Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Next? A Month of Reflection


Like millions of Americans, the last month has been a confusing one for me. I returned home from Ukraine just two days before the election, proudly voted for Hilary Clinton (I just learned that a niece of mine wore different pieces of jewelry representing her grandmothers and great-grandmothers to go vote that day, in their honor) and drove to Mystic, CT for the New England Museum Association conference. Jetlagged, I went to bed early and woke up at 4:30 AM to learn that Trump had won the election.

Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out my country and its citizens, trying to determine what I personally need to do next, wondering about museums’ place in this world, and trying to listen and read as much as I can (though I have stayed away from TV news). I don’t have any answers yet but I wanted to share some ideas that have resonated with me.  It's a long post, bear with me.

Museums Can Be Essential

First, that very first morning at NEMA, I went to a session presented by Sarah Pharaon of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. It seemed very much the right thing to do that morning; and in fact it was. She reminded us of the power of history and of the important way that museums can move from relevance to essential parts of communities and the larger world.

Support and Action

I made a quick trip up to the Concord Museum mid-conference for the opening meeting for the development of plans for a new permanent exhibition there. Our conversations about the American Revolution and Henry David Thoreau were all shaped by the week’s events. But I’ll remember most what one of the museum educators said over coffee. She had decided on two things: support and action. This meant financial support for Planned Parenthood, an organization she supported; and action, starting to volunteer at a local organization working with refugees. That two-part approach made a great deal of sense to me.

Serious Play

Rainey Tisdale and I facilitated a session at NEMA about museums and your whole self: not just your learning self, but your spiritual self, your playful self, your civic self; and more. We were going to use the election as a starting point for our activity but it seemed just wrong, just too much at the end of a challenging week. Instead, our lively group of participants got to think about whole self museum development within the framework of kittens (and thanks, Rainey, for convincing me to do that!) Somehow that goofy exercise lifted all our spirits. We’re all going to need to be attentive to serious play as we move forward.

Be More Attentive to My Own--and Others-- Privilege 

I’m white, I went to an Ivy League college and have a Master’s degree. I teach. I’m older than many of you readers. I’m female. I have lots of privilege. I’ve vowed to be more attentive to instances where I need to check that privilege, and to call out others on the same. This also means figuring out how to be the best ally I can. For me, that’s not a safety pin, but there are certainly other times and places, in my work and outside of work,  that I can listen, speak out, and work to make a difference.

Read More

I came across an NPR piece that suggested we all needed to expand our reading—to learn about people different than ourselves. I’ve put several books on my Goodreads list (if you want, please feel free to connect with me there) and if you’re looking, check out the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year and the Guardian’s pieces in which authors chose their favorite books of the year. I admired my colleagues who managed to get thoughtful blog posts up over the last month, considering the role museums may play in building a more civil, civic society. In particular, I found these useful and thoughtful:

Center for the Future of Museums, “Healing the Partisan Divide”
Rebecca Herz, Museum Questions, “How Do Museums Create a Better World?”
Paul Orselli, Exhibitricks, “Are Trump Voters Museum Goers?”
Koven Smith, “Better Ways to Win: MCN 2016 and the Presidential Election"

Talk More, Listen Even More

The next week, I attended MuseumNext, which I found in different parts, fascinating and infuriating. First, the infuriating part: I’m stunned that, as a field, we consider a groundbreaking conference one where people read prepared remarks from behind a podium, with barely time for a question or two at the end. We know that’s not not how people learn. Everyone I spoke with at breaks felt frustrated. There was a strong sense that we were talking to the choir and more than a bit of discussion that seemed to frame things in terms of us and them. Although I live in a blue state, I live in a very red part of it. I think the us and them is unproductive at best. There were speakers that inspired me, and I’ll hopefully write more soon about them.

Advice from the 20th Century

I’ve had emails and Facebook comments and condolences from colleagues all over the world. This election was a big deal to everyone and uncertainty looms large, whether it’s how Trump’s relationship to Putin will affect Ukraine, how his business dealings will affect Turkey, how his approach to the world will affect the Baltics, or almost anywhere else in the world.

