Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Cold Economic Winds Blow

The cold economic winds seem to blowing on both sides of the world. I hear regular updates from US colleagues about layoffs, cutbacks and funding uncertainty. The same thing is happening here. Not surprisingly, museum workers are not paid well here, and economic issues, are having a chilling effect on museum staff--as they are on all Ukrainians. Unpaid leaves, pay postponed for months, and layoffs are just part of the picture for Ukrainian museum professionals. Housing, transportation and food here are all becoming more expensive as Ukrainians have less money, so a one month furlough presents severe hardships.

We talked today with a small group about regular get-togethers to discuss museum issues and whether it was worth doing in such tough and discouraging times. I encouraged my colleagues here to undertake such endeavors nonetheless. For two reasons--first, it's always good to have support and contacts during difficult times, and second, that more than ever, this is the time for ideas to come to the fore. New ways of doing things, even on a small scale, can make a big difference.

Next week, I present my first workshops here in Kyiv--with the help of Ihor Poshvailo of the Honchar Museum, we've framed a two day workshop around the idea of making change with only a little change in your pocket. I've found that my work with small museums in the US is very helpful in both understanding the sometimes slow pace of change here and the ways in which financial resources (or the lack thereof) can hinder an organization's development. But, I'm always hopeful that it doesn't serve as an excuse for new thinking, conversation and professional development.

Cold winds, Vienna, Austria, 2007
Trent Stroh, via Flickr

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