How to Find the Balance between Work and Family? An Important Discussion We Need to Acknowledge

Added to Medium, February 1, 2018

Museum professionals who either decide to start or have families of their own or have other dependents need to figure out how they can balance work and life outside of the museum. This balance is what I need to continue to consider as I plan to be married next year, and continue to spend time with family. Finding the right balance is not going to be easy since life is unpredictable.

I knew going in that balancing work and life is a challenge, and I should try to be as flexible as possible. My experience in the museum field has presented a number of instances when I need to figure out how to balance work and family. For instance, it is a challenge to visit my family when they live in other states.

I have an older sister who lives with her husband and two boys in Connecticut, and a younger sister who lives with her husband in Rhode Island. The rest of my family live around the New England area. As a museum professional who works in a small museum, I wear many hats when I assist in running programs and finances. It is hard sometimes when I cannot always go up to visit family as long as I want to. During the holidays, we planned a brunch so all of us are able to spend time together and we are able to spend time with extended family within the same day; this worked well with me especially because my fiancé and I went to brunch at my sister’s then we went back to spend time with his family.

I am grateful for the time I am able to spend with family, and being able to balance museum work and family is important to me. I always look for resources on how to balance museum work and family life since it is never too early to figure out how to plan for the future.

In the past, I came across information about balancing work and family life in the museum field. I kept the information in mind while I was attending graduate school, and beginning my career in the museum education field.

Recently I have been reintroduced to a blog post written on American Association of State and Local History’s website written back in 2016 by Melissa Prycer, the President/Executive Director of the Dallas Heritage Village. The AASLH blog post, “Baby Boom: Motherhood & Museums”, shared two stories about Prycer’s friends and colleagues experiences dealing with balancing work and family, as well as workplace leave policies.

It caught my attention again because now that I am planning more on my future. By reading this blog and other resources, we will be prepared for what we need to know what is going on in the topic of workplace leave policies and motherhood.

I began thinking more about the balance of work and life when I participated in the MuseumEdChat discussion last week on this topic. The hosts of this chat posed questions about this topic and participants answered their questions.

One of the questions that was posed and discussed about was: When you hear the phrase “family friendly workplace,” what does mean to you? When I hear “family friendly workplace”, I think that this is an organization that understands that family takes priority especially when unpredictable circumstances happen such as when one’s child is sick and needs to be brought to the doctor.

Museums and museum professionals also need to acknowledge that there are different types of families that need to be cared for, and when we acknowledge this in our programming our family friendly workplace policies should reflect this fact as well.

A website called Incluseum had written a blog post that discussed acknowledging different types of families called “Including the 21st Century Family”. The 21st century family is a term created by the writer to acknowledge the fact that families are unique, and by using the term family it suggests that we see families as “a nuclear family with two heterosexual legally married parents of the same race and their biological children, residing in the same household.”

The blog post included a list of family-inclusive language words that helps museums be more inclusive to all visitors. For instance, instead of calling adults accompanying children “parents” or “mom and dad”, since it suggests that all children have moms and dads which is not the case, museum professionals should use “grownup”, “adult”, or “caregiver”.

If we pay this close attention to how we treat our family visitors, we should extend the same amount of attention to our own museum professionals’ families.

Since I do not have children of my own yet, it is important that I should learn what other museum professional parents deal with and desire from family friendly workplace policies to prepare for what I may consider in the future. I read other participants tweets responding to questions the hosts posted.

Another question that was posed was: If you could design your dream set of benefits that would give you true “work life fit” what would it look like?

One of the participants pointed out that it is important to make sure museum professionals who dedicate a big chunk of their lives to fulfill the museum’s mission get benefits that include paid family leave, health insurance, and opportunities for professional growth.

During the discussion, Sage, one of the hosts of last week’s MuseumEdChat, shared information from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on Family and Medical Leave. According to their website, this organization produces reports, fact sheets, and memoranda about the impacts of proposed paid leave laws to inform policymakers, business leaders, and advocates across the country. The information the Institute provides identifies costs and benefits of workplace leave policies to help people understand that these policies do not harm businesses and the economy.

When we take a good look at what our museums have to offer and what museums should do to help us balance work and family, we will be able to successfully accomplish our museums’ goals while being able to make memories with our families and have families of our own if we choose to.

Does your museum or organization provide leave policies and/or services for your families? How do you balance time between work and family?

