Now What? How We Should Be Looking Back and Moving Forward in the Museum Field, 2021 and Beyond

February 25, 2021

     Since we have begun distributing the coronavirus vaccine, we have a new president in the Oval Office, and many changes were made for all of us to adapt to ever changing conditions, I think the question that has been on a lot of our minds is: Now what?

We are not out of the woods yet, and we need to do our part in controlling the pandemic. In the museum field, museum professionals are working on creating experiences for either the virtual platform or limited capacity in-person.

They understand that the plans we originally had for museums have drastically changed course due to the pandemic, and like everyone else we are figuring out how we could keep our places running. Museums around the world are figuring out their next steps if they are not permanently closed. I went through a good number of resources to research what museum associations are sharing with the museum field for keeping the museums running as the pandemic continues and vaccinations are being distributed.

         The American Alliance of Museums released a post on their site called “Should my museum require staff and visitors to wear face masks when we reopen?” to share resources museums could utilize to enforce CDC guidelines. Each piece of information that is shared is not intended as legal, employment/human resources, or health and safety advice but rather they are based on the best available resources at the time the post was published. There are sections used to classify available information museums should seriously consider when re-opening the physical sites. When figuring out how your museum will enforce regulations as the pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, these are the types of information you need to take into consideration:

  1. CDC guidance
  2. State/local laws
  3. Legality and the Americans with Disabilities Act for employees and for visitors
  4. Training on proper use of masks
  5. Accessibility
  6. Equity and racial implications
  7. Availability of masks
  8. Tensions over masks, enforcement of policies, and employee training *Information is also available to help figure out how to enforce policies and who will enforce them.
  9. Communication

Once your museum has developed a plan and know how to enforce the policies, it will ease how your museum will move forward throughout the pandemic.

The Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released a follow up report on the continued impact of COVID-19 on the museum sector, and I have included links below if you would like to read more about it. According to their announcement, NEMO pointed out that:  

Suitable support is needed for museums to build on their digital momentum. Almost all museums offer online activities, but an overwhelming majority admit that they actually need assistance and guidance in their digital transition.

NEMO recommends that museums stay open during these challenging times to offer people a place for rest and emotional recovery. There have been no reported cases of museums being infection hotspots. On the contrary, most museums are very well-equipped to allow for a Covid-19-safe experience for both visitors and employees.

NEMO included a link to their follow up report pdf within their post. Their report follows the initial survey, report, and recommendations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums during the first lockdown. According to their follow-up report, this survey was answered by 600 museums from 48 countries between October 30, 2020 and November 29, 2020, and the majority of the answers came from Europe. They sought to investigate the different themes that emerged in the first survey they released and were discussed within the museum community; the themes were: consequences of income (and other) losses, the increased importance of digital museum offers, and adapted operations and preparedness during and for crises.

          I appreciate that their report had a disclaimer that stated while the results are not guaranteed as representative of current circumstances, it offers a view into the perceived consequences and challenges faced by museums as well as their efforts to overcome them and serve their communities during a pandemic. It is important to address that while there is important information to provide an idea of how museums should move forward it is important to remember that things are not always guaranteed and predictable; new strands of the coronavirus were discovered since the report was released.

The report went into detail about the issues museums face in this pandemic, survey results, and the recommendations that NEMO addresses to stakeholders at all levels. Each issue is split into three sections: Income Losses and Consequences, Development of Digital Services, and Adapted Operations and Crisis Preparedness. In terms of bringing visitor numbers back to normal, the report stated that:

Museums were asked when they estimated visitor numbers could return to their pre-COVID-19 levels. The majority (45%) of 283 responding museums do not estimate a full recovery of visitor numbers until the months between March and September 2021. 15% are prepared to wait until the spring or summer of 2022 before they will welcome the same visitor numbers as before the pandemic.

In addition to looking through these reports, I decided to look at resources outside of the museum field to see what museum professionals could utilize in their own practices for the museums they work for.

I found in my research tips for a successful remote or hybrid curriculum adoption from Amplify, which is an education company that partners with educators to create meaningful learning experiences in schools, whether it is helping to create a professional development plan, working shoulder to shoulder in the classroom, or providing real-time support in a chat window on a teacher’s laptop. Also known as DECIDE, the tips are:

TIP 1 Design the process.

When something unpredictable happens, in the process or in the educational environment, your plan will function as a framework you can adjust as you move forward.

TIP 2 Experience the programs.

You know you need to evaluate each program, but consider exactly how your committee will do that, and how disagreements will be resolved.

TIP 3 Convene a dream team.

The right team can make a complex adoption easier. Group dynamics are important, but think about how you will solicit individual feedback as well.

TIP 4 Investigate short-term and long-term needs.

Discuss with the committee how well your current instructional philosophy aligns with your short-term and long-term goals.

TIP 5 Develop the right rubric.

Using a rubric not only helps you measure what matters, but also ensures that your entire team measures the same things in the same way.

TIP 6 Establish consensus among your stakeholders.

How you make your final decision is a process unto itself. Determine in advance how you will resolve disagreements together.

These tips could be used for education programs in museums since we are figuring out how to engage with student groups like many educators outside of the museum field. Museum educators need to develop an effective curriculum so they can help other educators supplement their own curricula, and this is true before the pandemic and it is just as true now. Our programs need a framework to fall back on when things do not go to plan, an effective evaluation plan and team to know what is working and what needs to change, and to know the short-term and long-term needs of the program to be able to find out what the students took away from it.

By no means this is a conclusive list of things museums need to do moving forward within the pandemic. I encourage you all to take a closer look at not only the sources I introduced in this post but to also look at museum associations in your area for additional resources.

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts. ☕ https://buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog

Links:

https://www.aam-us.org/2021/01/30/should-my-museum-require-staff-and-visitors-to-wear-face-masks-when-we-reopen/

https://www.ne-mo.org/news/article/nemo/nemo-follow-up-report-on-the-continued-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-museum-sector.html

NEMO COVID-19 Follow Up Report

DECIDE: 6 tips for a successful remote or hybrid curriculum adoption

Amplify

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/12/22/a-pandemic-time-capsule-and-tools-for-2021/

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/11/25/for-post-pandemic-success-get-creative-with-distributed-museum-models/

Distance Learning with Intention and Purpose

Fostering Academic Discussion Online

Improving Accessibility for All Students

https://achievethecore.org/aligned/tag/remote-learning/

AAM Virtual Conference 2020 Experience

June 4, 2020

This past week I was able to attend the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) conference. Like the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, AAM decided to hold the conference online to present content that will help move the museum field forward. The AAM virtual conference took place on May 18th, and June 1st through June 4th. Its’ theme this year was: Radical Reimagining. Since this is the first-time museum associations in the United States are holding conferences on the internet, there are bugs they would go through as multiple museum professionals interact with one another from the comfort and safety of their homes. I liked that in response to the murders, protests, and police brutality, AAM responded not only with a statement but made sure the sessions we attended continued the discussion of racism in this country. One of the sessions I attended today was the PSA of the Future with speakers from Poster House (the first museum about the history of posters) and Isometric Studio (a visual identity and graphic design consultancy based in New York City).

