Friday, December 31, 2010
More and More: My New Year's Resolutions
There's always a temptation to play it safe: to tell the interpretive story that is the non-controversial one, to not say something when you really should speak out, and to just stay in your comfort zone. When I applied to be a Fulbright Scholar to Ukraine, one of my goals was to go outside, way outside, my comfort zone. The professional and personal rewards of that risk have been immense for me--allowing me to see things in new ways and develop new networks and connections. I want to keep taking more risks in my professional life--saying yes to risky projects, trying something new, and encouraging others to do the same. I'll try to ban the words, "Yes, but...." from my vocabulary this year. My post about local historical societies as dinosaurs generated huge readership and many comments--and the best way to avoid that dinosaur fate might just to be, for each museum, to resolve to do at least one risky, visitor-centered thing this year. I'm always on the lookout for great, innovative projects to share here--and for guest bloggers so if you undertake that risky new thing, be sure and let me know.
I feel like every day brings more and more I should be reading. Tweets send me to fascinating articles, bloggers old and new continue to draw me in with their thoughtful perspectives on our work, and every morning, online newspapers beckon with their random assortment of news (and all that's ignoring whatever Stumble Upon brings). But at the same time, I have a growing pile of books that sit unread--and those are the focus of this resolution.
My goal is to set aside time to fully dive into books--and perhaps I'll start by joining Nina Simon's newest book club effort and read Sustaining Innovation with all of you. For a new exhibition project, the small project team and I have decided to divide up the secondary source reading and share our thoughts on the ongoing project blog (by the way, it's about greed in the early settlement of Western NY, a potentially risky topic) as a way of expanding our knowledge and, we hope, involving our audience. My book club continues to inspire me to read books I wouldn't otherwise have read; over a Florida vacation, my nephews encouraged me to join Goodreads. It appears that reading is for me, becoming a community, a collaborative effort--a long way from those days reading books underneath my covers with a flashlight.
Thanks to the patience of editors Gretchen Jennings and Bob Beatty, the Exhibitionist and History News each published articles about my experiences in Ukraine. They proved an unexpected workout as I shifted from the informal, short-form blog entry to a longer, more sustained series of thoughts. Blog posts will continue, of course, but I'm also contemplating whether there's a book in my future. The writing process made me ponder whether the future of more academically-oriented journals about the museum field when so much good, reflective work is being produced all the time, on-line. First up for me though: some entries for the revised Encyclopedia of Local History. What do you think should be included in the entry on exhibits?
The best thing about blogging and tweeting is the connections to people. For a long time this felt like a bit of a one way street, but this year it seemed to have changed, for reasons I'm not quite sure of. It's been great to have more comments, to meet some of you at conferences, and to read my fellow bloggers work (of course, Museum 2.0 but also Jasper Visser and many others). I've been contemplating attending some sort of international conference or workshop this year as I'm continually interested in what's happening other places--suggestions?
I suspect I'm at the far end of the age range for museum bloggers, and one vital aspect of my work is the chance to make connections with people coming up in the field, with new ideas, perspectives and skills. It's made me a bit impatient with my peers who grouse about those newcomers, or who harumph about social media. I mean, who wants to connect with a harumpher! So I'm not quite sure about how I'll connect more, or who those connections will be with, but I feel sure there will be new people to meet, talk, and share ideas with.
(Above, one of my favorite places, an abandoned building turned bar, I had great conversations and re-connections this year, in Budapest, with my longtime friend Gyorgyi Nemeth).
At the end of 2010, my colleague Sarah Crow and I launched the Pickle Project on Kickstarter. We're at 25% of our goal, with just a month left to reach it. I've been touched by the generosity of friends, colleagues and even perfect strangers in supporting our project (and of course, you can join them!) It's made me resolve to be a better giver myself. I'll be supporting one project a month on Kickstarter and will try to increase my local giving as well, particularly to museums and history organizations that are those risk-takers.
To all of you, a happy, risk-filled New Year!