Resources:
https://iwpr.org/issue/work-family/family-and-medical-leave/
http://blogs.aaslh.org/baby-boom-motherhood-and-museums/
https://incluseum.com/2014/07/07/including-the-21st-century-family/

A Closer Look into Museum Volunteers and Volunteer Programs

Added to Medium, January 25, 2018

Museum workers are valuable to museums, especially those who volunteer their time to help the museums run. During my experience as a museum educator, I have worked with volunteers as well as participated in professional development programs about volunteers and volunteer programs.

As I am in the middle of helping rewrite the Three Village Historical Society’s docent manual, I thought about my previous experiences and professional development I participated in. In one of my previous blog posts, “Professional Development Programs: Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs”, I wrote about my previous experiences working with volunteers and working as a volunteer in my early career. A couple of my most recent experiences working with volunteers were previously managing volunteers for school programs at the Long Island Museum, and writing down records of sailing tour hours at the Long Island Maritime Museum.

At the Long Island Museum, I oversaw scheduling volunteers to assist with larger school programs based on their availability and discussed with them what the students got from the lessons. Then at the Long Island Maritime Museum, I volunteered for a school tour, collected admission for a Boat Burning event, Past Perfect data entry and preserving books by scanning pages, and working at the visitor services desk. Based on my perspective, I can understand what volunteers need to complete their goals as well as making sure their work accomplishes work museums’ need to accomplish their mission.

To make sure we understand what we should expect from our volunteer programs, it is important to learn from colleagues through professional development programs and written information such as books and articles.

One of the professional development programs I attended was the American Alliance of Museums’ EdComVersation. The EdComVersation I attended was called “Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs” with several presenters giving case studies of how volunteer programs are run at different museums or organizations. Each case study provide advice on how we can run our volunteer programs and make sure we utilize volunteers’ time to everyone’s advantage. Museums should evaluate the volunteers and the volunteer programs since evaluations can help give volunteers information they need to do better work and can help museums nab problems early (problems with program or problem volunteers). Also, by evaluating volunteers and volunteer programs it conveys appreciation and reinforce value of volunteers; motivates volunteers to do both their personal best and give positive impact on the museums; and it allows museum to improve volunteer program.

Another resource that is good to learn about managing volunteer programs and working with volunteers is a book Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman. In their book, Van Hoven and Wellman discussed what museum volunteers are and the importance of museum volunteers especially today. Van Hoven and Wellman gave solid advice on volunteer recruitment, communication, and retention strategies. They answered various questions about volunteers including: What are new volunteers looking for? How can you develop a successful relationship with potential volunteers? How can your museum support a robust and active volunteer program? How do you reward volunteers and keep them for the long term? How can you meet volunteers’ needs and still benefit from their work?

Their book also provided sample documents for managing volunteer programs. It has a sample of a volunteer job description and a volunteer application. There are also samples of volunteer interview questionnaire, volunteer evaluation forms, recognition letters, and certificate of recognition. I have also found another resource that is helpful with museum volunteer programs.

The resource I found is a technical bulletin called Building a successful museum volunteer services program written by Robbin Davis who is a Volunteer and Marketing Manager at the Oklahoma Museum of History. According to Davis, the questions that volunteers think about when considering volunteering at a museum are: how do they fit into the picture, how can they be useful and how much time will it take? Can they give tours? Can they work with artifacts? Can they interact with the public? Are there social activities? Does it cost?

Davis also went into specific details about how to build volunteer programs. For instance, Robbin discussed incorporating the mission statement in the volunteer program. In the bulletin, it stated that

A mission specific to the Volunteer program should frame the program within the context of the overall museum mission. Make sure it is attainable and a staff decision. If the volunteer program is already established, let the volunteers help create the mission or “freshen” up an existing one.

By incorporating the museum’s mission, potential volunteers will be able to see how they would be able to contribute to the museum and what the museum stands for.

The technical bulletin also discussed the importance of having a volunteer reference manual, marketing materials to promote the volunteer program, and forms for volunteers to fill out. Also, it stated that there are important questions that need to be asked as a volunteer program is being developed such as

Who does your museum serve? What is the volunteer history of the museum? Have there been volunteers before? How were they utilized? What kind of program was it? Was it effective? Why? Why not?

