How the Government Shutdown Affects Museum Workers

Added to Medium, January 17, 2019

As the government shutdown continues in the United States, federal workers are struggling to financially support themselves and their families. Many museum professionals who work in museums that were not able to be open because of the shutdown are among the federal workers struggling for the past 27 days (as of January 17th). Federal workers are affected in a number of ways by the shutdown.

In a New York Times article, it stated approximately 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay across the country because of the government shutdown. Each state has been affected in varying ways; for instance outside the capital, states with large numbers of workers for the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are more likely to feel the shutdown’s effects. Also, nearly the entire staff of the Environmental Protection Agency is furloughed, including hundreds of workers in North Carolina and Illinois. The most recent Washington Journal article pointed out that the partial government shutdown is now the longest in modern history and hundreds of thousands of federal workers have started to miss paychecks. The longer the government shutdown lasts, federal workers will continue to suffer and it will get worse if the shutdown persists.

There are businesses and other organizations that are doing what they can to help all federal workers affected by the government shutdown. During tonight’s #MuseumEdChat Twitter discussion, we talked about what opportunities are out there to help federal workers by offering free or discounted services and expressed who and what we are grateful for as we try to be as supportive as possible to our colleagues going through financial strain. One of the examples shared in the discussion was from phone companies:

Q1. We know the #Shutdown is affecting many people, and that many others are stepping in to provide help. If you know of an organization providing discounts/support share them here. Add a # with the location so people can find them along with #MuseumEdChat


AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile is willing to work with those affected on fees. Most banks are also willing to work with affected employees including Bank of America, CHase, DIscover, USAA, most credit unions


A1-Additional. The biggest would be your local food pantry or support organizations. Looking more “global” @WCKitchen. Also, I’ve got Coast Guard family and the fact that this is the first time that armed forces is going without pay bc of shutdown so @CGMutualAssist

Another example is from a university offering free professional development programs for federal workers.


Replying to @Museumptnrs

#MuseumEdChat A1 #Montclair, NJ

MSU Offers Free Program Friday for Federal Employees During Shutdown; Mikie Sherrill To Attend —

In addition to phone companies and universities, there are loan companies offering services for federal workers. According to one of participants in the discussion, there is a loan that federal workers in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area can sign up for:


Hebrew Free Loan is offering $1,250 no-interest, no-fee loans to federal government workers who are not being paid due to the government shutdown. You don’t need to be Jewish to qualify. More info here:

The global museum community is also doing what they can to help federal workers during the government shutdown. I shared a link I found for a GoFundMe page in which MuseumNext is raising money to give Smithsonian federal workers at least a slice of pizza as the government shutdown persists. MuseumNext is a major conference series on the future of museums that takes place annually in Europe, North America and Australia, attracting an engaged, loyal and dynamic audience working in museums, galleries and cultural venues across the globe. According to the page, they stated that they will organize a giant pizza order to deliver those working a lunch on them, which demonstrates that they have the support of the global museum community and that they wish to do something to help. By showing their support, I admire and appreciate that there is a global museum community that will reach out to their overseas colleagues in times of need to do what they can to help and show support.

Outside of the #MuseumEdChat discussion, I also came across a couple of sources to help federal workers as the government shutdown continues to make it harder for them to get basic needs. On the Today show website, Meghan Holohan wrote five ways we can do to help furloughed federal workers during the government shutdown including donating to the food pantry, donate to repair national parks, and call your representatives. Another one I found was from CertifiKid which lists family-friendly government shutdown freebies for federal workers. For example, it lists things to do including:

Monster Mini Golf (Columbia, MD): Free Mini Golf for up to 4 people valid Monday — Thursday until the shutdown ends. Mention CertifiKID and present government ID for each golfer.

There is also a list of restaurants and other entertainment deals to help with the financial burdens federal workers are dealing with, and the list will continue to be updated as soon as they are aware of more deals.

We all need to remember to help one another during these hard times. Federal workers, whether they are in the museums or out of the museums, need as much help as possible to support themselves and their loved ones. If you know someone who is struggling through the government shutdown, please tell them how grateful you are for what they do. Please do whatever you can to help them through these times.


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 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?