The PSA of the Future session, including a brief history of posters and PSAs, had an interactive workshop in which participants were encouraged to design our own posters. We were introduced to elements of poster design, have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the subject matter, and design our own posters in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I shared the design I worked on in the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram after the session concluded:

When registration first opened for the conference, there have been concerns expressed across social media by museum professionals because of the fees AAM charged while many museum professionals are facing furloughs, layoffs, job hunting halts, et. cetera. They also made arguments that charging high fees contradicts not only the theme of the conference but also contradicts its efforts for a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible museum field.  According to AAM’s website: Registration for the virtual conference is $235 for all AAM members and $345 for non-members. In addition to releasing a statement for their losing revenue reasoning, they also encouraged registrants to make donations in addition to the registration fees and sponsors were able to provide for a number of deeply discounted ($25) registrations. Even though I was one of the lucky individuals who was able to register for $25, I wonder how many people were actually able to receive it or were able to even pay that much.

Since I have not been to the AAM conference before this year, I was curious as to not only what the conference was like but how they would be able to handle operating a virtual conference. I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend live while connecting with other conference participants was limited to sending messages during sessions, an open chat, and a few virtual networking events. A networking section was later added by the last day of the conference.

Because I did not receive an email that I was able to register for the conference at $25 until the Friday before the full conference began on June 1st, I missed the General Session due to previous engagements but attended the sessions for the rest of the day. Instead of attending the last few minutes of the General Session, I went to the MuseumExpo, as well as throughout the day, which includes various links to conference sponsors, booths with external links to services they have, tech talks, and virtual poster sessions. The virtual poster sessions were about twelve downloads of PowerPoint presentations on relevant topics in the museum field. I attended the following sessions on June 1st: Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research, Moderated Open Chat, Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance, and Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World.

The Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research session had the following speakers: Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, Museum of Science, Boston; Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett; Madeline Smith, Slover Linett; Peter Linett, Slover Linett; and Tim Hallman, Asian Art Museum. Slover Linett uses tools of research, evaluation, community dialogue, and experience design to help cultural organizations become more inclusive, innovative, and relevant. The speakers discussed the 6 Ps of Experience Design, which is a framework for the cultural sector from Slover Linett. The 6 Ps of Experience Design are: Programming, People, Place, Policies, Promises, Personality, and a Bonus “P”: Purpose. I have included a link to the framework in the resource section below for more details about the 6 Ps of Experience Design.

The Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance session had Camille Tewell, North Carolina Museum of Art; Jacqueline Benitez, California Academy of Sciences; Matt Schullek, Ohio History Connection; and Tami Moehring, CILC – Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as its speakers. In the session, participants discovered how distance learning can help museums increase their reach. Also, we joined small group discussions led by the speakers to talk about developing content, infrastructure requirements, marketing, and making museums more accessible. In the Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World session, we heard Kate Brueggemann (Adler Planetarium) and Donna McGinnis (Naples Botanical Garden) share information about building a fundraising management plan that can leverage our institutions as we are preparing for re-opening our institutions.

I also attended a part of the Virtual Reception which was led by Songdivision, in which we were all in the Zoom calls (much like the ones we were in for the sessions) watching the group as they engaged us with live performances and a rock-and-roll game show. Because I have not experienced a reception on the virtual platform for a conference before, I decided to check it out and enjoyed the music they played.

The rest of the conference was a similar experience I had on the first day with some changes including a new moving and significant session that was added to take part in the discussion on racism, unrest, and the role of the museum field led by Lonnie Bunch (14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and Baltimore Museum of Art), and Lori Fogarty (Oakland Museum of California). I have included the link to where I logged in for the conference for an overview and specific details of the sessions that were offered throughout the four days.

Next week I am continuing the discussion about AAM and virtual conferences since there was a lot of detail to put into one blog post.

If you have attended virtual conferences, please share your experiences and impressions. Also, if you have any questions about the conferences I have attended please visit the contact page where my contact information is located.

Resources:

AAM Virtual Conference

Annual Meeting Information

The 6 Ps of Experience Design

See also: NYCMER 2020 conference blog post

Why the Conversation about Gender and Museums Matter?

March 5, 2020

In honor of Women’s History Month, I decided to address the importance of the conversation about gender and museums. I recently received the March/April edition of the Museum magazine from the American Alliance of Museums called “The Illusion of Identity”. The moment I saw the title I was confused since I did not understand what they were going for to describe the overall content of the magazine. It became clear that the magazine articles’ main topic was about gender. Not only is it a disconnect with the articles but it misrepresents what gender and identity are; gender and identity are not the same. Because I heard so much about the contributions made in the magazine, I decided to take a closer look at the articles for this edition, and see how each one adds to the conversation about gender and museums.

The articles were “The Life and Legacy of Harriet Tubman” written by Andrea DeKoter and Kimberly Szewcryk. It shared the life of Harriet Tubman, the central figure in the Underground Railroad, and how she influenced the writers quest for human rights and dignity. “Practicing What We Preach” by Paula Birnbaum is about students who co-curate a feminist art exhibition to test assumptions on inclusion. “The Art of Conversation: The National Museum of Women in the Arts”, written by Emma Filar, describes a conversation series called “Fresh Talk” focuses on the interplay between women, art, and social change. Kara Fedje and Jared Ledesma’s “Abstract Art, Concrete Goals” discussed what happened when The Des Moines Art Center diversified its audience with an exhibition on queer abstraction. “Beyond Binary” by Melissa Alexander and Dina Herring which was written about an exhibition on the many faces of gender identity unmasks the slippery nature of truths.

In the regular sections of the magazine, President and CEO of AAM Laura Lott provided some thoughts on women’s rights in “100 Years Later, Redefining Advocacy”. Lott shared a condensed history of the American Alliance of Museums, which was founded as the American Association of Museums in 1906 in New York City before it was relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1923. Also, she wrote about AAM’s recommitment to museum advocacy and the ability to have secured bipartisan congressional support for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She also stated the AAM’s strategic plan asks museum professionals to think more broadly about advocacy. According to the segment, Lott pointed out that The Alliance aims to equip members and allies to make the case for museums and to help you tell your stories. AAM provides a toolbox for museum professionals to help advocate for museums since museum professionals are the best advocates to explain the significance of museums to policymakers and the public. Museum magazine also shared statistics about gender and sexuality.

The statistics suggest the conversation about gender and sexuality is important to address within museums. For instance, there is a 313 percent increase in Merriam-Webster dictionary searches for the pronoun “they” in 2019 vs. 2018; “they” was selected as the dictionary’s 2019 Word of the Day. Ninety-nine percent is the percentage of countries where women could vote with the Vatican City as the holdout. Also, there are four in ten history museum-goers who think history museums should be inclusive, including sharing stories of women and LGBTQ people. There are 142 countries that provide at least some legal protections based on sexual orientation, meanwhile 55 countries provide no protection and no criminalization. Seventy countries criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults. By looking at these statistics, it shows that while we have made so much progress in our society in terms of gender and sexuality, we still have a long way to go.