A Ukrainian friend posted a link to Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s Facebook post, now appearing in other places as well. I greatly admire his book Bloodlands for its deep understanding of the history of Ukraine and its neighbors; and he continues to be an active, thoughtful commentator on Ukraine and that part of the world.

He shared 20 lessons from the 20th century. I won’t share them all (you can find them in full here) but here’s a few that particularly struck me.
  • Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning. 
  • Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. 
  • Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow. 
  • Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
  • Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports. 
  • Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.
But interestingly, I found one good example for future generations coming from a member of a generation too young to even have a classification. Riding the New York City subway one day, I sat down across from a little girl with a big rolled-up sign. I asked if she had made it, and could I see it? She shyly assented, and unrolled it (she's at the head of this post). I asked if she’d been out protesting. Yes, she said, and her mom and sister nodded as well. (and the mom said it was okay to take her picture). This tiny citizen, with her big sign, lifted up everyone on that train. We smiled at her and each other, spoke to each other for a minute, and I somehow felt that perhaps, we were all in this together, in a way that mattered.

Museum people, we have work to do.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Heroes. Every. Day.


This election season in the United States has shown me, as I'm sure it has many of you, how easy it is to fray the threads of civil society.  Imagine Ukraine, a nation with a short democratic history, a just three-years-old revolution, occupied territories, and an ongoing war in the East.  Plus, the still-strong remnants of Soviet bureaucracy and a tenacious system of corruption that are a part of everyday life. For the past two weeks, I've been in Ukraine conducting an assessment of the cultural heritage sector with my colleague Vaiva Lankeliene from Lithuania for the Culture and Creativity EU-Eastern Partnership Programme.

To be sure, we've found many needs and issues in the sector in great need of reform. More importantly though, it's been great to see people that really are heroes--people who, in whatever way they can, are working to make museums and cultural heritage better. Their efforts are resulting, bit by bit, in those stronger threads that weave a stronger civil society together.

Here's what I mean:
  • Two years ago, a new staffer at the Ministry of Culture discovers there is virtually no information collected about the museum sector.  Using his own car, and paying for his own gas, he travels thousands of kilometers around the country, visiting museums and building statistical information that serves as critical benchmarks for the sector.  Sadly, he's now formerly of the ministry, but the useful data lives on.
  • A director of a historic house museum believes that her staff should be like family, as it is a family house.  They work together, everyone sharing responsibilities--everyone gives tours for instance, as a way of staying connected and making room for everyone to pursue their research and community engagement interests. The result is a museum that is more crowded than far larger ones.  The public feels the spirit of the place.
  • The collective work of the L'viv city administration who joined together to develop the newly-opened project The Space of Synagogues (below), an important and moving first step in integrating Ukraine's Jewish history into the nation's larger historical narrative.  It provides visitors to the World Heritage city a chance to contemplate and learn about an aspect of the city's history long erased.
  • The colleague who received a grant to work with museums in digitizing their collections and is meeting unexpected resistance to such a project.  Some are opposed to sharing work that, of course, belong to the public.  He persists, diligently, in convincing colleagues and pondering new ways of persuasion. Not surprisingly, he's finding that lower-level staff have significant interest in collaborating, but directors,  not so much.  I know he'll get there.
  • The head of historic preservation in a city, who works to control development in the historic center, despite the willingness of investors to go above her department to get a yes, when no was the right answer already given. She works with colleagues in other historic cities to develop and share guidelines for appropriate development, when most city departments are independent actors and information is hoarded.  Like it is for most of my colleagues here, corruption is the eternal subtext. Several museum directors mentioned wanting to have a lawyer on staff, because there is so much legal maneuvering, particularly about property rights.
  • The enthusiastic director of a tiny small-town museum who wishes for more opportunities for professional development.  But, he cheerfully says, I took an online course on grant-writing, wrote a grant and got it. The result:  a series of public programs, tourist guides and walking tours.
  • Two young staff members at a contemporary art center talk about their role as building up confidence and motivation among not just their staff members, but the community as well. They connect closely the ideas of public and personal responsibility in the realms of art and life.   Said one, the result of the 2014 Revolution was that people now understood: "No one will fix our problems.  We have no illusions left.  We just have to move our ass."
That last statement, and all my experiences this trip, have reinforced Margaret Mead's belief,
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
Changing the world one day, one step at a time.  Heroes.  Every. Day.

