separate post because they so wowwed me!) And this conference had the bonus of SHOPPING after BC Reports - Debbie from the Nanaimo Museum arranged for 18 downtown shops to remain open for us. We did not disappoint, and I bought a particularly cute bracelet to commemorate the conference. (And, no, I don't think it was the wine that made me want it - it was pretty and also a really good deal. Honest!)

Friday came and so did a thoughtful plenary session, "A Sense of Urgency: Museums and the Future", a discussion lead by Rober R. Janes, and Jacqueline Gijssen. Bob is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, and author of Museums in a Troubled World (also a course running at the University of Victoria in December 2010). Jacquie has been involved in the BCMA for many years, and is now the Senior Cultural Planner for the City of Vancouver. They both set the stage for a discourse on the BIG things in our world that need attention - poverty, world hunger, climate change - and how museums, if they choose to, can play a greater role in discussing these issues in our communities. They stated that museums have potential to make a real difference, but that it was going to take courage to both rethink some truths we as museum professionals hold, as well as putting our institutions 'out there' as a safe place to bear witness. Yes, it was an awesome discussion, and one that I have been asked to write about for the Center of the Future of Museums blog. Stay tuned.
After the plenary, everyone kept talking about these issues - and then there were more concurrent sessions. After self-sponsored, self-sorted networking lunch meetings, and then afternoon workshops, I must admit I was beginning to feel like we had covered a lot of territory - and quickly - and was hoping I hadn't run the delegates ragged with the programming. There is a lot to fit into a couple of days, and I hope the pace was appropriate. 

The capstone of the conference is always the Awards Dinner, which was on Friday night. (I wonder if I can get a guest blogger to write about this event?). Again, the Program Committee came through with a lot of 11th-hour work on the presentations, and there was much gratitude to them and the beautiful spread put out by the Host Committee and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. And as it was "Owloween", there were some fun things thrown in there, some silly prizes given out.... it was very much a feel-good event.  

Saturday had the Annual General Meeting for the BCMA, and then the final session that critiqued a temporary exhibition at the Nanaimo Museum. Based on what I had seen in previous Western Museums Association conferences, I thought this might be a thoughtful way to wrap up the one for BCMA by all coming together. A number of professionals reviewed and critiqued "Discovering Chinatown", which will eventually be condensed to a couple of display cases in the main gallery. I think it takes an institutional openness to put your work out there like this; I thank the Nanaimo Museum for agreeing to the critique, and hope that the feedback was useful.  

So all-in-all, I thought the conference went well from the programming side of things. I think we accomplished all we set out to do! I am still digesting many parts of what happened and how, and hope that I have thanked all the people who worked so hard to make it happen. I am a firm believer that conferences in person ARE important, but I also recognize that we have to make the most of our time without burning out the delegates, the hosts, the people who present, and the people who, like me, organize the programming. Is it sustainable to have an annual conference where all these people volunteer their time? I think it is a valid question to ask ourselves, and our association. And so I will be reviewing what work I did since January, and figure out what programming and planning methods were successful and what wasn't. I will also be brave and post this blog further afield than I have done so far because I would really appreciate any feedback you have, either as a conference delegate, committee member, volunteer, presenter, or someone who has something to say about the British Columbia Museum Association, or museum conferences in general.

See you in Cranbrook in 2011!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Western Museum Association Conference 2010

Thoughts from a Conference-Goer . . .

The Western Museums Association put on a GREAT conference! I just spent a few days in Portland, reacquainting myself with some long-lost pals, making new connections, doing some professional development and basically spending my time really really well. I feel so fortunate to be working in the same profession as these amazing people!