Gender equity in museums, for instance, is still important to not only discuss about but museums need to make more efforts to making museums more gender equitable for its professionals. Amy K. Levin’s point of view article called “No More Platitudes: Fifty years after women’s lib and Stonewall, we’re still behind in advancing gender equity in museums” calls for more systematic and significant change in being more equitable in the museums for both exhibitions and the workforce. Levin included an institutional checklist for gender equity which includes the mission statement; exhibition content; collections/acquisition policies; database/catalogue categories; volunteer guidelines; employee policies, benefits, and hiring practices; and focus groups/public consultations. The importance of gender equity is emphasized not only in this point of view article but also in previous blog posts I wrote.

The post “Gender Equity in Museums: An Important Issue that Should Be Addressed” is one of the examples of why gender and gender equity is important within the museum field. I reflected that

The most important lesson I learned, and what we all should take away from this program, is that gender equity is not a woman’s issue it is a human issue. We need to recognize that equity is for all of us, and we need to find out how we can bring more awareness to equity.

By educating ourselves about gender equity, we would be able to better serve the public that walks through the museum doors. In another previous post about my experience presenting in a professional development program on gender equity and museums, I shared the Gender Equity Museums Movement (GEMM)’s mission as well as emphasized the impact museums could have when they strive to be more equitable for their staff; it will affect the experience museum visitors have while engaging with the staff and exhibits. The recent edition of Museum magazine shows we are continuing to strive for more equitable museums, and still have a long way to go. Since museums are seen as trustworthy resources for varying information presented in our institutions, we should be the example of advocating for social justice and equity.

Each article presented in this magazine show museums and museum professionals should learn who their audiences are, and continue to adapt to their community’s changing values.

Links:

How to Lead a Professional Development Program: Reflections of My Experience Presenting One on Gender Equity

Gender Equity in Museums: An Important Issue that Should Be Addressed

https://www.aam-us.org/programs/museum-magazine/

Who Decides the “Best Practices” in Museums?

October 10, 2019

Museums and museum professionals work towards making their programs, exhibits, and events successful based on best practices set for them to follow. I thought about writing on this topic when I saw a discussion on Twitter revealing their thoughts on paternity of best practices. When I hear the words “best practices”, the following questions came across my mind: What do “best practices” mean? How do we decide what the “best practices” are? Which ones should be followed, and which ones should not be followed? Do they work for my museum/institution?

The American Alliance of Museums stated that Best practices are commendable actions and philosophies that demonstrate an awareness of standards, solve problems and can be replicated. Museums may choose to emulate them if appropriate to their circumstances. In other words, there are many ways museums can demonstrate standards and are able to figure out which ones are appropriate for their institutions. As a museum professional, I noticed that best practices are continuously evolving as all museum professionals share and learn from one another what works based on the changing societal values. It is up to individual museums to figure out how to execute best practices that make sense for their museums.

Museums, however, do have best practices that each one should emulate that are ethical, legal, and equitable across the field. In the American Alliance of Museum’s Ethics and Best Practices in Museums document, it discussed general museum ethics and legal policies and practices while sharing its own best practices. According to the document, the American Alliance of Museums’ standards and best practices for museums in the United States require museums

  • is a good steward of its resources held in the public trust,
  • has “a formally approved, separate and distinct institutional code of ethics,”
  • is “committed to public accountability and is transparent in its mission and operations,” and
  • will “legally, ethically and responsibly acquire, manage, and dispose of collection items as well as
  • know what collections are in its ownership/custody, where they came from, why it has them, and their current condition and location.”

General best practices in museums could be applied to many museums. They can take the best practice and figure out based on local and state laws how they should be executed within the museum and their communities. When the best practices are specific to subjects and expertise (i.e. science, children’s, railroad, etc.) these institutions refer to other museum associations for resources on best practices.

There are numerous “best practices” museums utilize for their institutions, and various categories for best practices in museums. To answer a question of what the best practices are is a challenge to undertake. Many museum associations have their own list of best practices. On one of the American Alliance of Museum’s related webpages, for instance, they listed a number of museum associations that are specific to the field; the Association of Art Museum Directors, American Association for Museum Volunteers, American Association for State and Local History, American Historical Association, Association of Children’s Museums, Association of Railway Museums, Association of Science-Technology Centers, International Council of Museums, National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage, National Park Service, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and the Southeastern College Art Conference. Each of them has their own lists of standards and best practices for museum professionals to use for their museums.

Professional development programs introduce best practices for specific fields and departments. Museum professionals learn about best practices implemented by other museum professionals in museum education, volunteer/internship, finances, development and fundraising, leadership, boards, and collection stewardship just to name a few. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), for instance, had a webinar on Best Practices for Developing History Internships that is available to be viewed since it is recorded. According to their website,

Best Practices for Developing History Internships is an AASLH Continuing Education recorded webinar. This webinar is about tips and strategies for creating an internship program that both you and your interns will get something out of. Creating an internship program at your historic site can not only benefit your organization, but should also benefit your interns and lets you help develop the next generation of history professionals. We’ll cover the ethics of internships, best practices for managing interns, and a look at some common challenges and possible solutions. You’ll leave with ideas you can use at every organization, no matter its size.

In each professional development program in various formats there are descriptions that share what participants should expect to take away from the experience and share with their museums; once this information is shared, it is up to the staff of the museums to figure out the best way for them to execute methods and practices discussed. The previously listed example pointed out that by creating an effective internship program all museums can create a partnership that will benefit both the museum and interns. Best practices need to be reviewed, adapted, and utilized by museums based on its capabilities.

Discussion questions I will leave here: Do you have examples of best practices in museums that you have heard about? How are museums taking advantage of what they learned about best practices?

Resources and Additional Resources:

https://www.nemanet.org/files/3413/8552/9233/Standards_and_Best_Practices_Compilation_-_Fact_Sheet.pdf

https://aaslh.org/event/best-practices-for-developing-history-internships/

https://iowaculture.gov/sites/default/files/History%20-%20Research%20-%20Collections%20-%20Collections%20Care%20-%20Objects%20-%20Field%20Guide%20for%20Museums%20%28PDF%29.pdf

https://www.amazon.com/National-Standards-Best-Practices-Museums-ebook/dp/B004EEOLU8

https://ncac.org/resource/museum-best-practices-background

http://ww2.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/standards

https://www.aam-us.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/BRIEF-ETHICS-AND-BEST-PRACTICES.pdf

https://www.aamg-us.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/AAMG-Professional-Practices-2018-web-FINAL-rev043018.pdf

Reaction: The Importance of Structured Interviews

Added to Medium, September 6, 2018

On September 5th AAM released a blog post written by Laurie Davis, the Talent Acquisitions Manager at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & Foundation, about structured interviews and why they are important for reducing hiring bias. To have our museum field grow and be more diverse, one of the ways we can accomplish this is to have an unbiased workforce. Davis’ blog post for AAM stressed that having structured interviews would help reduce unintentional hiring bias in the field. After I read the blog post, I thought about my own experiences being interviewed for positions in the museum field. While I see flexible interviews as ways to express museums’ unique team dynamics to find individuals who will be the best fit with the team I also believe that structured interviews would benefit interviewees more since not only they will be able to be more prepared for interviews but each interviewee will be given an equitable chance to be selected for the position within the museum.