Moving Forward in 2019 for Museum Education

Added to Medium, December 20, 2018

This past year has flown by so quickly and a lot has happened in both my career and in the museum field. For instance, I have written the 100th blog post, and I am thankful for everyone who has read and commented on the blog. With the rest of the Education Committee at the Three Village Historical Society, I completed the revamp of the docent manual and we are preparing for a docents’ appreciation luncheon to thank the docents and go over the new manual. Also, I completed an online course through the American Association for State and Local History on Museum Education and Outreach.

The course is part of the AASLH’s Small Museum Pro! Certificate program, a professional certificate program for history practitioners who work or would like to work, in small local museums. This course’s main theme is about how museum educators can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums. During the eight weeks for the course, myself and other participants worked through the basics of museum education, how to implement programming, training staff, and partnering with the community for outreach. By the end of the course, we were able to:

describe the characteristics and learning needs of various museum audiences

summarize what we know about learning in museums

assess the strengths and weaknesses of interpretive techniques and program approaches

utilize a system for planning, operating, and evaluating museum educational programs

access resources to assist you in future development of effective learning experiences

Some of the topics that we went over for each week include Interpretation Strengths, Weaknesses, and Best Practices, Education Program Planning, Management, and Evaluation, Community Partners and Funding, Leading Staff and Volunteers, and Action Plan for Future Programming at your Museum. After completing the course, I felt that taking this course not only helped strengthen the skills I have as a museum educator but I also gained new techniques and advice on how to proceed with developing and implementing educational programs. This course has provided a number of opportunities to discuss with other class participants ideas based on our experiences and give each other advice.

The museum field has also made some progress and I hope we continue to make progress in the next year. Museum professionals discussed the importance of self-care for all museum professionals especially for museum educators. As we come to the end of the year, a number of museum professionals are continuing the discussion about self-care. For instance, on the Leadership Matters blog, Joan Baldwin wrote in her post “Museum Women: Take Care of Yourselves” on what female museum professionals should think about moving forward into the new year. Baldwin listed five things to think about which are

1. You need to take care of yourself. You, your family, and your friends will all benefit from a happier, healthier you.

2. Put your health first. Somehow women don’t. It’s something embedded in our DNA that says, I can do this. My temperature is only 101. I haven’t pick one: (thrown up, cried, coughed up a lung) for at least an hour. No you can’t. Stay home. Ask for help. Take care of yourself.

3. Give yourself some alone time. Even if it’s only a short walk in the middle of a work day, take time alone. Let your thoughts settle. Regroup.

4. My mother used to have a little note near her phone. This was the era of landlines so the phone never moved. The note said, “Say no.” I thought it was hysterical, but in retrospect, we all should have that note. It’s your internal monitor that says, I don’t have time, energy or the skillset to do that. (It also might say, I’m not going to enable you, you do it.) It’s a learned skill to say no nicely, and not to judge yourself for bowing out.

5. Make a tiny change. Promise yourself that in the coming year you will do something different that’s just for you. Don’t make it so grandiose that it feels impossible, make it doable. Try a new recipe once a month. Walk every day that it’s sunny. Read a poem before bed. Whatever floats your boat and is for you.

While these can be applied to all museum professionals, museum women especially need to think about this because according to reports listed in Baldwin’s post they are more likely to work harder and spend less time on taking care of themselves. There is also more discussion about low salaries and equity within the museum.

A number of museum associations are requiring museums who want to post available jobs to list salary information to create more equitable opportunities for job seekers in the museum field. Also, more people are talking about the consequences of giving museum workers low salaries as evident in Seema Rao’s post Giving Tuesdays and Low Salaries in Museums. I have also given my own thoughts about low salaries in the museum field in one of my previous posts reacting to Rao’s post. While having discussions about raising salaries and creating equitable workplaces is important, more action to make them a reality needs to continue to move the museum field forward and we should take more action each year.

Also, the American Alliance of Museums announced that last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS supports all types of museums in their work to educate students, preserve and digitize collections, and connect with their communities. Reauthorization of IMLS means that there is support for the agency’s programs and a renewed commitment to its funding. Advocacy for museums do not end as long as there is progress to be made in the museum field. As I think about the past year, my thoughts naturally turned to what I want to accomplish next year.

I hope to continue to develop my skills as a museum professional, and to gain more experience in the field to provide more influence on progress for museums. By progressing to a more managerial role, I would be able to effect change on a higher level. In addition to my professional life, I am looking forward to getting married this upcoming March and spending more time with family.