From the new memorial in L'viv

Heroes. Every. Day.


This election season in the United States has shown me, as I'm sure it has many of you, how easy it is to fray the threads of civil society.  Imagine Ukraine, a nation with a short democratic history, a just three-years-old revolution, occupied territories, and an ongoing war in the East.  Plus, the still-strong remnants of Soviet bureaucracy and a tenacious system of corruption that are a part of everyday life. For the past two weeks, I've been in Ukraine conducting an assessment of the cultural heritage sector with my colleague Vaiva Lankeliene from Lithuania for the Culture and Creativity EU-Eastern Partnership Programme.

To be sure, we've found many needs and issues in the sector in great need of reform. More importantly though, it's been great to see people that really are heroes--people who, in whatever way they can, are working to make museums and cultural heritage better. Their efforts are resulting, bit by bit, in those stronger threads that weave a stronger civil society together.

Here's what I mean:
  • Two years ago, a new staffer at the Ministry of Culture discovers there is virtually no information collected about the museum sector.  Using his own car, and paying for his own gas, he travels thousands of kilometers around the country, visiting museums and building statistical information that serves as critical benchmarks for the sector.  Sadly, he's now formerly of the ministry, but the useful data lives on.
  • A director of a historic house museum believes that her staff should be like family, as it is a family house.  They work together, everyone sharing responsibilities--everyone gives tours for instance, as a way of staying connected and making room for everyone to pursue their research and community engagement interests. The result is a museum that is more crowded than far larger ones.  The public feels the spirit of the place.
  • The collective work of the L'viv city administration who joined together to develop the newly-opened project The Space of Synagogues (below), an important and moving first step in integrating Ukraine's Jewish history into the nation's larger historical narrative.  It provides visitors to the World Heritage city a chance to contemplate and learn about an aspect of the city's history long erased.
  • The colleague who received a grant to work with museums in digitizing their collections and is meeting unexpected resistance such a project.  Some are opposed to sharing work that, of course, belong to the public.  He persists, diligently, in convincing colleagues and pondering new ways of persuasion. Not surprisingly, he's finding that lower-level staff have significant interest in collaborating, but directors,  not so much.  I know he'll get there.
  • The head of historic preservation in a city, who works to control development in the historic center, despite the willingness of investors to go above her department to get a yes, when no was the right answer already given. She works with colleagues in other historic cities to develop and share guidelines for appropriate development, when most city departments are independent actors and information is hoarded.  Like it is for most of my colleagues here, corruption is the eternal subtext. Several museum directors mentioned wanting to have a lawyer on staff, because there is so much legal maneuvering, particularly about property rights.
  • The enthusiastic director of a tiny small-town museum who wishes for more opportunities for professional development.  But, he cheerfully says, I took an online course on grant-writing, wrote a grant and got it. The result:  a series of public programs, tourist guides and walking tours.
  • Two young staff members at a contemporary art center talk about their role as building up confidence and motivation among not just their staff members, but the community as well. They connect closely the ideas of public and personal responsibility in the realms of art and life.   Said one, the result of the 2014 Revolution was that people now understood: "No one will fix our problems.  We have no illusions left.  We just have to move our ass."
That last statement, and all my experiences this trip, have reinforced Margaret Mead's belief,
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
Changing the world one day, one step at a time.  Heroes.  Every. Day.

From the new memorial in L'viv

Friday, October 28, 2016

Whodunnit? The Tale of the Missing Credit Panel


Recently I found myself in a conversation about credit panels for exhibitions: who's on, who's not, and why.  I posted a request for samples on Twitter and Facebook and thought I'd share a bit of what I learned from all of you (thank you everyone!)