None other than author and museum-thinker John Falk was the keynote speaker on the first day. He spoke about WHO and WHY people come to museums. He says it is often their 'little i' identity that brings them in the door, often as one (or a combo) of one of the five:
1. explorer - they are interested and want to know more
2. facilitator - they go for someone else, as a support
3. experience seeker - they want to go visit, and say they have been (ie Louvre in Paris)
4. professional or hobbyist - they go because it relates to work, and/or have a solid love of the topic
5. recharger - they go because it is a nice place to be.
Now his keynote really set the stage for me - it made me think, huh, so a visitor doesn't come to the museum for a special exhibition - not for content - a visitor comes they want to for a specific self-defined purpose. And I love thinking about museums like that, to move the viewpoint away from ourselves to more of how we are perceived.

I also attended a session on selling museum collections, and what that is about, and answered a survey on whether or not museum professional organizations to review this in a more broad manner. It was intriguing to note that accreditation is not really noted until it is removed... and yet it is a voluntary thing to get accredited. It was also apparent to me that some institutions have suffered greatly when they sold their collections and used these funds for operational purposes. I have not changed my mind - I do NOT think that collections should be thought of as assets that can be monetized in times of stress - but I do believe that deaccessioning is a good thing when applied ethically. I also am willing to open the conversation that allows for museums to put any monies received through deaccessioning to something other than just back into the collection. But we have some more work to do there . . . and it's important to have these sessions to get us thinking and talking about these important issues.

There were also some career/leadership strategy sessions I found very intriguing. Some basic advice like - know you belong to where you choose to be, be deliberate, pay attention and do your research if you are targeting somewhere you would like to work. Also, know that there are more ways than simply applying for a job to show interest - don't be afraid to volunteer and to get yourself out there. Although most of this information is not new to me, I really think it is good to be reminded of it AND to know that there are other people out there who are also looking to ensure they have a plan and a path that will lead them on a substantial museum career.

Other great discussions abounded in the sessions, plus opportunities to speak to people one-on-one. I got to chat with one of my heroes, Gail Anderson, who was the director of my JFKU museum studies program when I went there. I got to meet Elizabeth Merritt, the director of the Center for the Future of Museums, about futurism, what that means to museums. I also asked her if she knew if anyone (else!) in Canada is thinking along these lines, as this is a topic I would like to pursue from the Canadian perspective.

I also attended the Registrars Committee, Western Region luncheon as well as got invited to the officer's breakfast.... this group of registrars are amazing. They are so dedicated, eloquent and organized. They run workshops throughout the WMA region, and also make it a priority to give back. The RC-WR does this through generous stipends for its members, and also through work that is done in their communities in their "CSI" program. This year they went to the Pittock Mansion in Portland and worked on rehousing textiles - you can read more on the WMA blog. But, man, what regi-STARS they are. : )

The WMA did so much good work putting this conference together - and it was great to see them in a place where they could celebrate. They were almost ready to dissolve the whole association this time last year; instead they had a fun party where they celebrated their 75th anniversary. They have inspired me to do my very best for the BCMA Conference next week - they are a hard act to follow, but they have taught me that dedication and hard work pays off!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blogs Galore!

Once in a while . . . . . . I find a blog post on museum issues that makes me say YES! That's IT! So from time to time I will be posting some very timely/pertinent/interesting-to-me blog posts. I do my best to keep up with what is out there, all tracked by my Google reader. : ) So - my favourite post for today is from The Museum of the Future, entitled "I like museums: Using Facebook's like button to connect with museums." Perhaps it seems like Facebook is taking over the world, but I rather like to think of it as it is adding something to it. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I ❤ Conference Time!

I. am. jazzed!!

I've got a couple of weeks of conferences coming up. Next week I will be at the
Western Museums Association conference in Portland. I am so excited, because the WMA conference is the first one I attended, way back in 1995 when it was in Oakland. It was an event recommended by my professors when first beginning my program in Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University, and I cautiously committed to making the time and funds available to attend. And you know what? The conference was a fabulous experience - and it was almost overwhelming to see so many people so interested in museums, in what I loved. (I do specifically remember mentioning in class, though, that there were a lot of ladies with scarves!) But I came away thinking - what a good idea - professional development, interesting trade show participants, opportunity to meet new people / network and events at that highlight local institutions. I felt a little like I had found my tribe, my home, and an annual way to reconnect on a personal and professional level. And next week will be a homecoming of sorts, seeing colleagues and former classmates, and putting names to faces to new online connections I have made recently.