Happy Holidays to you all! Happy New Year!

Because next week is Christmas, I will not post a new blog post for that week but I will be back to share with you an updated list of books I want to read in 2019.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you: What would you like to accomplish for the new year?


Reaction: Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums

Added to Medium, December 6, 2018

Many museum professionals, as well as non-profit professionals, are familiar with Giving Tuesday. This takes place annually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to ask shoppers to consider donating money to non-profit organizations, and museums also participate in asking visitors to donate to help support museums. It is ironic that while museums participate in Giving Tuesday to convince people to give charity to these museums, museum executives and boards are not using the same mentality of charity to its hard-working staff. While I was celebrating Thanksgiving and working at the Long Island Explorium, I came across the blogpost “Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums” by Seema Rao, and I started to think about the current state of museum professionals’ salaries and working conditions. Articles and blog posts like this one prove that while we are bringing more awareness to the situation we have so far to go to make the changes we need to make for our museums. Another thing that these articles,blog posts, seminars, etc. about salaries and the museum workforce have in common is the salary is the most talked about topic in our field right now.

Our field needs to be doing more to make changes in how we pay our staff and the working conditions in the museum. As Rao pointed out, staff are aware of how low their salaries are:

Junior staff members see their peers making vastly more in other sectors. Colleagues are learning that peers in other parts of their organizations are making more for the same job, and they are unhappy. Mid-career professionals are looking around for other jobs that pay better.

Museum educators are definitely not happy with the current state of salaries in the field. It was one of the topics discussed in NYCMER’sprogram last year “Career Growth in Museum Education” in which we not only focused on  how to build and sustain careers in museum education but we talked about the survey results from the “Why are Great Museum Workers Leaving the Field?” survey conducted in September 2016. According to the results of the survey, which were also shared in the “Leaving the Museum Field” article on AAM’s website, the pay was too low was the number one reason respondents who answered why they left the field. 

I also wrote a reaction piece to the AAM article last year highlighting my thoughts about the conditions of the museum field. In that post, I said that 

I still believe museums can illuminate an individual’s educational experience, and by continuing in the museum field I hope to make an impact on the public. It is a challenge to accomplish this when there are things that prevent me from fulfilling this goal.

This statement is just as true now as it was then. Unfortunately, for many museum professionals including myself, the challenges preventing us from fulfilling our goals in our careers is continuing to present problems that make us want action to be taken to correct our field sooner. And we should be not only having more open discussions about salaries with one another and with our executives we need to see results to keep our passions for our work alive. 

We cannot make effective change without bringing awareness of this issue to the executives and museum boards who make the big decisions to run the museum. Rao has pointed out that

Museums replicate some elements of corporate America, giving their CEO’s higher salaries. But, they have chosen to ignore others. Lower level staff generally doesn’t have any perks that keep them there. Flex time, infinite vacation, and profit-sharing don’t generally exist in museums. Instead, museum staff members remain in place due to their drives and hopes. There is the dream that their penury will have a long-term payoff when they get to the top, or their martyrdom is worth being part of this amazing mission. For others, there is no job mobility. The majority of cities in America don’t have enough museums for professionals to move from museum job to museum job without moving. In other words, museum executives get the benefit of corporate salaries while leading a group of people who might feel trapped by their ideals.

By changing the way museums are run to make them resemble corporations, the staff are the ones that pay the price of greater hardship within their personal and professional lives. While we may be holding on to our passions for museums and to our hopes of having a long-term payoff for the hard work we put in, we cannot hold on forever. Eventually, if we have not done so already, will burn out and be trapped in a never-ending loop of the hardship while the higher ups will reap the rewards they see in their paths.

A question was posed in the blog post that resonatedwith me: If we can’t even preserve our staff at a living wage, why should people trust us with their collections or money?

Since the purpose of many museums is to preserve its collections, we will not be able to do the work that we do if museums continue down this path of paying its staff low wages. What museum executives and boards seem to not realize, as Rao has beautifully stressed in her post, is the staff engage with the visitors on a regular basis and the visitors’ impressions of the museum also depend on how the staff treats them. Staff members may be able to conceal their unhappiness with their work conditions and low salaries, but there may be days that they are  unable to conceal it as well and this could easily effect how they interact with the visitors. 

