#MuseumEdChat: NCoC and Museum Leaders

October 15, 2020

In preparation for the workshop next week, NCoC and Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath, the MuseumEdChat Twitter conversation focused tonight’s discussion on what role museums could play as 2020 comes to a close post-election. The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) dedicate their work to strengthen civic life in America by connecting people together through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge civic health initiative, their cross-sector conferences and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work. With this partnership, museum leaders and thinkers are virtually gathering together to support museum staff and imagine the roles museums, as trusted civic institutions, can play in whatever 2020 has left in store.

The Twitter discussion explored four areas of museum work with the theme of community in each question. For those who are not familiar with #MuseumEdChat, discussion hosts and participants used the Q1/A1 format and the #MuseumEdChat hashtag in replies in order to be seen by all participating in the discussion.

Because Twitter at the time of this post was not letting me, and as I suspect other participants, post our responses to the questions I am posting my answers to this blog post. Here are the following questions and answers for tonight’s discussion:

Q1. Operations: What should concern museums regarding their operations and serving their community after the election? Is your museum discussing this at all? #MuseumEdChat

I think it is important to figure out the decisions that would be best for each individual museum on how they will operate and serving the community since each museum is different and the communities they serve have their own needs to attend to. Museums should be discussing with one another what could be the best approaches for within the museum and community, and the individual museum will use what was discussed to figure out what approach works best for their own institution.

Q2. Messaging: What ideas, messages, publicity, etc. could museums share with the community that would be valuable right now *and* post-election? #MuseumEdChat

I tested posting to Twitter by attempting to send this answer as a response: A2 I think museums can share resources that would best educate the public about what the issues we are voting on and set up programs & statements on what the next steps would be for museums and how they’ll continue to work on serving the community now & post-election. #MuseumEdChat

Q3. Programs: What kinds of programs would you like to see #museums do for the community post-election? (Again, think about those scenarios…)

I would like to see museums plan programs for the community that focus on mental health to help people in the community deal with how the pandemic and the election has impacted them these past months.

Q4. Staff care: How could museums help staff practice self-care and provide for them given the potential election outcomes and the role of the #museum post-election? #MuseumEdChat

Museum leaders should dedicate some time in the day for staff to practice self-care whether each staff member wants to practice by themselves or practice self-care together. There should be focus on letting staff figure out how to care for themselves as well as their families to prepare for the impact the election results will have on what is happening in their own lives.

I plan on attending this workshop coming up on October 21st from 3pm-5pm EST to better educate myself and participate in the discussion on how museums can best serve the community post-election.

The following links are where you can participate in the discussion and to learn more about National Conference on Citizenship:

NCoC x Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath

National Conference on Citizenship

Books I Want to Read for the Rest of 2020

October 1, 2020

It has been a while since I released a list of books that I am interested in reading on this site. I decided to compile a list of books that I either already have in my collections that I want to read (or re-read) or books that I have heard about and I want to put on my list of books to read. There are a few books on the list that I was introduced to during the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) virtual conference in the Author Talks sessions. This is not a complete list of books but rather it is a sample of books I would like to read. I plan to write a couple more posts to add more books to the list until the end of 2020, and then I will start another list of books for 2021. Here is the following list:

  1. Doing Women’s History for the Public: A Handbook for Interpreting at Museums and Historic Sites by Heather Huyck https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442264175/Doing-Women’s-History-in-Public-A-Handbook-for-Interpretation-at-Museums-and-Historic-Sites
  2. Exploring the History of Childhood and Play through 50 Historic Treasures by Susan A. Fletcher https://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Childhood-Historic-Treasures-Americas/dp/1538118742/
  3. Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone) by Sam Wineburg https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/W/bo23022136.html
  4. A Leader’s Guide to Solving Challenges with Emotional Intelligence by David R. Caruso, PhD and Lisa T. Rees, ACC, MPA. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38899539-a-leader-s-guide-to-solving-challenges-with-emotional-intelligence
  5. Exploring Women’s Suffrage through 50 Historic Treasures by Jessica D. Jenkins https://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Suffrage-Historic-Americas-Treasures/dp/1538112795
  6. Leadership Matters Leading Museums in an Age of Discord, Second Edition by Anne W. Ackerson and Joan H. Baldwin https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Matters-Leading-American-Association/dp/1538118319

What books are you reading in 2020? It does not have to be books about the museum field nor about history. I will be releasing a blog post about this year’s AASLH Annual Meeting and Conference soon. In the meantime, check out the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #AASLH2020 and I will post some pictures (well…screenshots) from the conference on the Looking Back, Moving Forward in Museum Education’s Facebook page and Instagram.