When museum staff figure out the answers to the previously stated questions, they will be able to have an effective and successful volunteer program that will generate dedicated volunteers to help museums fulfill their missions.

Museum volunteers are significant in helping museums function. Volunteers have skills that can be useful in various aspects within the museums’ departments. By focusing on establishing a successful volunteer program, museums are able to not only provide opportunities for positive experiences for volunteers but they will be able to promote your organizations.

What is your relationship with your volunteers like? What ways does your organization recognize its volunteers?

Resources:
Van Hoven, Kristy and Loni Wellman, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
“Professional Development Programs: Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs”
Building a successful museum volunteer services program

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

Added to Medium, January 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum boards meet frequently, but attendance is mediocre.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a willingness to learn

Extend civic reach

Help the CEO think

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

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

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

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

What Can We Do About Admission Fees to Our Museums?

Added to Medium, January 11, 2018

In the 1970s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art developed an admissions policy that allowed all visitors could pay what they wished or what they were able. However, according to National Public Radio, beginning March 1st adults who live outside New York state and who are out of school will have to pay $25 to enter the museum; seniors will pay $17, students outside the tri-state area will pay $12, and children under 12 will still enter for free.

Since The Met’s Admission policy change was announced, the museum community has talked about the debate on admission rates for museums. When I heard about the change in the admissions policy, I had mixed reactions to the news. On the one hand there is a risk of alienating potential visitors from having access to museum’s exhibits and programs, and on the other hand I understand that securing funding for museums is never easy.

It has been a week since the announcement was made, and I read a number of articles as well as blog posts about it. Also, I participated in a discussion with other museum professionals in the field. After reading about and discussing this announcement, I do have mixed feelings on it still but, like everyone else discussing it, it made me think more about the admission fee issue and about my experiences dealing with admission policies. As a museum professional, I have heard so many visitors opinions on admission fees being too high and too low.

Many museums have different admission policies based on their operation budgets and funding they may or may not receive from donors and sometimes the government. The decision on what the admission prices to museums is not an easy one to make. Many museum professionals and visitors debate over what would be an appropriate amount to pay admission to museums.

Seema Rao stated on her website Brilliant Idea Studio in her blog “Let them Eat Cake (Instead of Visiting the Met): The Problems with the Metropolitan Museum’s Ticket Fee” her thoughts on the Met’s change in the admission policy. One of the points she stated about the issues it raises for her was on a museum’s value vs. cost; she described three types of museum visitors and pointed out that museums need to understand that fees mean different things to different people.

Last week I participated in the MuseumEdChat discussion where we talked about admission fees for museums. For those not familiar with MuseumEdChat, it is a group discussion that takes place on Thursdays on Twitter. The moderator asked participants questions based on the admission fees topic.

One of the questions asked was: What are your thoughts about ticket fees? I responded with,

A1 1/2 I think it depends on the museum because each museum has different budgets, and amounts of revenues. Some museums depend heavily on admission sales and others depend on admission sales a little less since they may have more assistance from grants #MuseumEdChat
A1 2/2 It is hard to tell all museums to stop ticket sales since no museum is exactly the same as another. #museumedchat

I was asked if there are factors that help the museum make the ideal decision on ticket fees. In response I stated that,

Museum professionals should collaborate with their financial department colleagues to look at current/past records and the trends between increases/decreases in ticket fees. If we know where we came from financially, it would be simpler to know how we can proceed #museumedchat

It is important for colleagues to collaborate with one another to keep the museum fulfilling its mission. Museum departments can learn how to help their museum function by learning about finances from their financial departments or from other resources if there is no financial department. We would have a better understanding of how museums function by learning about grants, fundraisers, income reports, et. al.

Another question that was asked during the MuseumEdChat was: What is the ideal role of education in fundraising? During the conversation I pointed out that

Education can show the responses and reactions of both staff and visitors who participate in museum programs. By sharing these responses/reactions, we can make an argument on how funding is significant in running a program (time and supplies for example) #museumedchat

When I was at the Long Island Museum, I and the rest of the education department gave a presentation to the Board about the programs that have occurred and ones that were coming up. We shared results of participants reactions, and the statistics of how many people have attended the programs and the amount of revenue each program generated. By giving a presentation to a Board of Directors and donors in a meeting or fundraiser, education departments have the opportunity to show how their programs benefit the museum. The Met was not the only museum that is looking into changing its admission fees.