If the executives and boards are not willing to properly compensate their staff with living wages and create a safe work environment, then how can they convince visitors to come into our doors?

For those who do not workin the museum field, please keep in mind what museum workers are going throughand be supportive to them. To learn more, please read the following sources:

Recap: The 100th Annual New England Museum Association Conference

It has been a long time since I talked about my experience and experienced the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference. After a few years of not being able to attend the conference, I chose to attend the 100th annual NEMA conference. As always, I had a positive learning experience as well as reunited with a number of colleagues I have met at previous conferences and met with new conference participants. It was located at the Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Stamford, Connecticut, and the theme of the conference was Museums on the Move which explored how museums have evolved since the very first NEMA conference and how they are positioning themselves for success in the century ahead.

A few days before the conference began, NEMA conference attendants were made aware of the labor situation at the Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in which hotel workers were protesting unfair wages. While NEMA considered moving the conference to another location, NEMA decided that it was not practical considering the size of the NEMA conference and the relatively short time frame before the conference; the full NEMA statement can be found here: There have been some participants that decided to not attend the conference or decided to not hold sessions in the hotel as a result, and as a museum community we supported their decisions. During the keynote session, NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger dedicated time to talk about the labor situation at the hotel and a couple of staff members from the hotel spoke to us about what the work conditions were like at the hotel. Throughout our conference experience, discussions about the labor situation emphasized the importance of recognizing one another as hard workers who should and deserve to do and see changes made in our fields.

Also during the NEMA session, we heard more about the 100-yearhistory of NEMA and the NEMA conference. They introduced a pop-up exhibit which displayed a timeline of NEMA’s history and allowed conference participants to add their own museum’s history to the timeline using Post-Its, markers, and dry erase boards. What was also added to the exhibit was the wishes for NEMA and the museum field inside boxes that were lifted by the NEMA staff and keynote session presenters in front of the whole conference.

@Steward2Lindsey: Whoa! #nema2018

Each of the sessions I selected to attend during the week were both for my personal interest and also to gather information for the Long Island Explorium and the Three Village Historical Society. On the first day, I attended a session called The STEAM Dream Team in which I learned how collaboration between institutions can create meaningful STEAM programming from educators at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Connecticut Science Center; they discussed how an initial joint-school program evolved, and continues to evolve, into a multivalent partnership that benefits both institutions. Also, the session included a hands-on STEAM activity using shadows, light and colors. and practical tips for starting our own art/science collaboration. Then I attended a session called Continuing Education for Your Most Committed(and Creative) Life-Long Learners which considers experiences of long-serving volunteer educators from the standpoint of their interest in and capacity for new learning, in subject matter and pedagogical techniques; I learned about different tailored programs that can refresh docents’ intellectual lives, keeping them up to date and incorporate reflective, cyclical self-assessment and these developmental strategies can be applied to all subject areas. The last session I attended for the day was Power Dynamics and Workplace Culture: A Think Tank in which I participated in a discussion about how to help colleagues examine power dynamics and workplace culture in museums by sharing solutions and ideas for moving the field towards a more equitable and transparent future.

In the evening I attended the Opening ceremony at the Bruce Museum of Art and Science in Greenwich which was originally built in 1853 as a private home on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor, and the museum has emerged as one of the area’s premier institutions highlighting art, science, and natural history. I strolled through the permanent collection galleries featuring art from legendary Cos Cob Impressionists (including Childe Hassam, Emil Carlsen, Leonard and Mina Fonda Ochtman, and Elmer McRae among others), a spectacular mineral and natural history collection, and American material culture spanning the Colonial period to the present day. Also, I went into the giftshop to purchase a few items, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, and since I attended the ceremony I received a free book about the Bruce Museum’s collections.

The next day, I attendedthe session Beyond the School Visit:Museum and District Collaboration in which representatives from The AldrichMuseum and the Ridgefield Public Schools discussed their collaboration and howthey evolved school visits into “deep dive” programming resulting in district-wide, cross-disciplinary curriculum, learning opportunities for educators, school memberships, and experiences for students that align with their respective missions. We listened to museum management, district administrators, and a parent on how the collaboration evolved and how it impacts their institutions; afterwards we were engaged in an activity that was designed to inspired partnerships rooted in reciprocity, shared values, and innovation. The next session I went to was a session called How Visitor-Centered Are We? which was a follow up to the last year’s seminar discussion about truth in museums, and the discussion continued with examining the continuing shift to create more visitor-centered environments and what this means in the context of today’s society. This session also came with selected pre-readings in which we used to examine and share ideas and examples of inclusion, diversity and access, both physical and cultural, to help us understand how they shape, or should shape, our work today. The last session of the day I attended was called Finding Your Voice on Social Media which provided an overview of how Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can become powerful tools for our organizations and connect with a greater audience.