Also check out a previous list I wrote a few years ago here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1s

And here is a list I wrote for 2019: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-we

Museum Leadership: The People Matter

July 16, 2020

While museums are facing the pandemic, whether or not to re-open their physical doors, and anti-racism movements, museum leadership has been brought into question on how leadership could evolve to have a more people-centered focus. Earlier this week I came across the post on Leadership Matters called “Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People”, written by Joan Baldwin, on the state of museum leadership during this pandemic and the rise of anti-racism movements. This post made me reflect on my experiences as a leader and on my previous thoughts on museum leadership expressed in the blog.

According to the Leadership Matters post, the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism movements exposed a lot of inequities that exist in the United States and in the museum field recent events led many to call for a new kind of leadership that is less paternalistic and hierarchical, more collaborative. In other words, museum professionals are looking for different ways to lead in the museum that does not support inequity, low pay for front-line staff, corruption, et. cetera. Baldwin raised a number of questions in address of this call:

But what does less hierarchical really look like? What if there is no leader, just a leadership team? Sounds great, right? Everybody plays to their strengths and happily gets the work done. But what happens in a crisis when decisions must be made quickly? What if the team can’t come to consensus? Or what if other members of the staff quickly learn to play one member of the leadership team against another to ensure decisions go their way?

Leadership has a number of considerations when faced with fast decision-making opportunities especially during a pandemic we all continue to face at the time of this blog post. The system of leadership looks different for each museum, institution, and non-profit organization, and no one answer can address all concerns each one has when figuring out how to lead. To determine the answers for questions like the ones posed above, if they are looking to change their approach to leadership, each institution and non-profit should examine what their own needs are before considering any change.

In addition to considering how to answer leadership questions, museums need to be reminded of not just who they serve but who is a part of the team within the museum walls. Baldwin pointed out that to be a museum leader is to also be a people person. In other words, she stated:

It means being someone who understands it’s not about you or about the content that brought you to the field in the beginning, but instead about the team you lead, and the people and careers you nurture. The absence of leaders who actually care about staff creates institutions where bullying is rife, where hot-shot attorneys are hired to defeat unionization, where sexually harassed women are told to go work things out with their co-workers is a horrific and bothersome bi-product of this absence of leadership.

Understanding that museums are run by people who are human with limitations is a significant part of being a leader, and based on the number of cases that have been shared on how front-line staff have been treated it seems that many museums have forgotten this fact. As well as remembering my experience in the museum field, this section of the post reminded me of an early experience I had as a leader, and while it was not in the museum field this experience had taught me the importance of being a people person in the leadership role.

One of my first experiences in a leadership role was back in high school thirteen years ago as a color guard captain. The high school color guard team was a small group with more seniors than other grade levels. By the time I was a senior in high school, one of the members in the same graduating class forcibly took over the captain position; she utilized the position to not listen to any input from myself and other seniors, and other color guard members, and focused on executing her own ideas. Her actions in the leadership role, including insulting and bullying members, led to many color guard members to leave. When she left the high school, I took over the role of color guard captain and worked towards salvaging the team by listening to remaining members on not only their needs but the ideas they had on making the routines better; some of the members that originally left returned to the team. During my experience as color guard captain, I understood the importance of group input since it not only opened my mind to other possibilities for creating color guard routines and remembering their needs as individuals and students, but I also recognized them as future leaders who will be carrying the torch once I graduated. The leadership experience that I have both witnessed and practiced myself had an impact on me ever since. I sought to continue my approach to leadership as a way to not only open myself up to growth but to help foster future generations of leaders move the museum field forward.