Other museums have also considered changing their admission prices as well. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum, for instance, are seeking approval from the Chicago Park District for admission-fee increases. Both of the museums are asking the Park District Board to vote on raising general admission fees effective on February 1st to help offset increased costs in building maintenance and operations.

In the end, the debate over admission policies are not easy to come to a conclusion on this subject. Museum professionals should keep in mind all aspects of funding, including admission fees.

What was your reaction to the Met’s change in admission policy? How do you feel about museum admission fees?

Resources to What I Referenced and Read on the Admission Fee:
www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-museum-admission-fee-increase-20180108-story.html
http://www.vulture.com/2018/01/the-mets-admission-fee-hike-points-at-a-much-bigger-problem.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=s3&utm_campaign=sharebutton-b
https://brilliantideastudio.com/museums/let-them-eat-cake-instead-of-visiting-the-met-the-problems-with-the-metropolitan-museums-ticket-fee/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/arts/design/met-museum-admissions.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/arts/design/the-met-should-be-open-to-all-the-new-pay-policy-is-a-mistake.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/04/575751847/the-met-is-set-to-snap-nearly-5-decades-of-pay-as-you-wish-tradition?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
https://brilliantideastudio.com/art-museums/nickles-dimes-and-tough-times-the-relationship-between-visitors-revenue-and-value/
https://www.colleendilen.com/2018/01/10/mets-admission-price-will-not-hurt-accessibility-may-help-data/

Our Museum Plans for 2018

Added to Medium, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year! I am back to writing more on this blog after taking time to celebrate the holidays and work on holiday activities with museum visitors. We are officially in 2018, and there is so much to hope to accomplish this year in museums.

For instance, I hope to continue molding my skills as a museum education professional and help my field become a more inclusive field. With the museum field continuing to grow, we learn from one another about how we can serve our communities and help our colleagues fulfill their personal and professional goals. I am thankful to all of you who have continued to read my blog posts, and reading what I have to say about the field.

We all gather together in person and online to share what we learned in the field, and it is important to work together to move the museum field forward. Many museum professionals have been discussing their wishes and resolutions for 2018.

For instance, there are museum professionals that expressed their wish to dedicate time to read more books in the field. In the Sustainable Museums blog, they talked about one of the books that are written about the future of museums.

The author did a short book review of The Future of Natural History Museums, edited by Eric Dorfman and published by Routledge for the International Council of Museums (ICOM). According to the blog post, The Future of Natural History Museums takes a look at “where natural history museums have been, are right now, and may rightly go if their staff and leaders are courageous enough to venture forth in the manner humanity requires.” While this book is for and about natural history museums, the arguments presented in the book can be easily widen to all types of museums since it is our responsibility as a field to provide research and discussion about what we all can do to preserve our planet’s future.

Other museum professionals also focus on what we can do as a museum community to continue to improve visitors awareness of what we offer.

On the Wilkening Consulting website, Susie Wilkening pointed out what museums need to do based on the survey results from the 2017 Annual Survey of Museum Goers. She revealed that we have to do much better identifying extrinsic motivations for learning, meeting those needs, and articulating them in our promotional materials. Also, Wilkening stated that museums need to be able to express their practical impact in the community. In other words, museums should find out how museums philosophically matter to people in the community not just as an assessment tool. She argued that museums are likely to open more minds, cultivate compassion and empathy, and create connection and community.

Creating a connection with the community can also include working on establishing the museums relationship with colleges and universities.

In the article “Imagining What Museums Might Become” written by Seph Rodney, they wrote about a multifaceted conversation on the future of museums that took place at the CUNY Graduate Center, and noted some of the contrasting and competing visions for what the museums might become. According to the article, the CUNY Graduate Center hosted a discussion on the Next Generation of Museums answering questions of that museums can be and what they should be.

The four panelists Ken Arnold, Svetlana Alpers, Jeff Levine, and D. Graham Burnett approached the question from distinct, and sometimes opposed, vantage points, according to the article. Each panelists shared their perspectives in the museum field, and gave their opinions on cultivating the relationship between museums and universities.

Ken Arnold, who is the director of the Medical Museion in Coopenhagen and creative director at the Welcome Trust in London, gave a presentation that argued “museums can provide wider audiences and can mount deeper and more well-researched exhibitions when partnered with a university.”