That WMA conference experience way back inspired me to look into other professional organizations, and to see what their conferences had to offer. I joined the American Association of Museums and traveled to their conference in Atlanta in, I believe, 1997. I scraped together airline points so I didn't have to buy a ticket, stayed at a nearby but not the conference hotel, and carefully selected the events and sessions I would attend. This precise planning did nothing to prepare me for the number of people that would be there. Just being from the West made me different - there are SO MANY museums on the US East Coast, so many staff in attendance. There were seas of people. The keynote speakers were in giant rooms, and there were screens to watch the talking head, as if it was some sort of political event. But I had my name on the lanyard around my neck, and I set out to meet new people and talk about my master's program and project. And it was good. Overwhelming, but very good. I recognized some names from the museum-l network - when I took an elevator with Stephen Weil, I even said 'Hi! I know you from the listserv!!' - silly eager girl. But, again, this conference experience made me realize there is a lot of history to the work I want to do with museums, and that I had a responsibility for making sure I understand who and what that has come before me in this sector. I love museums, but (thankfully) I am not the only one.

This stuck. When I returned to Canada in 2003, I immediately joined the British Columbia Museums Association. I had a fabulous transition year where I attended a WMA/BCMA joint conference in Reno, Nevada. There I got to say good-bye to my US colleagues while making new connections from BC. I found out that there were definitely nuances that I was going to have to learn about working in BC museums. I also found out that the BC museum professionals have such a wry sense of humour... I was going to be okay. I had lots to learn about my new home, but I would be okay.

So in 2004, I attended BCMA's Nanaimo conference. Population-wise, it's much smaller in BC, and the conference reflected this. In fact, it felt like a little bit of a club that I had entered, and was actually a little more intimidating than the conferences with hundreds of attendees. The multiple sessions and events, though, made it so I was running into the same people and so I just got my gumption together and introduced myself, and started conversations at events, joined discussions at breaks and actively participated in the sessions. (We even had a midnight fire alarm and we all were evacuated to the street in our jammies - now THAT'S getting to know people!) And I didn't try so hard just get my way 'in'; I did so because I wanted to belong to my group of local fellow museum professionals. Attending conferences has allowed me to gain the confidence - and given me the opportunity - to network with other people. I was so rewarded when, in 2004, I struck up a conversation with a table-mate at the Awards Dinner and got a tip on a need at a local National Historic Site: I followed up and won a contract that lead to a 4-year job. Who could ask for anything more from a conference??

So I have been left with, really, why would I not attend conferences? I have build them into my yearly budget, it is such a priority for me to attend. Note I have only ever had an institution pay my whole way to a conference once and that's okay; this type of professional development and networking is actually a personal tax deduction. But even without this, it has always been worth it to attend a conference or two a year.

Yes, I go to conferences, and I love them. The
other one I am attending this month is BCMA's, back in Nanaimo, and, as I have mentioned, I am the Program Chair. This work - begun in January - has made me realize that there is A LOT of effort in putting these events together. From pulling together a committee (mine was amazing!!) to putting out the call for sessions to the facilitation of the development of said-sessions to how the theme and the keynote all fit together to scheduling and simply tracking all the details -- it's pretty intense. And we don't yet know if BCMA Conference 2010 will be successful, of course, but I feel good in that I have given back some of what I have loved so much about attending conferences, and hopefully I have organized intriguing keynote speakers, thoughtful sessions, interesting events. I wish for attendees to walk away with new things to think about in our museum world, fond memories of the conference, and knowing they have a lot of support and camaraderie in their professional community.

Monday, October 4, 2010

First Day Thoughts

. . .