Since then I have learned about more responsibilities and considerations leaders face in the workplace to create a strong connection within the communities they serve. In addition to having a connection with the community, leadership needs to be practiced in order to learn how to be a more effective leader. This is especially true in the museum field. In my blog post, “Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field”,

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.

When museum leaders practice their skills, they are able to develop the skills they need to connect with other people and evolve as leaders for the future of museums. If museum leaders cannot connect with their staff, volunteers, and board members, then they would be less inspired to be open with their leaders on not only ideas that may help museums move forward but also on their needs as individuals.

To learn more about the Leadership Matters post, check out the link below.  

What is your opinion on leadership? Can museums figure out a way to have effective leadership that have their staff’s best interest in mind?  

Links:

Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People

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

Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums

Reaction: No Money, No New Ideas Conundrum

April 4, 2019

I’m back! I am officially married and I am back from my honeymoon. Thank you all for your patience and support while I took time off to make final preparations for the wedding. My husband and I went into New York City to spend our honeymoon, and we did a number of things we have not done before in the City such as going to see The Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton, visited the Fraunces Tavern Museum (stay tuned for a blog post about this museum), and visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museum. After we came back from the honeymoon, I came across another post on the Leadership Matters website about an important conundrum that is facing museums and non-profit organizations: no money, no new ideas.

Joan Baldwin wrote about how money and new ideas are important for museums. As museum professionals, we should understand that we could not have one or the other. If we focus too much on bringing in money then we would potentially lose out on new ideas that can keep visitors coming back for more of what we offer. If we focus on too many new ideas, we may not have enough money to support all of these ideas. It is a conundrum we are all familiar with, and it is worth discussing especially as we prepare for new museum professionals to emerge in the field.  One of the takeaways that stuck with me when I read the post was how the right balance between money and new ideas can make a difference. She pointed out that money is important and can ease some worries,

But an organization can be really rich and also really boring. Surely you’ve been to some of those. They are beautifully presented, but stiff, still, and flat. There is, to quote Gertrude Stein, “No there there.” But there are other organizations where, without warning and often without huge budgets, you’re challenged, confronted by things you hadn’t thought about before or presented with memorable narratives. They are the places you remember. They are the ones that stick with you.

One of the reasons I have worked in small museums is how unique the narratives are, and the staff that work with a limited budget are faced with the challenge to keep their exhibits and programs both relevant and interesting for visitors to make numerous trips back to them. I have written about museums I previously visited, and the majority of the ones I write about are those that face the challenge everyday to keep people invested in the narratives. For instance, in a post called Museum Memories: Stanley-Whitman House, I wrote about how the narrative of the house not only shares the history of the families that lived in the house but the history of the town of Farmington; the Stanley-Whitman House is one of the places that continues to find ways to bring attention to its narrative and its significance in the community.

Another point that I took away from the post is the significance of having creativity within the museum. Baldwin revealed in her post that

Imagination and ideas are a museums’ biggest tools. Otherwise you’re just a brilliantly-organized storage space. And yet how do you get out of the scarcity mindset? Practice. Truly. And start small.

It is true that the biggest tools that we can use as museum professionals are our imaginations and ideas. This is also why it is important all of us should take self-care seriously when it comes to using our imaginations, ideas, and creativity. If we continue to work while we burnout, we will not be able to come up with fresh ideas we need to help our museums keep running. Also, it is important that we participate in professional development and networking programs to get inspiration for our own ideas. As the saying goes “Practice makes perfect”, and it definitely applies to us as museum professionals attempting to use our imaginations and ideas for our museums.

I also read the advice Baldwin left for leaders and board members, and I try to follow each advice in my own practice as a museum professional. For instance, I try to model respect and treat everyone’s ideas as doable especially when I work with volunteers who are passionate about the work we do and they bring up ideas that may be helpful for the museum. I think this is what all museum professionals should do no matter what title they hold because if we keep shutting down each other’s ideas we may not be able to have the leaders we need for the future of the museum field. Also, I pay attention to and try to read as much reading material I can get my hands on to expand my knowledge in the museum field and beyond to get inspiration.