Meanwhile Svetlana Alpers, a professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that she wasn’t entirely sure “the new generation of institutions are indeed museums at all.” She explained her perspective, which mainly is from an object-based background, using historical examples including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to talk about how museums were once havens for learning craft (such as weaving) to contrast them with new institutions such as The Shed (New York’s first multi-arts center designed to commission, produce, and present all types of performing arts, visual arts, and popular culture), which seem structured as platforms for a variety of types of social, intellectual, and playful interactions.

This article presented interesting perspectives that are worth continuing the discussion. Museums have so much to offer to our audiences and visitors need to be more aware of what we offer.

Museum professionals have also express the importance of not only taking care of our relationships with our communities but we also need to maintain our relationship between our museums and the staff/boards that work within them.

Anne Ackerson and Joan Baldwin’s Leadership Matters blog discussed their wishes for 2018 in the museum field. Some of the wishes they expressed in their post include:

Museums commit to an open, fair, equitable hiring process; that they cease posting jobs without posting salaries, and that they stop insisting on a graduate degree for every position.

Museums make time to hit pause, to plan, to think big, fight mediocrity and encourage community engagement. Consider how you will nourish creativity among your staff.

All museums articulate their organizational values and figure out tangible ways to live by them….every day. Doing so will keep them agile and responsive.

That museums remember that empathy isn’t just for the visiting public; it belongs in the workplace and boardroom too.

These are wishes I also have for our field in 2018. I expressed similar wishes in one of my previous blog posts about the new year, and I reiterate here that if we help museums improve as a workplace we will be more effective within the community.

Even at the beginning of the new year we delve into serious topics in the museum field we need to address. Since it has been announced that The Met is changing their admissions policy that will be instated on March 1st, there has been discussion about ticket fees for visitors to access museums’ exhibits and programs among the museum professionals. This decision has made us take a look at our own museums and evaluate what works for our financial operations. There is no one simple answer for every museum since we are all different museums that operate in various ways. I will continue this discussion in next week’s blog but this is a thought that we need to keep in mind as we make resolutions for our museums.

What are your hopes for your museums or organization in 2018?

Resources:
https://sustainablemuseums.blogspot.com/2018/01/start-new-year-with-intellectual-bang.html?spref=tw
http://www.wilkeningconsulting.com/datamuseum/conclusions6
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/looking-forward-leadership-matters-wishes-for-2018/
https://hyperallergic.com/417976/imagining-what-museums-might-become/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sw

What Museums Hope For 2018

Added to Medium, December 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Online Communities: Why They Are So Important for Museum Professionals

Originally added on Medium, December 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Creating an Environment-Friendly World with Museums

Added to Medium, November 16, 2017

Our society is continuing to becoming more aware of what we can do to preserve our environment, and museums are great resources for this preservation. I have come across many articles, blog posts, and other resources discussing the environment and sustainability. We can use these resources as we move forward in our preservation and sustainability efforts. There are many examples that I will mention in this blog post but they are not limited to these resources.

Most recently, for example, the American Alliance of Museums released the most recent edition of Museums magazine that flash forwards to the year 2040 to show a version of what the future we can envision for museums and our world. I also came across an article online about the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh designed a storm water filtration system that got sustainability advocates’ attention. Another article I came across was from the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice written by Catherine Dumouchel and Douglas Worts which introduces and discusses in detail about Canadian Working Group on Museums and Sustainable Communities (WGMSC) – a group that operated between 2000 and 2007. There were also a workshop and a webinar I participated in, both hosted by Sarah Sutton (Sustainable Museums) about Environmental Sustainability in Museums through New England Museum Association (NEMA).

This is not a new subject but it is worth discussing because every living thing has one planet to live on, and we need to do what we can to preserve our world. The number of resources we see are a testament to our museum field’s acknowledgement to how significant our world’s preservation is. I appreciate seeing so many museum professionals talking about this topic.

By reading about what other museum professionals have to say about this topic, we can learn so much and make our institutions more environmentally friendly as a result.

The latest edition of AAM’s Museums, Museums 2040, for instance includes articles about the environment and sustainability. Overall this special edition of this magazine shows readers what 2040 could look like based on information we have and what we are doing right now to protect our future. According to Elizabeth Merritt, of the Center for the Future of Museums, she challenged authors of the articles to describe what museums could have done between 2017 and this idea of 2040 to achieve the success museums have in this version of 2040. The articles, including “The Next Sustainability Frontier” and “Maintaining Green while Sustaining Collections”, take on this challenge to give us a fascinating version of 2040.