(I don't know what to write as a subtitle to this post . . . )

Last week was a BIG week for organizing everything - I registered my name as a sole proprietor (Caroline J. Posynick, Museum & Heritage Consultant), got my insurance issue worked out, received a business and a tax number, and set up a business bank account. And know what else? I also SIGNED MY FIRST CONTRACT ON THURSDAY!! Woo hoo! We ARE on our way.

So today was the first day that I began work on the project. This morning I went to my home office, got everything lined up and got going. I reviewed emails that I had saved for when I was going to have focussed time, and printed off many things that were sent to me. All was really groove-making until the tree cutters arrived to do some work in my neighbours yard. No problem - I just went off and found my ear plugs cuz I am at home and everything is right at my fingertips.

But I cannot lie - I also imagined what this first day would have been like if I had an on-site position, not project-based consultant work. I wondered what it would have been like to get set up with my computer, an email address, learn a new telephone number. Would the discussions with those who work there be awkward, or would we click? Would I remember the names of people - so many new people - or would I be overwhelmed and kinda flakey? How would my security photo look, anyway?? My photos like this are only ever glamourous or frightening; how did we score this time?  I thought about coffee breaks (did they have any? would I be invited to join them?), and wondered if I would bring lunch or try to buy lunch, and what would have been the more 'social' choice. I wondered if the day would go quickly or if my brain would overload or if I would miss the bus home (or did I park? just HOW MUCH did that cost me??). But I did not have to work through these details; this is not my experience.

This morning I came and sat at my desk in my home office. I got right into the work, including figuring out how to deal with the outside noise. I was able to hone in, become familiar with things rather quickly, check out the institution's website. I even pulled out my own resource books that I knew would have some info that would be helpful to the project (they were). It is a little surreal . . . almost zen-like in the methodology of it all. I think working from home is akin to home schooling, where you are able to do such amazing work in a concentrated time, with no distractions. But I think I am going to set up ways to socialize in a work way, to not get lonely as I will miss people and interaction.  I admit that I do wonder if I will do this for a long time, and what the future holds. But then again I always think like that, whether it be the first or the middle or the last of any adventure I take.  So what's with these elipses - and dashes?  Maybe it is nothing more than I am still computing my first day . . . 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Countdown 3-2-1

Might as well
Jump . . .

When I was a young pup, I jumped off a bridge because a friend did it. Actually, I even went first. We were backpacking through New Zealand and my buddy just loved the thought of bungy jumping at the very birthplace of the 'sport'... and I knew her so well that if I didn't jump too, she would tease me for the rest of our lives for not trying something so outrageously fun and exhilarating. So I did it, with the request that I go first. I was in a bit of tizzy with nerves so my friend supported me with a lot of positive reinforcement. Somehow someone wrapped a giant rubber band around my legs (protected by a towel, no less) and then directed me to a platform over a vast river in a canyon where they instructed me to relax (huh! my fingers are sweating right now just WRITING about this!) and look to the horizon and think about... flying. I didn't quite fly but that jump was one of the most incredible sensations ever... it was obviously falling, but there was something more... like freedom. And maybe just a little stupidity with the level of risk. But not one ounce of regret, because I knew I would always remember this moment, this moment when I took a leap of faith.*

The beginning of my adventure into museum and heritage consulting feels like standing on that platform. It is not easy to fathom - and there are many more steps than a rubber band and a couple of towels and listening to someone who is trained in talking you through the steps... or talking me into it. There is insurance (HUGE cost), registering my name as a sole proprietor, getting a business bank account and a tax account number and the list goes on. It's a big responsibility, and it is a jump in responsibility to do this on my own. Sure, I have had my business cards and my office set up for a few years but still.... it is odd to go here every day. It takes a lot of focus. And there's a lot of waiting.... I have two proposals moments away from becoming contracts but it is all so slow! Then what will life be like when they come through? Will I be working 24/7 ?? I don't know, but something tells me consulting will be a little bit of falling, a little bit of freedom. And it could just maybe feel like flying...