Since this was the lastday of the conference, I attended two sessions before the conference luncheonand annual meeting. The first session was called Re-Imagining the Future! Museums for Tomorrow in which I learned howthree institutions of art, culture, and science are transforming their facilities and programming for the 21st century and beyond. This had a panel discussion that explored three significant capital projects at the Barnum Museum, Bruce Museum, and Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, and they addressed mater planning and design, construction and interpretive planning. The last session was called Integrating Skill Building into Museum Programs for Children and Caregivers which had hands-on science activities introduced by science center and children’s museum staff that can be facilitated in a variety of museum settings; these activities can be used to look beyond the product or content goals and think about how children can practice important developmental and science process skills as they participate, and the presenters shared strategies for engaging caregivers in the process of their children’s learning and helping them recognize the skill development that is taking place.

At the conferenceluncheon and annual meeting we continued the celebration of NEMA’s 100thanniversary by recognizing winners of the 2018 NEMA Excellence Awards and commemorate the career of Larry Yerdon, NEMA’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Awardee. Yerdon, President & CEO of Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH, has had a distinguished career in museums, an active supporter of NEMA its President, and has mentored countless museum professionals as they built their own careers in the field. During the lunch, conference participants heard about NEMA’s latest initiatives, then we helped elect the next NEMA board and officers during a brief annual meeting before heading home from the conference.

The conference experience is just as I remembered in terms of socializingwith former colleagues and new acquaintances. It meant a lot to me to be ableto participate in the 100th conference, and the additional momentsthat highlighted its 100 year history stood out to me; reading the timeline made me realize how much I did not know about NEMA and I am happy to have learned about this rich history. Meanwhile, the sessions themselves have not only been informative but presented fascinating information that I am happy to share with colleagues in New York (including colleagues at the Long Island Explorium and the Three Village Historical Society) and everyone in the museum online community reading this blog post.

If you would like to learn more about each session Idescribed above or have any questions, please contact me on social media or here:

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.


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

How Museums Are Looking Back and Moving Forward

Added to Medium, October 25, 2018

As museums plan for the future, museum professionals are looking back at how much progress the museum field has come and how much we still need to accomplish as a field. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the field within the museum walls and within our communities. There are numerous examples of this push to move forward in the museum field. I have previously mentioned the changes museums are working towards continuing to be relevant in the community and the world in many posts in the past. I will mention a couple of recent examples I have come across that express this point.

Professional development programming, especially conferences, have sessions that stress how museums can adapt to changes in communities and society. This year I am returning to attending the New England Museum Association conference since I was not able to attend previous conferences once I moved to Long Island. Next month, the NEMA conference will celebrate its 100th annual conference. This conference’s theme is Museums on the Move, and each session investigates how museums have evolved since the very first NEMA conference and how they are positioning themselves for success in the century ahead. One of the points that was addressed about this year’s conference that is very poignant was:

It’s our field’s chance to take stock - to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we are going, and to reset our GPS if necessary along the way.

We are still trying to figure out as a field what we need to improve our field and our relationship with the community around us. I am looking forward to participating in this year’s conference, and learning how the museums I am with and how all museums can move forward in adapting to changes in our institutions and in our society.

Another recent example is within tonight’s MuseumEdChat on Twitter about museums and specialty programs. We talked about the topic Evaluating the Effectiveness of Specialty Programs by looking at cultural heritage or history month programming, along with large anniversaries or milestone celebrations. The first question that was addressed is What “specialty” programs (i.e. Women’s History Month, Native American Heritage Month, etc.) are out there in museums and cultural institutions? There are varying answers to this question depending on what type of museum and what their focus is in programming.