I read the advice Baldwin gave for board members, and this advice is important for all board members to follow. Baldwin provided a list of advice she had for board members who may be reading the post:

If you’re a board member:

Model respect and treat everyone’s ideas as doable even if they’re not actionable in the moment.

Know what matters. Understand your organization.

Invite a different staff member to your board meeting every month. Ask them what they would do if you gave them a million dollars. Listen. (And ban the eye-roll.)

Devote some time as a group to talking about ideas as opposed to what’s just happened, what’s currently happening or what will happen. How can you raise money for an organization if you’re not excited about what it’s doing?

Think about ideas as cash catalysts.

All of these points are wonderful and should be followed to not only help the museum but also develop a better relationship between the staff and board. For instance, I think it is a wonderful idea for board members to invite a different staff member to board meetings each month. Staff and board will be able to learn from one another about each other’s perspectives, and help one another come up with ideas that could be practical to execute for the museum. Another quote I would like to leave here is what I hope everyone will consider:

If you’re a leader or a board member, you’re role isn’t to maintain the status quo. You want more than mediocrity, don’t you? You’re a change agent, and change doesn’t have to come in a multi-million-dollar addition. Sometimes it comes in a volunteer program that models great teaching, a friendly attitude and deep knowledge.

It does not take much to create change in a museum, and we have a responsibility as museum professionals to figure out ideas we can use to help our museums move forward.

Resource:

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/the-no-money-no-new-ideas-conundrum/

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/

https://aaslh.org/programs/continuing-education/online-courses/

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2019/01/07/its-january-a-natural-time-to-change-up-your-museum-career/

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/its-a-new-year/

Reaction: Me vs. Us Museum Leadership

Added to Medium, November 1, 2018

In the past, I have written a number of blog posts about museums and leadership. I decided to write one more about museum leadership when I came across Joan Baldwin’s “Me vs. Us Museum Leadership” posted earlier this week. Baldwin started her post on Leadership Matters website with a few examples of servant leadership, or as described in the post a form of leadership that puts people first and ultimately everyone serves the institution. She pointed out in the post that

We can’t all be servant leaders. In fact, of the many leadership qualities, servant leadership is one of the hardest because it asks a leader not to be the center of attention. Instead, it puts staff and organization in the spotlight. It makes for a museum where director/staff relationships are strong, where staff know the director has their backs, and where there is always hope because collectively everyone serves the museum. Sounds like workplace heaven, right? Maybe. It’s not a panacea, but take a week and be intentional about the following:
· Standing behind your staff.
· Saying thank you.
· Listening. A lot.
· Acknowledge a diversity of opinions. And really listening to them.
· Modeling the behavior you want. If you wish staff would shut off lights in spaces not in use, do you do it yourself? Or do you just send emails asking others to do it?
· Mentoring, counseling, developing leadership in others.

Each individual is different, and therefore would be comfortable with whatever leadership style they are comfortable. I think that servant leadership would be beneficial for relationships between directors and staffs so there is not only a strong bond between them This servant leadership style seems to accurately describe how I define leadership since I approach leadership as every individual has something of value to contribute to how we can help museums continue to function, and we should help one another develop each other’s skills especially leadership skills.

The blog post I wrote “Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums” expresses the need for leaders and followers to work together on keeping museums running. As I previously explained in this post,

Leaders and followers have varying experiences in the museum field, and they can learn from each of their perspectives to run the museum. Followers typically work directly with the visitors, and learn from the visitors what museum staff and the museum in general can improve on to fulfil its goals. Leaders typically work with the administrative tasks that run the museum such as but not limited to grant writing and ordering materials for programs.

What we need to remember is the museum’s most valuable asset, other than its collections, are its staff, both paid and volunteers. Leaders and followers in the museum field have many contributions to help its museum continue fulfilling the mission. Each museum professional working in a museum have varying needs, emotions, and personality traits, and being able to work effectively with groups and within groups is essential to the museum professional and to the museum’s success in fulfilling its educational mission.

