Monday, February 14, 2011

Museum Succession Planning / Planning for Museums to Succeed

So you're thinking about retiring after a career in museum work . . .

Congratulations! What a gorgeous amount of service you have given to museums for the past 35 + years. I bet you have had some great accomplishments and opportunities during the course of you career. How much I want to hear about all of them!

I truly hope you never worry that the next generation of museum workers aren't interested in what you have built over the years, and that there is no one ready to receive your baton. I assure you that it's likely there are actually 
more people wanting to work in museums than ever before, both from academia and through museum studies programs. Many people have been eager to join in your conversation way before this time of your retirement, but maybe have not had the chance due to limited hiring and/or just being the wrong place/age to land that permanent job to work alongside you.

And . . . I don't want to make any assumptions here, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I am thinking that although I bet it's exciting to retire, I'd imagine it's hard to get your coat and hat and walk away from what you have been doing for a lifetime. This must be especially true if you have spent most of your career in one institution. I literally can't imagine working at the same place for years and years (although I would like to!). Your job must have seen you through relationships, having and raising kids, buying houses; it must have been with you during all life's adventures, and must equal a big part of who you are. Through this, I know if I were you, I would want to know what will happen to my life's work when I am gone, and get assurance before I leave that it mattered. So I am here to say right now not only will your efforts and accomplishments not be forgotten, but I promise to take up the mantle of the solid foundation of work you laid upon your predecessors'. This is the reason I really want to know all about your experiences.

Here's the thing, though. For me to fully understand the work you have accomplished during your long and varied career, I need you to talk to me. 
A lot. Work with me, have lunch with me, and include me in the discussions and meetings on the projects you are working on now and in the immediate future.  Right now I want to 'pick your brain' not as a job vulture simply eager for you to move along, but as someone who wants to learn from you, really learn. I want to take in your wisdom and experience apply it to my current work, and note it should I ever be as lucky as you to be in the position you are in now.

I am not asking you to step aside, for 
I respect you too much to forget what you have contributed, and how you did so. I am asking that you let me walk with you, as a trusted equal, because I want our museum work to be cumulative, and complementary.  I also believe we are working toward the same goal: for museums to be successful, engaging, relevant institutions that tell the story of the past with respect to the present moment. Let's also work together to plan a fabulous future. Now can I buy you that cup of coffee . . . ?

Monday, February 7, 2011


Connecting the dots . . . 

I have been on a journey for the past couple of weeks, perhaps foreshadowed by the TEDucation post just previous.

You see, I recently rediscovered
my Twitter account, and observed / joined the slipstream of real-time conversation with museum people from all over the world. I have been caught in the undertow of the discussions, including the frightening happenings in Egypt right now. Some twitterers are able to assess the damage occurring to the Cairo Museum almost immediately, and it's both heart-wrenching and relieving to know what's going on. Truly, it's near hypnotic to be able to witness everything everywhere as it is happening, and to have a say about it through 140-character messages that are shared instantly with everyone. My brain has been so engaged in this — and I know it's getting to be too much because I have begun to dream in Twitter, which is kinda frustrating because the links don't work! 

To add to this compulsive Twitter watch, I have also really upped the museum-related blogs I follow. 
I have been engrossed in blogs that talk about museum architecture, collections, museums and smart phone apps, exhibition installations, visitor experience, evaluation, the definition of curator, museum 'free agents', neat ways to engage with collections and on and on. Museum people, there is a lot of good writing out there — so fabulous, it's hard to not want to read all about it. And comment on it, joining the conversation on blogs as well.

But here's where I come clean — obviously not just museums are in this social web-sphere. Although many blogs on my Google reader are museum-related, I have been caught up in the cat (penguin!) video world / silly silly stuff / amazing photo streams as well as, hello, Jezebel, for movie star updates.


Do you remember what it was like when you continued researching for a term paper even when you kept coming across similar information? Sort of like you've done your foundations work, and you have found all the major trends, but you keep on looking anyway? And let yourself get sidetracked in fun and interesting stuff to 'reward' yourself for the good work you were doing? I sure did this . . . and I often couldn't stop researching because I was actually avoiding 
writing the darn paper. That's what I feel like right now — it's not like there's no more to discover, but I am reading certain fundamental points over and over again during my reading adventures. 

I have joked on 
Facebook that I have caught up with the internet. 
It's a procrastinator's dream out there, just a million tangential clicks away. This is surely where Too Much Information lives.

It's not all wasted time, though. I think all this online activity represents my desire for something more than basic information — I think I am looking for some kind of connection. Connecting online is really fast, simple, and as deep as it is wide. What a resource. But is it truly connecting with something or someone to follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook or RSS their blog??

These thoughts came clear when I went through this amazing slide show on businesses NOT needing a social media strategy. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are all tools to link us together with information; they are not, however, The Connection That We Are Forming. We can have all these accounts, but they are supposed to augment our real life through engagement. Online is just another way to get that engagement.

And here's where I need to pay attention: social media accounts are not intended to stand alone, to be the end product, the last word. It's what I do with the information provided that counts, not that I know it. Action is required to make this connection real. Real world action.

I am keenly aware that I need to make the most out of the time and resources spent on this online investment, to pay attention, and to know when to stop surfin'. And it's okay to have a giggle — just not keep going to the feed to allow for major distraction. Set aside some time, but don't let it take over. That kind of thing.

The good news in this internet adventure is that I am finding is that this constant 
scanning of the horizon is actually helping me solidify my own ideas, and now I am 'tightening the weave' by linking things together, admiring the patterns that emerge.   

Another way I look at this online immersion is that it feels like I have been chopping a lot of wood. I have stacked a lot of it, real high.  And now it's time I commit to
 what kind of fire I am going to light . . .