The next question asked was: In your opinion, what makes a good specialty program? Of course there were varying opinions since these museum professionals work in museums that are different types. For instance, I mentioned science museums in my opinion:

A2 For science, I believe what would make a good specialty program is paying attention to what is happening in current events i.e. climate changes. #museumedchat

Another opinion I came across in the Twitter conversation was focused on history museums.

A2: For history…1- Asking how the subject applies to the present/future. 2- General commitment to finding stories about a group of people. #museumedchat

Since I also work in a historical society, I concur with this opinion since keeping history relevant is especially important for all programming and exhibits in history museums and historic sites. One of the final questions in this discussion was about the side effect of having specialty programs.

The question specifically asked was: What are the downsides and/or general pitfalls of specialty programs? One of the answers that stood out to me was:

A3- it is easy to get wrapped up in the same old programming with specialty program. I also think it can create misconceptions if not done correctly, especially if it’s about a cultural group. Lastly, it worries me that sometimes we limit to heroes and holidays…. #museumedchat

This stood out to me because I think this is a common concern for many museum educators especially since we have so much more to offer than what we commonly do for programming. I do not think that we can resolve this situation with one recommendation since each museum is different and has a different focus in education programming.

Online communities, like #MuseumEdChat, are great examples of how museum professionals are continuing the discussions of how museums should move forward with changes needed for museums to be relevant for today’s society and community.

What are your museums and organizations doing to continue the discussion of how your organization has changed and will continue change?

Special Blog Post: The 100th Blog Post

Added to Medium, October 11, 2018

Time has definitely flown by so quickly. I remember as if it was only yesterday when I first started writing my blog on the Medium website. Now I am writing the 100th blog post on my own website. In the two years I have been writing the blog, I have heard from so many of you who have been reading and leaving comments about the posts. I am very thankful for all of you for reading and following my blog whether you started following two years, two months, two weeks, or two days ago. I read all of the responses that were made in various places where I shared each blog post: on my website, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, my Medium page, and my Facebook page. The following are examples of comments shared on each of the previously listed sites.

On the blog post Reaction: The Value of Small Museums, one of the comments from my website shared their perspective in working in a small museum:

I work at a small museum and I understand the comment. Better as in better paying or better as in more hours or better as in more professional. Many museums don’t pay or pay very little. I wouldn’t be offended by that comment. I am learning new skills and helping inspire and teach people something about the past they didn’t know. My work is important, people are often amazed at how knowledgeable I am and what they learned so I see both sides of the issue.
-The Time Treasurer

On the blog post Planning a Summer Program: My Experience Creating a Summer Camp Program, one of the comments on the website asked for further information about the summer program:

What a wonderful idea! Surely the [participants] were thrilled. How much of an age difference was there and why do you think this was the case. Will you state age range in future efforts or go with the flow? Fantastic energy and idea. Great article! Thank you.

Some comments also shared relevant sources to add to the discussion introduced in the blog posts. For example, on the blog post Patron Request: People’s Experiences during the Great Depression they shared their presentation on Medium from the Proceedings of the National Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012:

I wrote a paper on this topic when I was an undergrad. I interviewed three of my grandparents about their memories of Franklin Roosevelt and used those to shape a review of FDR’s rhetoric: 

Other comments on Medium have written about how relevant the topics the blog posts were to individuals in and out of the museum field. There was one who wrote their comment about the Significant Resources in the Museum Field:

Lindsey Steward many of your suggestions also apply to historians. I haven’t engaged in the particular museum partnerships you have described, but blogs and public media have been a great method for me to learn and grow.

In particular I have found podcasting and the audio documentary field as a wonderful set of media to teach historians new skills to engage with an audience and to help people learn. I have found several tools useful in that, with blogs, organizations.

Other resources that have helped me grow as a historian and develop new skills are programming and digital humanities work. For instance forums and online courses are great sets of resources with formal and informal sets of instruction. These have been the biggest ways to help.

One last thing I’d share is undertaking projects. While many resources have been useful to help me learn about new ways to engage and think about my profession, but they have also shown me that the best way to learn is to model and try. Ive tried to experiment with lots of different tools and such, which have taught me immensely through experience.

Just a few thoughts to reply

Thanks for the provoking post!