Basically I found that credit panels fall into two groups.  First, there's the more the merrier:  the museums that take the opportunity to acknowledge as many people as possible. For instance here, from the Museum Centre Vapriikki in Tampere, Finland, via Katrin Hieke in Germany:


And from the Oakland Museum, via Suzanne Fischer, egalitarianly without job titles.


From Dean Krimmel and the Jewish Museum of Maryland:  Funders, administrators, staff and even students.

And from the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts, a high expression of the form, letting the public know that exhibition development is a team effort in every way.  As the label says, "it's a complicated creative process" and that that process is made of real live people, working together.  So much more compelling than just names. I also enjoy the fact that the sponsors are credited in the informal "Hi!" from the director.



Annemarie de Wildt of the Amsterdam Museum in the Netherlands shared on Facebook that:
"We discussed this issue recently in a discussion about the future of the museum with a theatre director. In the theatre/film it's of course very different: naming everyone although the difference in importance shows in the size of the letters."   
But there were those of you whose organizations shared credit for sponsors only.  Colleagues responded to my Facebook query saying:
"We don't include staff but we do include our Advisory Panels that are made up of community members and scholars."
"I don't think we have a real pattern or logic to it. I think the consultants is because it's assumed that otherwise no one would know they helped. Internal, it's just part of our day job. But [at our museum] there's been no deliberate conversation about it. We had some fairly long conversations about who should go on the newest one (it was a community-sourced project with a TON of donors & participants) but the question of internal staff never came up."
"It has been discussed. The question comes up periodically and I am certain it will come up again. We seem to fall on the "no need to print a thank you for doing your job. I don't see how you can thank exhibit staff without acknowledging development staff who raised the funds, education staff who carry out programming for the duration of the exhibit, marketing staff who make sure we're covered in the press, etc. We publicly acknowledge exhibit staff at opening event where donors and sponsors are present. We reserve panels for sponsors and donors."
Where do I fall?  I'm all for credit for everyone.  Exhibits, even small ones, are complicated animals, requiring the skills and talents of so many people, from wall-painters to label-writers to the person who saves you by working late one night to reprint something.  Public credit is cheap.  Why should we be stingy about it?  Couldn't we take our inspiration from the Car Talk guys and their credits?  A sense of humor never hurt anyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Interventions


Today's guest post is by Caren Ponty, a former student of mine in the Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Program.  She brings a wealth of experience from her career in community development, a perspective that inform her reflections on several efforts, on both sides of the Atlantic, to re-contextualize museum collections.

With the opening of the new Smithsonian African-American Museum on the Washington Mall last month and the AAM’s focus at the 2017 annual convention on diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, I have been thinking more about what this means to museums, its audiences and its collections.  Having worked on community equity issues as part of my career in community development, the one thing I think I know is that even the definition of diversity can be a tricky subject. The term can be applied to any number of areas that one considers outside the mainstream, whether it be race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and more. No one seems to have a clear-cut characterization; it depends upon context, but it is based on representation.
This past summer while on a Johns Hopkins University graduate seminar in museum studies, I had two encounters with museum exhibitions which focused on seeking to redress the exclusion of blacks in collections in Great Britain. The first was at the National Portrait Gallery in London where the special exhibit Black Chronicles was a discrete intervention among multiple galleries throughout the museums. (For those unfamiliar with the term, art ‘intervention’ applies to art designed specifically to interact with an existing structure or situation, be it another artwork, the audience, an institution or in the public domain). The intention was to focus attention to the overlooked, underrepresented black community (which in Great Britain includes Asians) whose portraits would be few in a museum dedicated to paintings of the elite British.  While the dispersed special exhibition seemed somewhat confusing, the photographs, particularly those hung in the first gallery on a stark black painted background. The portraits, from the 1850s through 1947s, showed unimaginable, stunningly-displayed images of private lives never seen. While snaking our way around to see the exhibit, I knew that it had made the impression intended when I spotted one of the exhibit portraits staring at me while at dinner at the Museum’s restaurant. I realized that prior to experiencing the intervention, I would have had no idea what the photograph was doing there and it may have seemed out of character. But aimed with this knowledge of interspersing the voices of blacks throughout the museum, it seemed to blend into the room in a way where it might seem naturally suited.