Museums should at least consider structured interviews to hire potential candidates without unintentional bias. Also, museums will be able to see the what candidates have to offer that will help museums move forward. Interviews can help museums find the best candidates for their teams but structured interviews can help museums have a better process in selecting candidates to fill the vacant positions. According to Laurie Davis’s post, she stated that

“The structured interview simply means that questions are planned out in advance and that every candidate is asked the same set of questions, in the same order. The goal is to ascertain skills and competencies, rather than seeking commonalities with the candidates which often come about from non-structured interviews (“I see you’re originally from Colorado? Me too! Where about? Do you enjoy skiing?”). Now, this is not to say that a few icebreaker questions to put a candidate at ease and gauge their communication/social skills are taboo. But research shows that structured interview questions most accurately and fairly evaluate the actual skill set of a candidate and predict future job performance.”

Finding commonalities is important to help candidates feel comfortable in the interview process and see how the candidates will get along with the team. Structured interviews, however, can provide consistency for both interviewers and interviewees. Museum professionals who conduct interviews should be trained to make sure they can select the best candidates without bias for a more diverse workforce and field. In the blog post, Davis shared a few resources to support her argument for structured interviews.

Davis revealed a New York Times article “With New Urgency, Museums Cultivate Curators of Color” written by Robin Pogrebin which discussed the need for diversity within the museum field. In the same article, she pointed out that a 2015 study from the Mellon Foundation was cited in the blog post emphasizing the need for more diversity in the museum field.

Another resource shared in the blog post was an article from the Harvard Business Review about the ways to reduce bias in the hiring process. While there is only one example referenced in the blog post, Davis pointed out that there are an overabundance of articles that cover the concept of unconscious bias in interviewing.

There is also a guide from the US Office of Personnel Management on various topics including structured interviews with information on crafting interview questions, creating a rating scale to objectively and equitably evaluate candidate’s interview performance, and training others in the organization on this technique. Also, museum professionals can benefit from the guide since it helps museums follow guidelines that will help them find the right candidates for the positions. If all museums use this guide and train their staff to conduct structured interviews, the museum field would be able to have a more diverse and equitable workforce. Consistent interviews would especially be beneficial for job candidates, and my personal experiences are examples of why it is important to have structure in interviews.

During my career in the museum field, I have participated in varying types of interviews over the years and I learned that each museum has different methods for conducting interviews and each interviewer chose methods they are more comfortable for them. I also learned from my experience that while it is important to be as prepared as possible before the interview it is also important to be flexible since one may still be surprised; for instance, one may prepare for a more structured interview but at the interview one finds out it is a flexible interview. It is important that the structured interview should also have resources for job candidates to have so they can prepare for these interviews. Resources shared on museum association websites direct to resources for general job application and interview processes, and it can be confusing for job candidates since most guidelines are not clear on how relevant they are to museum interview processes. By having structured interview processes, museums and candidates benefit from consistent practices that promote equitable workplaces.

I open this discussion to all of you reading my post: How do you feel about structured interviews? What are your experiences conducting interviews and being interviewed?

Resources:
“With New Urgency, Museums Cultivate Curators of Color” by Robin Pogrebin: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/arts/design/museums-curators-diversity-employment.html
https://www.aam-us.org/2018/09/05/the-importance-of-the-structured-interview/
https://hbr.org/2017/06/7-practical-ways-to-reduce-bias-in-your-hiring-process

US Office of Personnel Management: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/structured-interviews/guide.pdf

Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field

Added to Medium, July 19, 2018

All museum professionals need to develop their skills to succeed in the field, and we need to do more to help museum professionals, especially emerging museum professionals, develop their leadership skills. The current state of our field, however, does not do a lot to encourage its museum professionals to practice their skills that will help them develop their careers. There are numerous resources we provide on what leadership is and what characteristics make a great leader, but how are museum professionals exercising their leadership skills? In our field, gaining experience is a double-edged sword because we attempt to develop the skills we learned and are well versed in by applying for jobs with leadership building opportunities but we are turned down because hiring managers say we lack the experience.

As a museum professional, I continue to seek leadership opportunities and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Throughout my career, I have developed my skills in museum education and would often have to take on leadership responsibilities to maintain time as well as knowledge for school programs. I began to see more leadership opportunities when I came to Long Island. As I became more involved in the museum field on Long Island, I took on more responsibilities that I have not taken on before such as administration duties like booking programs and creating docent schedules. A lot of what I am able to do now as a museum professional I have learned from experience. Lately I have been thinking about my previous and present experiences, and tried to recall how much of my leadership skills were learned from lessons and how much of them were learned from experience. I also wondered what we are doing now for museum professionals on developing leadership skills.

Based on the articles such as “Leaving the Museum Field” and numerous articles about museums and self-care, our field is not doing enough to make sure museum professionals have well-rounded experiences with time dedicated to self-care. We still have far to go in having a sustainable and effective museum workforce. There are many resources museum organizations and associations provide about leadership and how leadership skills should be utilized. Our museum associations provide a wide variety of leadership resources in forms of books, articles, blogs, museum association standards, webinars, and conferences.

One of the books that discusses leadership Martha Morris’ Leading Museums Today: Theory and Practice published for the American Association for State and Local History through the Rowman & Littlefield publishing firm. In her book, Morris revealed that this book is about the context, the urgency, and the nuances of service to the mission of the museum organization whether at the level of the governing body or a middle manager. The book also provides a balanced look at external operations of the museum which are factors that influence success such as demographic changes and political trends, and internal operations of the museum such as organizational design, new modes of planning and decision making, implementation of strategic programs, and flexibility in response to the reality of constant change. Museum professionals also find resources from other museums and museum associations especially about leadership.

Blogs, like this one, is one of the ways museum professionals can learn from one another and other museums or museum associations to develop their leadership skills. Also, there are articles and standards museums and museum associations provide about leadership. I took a look at the resources page on the American Alliance of Museums’ website, and I found the following.

The American Alliance of Museums has a page on its website that shared standards the Alliance has for Leadership and Organizational Structure. Its page stated standards regarding governance, standards for museums with joint governance, standards regarding the composition of the governing authority, and standards regarding delegation of authority. In the latter standards, it describes how

Having clear delegation of authority means that the governing authority understands the main areas of its responsibility. Those areas are to collectively determine mission, set policies for operations, ensure that charter and bylaw provisions are followed, plan for the institution, approve budgets, establish financial controls and ensure that adequate resources are available to advance the museum’s mission.

In other words, if authority is clearly laid out in a museum’s organization all of the responsibilities of leaders would be fulfilled for the museums. Each standard I have previously listed discuss the purpose and importance, implementation, and documentation.

AAM also provides blog posts such as “Leadership, and Why You Need a SWOT Analysis (and a Personal Board of Directors)” which is a conversation between Greg Stevens and Anne Ackerson about ways to improve leadership skills such as the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, and “Museum Leadership, Organizational Readiness, and Institutional Transformation” which is a case study that was a part of a series on museum leadership, developed for the career and leader-ship management workshop for participants in the International Program, held at the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in May, 2016.