In “The Next Sustainability Frontier”, it discusses museums’ progress towards sustainability in 2040. The article revealed what has been done in the past and what is being done in this present to create sustainable solutions for our museums and environments. This author stated in the article,

“Most major cities have reached or are approaching carbon neutral status, having benefitted from museums’ significant contributions to urban planning. Our research into historical and cultural alternatives, our commitment to public outreach for engagement and compliance, and our infrastructure adaptations and innovations have established museums as leaders in the drive toward sustainability. We have accomplished this by integrating our buildings and open spaces, knowledge, programming, and creativity into climate response teams in major urban areas, helping to improve the lives of millions.” (12)

The previous example shares the idea of what the writing style was like to take on that challenge Merritt proposed for this special edition magazine. An example of how integration of buildings and open spaces discussed in the article was Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay which opened in 2012 and used 250 acres to help transform Singapore from a “garden city” to a “city in a garden”. The author stated that the Gardens by the Bay serves as a stunning example of applying climate positive solutions to the urban issues of both energy and habitat.

This example reminds me of the garden at Butler-McCook House & Garden in Hartford where I previously worked. Since the McCook family returned from their visits to Europe, they designed a garden inspired by the European gardens they witnessed. Today, it serves as a little oasis for Hartford residents and workers who sit in the garden to admire the beauty of the plants, both foreign and local. If we work towards this version of 2040, gardens like the one at Butler-McCook House can serve as part of the positive solutions to urban issues.

The second article, “Maintaining Green while Sustaining Collections”, is a case study about California Science Museum in Santa Rosa figuring out how to cultivate living walls while protecting the museum’s diverse collection of objects. According to the article, the California Science Museum was able to be green and sustain the collections in three steps:

“First, staff reviewed humidity readings to determine the most affected zones. They replaced sensitive objects in those areas with reproductions, allowing the museum to preserve the original objects and display them in other ways. Second, they shortened the object rotation cycle for galleries outside the most affected zones.
Third, they created a visible “open” storage area with stringent temperature and humidity control, where they could display objects at minimal cost and staff time, without interpretive context.” (15)

When we work to balance being green and sustaining the museums’ collections, we can improve our practices to preserve our collections while making our environment a better place to live.

I love how this special edition pushes us forward in time, and how we interpret how our future could look as a global society and as a museum field. I thought about the questions Merritt posed in the letter she wrote at the end of the edition: “Do I think this could happen?” “Do I want this to happen?” and “Does this have to wait until 2040, or can I make it happen now?” And I believe we should not wait. Museums have so much potential to help our communities improve our environments, and we already are working towards a better future.

In addition to this special edition of Museums magazine, I also came across this post about storm water flow at the North Carolina Museum of Art. According to the article, they stated that the parking lots at the museum in West Raleigh, help storm water flow into a designed system of grass and soil that slows the water and filters pollutants before the water flows into a stream on the property and eventually into the Neuse River. Water is an important resource we have on this planet, and it can be taken for granted. By doing something similar at other museums, we can help maintain our water supply and create a better environment.

Other examples that discuss museums’ dedication to creating a better environment include ones I found on the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice’s website. The first example is called “Museums & Sustainable Communities – Six Things Our Working Group Learned”; it introduces the organization, Canadian Working Group on Museums and Sustainable Communities. It went into the backstory of the organization that addressed the question: How could museums help to create a coherent culture of sustainability (including environmental learning as well as social and economic equity), which touched Canadians of all ages, ethnicities, geographic settings and socioeconomic backgrounds? The purposes of this organization include:

To provide opportunities for capacity-building in the museum community, regarding the role of museums in the development of sustainable communities;
To develop resources and tools for use by museums for planning, implementing and evaluating initiatives related to the development of sustainable communities; and
To develop and maintain networks within and outside the museum community that encourage museums to take action in contributing to the development of sustainable communities.

This article continues to provide additional information that can inspire museums to work towards a better environment in our world.