This same technique is being used at The Old Manse in Concord MA in a project entitled Art and the Landscape. (Note from Linda: Caren has been working with me on an unrelated interpretation project at this site). One element of Art and the Landscape, created by artist Sam Durant, added artifacts related to the African presence in Concord to the interior of this historic house. The goal, similar to the project at the National Portrait Gallery in London, is to make the struggles, history, and culture of Africans in Concord more visible within the historic narrative and to integrate the knowledge that enslaved people lived here and were part of the Reverend Emerson’s household at the time of the American Revolution.  Visitors who have seen these interspersed objects or participated in some of the prototyping have walked away commenting that prior to seeing the exhibit, they never thought much about this issue. This is particularly interesting given that this is a community best known for fighting for their right to be represented in government. As few people visit for the tour that focuses exclusively on this aspect of history, one can see the value of the interventionist approach to reach more visitors and provide them to think more about this part of our national heritage.


The second approach I saw to engage diversity was Raphael Albert’s Miss Black and Beautiful at Autograph ABP’s exhibits at their own galleries in Shoreditch, London.  Curator Renée Mussai (who had also curated Black Chronicles mentioned above) has a remarkable and relatable display of black beauty pageants from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, including some from London, and spoke to us about the unanticipated interest from black women--close to 850 people showed up for the opening. But even more brilliantly, running simultaneously in their upstairs gallery was an exhibit entitled Unsterile Clinic, whose goal is to raise awareness of the widespread practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). As described on their website, Aida Silvestri’s sculptural photo-works are shown with text poems based on interviews conducted with participants whose personal testimonies provide harrowing insight into their experiences.  This juxtaposition of social beauty and social justice was bone chilling.
Making visitors aware of an uncomfortable topic while sharing images of pride and more acceptable subjects brings me back to our new American museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Here, the events of our American heritage, which includes our African-American past that is part of all of us, are served by a museum that makes us proud by elevating the narrative of who we are in a broader and all-encompassing manner.
Images:
Sarah Davies (formerly Forbes Bonetta) and James Pinson Labulo Davies
by Camille Silvy, 1862
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Brochure, The Meeting House, Art in the Landscape
Aida Silvestri, Type II B: Distance. From Unsterile Clinic, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mythbusters: Pilgrim Edition


Virtually every American knows a Pilgrim myth or two.  It's the kind of thing many of us learn at every Thanksgiving dinner and with every hand-made paper turkey on a school classroom window. I'll have to admit, that when I visited the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA, I expected more of the same.  The museum opened in 1824 and describes itself as "America's museum of Pilgrim possessions."  But, I was walking by, and decided to visit--and was incredibly surprised at the smart, thoughtful exhibit that deconstructed--that busted those myths--about Pilgrims.


A few examples:   the opening label talks about the Pilgrim story, but doesn't quite give the full hint that some myths are about to be busted.  The mythbusting took two prevalent forms.  First, deconstructing what we believe (and the stories that museums have often told) about objects.  For instance, the spinning wheel above, and label below, which says, "in fact, no spinning wheels recorded in the Colony until the late 1630s."  (no sheep, either).


And here's another one, about a sword. When was the last time you read a label that said, "This is not possible."


The exhibit included reproduction clothing, showing how our ideas about Pilgrims were reflected in the clothes worn and depicted, in films, paintings, and even in museums.  Below, a label from one interpretive era, and clothing from another.



With some objects and images, the labels cleverly paired the mythmaking (Longfellow, you have much to answer for) with quotations from historic documents.



The romance of laughter and tremulous voices, compared with death and eleven children.  This painting of Thanksgiving gets these contrasting labels.




Note the inclusion of the contemporary voice of Linda Coombs, a member of the Wampanoag nation, on the label, contrasting directly with Sarah Josepha Hale's 19th century voice.

It's the rare museum that takes on busting up its own history.  Consider your own history museum. What stories could benefit from some revision?  Can you do some rethinking that lets your audience into the messy nature of history?  How about a new take on those cows in your community?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Do Mushrooms Have to Do with Bridge-Building?