The American Association for State and Local History also have a number of resources available on the website. One of the blog posts AASLH previously posted about leadership is “A Special Kind of Leader: Small Museum Leadership Characteristics” that lists characteristics that museum professionals have or should have when working in a small museum. Another example of a blog on leadership is “The Ideal Director?”; the writer of this post gave their impressions of job descriptions looking for directors and what they believed are the characteristics an “ideal” director should be for an organization. I do realize that there are many more resources than what I previously described but the point is leadership is a common discussion that is addressed throughout the field.

Providing all these resources is all well and good but the question remains: How do we utilize all of the resources we learned from on leadership?

There is a difference between having the knowledge and actually practicing this knowledge. If museum professionals are under the impression that there are only certain professionals that can exhibit their leadership skills, then we would be hindering our museum professionals and future professionals’ potential. We need to show museum professionals at all levels how leadership skills benefit all of them within the organization. Our field right now is working towards improving the museum workplace throughout the field but there are still issues we need to work through to untangle this web. A blog post I found addresses leadership and where we are now as a field.

This week Joan Baldwin wrote on the Leadership Matters blog about where we are now with museums and leadership. She discussed how Baldwin and Anne Ackerson are planning to revise the original Leadership Matters book by interviewing more museum professionals in the field. In the meantime, Baldwin provided a preliminary list of places where leadership intersects with the lives of individuals, directors, organizations and boards. For individuals, for instance, she pointed out that

-The job market remains highly competitive and graduate school is still the admission ticket.
-This is still a field where too often one is asked to work for no money in the form of volunteering or internships before actually making too little money.
-This is a field that too often fails to train for leadership, but asks for independent, creative forward-thinking employees.
-This is still a field where race, class and gender are barriers: Race because too often young POC are hired for the wrong reasons and asked to represent a race/culture rather than being treated with equity; class because poor salaries continue to make it easier for wealthy individuals to enter the field; and gender, because for women, particularly women of color and most especially trans women, even the most casual Facebook survey points to a boatload of bias.

Individuals within the field constantly move through figurative cobwebs of expectations that contradict themselves making it challenging for museum professionals to meet their personal goals. This double-edged sword needs to be addressed, make expectations clear and be sure the reality can meet these expectations. Baldwin also pointed out that for leaders in the museum field need to remember:

-The back of the house is as important as the front of the house. Museum workers who have a long tradition of not retaliating when mistreated have started to react individually and collectively.
-Museum workers and museum audiences expect (and want) organizations to be values driven. Sorting out what that means for a given museum or heritage organization is one of the tasks for today’s leader.
-Leading an organization means engagement not just presentation.
-Leaders need to understand how and where personal and organizational leadership intersect and mirror one another. A self-aware leader means a self-aware organization.
-21st-century museum leaders need the courage to tackle the hard stuff.

The relationship between directors and staff is a significant one especially within the museum field. Directors have many responsibilities and challenges when running a museum, and by establishing expectations and applying them both parties will be able to create a strong organization that will make both of their jobs easier to execute in the long run.

Museum professionals at every level should be able to serve as both mentors and mentees. When museum professionals learn from one another, the bonds between them will not only be strengthened they will also be able to preserve and strengthen future museum leadership in the field.

What are your impressions about leadership? Where and how have you learned to be a leader? How have you utilized your leadership skills?
Below are resources I referenced in the blog post and additional resources I found.

Resources:
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/07/16/museums-and-leadership-the-story-continues/
https://www.amazon.com/Leading-Museums-Today-Practice-Association/dp/1442275332/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532058143&sr=8-1&keywords=leading+museums+today
https://aaslh.org/how-much-did-that-meeting-just-cost/
https://aaslh.org/managing-interpreters-expectations-and-feedback/
https://aaslh.org/the-ideal-director/
https://aaslh.org/other-duties-as-assigned/
https://aaslh.org/a-special-kind-of-leader-small-museum-leadership-characteristics/
http://ww2.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/leadership
http://ww2.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/public-trust
https://www.aam-us.org/2017/08/02/leadership-and-why-you-need-a-swot-analysis-and-a-personal-board-of-directors/
https://www.aam-us.org/2017/03/01/museum-leadership-organizational-readiness-and-institutional-transformation/
https://www.aam-us.org/2014/11/02/museum-leadership-and-growing-enormous-pumpkins-2/

Museums Prove that Education is for Everyone

Added to Medium, March 15, 2018

As museum professionals, we need to help visitors and other individuals outside of the museum field understand the significance of education and the museums’ role in education. I have reiterated its importance in the museum field in previous blog posts but it is an important point that needs to be reiterated especially when we need to show that education is for everyone. The latest edition of American Alliance of Museum’s Museum magazine is dedicated to education by discussing all-ages programming in museums.

In a message from the President and CEO Laura Lott, she stressed that as an Alliance we need to find new ways to engage the education community and share our resources. We need to make sure individuals outside of the museum field are aware of what we can offer to help people of all ages see what museums have to offer especially through educational programs. Also, we need to show that our educational programs are not limited to school field trips. We should show our visitors and other individuals not familiar with museums that our programs are created to engage with all ages. A couple of articles that show examples of programming for all ages include cultivating lifelong appreciation of museums through teen programs, and about early education programs and how they make sense for all types of museums.

There is also an article written by Ericka Huggins and Kevin Jennings, two keynote speakers for the 2018 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Phoenix, encourage museums and museum professionals to create more inclusive education programs. Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther Party leader, and former political prisoner. Jennings is the new president of the Tenement Museum and is the co-founder of LGBT History Month. In their article called “Who Will Tell My Story?”, Huggins and Jennings share some of their thoughts on the power of storytelling, and how important it is to be authentic and inclusive in this work.

Both of them shared their experiences through storytelling and shared important facts that museums should think about moving forward in education. Huggins pointed out that we can learn to be global citizens by making sure museums support the larger community in thinking beyond nation-states. Jennings stated that he believed museum professionals should take a hard look at what stories we tell and don’t tell, and consider what that says about whose lives we feel matter. Huggins’ and Jennings’ statements are important considerations because we all need to remember we have a significant impact within our communities and we should work together to be more inclusive.

Conversations about museums proving education is for everyone, and inclusion, has recently been taking place though online discussions such as today’s EdComVersation through the American Alliance of Museums and the Twitter discussion #MuseumEdChat. Both of these online platforms have discussed social justice and museums by discussing the importance of inclusion and diversity within our museum community from the staff to the visitors.

Today, I participated in an EdComVersation discussion about engaging audiences as socially responsive museums. It was hosted by Rebekah Harding, Associate Director of Learning and Engagement at the Ronald Regan Presidential Foundation and Institute, and Sheri Levinsky-Raskin who is the Assistant Vice President, Education & Evaluation at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Chair for Professional Development for AAM’s Education Committee (EdCom). The guest speaker was Monica O. Montgomery Nyathi who is the founding director and curator of Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum, inspiring action at the intersection of art, activism, self and society.

According to the EdComversation event webpage, Monica believes that museums can best engage their audiences when they catalyze socially responsive practice, acting as conveners, sites of conscience and spaces that welcome difference. To prepare for the discussion, we were given links for pre-reading material including my blog post “Reaction to Article: Museums transition from institutions of elite to places that ‘promote humanity’” which made me glad because I am always happy to see how individuals especially museum professionals benefit from continuing important discussions using resources such as the ones I provide.