I understand that the relationship between leaders and followers I described in this post seems to be close to what Baldwin’s blog post defined as servant leadership. One of the reasons I thought that what my thoughts on museum leadership is close to servant leadership is when Baldwin made the suggestion to readers: Mentoring, counseling, developing leadership in others. We need to work together to not only use our leadership skills to make museums serve the community better but it will encourage future leaders to become more involved in the museum field.

What type of leadership works for you and for colleagues in your museum or organization?

Announcement: Next week there will not be a new blog post because I will be at the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference, but I will share previous blog posts. Also, I will write about my experience at the NEMA conference after next week.

Resources:

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/me-vs-us-museum-leadership/

Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-pP

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/

Why Self-Care is Important for Museum Educators

Added to Medium, June 7, 2018

Self-care has become an increasingly important topic of discussion in the museum field, and we need to express why museum educators especially need to take the care they need. I recently have been in a situation that I needed self-care to help myself get back to where I need to be as a museum educator. Because of recent events, I began to review information I have about self-care and museums.

One of the posts I came across was Seema Rao’s “Focusing on Self-Care is Good for Business” in which she summarized a keynote talk Rao gave at the Pennsylvania Museums Association conference in April. I also read her book Objective Lessons: Self Care for Museum Professionals in the past, and I decided to re-read the book in light of recent events. While there are many resources online that have self-care and self-help, it is overwhelming to dedicate time to sit down and read through every material.

Earlier tonight I hosted #MuseumEdChat on Twitter and since I was hosting I decided to come up with the topic about self-care and develop the questions for the topic. I thought that I would learn more about the current status of self-care in museums by asking the questions I had to the Twitter community. After an hour-long discussion, I found so many great responses to these questions and what I found is that we need to continue to promote self-care and the significance of self-care among museum professionals of all levels.

The first question I asked was “How would you describe self-care?” because while everyone needs self-care at some point or another not everyone would have the same definition depending on the circumstances of why they need self-care. One of the first responses I came across that I think perfectly sums up what self-care is in general is:

To me, self-care is having the time and patience to actively care for your overall health (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual)

We all need time and patience to provide ourselves with the self-care we need to keep ourselves moving forward. The key, however, is finding the time to do so and not many museum professionals have that opportunity because some managers do not see the value of self-care.

A couple of tweets mentioned this dilemma. One tweet pointed out that “Self-care can be hard for staff who don’t have paid time off or vacation.” Another tweet also said,

Self-care is hard in sector w/ so much of the staff working on term-limited/ hourly wages in precarious jobs. Self-care can be seen as a waste by managers, who put pressure on junior staff to be super productive ALL THE TIME.

There are not many job opportunities that are full-time for museum professionals which provide benefits that will help us with self-care. These situations are a part of a bigger issue in the museum field that we continue to work towards so self-care would be acknowledged by managers, directors, and board of directors and trustees.

Rao has also stressed the importance of self-care in her post “Focusing on Self-Care is Good for Business”, and made an argument for managers to pay attention to this need for not only for their staff but for the managers as well. She stated that burnouts are high in the museum field because of the long hours with little pay and no time to recharge. Her post also directly addressed the managers to set examples for self-care:

Managers need to be honest about their own struggles with burnout and share their strategies to counteract these feelings. Sharing challenges is not a sign of weakness. A good leader is a human who is worth following, flaws and all; a boss is a person who you have to work for.

Our work culture in this society promotes the idea that having challenges are signs of weakness in managers. However, that is not true at all because we are all human and knowing how to deal with challenges and flaws is what makes great leaders a person worth following. A few responses on Twitter also pointed out that they either do not know how to or do not know how to find time to do self-care.

I have said this on Twitter and I will say again here that I don’t think everyone is good at self-care at times because sometimes it is hard to find the time to take care of ourselves. It will take a lot of practice for all of us to practice and promote self-care. Some individuals have shared what we can do to promote the importance of self-care.

One of the tweets talked about promoting workshops and activities for staff with special guests such as individuals from government or higher education agencies. I agree with this suggestion because by having programs like the ones suggested it would start to make discussions about self-care easier for museum professionals and opens up communication about self-care with managers and directors. Another tweet reiterated the sentiments I have about self-care:

All museum professionals, no matter the position, need to foster an environment of caring and understanding. If there is a need to promote self-care at work, professionals need to feel that they can open up and be honest about what they need.

After the #MuseumEdChat discussion, I was reassured that I am not alone in my own struggles to find time for self-care and balance work with much needed self-care time. I was also reassured that this is a topic that we all need to continue to discuss as we continue to find ways to improve the museum field. Self-care is different for every individual in the museum field, and it is necessary for every museum professional on all levels to take care of themselves.

I leave you all with a couple of questions that I have asked on Twitter’s #MuseumEdChat discussion that we all need to think about and share with all museum professionals in the field:

If you were going to explain to your manager and/or colleagues about self-care, how would you explain why it is important for all museum professionals, including museum educators? Please share what you and your co-workers do, or would like to do, for self-care. What method is most helpful for you? What can we do to spread more awareness to the need of self-care?

Resource:
http://brilliantideastudio.com/selfcare/focusing-on-self-care-is-good-for-business/

The Importance of Education Management in Museums

Added to Medium, April 5, 2018

Museum professionals, in addition to many professionals in various fields, understand there is a lot of time and dedication that is put into management of programs and administration. Throughout my experience as a museum professional, I have learned the significance of being able to successfully manage education programming and the administrative tasks that go along with the responsibilities of education in museums. In addition to the experiences gained, various books and articles also provide information to assist museum professionals in guiding them on education management. An important lesson every professional understands, and sometimes need to remind themselves of from time to time, is that we are human and we are not perfect. We do the best we can to manage our educational programs so our organizations can fulfil their missions.

Before I went to Long Island, I had limited experience in administration management and mainly taught educational programs in historic house museums in Connecticut. Once I went to Long Island, I gained more experience in management.

At the Long Island Museum, I worked in education management in addition to teaching some school programs. I booked school and group programs including tours and In the Moment program (for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients); after answering phone calls and taking down information such as the name of school/organization and the number of individuals attending, I recorded the information on the facilities sheet, placed the program and organization (as well as the time) on the Master Calendar via Google Docs, and provide the information needed including but not limited to the type of program, school, and the date/time on the daily sheet to write down official numbers as well as observe the number of programs for that day.

In addition to what I previously stated, I was in charge of scheduling volunteers who taught larger school programs that require various stations and geared towards larger school groups. Based on how many of these school programs were scheduled for that month, I used the sheet of the volunteers’ availability to schedule the number of volunteers needed to run the program(s) for the number of days scheduled. Once finalized I printed copies and sent them to all volunteers while keeping one to put on the board for them to refer to while at the museum.

Another part of education management that is important is making sure there is enough materials for each scheduled program. After booking and scheduling programs, and writing the volunteers’ schedules, I also was responsible for inventory of items for programs. Some of the examples of what I took track of are the keepsake photographs for each exhibit for the In the Moment program, and papers for school programs that took place in the one room school house.

With everything that was listed previously, other responsibilities for managing education programs is financially supporting them and promoting them for the public to be aware of what the museum has to offer. I went over budgets with the Director of Education for purchasing food and drinks for the public programs; we collaborated on the paperwork once the items were purchased.

The examples of what I did to help promote the programs was when I oversaw printing program flyers, after the everyone in the department approved of the details, and sending the flyers to the head of the Suffolk County and Nassau County libraries for them to distribute to all libraries in the counties to post on bulletin boards. I also made sure there was many copies printed to be sent to and distributed at the museum’s visitor center.

Also, I made sure the mailing for school program brochures and bus trip flyers mailings went smoothly. I printed address labels, placed address labels on envelopes, placed brochures and flyers in the envelopes, borrowed mailing trays from postal offices to place envelopes in, and send them to the post office to be mailed.

This experience at the Long Island Museum has taught me a lot about behind the scenes situations for managing education programs. I knew that there is a lot that goes into planning what should be taught and what techniques can be utilized that are appropriate for students. What I learned was how much more goes into planning education programs and how they are managed. Also, as time went on I learned that this is continuous work to make sure the programs are well prepped and managed to continue serving their purpose for the museum.

