A New Year: What Needs to be Accomplished in the Museum Field

Added to Medium, January 10th, 2019

We are in the new year and this is the time of year when we figure out what and how we will accomplish our goals and resolutions. Museum professionals, especially myself, develop personal and professional goals. For museum professionals to accomplish the goals and resolutions, there are a number of considerations to be addressed and utilized specific with the goals and resolutions developed.

One of my goals for 2019, for example, are to gain and develop my skills as a leader in the museum education field. To accomplish this goal, I hope to take more courses and other professional development programs that will help myself move forward in my career. At the beginning of my career, I have developed skills as a museum educator. After a number of years in the field, I knew that in order to move forward I need to gain and develop new skills to challenge myself and make more impacts on the museums I work for and the field in general. Within the past few years, I focused more on professional development programs and courses, and sought opportunities that focus on administration, leadership, program development, and other related opportunities. I recently completed a course through the AASLH’s online program called Small Museum Pro!, and in the course Museum Education and Outreach I work through the basics of museum education, how to implement programming, training staff, and partnering with the community for outreach. For 2019, I will continue to seek similar professional development programs and opportunities to accomplish my career goals.

I have come across a number of blog posts I have come across reveal examples of what museum professionals should do to accomplish their goals. In a recent Leadership Matters blog post written by Joan Baldwin, she explained what museum professionals should contemplate to move readers’ careers forward. Baldwin pointed out in “It’s January: A Natural Time to Change-up Your Museum Career” that we are the ones in control of our careers, and it is up to us to make the changes we need to be happy in their career. According to Baldwin, there are a number of considerations both staff and leaders should consider for 2019:

So…if you work for an individual you suspect may have no clue about your day-to-day work life, much less your career, here are some things you may want to contemplate.

1. If you don’t already have a standing appointment with your boss, make one.

2. Outline your day, hour-to-hour, and quantify percentages so you (and your boss) can see how much of your time is spent on what.

3. Talk about prioritizing. Maybe you do a lot of nice things–maybe you’re the person who cleans out the volunteer break room or restocks the education space–and it’s nice, but you’re underutilized. You do it because others don’t, but it means you’re not doing things nearer and dear to your heart or your job description. And if you’re underutilized, you may be busy, but you’re likely not happy or challenged.

4. Evaluate whether you’re reactive or proactive. Talk with your boss about how that could or should change. Own your goals and push for them.

And if you’re a leader, think about:

1. How you communicate. Are tasks poorly executed because what staff heard was mushy and confusing? Do you ever ask “Did I explain that well enough?”

2. Listen to your staff. Watch for signs of distress. Is one job full of responsibility but no authority? Does everything have to be checked with a higher power–like you? Are other staff showing signs of boredom? Are deadlines met in five seconds?

3. Check-in often. Remember, check-ins don’t have to be formal. You can check-in in the hall or an office doorway, but they need to be meaningful. You need to have the time to focus and remember what your last conversation was about.

4. Set deadlines and keep them. Is there a sense they matter because it will take your staff about a nanosecond to realize if deadlines don’t matter to you, they don’t need to matter to them.

5. Know whether your staff is challenged or not. A recent study by Salary.com showed that more than 50-percent of employees were either not challenged or bored at work so ask yourself whether you really know what’s going on.

Both staff and leaders need to re-evaluate how they approach their responsibilities to take control of their work and open communication between both parties. This will hopefully help resolve issues and situations that create tensions within the workplace.

Another example I found is from Ed Rodley’s “Museum Challenges for 2019” on the Thinking About Museums website. Rodley collected tweets from Twitter responding to his question about what the biggest issues facing people making museum experiences in 2019. In his post, he revealed that

If I had to sum up the responses in a single statement, it would seem that you think the challenges museums face in 2019 are the following:

In a world where the global context includes existential threats like climate change and large scale social unrest, it can be a real struggle to fight the malaise and find balance, especially in a field that offers low pay for most, expects overwork to be the norm, and creates scarcity of time and resources. Exacerbating that, museum organizational culture is conservative and ill-suited to the needs and wants of audiences and employees in the current century.

We are our own worst enemies some times, and continually reinvent the wheel and perpetuate ways of doing our work that are destructive to staff and creativity. Methods and models exist in the world that could be inspirations for new ways of being a museum, but they’ll require vision and systems thinking.

I think the previous summary is accurate to what is currently happening in the museum field. We need to be able to address larger issues such as climate change but because we have so many issues going on within our own field the actions we take to addressing larger issues lead to slower processes in resolving issues. The question we all should be asking ourselves is: How are we going to address our own issues in the museum field to accomplish our goals? We need to open up communication among one another to address them and move forward to resolve them.

The Leadership Matters blog also shared their wishes for the museum field to resolve issues within the museum field. In the “It’s A New Year” blog, they shared their 2019 wish list:


o For the American Alliance of Museums [AAM] and the American Association of State & Local History [AASLH] to join forces to combat sexual harassment in the museum/heritage organization workplace.

o For museums, their boards and leadership to lead the non-profit world in closing the gender pay gap.

o For museum and heritage organization boards to commit to spending a minimum of two meetings a year on why they do what they do, what it means, and how to be better leaders.

o For museums, their boards and leadership to work toward eliminating tokenism, bias, and stereotyping throughout the hiring process.

o For AAM & AASLH to follow the lead of the American Library Association and pass a living wage resolution.

These items on the list are important for all museum professionals, museum associations, and museums to be talking about and taking action to make the changes we need to make to move museums forward in the 21st century. The items on Leadership Matters’ wish lists should be on every museum professionals’ wish list so we can accomplish our individual career goals. To accomplish what is on this wish list, again we need to open up communication, and we need to educate ourselves on the issues to change things within the museum field.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2019? How are you going to accomplish your goals?

Resources:

https://thinkingaboutmuseums.com/2019/01/07/museum-challenges-for-2019/


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