During this program, we discussed how to embrace the needs and nuance of modern audiences, and how educators and front line staff can fuse informal educational with the wave of social activism the world is experiencing, to create space for awareness, inspiration and understanding of social movements. We used a new format called Zoom, which allowed all participants to not just type in their questions and responses, but they could also use their computers’ microphone and video camera to participate in discussions.

Zoom also had a feature that allowed us to form smaller groups to chat with each other to address questions such as:

How does your institution incorporating current events or social activism into the lesson, tour or discussion? How might you incorporate more of this?

What forms can socially responsive museum practice take? How have you observed it in local and national museums in the field? How have you observed it in your own?

What are the possibilities of celebrating and explore issues around material culture, power and untold stories, to honor visitor voices, challenging apathy and illuminating ideas?

I enjoyed this format because it allowed me to get to know other museum professionals I would not have been able to with the old format of listening to speakers and typing questions into a chat feature. The old format seemed to lead to passive participation. While this is a new feature and it would take some getting used to, I see the potential in having a more interactive experience in these discussions.

One of the statements that stuck with me was when said “museums are a partner for learning and enrichment but shouldn’t be overshadowing- if you want to know what audiences want- ask them and involve them”. We need to establish and maintain our relationships between museums and our audiences to understand what we all want from our experience in educating ourselves about social justice and social movements.

This discussion was continued during tonight’s #MuseumEdChat on Twitter. Participants answered a number of questions about social movements, and continued to discuss these questions within the hour and beyond the hour discussion. One of the questions asked was: Why should museums connect with visitors through social movements?

I believe that museums should not only remain relevant in today’s community by connecting with visitors through social movements but museums can provide resources that will help visitors get educated about the issues social movements address. I have also read other responses to this question, and one of the responses that stood out to me was:

Because social movements are an important part of the human experience! They are part of what drives change in societies across time, cultures, etc. By engaging w/current social movements we can teach empathy and appreciation for movements of the past.

This response stood out to me because it is true that all social movements, in the past and present, are part of the human experience. Many changes within our society were made because of the social movements that occurred. Social movements today are getting a lot of attention and inspiring more discussion on what changes we need to make in our community and in our government.

Another example of the questions asked during the #MuseumEdChat discussion was: What makes a good partnership with an audience successful? I believe successful partnerships with an audience need to have open communication and build the trust between museums and its audiences so visitors are more likely to turn to museums to learn about the issues and the past to understand the present social movements.

What we should all take away from reading the latest edition of Museum magazine, and from what participants in the discussions talked about, is museum professionals and people outside of the museum field need to work together to find out how we can show them educational programs can be for all ages. We can also show them that not only our educational programs can be for all ages but we can also reveal that we are safe spaces to discuss social justice.

Do you have examples of educational programs in museums that are geared towards all-ages? How does your organization discuss social justice among the staff and/or visitors?

 

 

Response to Alliance Labs: 7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down

Added to Medium, March 1, 2018

This past week was Museum Advocacy Day 2018 hosted by the American Alliance of Museums where museum professionals went down to Washington D.C. and/or used social media to bring awareness of museums impact on the country to their state representatives, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. I came across this article from Alliance Labs posted last week, and I thought about these factors as examples of why we need more support from our government representatives to increase our funding to help museums function.

I also thought this article is a good edition to the leaving the museum field discussion. One of the top reasons museum professionals decided to leave the field because of the low wages museums offer. When we take a closer look at museum wages, and how they are influenced to be the way they are in recent years, we are able to find out how we can make a better case for increasing funding in our museums to better support our institutions and our professionals to our government officials.

Written by Michael Holland, “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down” discusses how our museum wages are influenced to the state they are currently in nowadays. According to Holland, the factors that drove museum wages down are the way laws and policies are written; people on top making decisions that have museum professionals wear many hats or have a job that is multiple jobs in one; figuring out how to monetize museum professionals’ work; limited advancement opportunity; internal equity in the museum; spouses of museum professionals earning higher income helps supplement expenses; and there are many applicants applying for the few jobs that are available in the field.

After reading this article, I felt that based on my experience as a museum professional these factors make sense and that we should be better at having museum professionals earn reasonable wages. To start having museum professionals earn living wages, we should take a look at the factors that influence the wages. Holland discussed about government structure, law, and policy and how this is part of how museum wages are down. He revealed that,

Many museums are affiliated with governmental entities. Museums at state universities are staffed by people who are actually public employees (just like the football coaches, but without the exorbitant salaries). Sometimes this is helps employees (legislatively mandated cost-of-living pay increases), but the structural framework of employee classification can put some hard limits on salaries, making it difficult to change compensation significantly without also changing your title and job description. This means that even if the museum has success raising substantial funding from the private sector, they may not be allowed to spend it on their staff in the same ways that a private business can.

Contractor pay is not limited by job titles or classifications, and is instead a reflection of what the market will bear, and they charge what it takes to stay in business. Museums are paying what the work is actually worth, but they pay someone other than their own staff to do it. This allows administrators to follow the rules and stay within the compensation ranges dictated by governmental job classifications, since they’re technically spending the money on stuff (goods and services) instead of staff (their own personnel).

What stood out to me was when he stated “even if the museum has success raising substantial funding from the private sector, they may not be allowed to spend it on their staff in the same ways that a private business can.” To me, it means that museum professionals do not have the control they have to improve funding that supports wages if relying on one form of financial support. Museums do not rely on one source for financial support since there are a lot of resources needed to keep a museum running.

Another statement that stood out to me was museums paying what the work is worth to someone other than their own staff so administrators can follow rules and stay within compensation ranges dictated by governmental job classifications. A lot of times we do need to bring in outside help to keep the museum running, however it should depend on what we need and if any of the staff can do it before bringing in someone else on a project. The main point of this factor I believe is that we need to have this wages discussion with our government, and Museum Advocacy Day is a great example of how we can talk with our representatives about the importance of museums as well as the museum professionals who dedicate so much time to their museums.

Holland also discussed about corporate culture being absorbed in the museum culture. He stated in the post that,

Like many companies, museums these days are doing more with fewer people, and have surprisingly small staffs who wear a lot of hats. With fewer people on staff, anything beyond daily operations can exceed in-house capacity, and when it does, work gets contracted out. This arrangement allows the company—sorry, the museum—to trim operating expenses and then spend on specific projects only as needed, rather than carry the ongoing expense of a larger staff. I haven’t seen the math to allow me to say for certain whether or not this ultimately saves the museum money in the long run, but it might look favorable on paper during the tenure of any given administration.

Wearing many hats is a very familiar concept for museum professionals, especially myself. I have not also seen the math on whether the way museum staff run the museum saves the museum money in the long run, and while it might look favorable on paper those who suffer from how museums are run these days the most are the staff.

In our field, there is so much discussion about how we need to make sure we take care of ourselves. For instance, Seema Rao wrote a blog post called “Productivity: In Defense of Breaks” which is all about the importance of taking breaks to be productive. However, it is a challenge to do so when there is so much to do and not much time to get the self-care time we need to prevent ourselves from burning out too quickly. Many museum professionals end up working on multiple projects simultaneously to the point that they are too tired to be productive, and they work longer hours to attempt to complete projects. Since the wages are low, museum professionals are more likely to work longer hours to attempt to pay for expenses. We need to incorporate self-care into how we run our museums by finding a way to increase wages and bring in more staff assistance while we keep our museums running.

Measuring employee value is a challenging situation to discuss and figure out because it can easily be undervalued when finding ways to save museum expenses to keep a museum running. Holland discusses measuring employee value as a factor that drove museum wages down by pointing out how the corporate world measures employee value:

One area where the museum sector appears to differ from the corporate world is the difficulty of measuring the value of any given employee to the organization. In business, a company can estimate with sometimes remarkable accuracy the return on investment (ROI) of hiring an employee, and quarterly earnings reports can validate those estimates. But most museums are not for-profit entities. They don’t have shareholders to please, or CEOs with their pay directly linked to the performance of the company by stock options.

If our museums insist on measuring our staff’s value, there has to be different standards and/or a different system that reflects our impact on the museum. While thinking corporately will to an extent help bring in money for museums, we also need to think like museums and give museum staff the value that they have earned and deserved.

Another set of situations that Holland has also listed as factors are limited advancement opportunity and understanding internal equity. There are not many opportunities for museum professionals to climb the ladder in their careers despite the fact that their positions in the field are essential for running the museum. Museum professionals, according to Holland, who manage to stick around long enough are likely to advance somewhat by becoming designated managers of other co-workers. There are museum professionals that have some advancement not clearly defined since there may be a title change and/or additional responsibilities added to the responsibilities they were originally hired for, and therefore priorities are mixed.

The fifth factor Holland mentioned, understanding internal equity, detailed that trying to fairly pay staff equal wages could also be driving museum wages down. Museums attempt to avoid conflict between staff members by giving all staff members equal wages. However, as Holland has stated:

Internal equity is a valid concern, but our understanding of equity might be incomplete if we’re basing it solely on salary. Broader economic trajectories over time can have enormous impact on whether or not a salary is truly sufficient. Nowhere has this impact been stronger than in housing costs. A staff member who bought their house for $40,000 in 1988 might be able to get by today on $34,000/year. But someone hired today in the same city where a house now costs $500,000 and a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,600/month will not, unless they bring a pile of home equity with them (hint- this isn’t a thing for pretty much anyone under 30, and many well beyond that age). If the new hire is younger and has typical student loan debt, they’ll be even worse off. These two employees may have the same salary, but their economic realities are not even close to comparable. Perhaps a better definition of internal equity would be based on “effective income”, defined as how much money each of our two comparable staff members has remaining each month after their housing costs are paid.

This is a common concern within our museum community. I myself have worked with co-workers that are all different in age and circumstances. They all stress the situations they are in, and when we think about fairness as giving equal wages then we are not really being fair to all circumstances in which we are in to help support ourselves and our financial responsibilities. We need to figure out how to make wages more effective for all of our staff.

Other factors Holland discussed are spousal income subsidy and many applicants for few jobs. Both of these factors, as well as the previous factors, are familiar to me and I always have to keep this in mind when I think about my future. In a previous blog post on how to balance work and family, I mentioned that I am getting married and maintaining the balance is essential especially for me and other museum professionals. When I read the statement “With a steady supply of people who would love to work in a museum don’t have to worry so much about their earnings, museums may not have much incentive to raise salaries”, both Holland and myself have thought about the extent museums depend on hiring individuals with spouses and supplemental income. Like every individual museum professional has varying financial circumstances, married couples have varying financial circumstances that may very well need to depend on both salaries to fulfill their responsibilities.

I have also seen too often is having so many applicants apply for few jobs. As a museum professional who has applied to many times in the field, it felt discouraging for me when there are few jobs available and yet I have gained so much knowledge of the field that would be helpful for museums. While I have figured out a way or two to help me stay in the field I am passionate about, many museum professionals have to leave the field to figure out another way to fulfill financial obligations. Museums should acknowledge museum professionals who bring in the skills and knowledge they need to fulfill their organizations’ missions.

Many of these factors and ways we need to make the changes we should essentially do depend on the influences from the top. If we are able to talk with our government representatives to make changes and support our museums, we should do so and these changes will lead to museum professionals having equitable wages going forward in the museum field.

Have you read Holland’s post on Alliance Labs? What did you think of Holland’s “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down”? Are there other factors we need to acknowledge and discuss?

Resources:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/7-factors-that-drive-museum-wages-down/
https://medium.com/@artlust/productivity-in-defense-of-breaks-a2e29bd7886

What is the Right Fit? A Deeper Analysis of Museum Boards

Added to Medium, January 18, 2018

In previous blog posts, I talked about museum boards and how important the relationship between boards and staff are to keep the museum functioning. I decided to go into more detail about museum boards since I got the latest American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM’s) in the mail. AAM’s recent release of Museum magazine talks about strategies for creating the ideal board.

Each museum is different, and in order to have an ideal board you need to find out what your museum expects from its board.

In Laura Lott’s letter to the reader titled “What are you waiting for?”, she stated that there are five things museums can do now to better engage our trustees. The first thing is to advocate for advocacy by asking them this question during board meetings: If we could advance our mission more effectively by changing one law, public policy, or public attitude, what would that be?

The second thing is to show the board our power in the economy especially by showing a report, Museums as Economic Engines: A National Study, which provides evidence of museums’ influence in the economy. The third thing is to keep up on trends for the future of museums. Then the fourth and fifth things are to benchmark the board by analyzing the variety of policies, practices, and performance, and read this edition of Museum magazine.

These things are especially important to keep in mind when talking with your board. The five things were also in the back of my mind as I continued to read this edition. By discussing the examples of articles I read, I hope all of us will be able to have a better understanding of what we want from our boards as well as what the boards can offer.

One of the articles in the Museum magazine is “Units of Measure: Key findings from Museum Board Leadership 2017: A National Report” which provides a summary of the report’s key findings and highlights board and chief executive demographics, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

The article revealed a summary of the findings discovered in the report. Some of the key findings in the report are:

Museum directors and board chairs believe board diversity and inclusion are important to advance their missions, but have failed to prioritize action steps to achieve it.

The vast majority of museum boards do not assess their performance.

Two-thirds of museum directors say their boards have a moderately to extremely positive impact on their job satisfaction.

Eighty percent of museums give themselves a grade of C or lower on monitoring legislative and regulatory issues.

Museum boards meet frequently, but attendance is mediocre.

 

It is unfortunately not surprising that these are the results from the report. Some museum professionals have talked about how hard it is to make progress in museums moving forward when some museum board members have doing the “same old, same old” mentality that gets museum staff and board stuck in a rut. These findings tell me that we need to work harder to have effective leadership among the museum boards.

One of the things I mentioned in my previous blog posts is the importance of communication between the museum staff and board. I said in my How to Work with Museum Boards blog post. The more effective and accurate the communication among them are the more likely what changes unfold can be accommodated smoothly.

I also said that each board and staff member needs to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0 stated that some of the board responsibilities are but not limited to:

Act as an advocate in the community for public involvement in the museum.