The second example I found on the website called “A Shade of Green: Ten Practical Steps for Museums” written by Joshua Lichty, who the article stated is an experienced Project & Event Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the museums and cultural industry and is involved with the Ontario Museum Association. It offers advice museums can follow to make their museums greener including light your museum with LED lighting solutions; remove all plastic bags from your gift shop; recycle and compost at your museum; purchase only recycled and sustainable paper products; and run an annual eco-inspired program (exhibit, lectures, school program, etc.). By being able to learn practical advice, it will help museums not only be environment friendly but also use its status as an educational resource to educate visitors on making their homes environmentally friendly.

Good news is museum professionals are still talking about creating a cleaner, greener environment and we need to continue this discussion not only within our field but with our visitors and community members.

Announcement: Since next week is Thanksgiving, I will not be posting on the blog to focus on celebrating the holiday with family and loved ones.

To those who are celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!

Resources:
http://www.aam-us.org/resources/center-for-the-future-of-museums/museum-2040
http://www.wral.com/museum-s-stormwater-system-gets-high-marks-from-sustainability-advocates/16931706/?platform=hootsuite
https://coalitionofmuseumsforclimatejustice.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/museums-sustainable-communities-six-things-our-working-group-learned/
https://coalitionofmuseumsforclimatejustice.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/a-shade-of-green-ten-practical-steps-for-museums/
https://nemanet.org/conference-events/

How to Work with Museum Boards: A Relationship Between the Staff and the Board

Added to Medium, November 9, 2017

As I assist with preparations for my museum’s board meeting this week, I thought more on what I have learned about the board’s role in the museum. Throughout my career so far, I became more involved in getting to know the board and what their impact is on the museum. I continue to learn more as I become more involved in projects that help the board see the museum’s progress. To absorb more knowledge about museum boards, in addition to personal experience, I read books, articles, and blog posts on various information about museum boards.

There are a number of responsibilities boards have for museums and other non-profit organizations. According to Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0, board members have a number of responsibilities including but not limited to: ensure the continuity of the museum’s mission, mandate, and purposes; act as an advocate in the community for public involvement in the museum; review and approve policies consistent with the museum’s mission and mandate, and to monitor staff implementation of these policies; 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; and ensure that the museum has adequate staff to fulfill the mission.

Museum board responsibilities are not limited to only the previously listed. Their responsibilities do have to be clear to make sure the board members understand how their tasks have an impact on the overall museum’s function. Board members do need to not only understand the museum director and staff roles to see the museum’s impact on the community.

To effectively run a museum there has to be a clear definition of roles and responsibilities of board members, the executive director, and staff. Each of them need to work together to fulfill the museum’s mission and meet the needs of its constituencies. The executive director and board balance their leadership roles between both of them, and the extent to which the board and director achieve this balance will vary from museum to museum and will depend on the size of the museum. Each staff member, director, and board member have a role to fulfill to keep the museum running.

By learning more about my role in the museum and other roles in the museum, I can see how all of our work keeps the museum running for the community.

I began to learn more about museum boards and my role in collaborating with boards during my most recent years in my museum career. For instance, this week I have been asked to look over financial records of Maritime Explorium’s admission records for 2017. I carefully looked through each information between January and October to make sure it was all accurate to prepare for an upcoming board meeting. By completing this task, I will be able to help the executive director and the board understand the trends of this past year so far and they would be able to move forward in planning for next year.

While I was learning from my personal experience and from the book Museum Administration 2.0 about the board’s role in the museum, I also read the blog posts about museum boards.

In the Leadership Matters blog post “It’s the board, stupid”, Joan Baldwin pointed out that not everyone on boards internalizes the museum’s mission, gets along with the executive director, contributes time and money and gets others to do the same, but if board members have understood their trusteeship as work, based in a museum’s mission, there would probably be less disruption, less mediocrity, and more organizational success.

No one is perfect, and it can be a challenge to keep things functioning in the museum. The most important thing to keep in mind is to have constant and clear communication between the board, director, and museum staff.

Communication also needs to be clear between the board, executive director, and staff. The more effective and accurate the communication among them are the more likely what changes unfold can be accommodated smoothly.

Board members bring a variety of values with them, and the director’s success in the museum is directly related to his or her understanding of the board and its values. The board’s composition needs to be reflective of the community it serves. Museums’ boards, in other words, need to reflect diversity in their leadership. In Rebecca Herz’s blog post “Museum Boards” from a few years ago, one of the former museum directors she talked with pointed out that “we need boards that can represent the range of communities served by our museums”. This is certainly true now as it was when this blog post was written. If we do not effectively represent our communities, then people within those communities will not see how museums can be valued. To be able to represent our communities, we need to start with a diverse museum board.