Another comment written about the blog post What Grants Mean for Museums, which I shared on LinkedIn, expressed gratitude for writing on this topic:

As a public historian trying to break into grant writing to help support museums and historic sites I found this very encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

On Twitter I noticed that there are individuals who retweet the posts I shared to followers and readers. Some have added their own comments to their retweets and shares. This is one of the tweets I saw after I shared my blog post “Leaving the Museum Field”: A Reaction to the Alliance Labs Blog:

“Leaving the Museum Field”: A Reaction to the Alliance Labs Blog - Museums will not change overnight, we have to keep having these conversations to evoke change. This is something that is really resonating with me atm #EvokeChange … … via @Steward2Lindsey

I have also had a couple of conversations on Twitter related to the blog posts I shared. One of them had asked me if they could use some of the information from my post Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space to use in their proposal to their local museum to consider opening a space for something similar to a maker space. Another conversation I had was about a book and book review I wrote for Katie Stringer’s Programming for People with Special Needs: A Guide for Museums and Historic Sites; they wished that they found the review sooner so they could use it for their capstone research but thought that having a personal connection to the topic like I have is helpful in creating educational programs for all capabilities.

Each of the comments I read gave me so much insight on what individuals thought about the blog post and their insights on the topic. While I was not able to include every single comment I read from the past couple of years, I am thankful to all of you for sharing your thoughts, expertise, suggestions, and appreciations. I started writing this blog to not only record my own experiences but to start conversations among individuals who are in and out of the museum field. This blog will continue to write about history, the museum field, and other topics suggested by all of you.

Thank you all for these past two years, and I look forward to many more in the future!

I also have an announcement: Next week I will be taking a break from writing a new blog posts because I will be preparing to visit family and celebrating my 30th birthday! I will continue to share previous blog posts so you will still have plenty to read.

Global Perspectives on Museums

Added to Medium, September 20, 2018

I recently received AAM’s recent Museum magazine, What Binds Us? Global Perspectives Local Solutions, in the mail. As I read the articles, it made me think about my own experience in learning more about perspectives outside of the country. The magazine provided numerous examples of how museums outside of the United States face similar situations U.S. museums deal with as museums continue to maintain their relevance in society.

In her introduction letter, Laura Lott, the president of AAM, wrote about the importance of connecting with other countries around the globe. Lott revealed in her letter that she expanded her knowledge of countries around the world in her earlier years. She went to Tokyo, Japan as an exchange student for a year. Lott briefly revealed this about her experience:

I learned more during that year—about the world, about myself, and about life—than I could have in 12 years of school. A global perspective will do that. In many ways, I am still on that journey, as one of the greatest attributes of museums is their ability to create fresh vantage points from which you can see the world.

By having a global perspective, one can learn so much about the world around us and about oneself. I had a couple of similar experiences of having a global perspective, and I wish to broaden my global perspective more than I have in the past.

When I was a young child, I traveled outside of the United States for the first time. I went to Ontario with my family. A couple of things we did on this trip was to see Niagara Falls and saw a documentary about the history of Ontario and Niagara Falls. In middle school, I went on a French class trip to Quebec where we met our French-Canadian pen pals.

Before traveling to Quebec, my class were assigned to French-Canadian students of the same age to communicate our experiences in French. I learned a lot from the experience and from my pen pal Audrey. For months we communicated about various things such as what our schools were like as well as our families, our favorite places to visit, and what activities we like to do. Our teacher arranged to have our class travel to Quebec to meet our pen pals in person.

During this trip to Quebec, my class and I explored Quebec City learning about the history and culture of the French Canadian city. While we were in the City, our class stayed in the Chateau Frontenac, a historic hotel located in the historic neighborhood of Quebec City. The Chateau Frontenac opened in 1893, and was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981. Then we traveled on foot around the historic neighborhood and visited many sites including historic churches and The Battlefields Park where it is home to 50 historical artillery pieces. We met with our pen pals during our visit, and talked with them about our visit so far. Our class learned about maple syrup and ate at a place where the maple syrup was gathered. Also, we went to Village des Sports where we went tubing. While I treasure these memories, I do wish to continue to broaden my global perspective.

When individuals visit museums and historic sites they can learn so much about history and culture, as well as making connections with the people around the world. Lott discussed identifying with one another and learning from one another:

When we at AAM discuss issues with our counterparts in the United Kingdom and Europe, South America, and even farther afield, we find that issues we had thought were uniquely American are more universal than we had imagined. Race relations, complex histories, even models of advocacy and funding—museums around the world are laboratories in which we can hold these issues up to the light in order to understand them better.