In the book The Museum Educator’s Manual, the writers stated that it is essential for all museum leaders to continually assess and evaluate existing programs by analyzing the time, effort, and cost of each program in comparison to the breath and degree of impact it has on the community, in facilitating visitor engagement, and advancing the museums’ overall goals (13). Continuous work on financially supporting programs and preparing for programs is essential for managing education programs in museums.

When museum professionals are able to manage educational programs well, the programs will be able to benefit the museums’ missions in the long run. In Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0, they pointed out that a well-organized and effective educational programs not only add to the museum’s potential for earned income, but they also help humanize the institutions from the community’s perspective (135). In the end, maintaining a relationship with the community should be the goal for museums, and it is important to maintain that through well-managed educational programs.

I continued to utilize my skills in education management when I did some work with the Long Island Maritime Museum. At the LIMM, I answered and redirected phone calls at the front desk, assisted in gift shop inventory, and tallied volunteers’ sailing Priscilla records during last year’s sailing season. I also created word searches and other similar activities for children to learn about Long Island’s maritime history. I continued to expand my knowledge through more experience and reading through resources on museum education.

I also came across a guidebook that was published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) called Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook. This included an article “Museum Education in the Context of Museum Functions” written by Cornelia Brüninghaus-Knubel who was the Head of Education Department at the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany. One of the statements that stood out to me in the article was:

Once a museum has decided to establish an education service and has found a suitable candidate to run it, the new education officer has to set up a structure and decide on a policy and programme. This has to be realistic in terms of what can be accomplished according to the museum’s situation, particularly the staff, time, space and finance available. As a minimum, an effective education service requires a full-time professional head who is capable of handling the management and administrative aspects of the job as well as taking part in the teaching and other educational work. Long experience shows that while a single education officer is better than nothing, one person will not be able to carry out every necessary task, especially once schools, colleges, parents and the wider public recognise the value of the educational programmes offered by the museum.

It is a challenge to complete the necessary tasks of many museum professionals when one museum professional is hired to complete them. We need to form a good foundation in the education department, and establish a system that will help museum educators to accomplish the necessary tasks to manage education programming.

I kept all of the experiences I have gained and all of the resources I have read over the years in mind as I continued to learn through my experience at the Three Village Historical Society. I serve on the Education Committee by assisting in editing the volunteer handbook, preparing for and teaching school programs, and conduct informational interviews to seek advice on programming in the distant future.

Education management is a continuous task museum professionals are aware of, and when we are able to form a solid foundation for the museum education management system museums can successfully fulfill their educational missions.

What were your experiences were like in education management? Did you have challenges your organization faced when managing education programs?

Resources:
Brüninghaus-Knubel, Cornelia. “Museum Education in the Context of Museum Functions”, Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook, Paris, France: International Council of Museums Maison de l’UNESCO, 2004.
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
Johnson, Anna, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann, Tim Grove, The Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques, 2nd edition, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.

 

Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums

Added to Medium, March 29, 2018

We cannot run museums without the dedicated museum professionals in various department positions. Previous blog posts and recent articles have pointed out why the relationship between leaders and followers are significant in the museum field. In the past, leaders and followers were seen as clearly defined positions within the administration; for instance, leaders make impactful decisions to run the museum while followers do whatever leaders ask them to do as passed down from a hierarchical ladder. Times have changed, however, and the roles are blurred to work together to help museums run.

I learned from my experience over the years that leaders and followers can learn from one another and collaborate together to keep a museum running. After getting my Master’s degree, I began working directly with the visitors as a museum educator in historic house museums in Connecticut. The skills I gained came from both experience working with the public and from colleagues who worked longer at the location than I had. We gathered together whether before and after programs, or during staff meetings to learn how to improve our skills as museum educators. As we gathered for museum educator meetings at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society for instance, we shared experiences during the school programs with each other and the Director of Education who also shared information that would help us understand the overall educational goals of the institution.