Again this semester, I'm teaching International Experiments in Community Engagement (more on that to come) for JHU's Museum Studies Program online, and as a result, thinking about community engagement is always on my radar.  I've come to think that it's too facile a term, one that we bandy around without enough deep thinking.  If you haven't read it yet, you might want to be reading Nina's Simon's new book on relevance, which I think might be a better frame than community engagement for thinking transformatively about our work.  Reading Nina's book and discussing engagement with my students, I decided that I needed to share projects that inspire me in some way, ones that connect and build bridges in our communities.


The answers to how to connect with community are different everywhere, and for every organization. So my first community take: mushrooms!  Last winter, in Riga, Latvia, I was facilitating a workshop at the Latvian National Museum of Natural History and someone happened to mention that they had a mushroom exhibit every year, with fresh mushrooms, that was incredibly popular.  It seemed such a surprising thing so I kept an eye out, and sure enough, last week on their Facebook page, there it was! Many thanks to Polina Skinke of the museum for sharing more about it, including all these photos.)



It turns out that in Latvia, mushrooms are not just a food, but an integral part of the culture. The museum event has been going on for decades (since Soviet times), as you can see from the photos, although clearly, this is a tradition that's lasted for centuries.  Says Alex Cowles, who blogs in English at Life in Riga,
Latvians are bonkers about mushrooms. It’s a national obsession. There is barely a single stretch of forest untouched by foragers come late summer and autumn. You can’t walk for longer than a minute or two in any direction without bumping into people carrying baskets and knives, wearing picking gear, complete with straw hats creeping about like Nosferatu on his day off. 
Believe it or not, mushrooming is, in fact, one of the most popular open-air pastimes among Latvians. (I guess drinking beer wasn’t one of the considerations.) It’s especially favoured among older generations, since it’s fairly low-energy, it’s free food for those with less income and many will tell you that even a poor crop will at least get you out for a walk in the forest. If you find yourself with an abundance, you can even sell them at the market for a bit of extra cash.
Sometime each September, the museum staff and some friends head out to collect mushrooms, as they have for years. But now there's a twist:  they run a Facebook contest for someone to go along on the collecting mission with the mycologist and the staff. I like that it builds community not only outside the museum, but inside as well. Creativity always flourishes when we change our view, and here's a great chance to do that.



They then return and carefully and beautifully set up all the mushrooms, all carefully identified.  Note that the pot denotes edible ones.  There are special stickers, cookies, and activities for kids.  I was amazed in the photographs at how many people, of all ages, are carefully looking at the mushrooms, taking notes, snapping photos, and, I have to imagine, having conversations with the people standing next to them.



The display builds on the museum's deep knowledge--they have mycologists who, of course, are experts, but it also honors the expert knowledge of those who come to look and share.  I imagine that it's an event that some people never miss, even though the mushrooms might be the same from year to year.

Last winter I also visited a market and ate some great local food in Riga, and I can see that a whole generation of young people are beginning to think more about local food, so I can also imagine that the museum plays a role in keeping a piece of important knowledge alive, knowledge that helps make Latvia, Latvia, not by keeping it behind glass, or published in a journal article, but by making collective, community knowledge come alive.  As Nina Simon in the Art of Relevance, writes, "Relevance is not something an institution can assign by fiat. Your work matters when it matters to people—when THEY deem it relevant, not you."

Ready for some mushrooms?  Here's a  version of the most popular recipe for mushroom soup, via a 1984 New York Times article. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
1 pound mushrooms
6 slices bacon
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sour cream

Wash the mushrooms, and cut into thin slices.
Dice the bacon, and fry until lightly browned in a 12-inch skillet.
Dice the onion, and add to the bacon.
Fry the mixture, stirring, until the onion is just wilted. Add the mushrooms.
Over low heat, stir with a spoon for 10 minutes.
Add flour, water and salt.
Bring water to boil, and boil for 5 minutes until the mixture has the consistency of gravy.

Add the sour cream. Stir until well blended.


Thanks, dear Latvian colleagues, for inspiring me!