The best way to have a better understanding of how museum boards function is to take advantage of the opportunities to assist in projects that affect museum boards’ roles and to get to know your museum board members.

Have you been on a museum board? What is your experience like? If you work in a museum, how directly have you worked with board members? What have your experiences with boards been like?

Resources:
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
https://museumquestions.com/2013/11/18/museum-boards/
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/its-the-board-stupid/

What Do You See? The Importance of the Visitors’ Perspectives

Added to Medium, November 2, 2017

Museums continue to work to make educational programs, events, and exhibits more visitor-centered. One of the first things museum professionals should consider is to understand the visitors perspective. It is sometimes easy to forget what it is like to see the museum one works for with a fresh perspective. When we learn from the visitors, we are able to appeal to visitors and potential visitors.

I previously wrote about visitors in past blog posts, and by developing this topic now we see that it is still relevant in the museum field. To best understand our visitors, we should observe as well as talk with our visitors.

When we are able to observe visitors during their experiences, museum educators especially can learn how to make programming more engaging, fun, and educational for participants.

In the Museum Notes blog, visitor observation and perspective discussion was developed in the post “Observation: Seeing, Un-seeing, Re-seeing”. According to the blog post, it stated “Without thoughtful observation, what can we know and understand about what is happening around us in our museums, in the experiences we create, and the connections we hope to foster?” They brought up a good point since we need to learn what our visitors want or need from their experiences, and if we do not observe how visitors react to our programming our field cannot move forward and would not be relevant within our community.

To find out how we can observe visitors effectively, museum educators should find the best methods that would be the most appropriate and effective for their institution. Museum Notes stated that “we engage in both formal and informal observation in research and evaluation, during prototyping, and sharing visitor comments.” When we find out how we observe visitors, we follow through with the method, and hopefully gather results that will make our services better for visitors and potential visitors.

We also need to keep in mind when we observe we do not exclude our own actions within the museum. Museum Notes points out that,

“As good observers, we must also be observers of ourselves, studying our attention, checking our assumptions, and registering our focus. Questioning ourselves as we observe reminds us that we arrive at subjective interpretations, partial findings, and, hopefully, new questions.”

When we observe ourselves, we learn what we are currently doing to provide what the visitors want or need from our museums programming, events, and exhibits.

As we learn more about our visitors and ourselves, we should keep in mind what visitors’ rights are while they are participating in museums activities and interacting with the exhibits. In this month’s Brilliant Idea Studio blog, Seema Rao wrote about visitors in the short blog “Bill of Rights for Museum Visitors” which lists a number of certain rights museum visitors have while they are inside the museum. Some of the rights she listed are

“They have the right to just listen, to ask, to share, to question.
Again, they have the right to question.
They have the right to ask and question when their story isn’t included.
They have the right to notice when museums are doing it wrong.”

Visitors have various levels of interest in the material museums present depending on their reasons for visiting the museums in the first place. Sometimes they want to spend hours in the exhibits, and sometimes they want to walk through the exhibits to briefly see the exhibits. There are other times that visitors want to only attend programs such as a seminar, a family program, and an exhibit opening then leave.

Also, visitors should know how they can feel connected to the stories museums present as well as why they are significant within the community. If they feel they cannot relate to the museum and what it has to offer, then there would be no point from their perspective to go in.

Most importantly visitors need to feel that they can trust museums to allow them to express their desires for attending museum programs/exhibits/events, and for museums to trusts its visitors. They have many reasons for why they visit a museum, and if they feel the museum can provide a safe place or simply a place for them to relax visitors are more likely to continue their patronage to the museum. Visitors should also be able to provide feedback not only because it will help the museum continue to be relevant to its patrons but visitors also have a way to express what they enjoyed and what can be improved upon for future visits.

How does your museum or institution learn about its visitors? What feedback have you received from visitors that surprised (or not surprised) you the most?

Resources:
https://museumnotes.blogspot.com/2017/10/observation-from-seeing-to-un-seeing-to.html
https://brilliantideastudio.com/art-museums/bill-of-rights-for-museum-visitors/