After I went to Long Island, I began to learn more about the administration perspective of running the museum. I learned about booking programs, running a volunteer program, and other administration tasks at the Long Island Museum. At the beginning of each school program that requires volunteers, the Senior volunteers share their passions as well as their stories that they believed will help the education department. When I started work as both a museum educator and the office assistant at the Maritime Explorium, I learned more about the administrative perspective in running the museum while educating children through STEM activities. The previous examples revealed the overall lesson we should all take away as we continue our museum careers: we learn from each other and work together to have successful programming in museums.

Leaders and followers have varying experiences in the museum field, and they can learn from each of their perspectives to run the museum. Followers typically work directly with the visitors, and learn from the visitors what museum staff and the museum in general can improve on to fulfil its goals. Leaders typically work with the administrative tasks that run the museum such as but not limited to grant writing and ordering materials for programs.

What we need to remember is the museum’s most valuable asset, other than its collections, are its staff, both paid and volunteers. Leaders and followers in the museum field have many contributions to help its museum continue fulfilling the mission. Each museum professional working in a museum have varying needs, emotions, and personality traits, and being able to work effectively with groups and within groups is essential to the museum professional and to the museum’s success in fulfilling its educational mission.

Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland discussed leadership a number of times in their book Museum Administration 2.0 and they emphasized the importance of leadership for all museum professionals within the museum. One of the statements about leadership pointed out there is no one person who is responsible for exercising the leadership skills. In the book, they stated “Leadership is no longer perceived as the solitary province of the person ‘in charge’, rather it is exhibited by every staff member who has the ability to institute change, and does so, however minor that change might be” (4). Each staff member has the capabilities to contribute to museum’s progress based on what they bring to the museum.

Even though our resources now put emphasis on leadership being expressed by all staff members, there is not enough details describing the importance of followers. In the Leadership Matters blog, Joan Baldwin wrote about why followers matter in the museum field. On the followers in the museum field, Baldwin described them as this:

They tend to have more responsibility than authority. They are assistant curators, fund raisers, educators, and volunteer coordinators. Some may go through an entire week and not see a member of their organizational leadership team, and yet all the planning, the vision, and the courage leaders incubate comes to life with the followers. They are the yin to the leadership yang.

In other words, one cannot work without the other. As museum professionals, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of this yin yang relationship in the museum’s organization to successfully run the institution. Leaders and followers should learn to be a part of a team and recognize each other’s strengths.

Baldwin also emphasized that being ineffective leaders and followers will hinder the performance of the museum’s operations. If individuals go on to become leaders without an understanding and an empathy for the qualities of those who follow them, then their leadership practices will suffer. Individuals who are not effective followers tend to be unmotivated and trouble makers that drive productivity down; to have effective followers, museums need individuals who believe that what is shared is important than what is not shared.

To be sure we have effective partnerships between leaders and followers, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. For instance, in one of my blog posts “What is the Right Fit? A Deeper Analysis of Museum Boards”, I pointed out the importance of keeping communication open between museum’s leaders and staff members. 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:

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.

When museum leaders are aware of what their responsibilities are, they would be able to understand their roles in helping the staff and the museum effectively run programs and museums’ other functions.

Baldwin also pointed out in her blog post that getting to know the team is essential in being effective leaders. She stated in the blog,

Even if your team is two volunteers and a part-time curator. Listen to them. Value them. Know what motivates them. Welcome the moments when they challenge ideas because it indicates they’re with you, and they want the best for the museum. Figure out ways to remove the barriers with which they may be struggling. Pay them what they’re worth. Thank them.

If museum leaders value and appreciate their followers, there would be a healthy partnership that will successfully run a museum.

All museum professionals have the leadership skills and the ability to follow through on running programs, exhibits, events, et. cetera. We should listen to one another, and work together as a team to accomplish so much for our institutions.

What are some examples you experienced in the leader/follower dynamic? Did you have any challenges when creating stronger partnerships?

Resources
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
What is the Right Fit? A Deeper Analysis of Museum Boards
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/why-followers-matter/
http://www.aam-us.org/resources/professional-networks/leadership-and-management