* That is me in the striped shirt on the platform on the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand, on April 8, 1992. I jumped/fell/flew 143 feet (44 m). What a thrill! And, yes, I even 'got the t-shirt', which still makes me silly-grin. :D

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have You Seen this Owl?

Ah, BCMA's Owl . . .

The British Columbia Museums Association is desperately seeking Owl at Conference 2010. Our mascot was last seen at the Richmond Conference in 2007, and has been missing ever since. There have been rumours that s/he (no one knows) was abducted, went on the town and…flew away never to be seen again. Or has s/he? We would really like for Owl to make an appearance Conference 2010, and plan to call Owl out with special events such as an opportunity to meet a local owl cared for by a wildlife rescue agency. We will also be adding in ‘owl-rific’ elements to our Awards Dinner and throughout the Conference by…oh you just come and see! Owl will come Home to BCMA during Conference 2010.

Opportunity: Program Chair for a Conference

British Columbia Museums Association Conference 2010 . . .

I am cheating a little bit here with this post, as this article is set to appear in the BCMA Roundup magazine this month... but thought it would make a good entry as I have volunteered a lot on this conference, and have put particular attention into making a strong theme that would appeal to our sector. I hope it works out!!

Anyway, here is the article:

This year’s theme for the British Columbia Museums Association Conference, I, Museum: Community, Technology, Opportunity, declares who we are as a sector in our community - I am the museum, and I celebrate what I do! It is also is a play on I, Robot, a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov, which discusses society's errant relationship with technology; museums know have new ways of relating, but we want to be certain that these tools don’t take over. Bringing these two ideas together, we (shamelessly) adapted the Three Laws of Museums, from Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, to read:

  1. A museum may not abandon the past or, through inaction, allow the community and its material culture to come to harm.
  2. A museum must embrace the future, except when it conflicts with the First Law.
  3. A museum must protect its own existence as long as such protection doesn't conflict with the First or Second Law.

Such thought has gone into the theme because our sector has been – again – through a challenging time as of late: we need time to meet and regroup, have some great discussions and make a game plan for the future. Conference 2010 will help us do that by investigating and celebrating what makes museums unique (working with and for our community), how we can use technology to help us forward our goals (but not let it take over), and what we can do to survive and adapt to the changing world around us (by seizing unique opportunities). We also hope that we will have a little fun and success finding Owl (see the following post).

The Programming Committee has worked diligently since January to plan a fabulous program that will be relevant and engaging for the BCMA membership. We are lucky enough to have Nina Simon as our keynote speaker, who will talk about her book and museum ‘practice’ called The Participatory Museum, and how it can relate to what we are doing in BC museums. There are preconference workshops lined up that look at everything from discussing frontline strategies that make our visitors feel welcome, to updating current exhibitions on a shoe-string budget, to developing (and redeveloping) a museum gift shop. There are also over 30 sessions within the program that will discuss working with communities, review the latest in social media, as well as (gasp) look at entrepreneurial opportunities, including the √©conomus√©e movement. In addition, Robert Janes will lead a germane plenary session that title “A Sense of Urgency: Museums at the Future”; we should all be there just for that, as it is an important discussion on strategizing what we have to do to keep moving our sector forward.

We are also looking forward to webcasting several events, to make them available to online subscribers. This use of technology should help to make conference content available to our colleagues who are not able to attend conference, and keep the discussions going after conference has closed.

Conference is a time to come together to network, reconnect, attend some sessions and, yes, celebrate that museums are still here and reinventing themselves to remain relevant, vibrant and sustainable. Please join colleagues in Nanaimo from October 27 – 30 to discuss and celebrate I, Museum: Community, Technology, Opportunity, BCMA Conference 2010. You can register by visiting the BCMA website. We will see you there!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Career's Evolution

A Change of Heart...