Since these issues are universal, we can communicate with one another about what all museums can do to educate our global community and resolve problems our institutions face. In my previous blog post, What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums, I pointed out “If we continue to engage with museum professionals both within our country and outside of the country, we will not only have a better understanding of one another we will also be leading by example on dealing with current issues in the world.” There are a few examples of museum organizations that help museum professionals around the globe help one another in pursuit of understanding and education.

In my blog post, I discussed about Museum Next, Museums Associations, and the International Council of Museums. These museum organizations have the common goal of serving the global community.

Museum Next is an organization that began in 2009 with the question “what’s next for museums?” They discovered that the answer to this question is as varied as the people who are building it. This organization builds a global community of museum leaders, innovators and makers who champion future thinking in museums. MuseumNext has led to collaborations that span the globe, and the influence of this passionate community can be seen in action in museums all over the world. It offers conferences held throughout the year in Europe, North America and Australia to offer participants the opportunity to hear inspiring presentations, pick up career skills in expert hosted workshops and network with fellow delegates.
Museums Association is a UK based organization that inspires museums to change lives. It is the oldest museums association in the world (set up in 1889) based in London, and is independently funded by memberships.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization created in 1946 by and for museum professionals with more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community.

Global work in the museum field is discussed in the articles featured in the Museum magazine.

I will share a couple of examples from the magazine to show common issues museums face and the work museums throughout the world do to serve their communities. One of the examples is the article “Full Engagement: Museums globally are expanding their social role—and value—by engaging underserved communities” by Yael Grauer (p.17-21) which discussed the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities change to serve the local community since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and discussed how this museum and other cultural institutions are working to figure out how to better engage with underserved communities. Grauer shared a few tips on how to engage with underserved communities:

1. Think local. When making programmatic decisions, put yourself in the place of the people in your community that you want to serve. Consult with people who already work with the communities you’re trying to reach. Asking questions and being open to seeing things from another perspective will help you develop skills to apply to new programs or initiatives.

2. Make time to listen. While museums excel at structured programming, sometimes it’s important just to listen, particularly when you are visiting people in their schools or homes. Often, people want to share their own small treasures or connection with the art. This is a good way to strengthen your museum’s connection with the community.

3. Embrace new ways of operating. Engaging different audiences may mean that the museum needs to move from its comfort zone and try new things, or focus more on relationships than imparting knowledge.

4. Learn from peers. Seek out projects that are similar to what you’re trying to do so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely need to develop new ideas or make adaptations to meet the specific, unique needs of your community or institution.

5. Be patient. Accept that you might make some missteps at first. It takes time to draw interest from different parts of the local community.

These tips can help all museums around the world engage with their communities, especially their underserved communities. With adjustments to reflect what the communities’ needs are, following these tips will help museum professionals on the path to better serving communities within their countries.

Another example of articles in this magazine is “Confronting Canada” by Karine Duhamela (p. 32-37). The Canadian Museum for Human Rights attempted to tell the story of Canada’s history as it celebrates the country’s 150th anniversary in 2017. A tough reality check came during the celebration for the country as a historical and contemporary world model for peace, tolerance, and respect for human rights with projects and stories that emphasized themes of diversity, inclusion, youth, the environment, and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The definition of reconciliation was challenged since for most Indigenous people the country’s anniversary is not a cause for celebration; they saw this as a celebration of 150 years or more of land theft forced assimilation, and genocide. This argument caught curators and interpretive staff’s attention and worked to find out how they could approach the reconciliation process in a different way to tell a different story. The article shared three keys to meaningful engagement which are: invest in relationships, invest in time, and invest in resources. Meaningful engagement is a continued effort for all museums especially for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights who continue to work with Indigenous peoples.

The lessons shared in this edition of the magazine would help all museums face similar situations within their own communities. By sharing these lessons, museums will be able to effectively serve the global community and strengthen all of our global perspectives.

What museums and sites outside of the United States have you visited? How did your experiences help shape your perspective of the world around you?

Museum magazine, What Binds Us? Global Perspectives Local Solutions, September/October 2018, American Alliance of Museums
What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums, October 26, 2017,

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?

“With New Urgency, Museums Cultivate Curators of Color” by Robin Pogrebin:

US Office of Personnel Management: