A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation, by Daniel Menaker, and although we had some mixed feelings about the book, it did generate lots of conversation over a terrific lunch of home-grown fruits and vegetables. We talked about social media and the web, and rather it has lessened conversations; about how talking with family is different than talking with friends--we ranged all over the block.
But then one friend asked if we felt we were able to have deep, meaningful conversations in our regular lives, in our work lives perhaps. And it made me realize how lucky I am to have a job where those deep conversations are really a part of my work. Not every day, but often. Over the last several months I've had the chance to talk with colleagues about whether greed was the primary factor in the shaping of early Western New York; about the creative process of artists and whether representing in an activity is a way to share it with others; over a dinner in Ukraine, about how Soviet citizens and American citizens perceived each other during the Cold War; with my long distance food writing course, about everything from wheat trials to the meaning of kimchee; with my consulting colleagues at our retreat about the changing landscape of the museum field; about how collecting beautiful objects tells the story of a life; and most importantly, over and over again, how we, as museums, can encourage deep conversations in everyday life. Increasingly for me, museums are about those conversations--and the objects are the ways to frame or to spark thinking and talking.
As I head off to the AASLH meeting in Richmond for several days of more conversations, I'm grateful to be a part of a field that values and appreciates talk. And at the same time, it made me realize how much more, we as a field, can do to encourage those deeper conversations among all the members of our diverse communities.