This is the blog post I have been waiting to write. It has to do with how I see myself as a museum professional, and how my career has progressed at a rate that has challenged me and what I think 'should' be happening. With a slight change of perspective, I now realize, hey, this is the new way and it's so not bad at all. In fact, there is a lot of power and excitement here.

I have been saying one sentence that will be retired after I write this blog post. I have said it a lot over the past few years, to many different types of people in different circumstances. I see now that it puts something out into the Universe that I had not intended. But in order for us to move forward, I must state like Elton John and Candle in the Wind one last time:

I am "x" years old and I have never had a full-time, permanent museum job with benefits such as paid vacation, dental coverage, or a retirement plan. When will that happen? Why hasn't it happened yet??

This 'song' has set the stage for one of slight disappointment, as if I am not satisfied with my experiences. It is like I have been longing to be married, and I just can't find that special someone... and wonder, what am I doing wrong???

I have been looking at my career like a relationship. I had my first love of collection management work when I spoke to a volunteer coordinator who introduced me to the behind the scenes work of cataloguing a donation from a World War II veteran. I was certain, so young, that I was on to what I wanted to do with my career: I want to tell stories through objects, ensuring that I care for museum collections both physically and intellectually. I have been all about this ever since that first kiss of work, and that feeling has driven me more than money or status or anything else out there.

In graduate school, I continued my relationships with organizations and proving my love for collection management work. I had my flings through internships, including one with a sexy, older, sophisticated art museum. I was a little out of my league but ! damn ! what an experience and I do not regret the adventure. I also returned and interned in my home town, trying to recapture that first love feeling. It was okay, but circumstances dictated I be away from that city and so... this let me open myself up to a series of short affairs with a number of institutions. None quite fit, and none could commit due to economic constraints and circumstance. It was a bit painful for me, especially when I almost got one part-time position that worked fine. And then I had to move again.

Why was I being so fickle?? Shouldn't this be easy if I know what I want?

Then I took the bull by the horns. Once I settled into yet another town, I set my sights on what I wanted. I literally knocked on the door of a National Historic Site and said "You need me to inventory your collection." Cautiously they thought this over, underbidding my offer, but they agreed to 'date' temporarily and I accepted their terms. Well, I did an awesome job for this institution, and a four month contract turned into another, then 8 months contract, and on until I had been there over four years. I felt so committed, like I was moved in! The inventory was complete, the volunteers were happy and we even had a 'child' of an award-winning heritage conservation project. The problem? It was never intended to be a permanent position... we were never to marry, with benefits....and the work ended, and the relationship fizzled. And I was left with feeling "what have I done wrong?" Which, in fact, was not the right statement for the experiences I had there - but what I felt at the time was more akin to heartbreak.

It is hard out here to keep fulfilling that feeling of love for museum work, and finding a place to serve. Economic times are tight, and I am of a generation that has been waiting for well, everyone, to retire. (I will be talking about succession planning in a future post.) There are few jobs in institutions out there that are available... and when someone leaves, either the job is mothballed or there is fierce competition. (I once was one of 300 people who applied for a 6 month, entry-level position - three HUNDRED!). But what is out there is project-based work. Quite a bit of it, actually.

I see now that I have been wanting, desperately, for an institution to 'pick me' for this dance of a career. I have been so focussed on this fact of not being chosen that I have not stopped to notice that I have had some pretty amazing opportunities and projects. In future posts I will be addressing my current metaphor of how I see my career.... but for now, let's just say that this change of heart, this evolution, has opened me up to endless possibilities - how great is that? - for, you know, I am a museum consultant.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here I Am!

Yes, it's time... .....time to start writing about what I love to do, and how much I enjoy, advocate, and want to do for the museum sector. I have been meaning to write and now, will. Look for musings (ha!) about caring for collections, working and contracting in the museum field, how museums ARE relevant in our communities, plus a rant or two on what we can do better. I will also be adding in information about the British Columbia Museums Association Conference 2010, as I am the volunteer program chair for this conference that is taking place in Nanaimo from October 27th - 30th. So, ready or not, here I am!