Review and approve policies consistent with the museum’s mission and mandate, and to monitor staff implementation of these policies.

Ensure the continuity of the museum’s mission, mandate, and purposes.

Plan for the future of the museum, including review and approval of a strategic plan that identifies the museum’s goals and ways to attain them, and monitoring implementation of the plan.

The key findings tell me museums that responded to the survey are not doing an sufficient job at communicating what the museum needs to keep functioning in the future, nor are they completely fulfilling their responsibilities. We really need to come together to learn museums social and economic impact on a national level, and see the impact museums potentially have on a local level.

Based on the previous literature on the museum board topic, this is a fact that is not new to the museum field. Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland wrote in their book that their responsibilities do have to be clear to make sure the board members understand how their tasks have an impact on the overall museum’s function and see the museum’s impact on the community.

Museum staff and board should discuss what the needs are for the museum and what the board can do. Karen S. Coltrane’s “Meeting of the Minds: To get the most from your board, figure out what you need-and what trustees can provide” discusses the roles and responsibilities of board members as well as the values any board member can bring to the museum.

Genoways, Ireland, and Coltrane shared similar understanding of what roles and responsibilities are for museum boards. Coltrane stated other responsibilities including monitoring and strengthening programs and services; ensuring adequate financial resources; and ensuring legal and ethical integrity. She argued that we should take these responsibilities, and consider the skills and experiences each board member offers; therefore, we need to think of these responsibilities through the frame of a staff job description.

Coltrane brought up the thought of how many of the current board members have the skills and experiences listed in her article. While there are individuals who are sincere in helping moving the museum’s mission forward, we need to figure out how many of the board members have the capabilities to effectively run the museum and fulfil the mission.

I have stated in my previous blog post about museum boards that The best way to have a better understanding of how museum boards function is…to get to know your museum board members. To have a better understanding of our board members we need to find out the values they bring to our museums.

We could look at board members capabilities by understanding what ways board members can bring value. Coltrane stated that there are three ways any board member can bring value, and they are:

Have a willingness to learn

Extend civic reach

Help the CEO think

If our board members have the ability to learn new methods and techniques in addition to reaching out in the community, we would be able to have board members effectively help the museum make the progress it needs.

To build a successful board, and the relationship between board and staff, we need to ensure that trust is there from the beginning. I recommend finding some resources about museum boards, especially this edition of Museum magazine, and communicating with your board members. Each board and staff member is essential to keeping the museum functioning, and when everyone is doing their part museums have the potential to succeed in guaranteeing its future.

How does your museum assess board members and their progress? Does your museum have additional methods that helped staff and board members in their roles and responsibilities?

Resources:
Museum magazine, January/February 2018, The Right Fit: Strategies for creating your ideal board
How to Work With Museum Boards: A Relationship Between the Staff and the Board
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

What Museums Hope For 2018

Added to Medium, December 14, 2017

As 2018 approaches, I have been thinking more about what I hope the museum field will accomplish in this upcoming new year. What I hope for 2018 as a museum professional is to have an improved work environment in the museum community and continue our work to have more inclusive accessible museum programming. We need to continue to remember we are a changing society and our practices need to reflect our communities wishes to remain relevant.

Museum professionals especially throughout social media such as Twitter have been thinking about what they hope for 2018. On Twitter, there is a hashtag being shared: #museumtrends2018. There has been a lot of discussion about what the future of museums can be, and I hope we can make the changes and adaptations needed to continue to collaborate within our communities and around the world.

American Alliance of Museums magazine, Museum, has recently discussed about the future of museums in their most recent edition, Museum 2040. I previously discussed this edition in a previous blog post “Creating an Environment-Friendly World with Museums” which focused on the museums encouraging our communities to work towards a more environmentally friendly world. While this edition of Museum magazine was written as if we are in the year 2040, the information presented in the magazine can inspire museum professionals to take actions that would help create an environment-friendly community. Our world continues to change, and museums as well as any institution also need to recognize this change and learn how to change with it.

We need to consider changes we need to make on a personal and professional level as well to help ourselves be in a healthy environment. Many museum professionals have gathered together to think about what we want to work towards in 2018. Seema Rao posted a survey last month on Twitter asking museum professionals what trends we are most likely working towards for 2018.

According to the survey results, the themes for 2018 trends in museum education are equity and inclusion, workplace issues, and visitor-centered experiences. Some of the trends in the equity and inclusion include fostering relevance, social justice, and museum ethics. Workplace issues in the survey results include money, jobs, and stress. The visitor-centered experiences shared in the results include digital experiences, skill development, and student and family programs.

When I read about the survey results, I was not surprised to see these main themes and trends for 2018. Each of these themes are especially important for the museum professional community who continue to find ways to make their institutions relevant to our continuously changing society. We are recognizing that our society is more politically correct than when museums first appeared in our nation, and we understand that we need to reflect this in our staff, board, and museum practices.

It is particularly hard for many museum professionals to stay in the field in its current work condition. Since we are discussing this more in recent months I hope for our field that we continue this discussion and work on making the changes we need to fulfill our personal and professional expectations for our museum work.

Our work in the museum also needs to adapt to our visitors and potential visitors needs for an engaging museum experience. As technology continues to make advances, museums try to adapt to these changes by creating digital programs that allow more opportunities to interact with museums’ collections and narrative.

The survey continued with more specific results that revealed we are most likely not going to see immediate results within the next five years.

Rao pointed out that museum education in 2018 would like to offer visitors a high-quality, inclusive experiences but feel real challenges in order to do so like funding and training. Also, survey respondents indicated that museum educators do not foresee that the problems in the field will improve in the next five years since there were real concerns about balancing technology and collections-based experiences and there were also real fears about challenges for the future in terms of funding and staffing.

Current conditions in our field such as the lack of proper funding and training do prevent us from providing high-quality and inclusive experiences. We continue to argue our case for museums needs to have appropriate funding during Museum Advocacy Days, and by continuing our discussion on these days in Washington D.C. each year we increase awareness as well as inspire measures to increase funding.

I do not believe that all of the challenges we face as museum educators will be resolved overnight. If we continue to plead our case and continue this discussion, we would be able to work towards having better experiences in addition to sufficient funding and staffing. Since we do not know how much we can accomplish at this moment, we also see what survey participants say could be trends in 2022.

Museum educators, according to Seema Rao, pointed out in the survey that there was a greater disparity in themes for the 2022 trends since predicting so far out is more challenging. For 2022, the museum education field would perhaps be facing possible obsolescence, increasing equity, developing engaging experiences, and changes in technology.

It is hard to predict what may happen a few years down the road but I can see our museum community continue to work towards making museums more relevant in a changing society. I look forward to finding out what we accomplish in the upcoming year and I hope that museums continue to work towards relevant programming as well as better working environment.

What do you hope for 2018? Do you have New Years resolutions for yourself professionally?

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Resources:
https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/creating-an-environment-friendly-world-with-museums-b2e0a7f77556
http://www.aam-us.org/resources/center-for-the-future-of-museums/museum-2040
https://brilliantideastudio.com/art-museums/museum-education-2018-trend-forecast/