Online Communities: Why They Are So Important for Museum Professionals

Originally added on Medium, December 7, 2017

One of the best ways for museum professionals to fulfill their professional growth is to learn from each other through online communities. I follow and participate in the Facebook group Emerging Museum Professionals and in #MuseumEdChat on Twitter. There are many Emerging Museum Professionals Facebook groups for local museum communities, and there is one that covers emerging museum professionals all over the nation, the National Emerging Museum Professionals group. While I do follow many local emerging museum professional groups in New England and New York, I mainly focus on the national group to be able to hear from other museum professionals to gain more perspective on the museum field on a national level. Since museums are utilizing social media to get visitors and potential visitors attention, it makes sense that museum professionals take advantage of social media to communicate with one another.

It is important that museum professionals have the opportunity to connect with one another since one of the best ways to continue adapting programs and exhibits is to learn from other museum professionals. Not many museum professionals have the opportunity to meet with others in person for various reasons especially not having enough time and money to invest in traveling to museum conferences and workshops.

When we have online discussions, we are able to connect with many museum professionals from around the country and in some cases around the world. Also, we are able to get inspirations for our own practices including but not limited to programs, exhibits, collections policies, and administrative practices.

According to their Facebook group, the National Emerging Museum Professionals network envisions communities in which museum professionals make meaningful connections within and across backgrounds, disciplines, and institutions by: providing leadership, responding to changing needs, enriching experiences, growing capabilities, sharing resources, advocating for the museum profession, connecting groups on a local and national level.

In the National Emerging Museum Professionals group, there are many topics discussed among participants in the group. Some examples include but not limited to resume help, volunteer recruitment, advice on how to write a collections management policy, how volunteers can be recognized/appreciated, and looking for inspiration for youth programming. Any of the members post questions or discussion points posed to other participants in the network, and many give their responses based on their experiences.

I find these discussions helpful because I find out what other museum professionals have done in similar projects I have worked on at the time. I participate in the discussions and I also save conversations on Facebook so I can refer to them later to get some inspiration for my work in the museum field.

As well as Facebook, I also participate in the #MuseumEdChat discussions on Twitter. Museum Ed Chat hosts discussions usually on Thursdays from 8pm to 9pm to chat about museum education in addition to general museum topics. Each account holder of the MuseumEdChat account takes turns hosting the chat, and the topics vary on each discussion. The discussions begin with questions posed by the host and those who are participating live can respond with their answers. If one could not participate in the discussion live, they are encouraged to still answer the questions on their Twitter page and use the hashtag to make sure their responses are noticed by other followers. This Twitter discussion is open to all museum professionals not just museum educators since we all work towards the mission to educate the public using the resources we have in our collections and programs.

I participated in tonight’s #MuseumEdChat discussion which was about reflecting on this past year and what we hope to accomplish next year. One of the questions included: What are you most proud of from work this year? My response to this question was “I am the most proud when I see a smile on a kid’s face, and thank me for all the help I give them. I especially love it when they give me little gifts to show how they really appreciate the time they spent in a program.”

Another example of the questions posed in tonight’s discussion was: What are some big themes you noticed in the field in 2018? I knew that there are many themes that are discussed in our field especially within the past few months but I decided to respond with “I noticed that one of the big themes this year is how we should strengthen our connections with schools and other departments in the museum field. I hope we continue discussing this theme as well as many other themes in 2018.” It is important that we establish and strengthen our connections to pursue our missions and help others within our communities.

Other big themes I noticed stood out to me since these have been recently talked about and are especially relevant for the upcoming year. According to Seema Rao, for instance, she stated “Burnout and learning to handle change seemed like big themes of the year; and frankly, some people figuring out if they should leave the field.” It is challenging to stay in the field in our current state in the economy, and it is easy to feel less motivated so finding ways to inspire us is especially important. I am glad that we continue to have this discussion, and it is an important topic to continue talking about in 2018.

I also believe that we need to work on being able to take the time to focus on ourselves and think about our practice as museum professionals. I was glad to see that another participant in the discussion pointed this out tonight. One participant pointed out that “Finding consistent time to reflect on my practice, students’ work, and the overarching state of the field. In some ways that is my job, but I’ve been busy with other things the past six months. Carving out think time: the biggest priority for the coming year.”

When I read that statement, I kept thinking about how there are so many things I need to think about in my own practice and what is going on in the field. A lot of times I have been busy with many things both personally and professionally that I think there is not enough time in the day to do so. I am glad that I have been writing in my blog for over a year now since I am able to take this time to write about what is going on and react to what is happening. There is so much out there that I do not always have the time to write about all of it so I try to read as much as I can. I think we all need to remind ourselves to take that time and learn how we can be better museum professionals.

We should take advantage of our online connections, and see what we can learn from the experiences as we continue to move the museum field forward.

What social media discussions have you find the most helpful in your work? Are there other social media outlets you follow that offer similar help in your work?




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