Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last Call...

Jump on over to Museums & Creative Practice--it's our last call for stories of your creative practice for Rainey Tisdale's and my forthcoming book.   We'd like your stories by March 1 to make our book the very best possible effort.  Please share! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are You Reading This From...?

Are you reading this blog from London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Venice, Florence, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Istanbul or Athens?  If you are, I'd love to meet you in person!  On February 25 I'm heading out for six weeks or so of work (and some vacation) in all those places.  I'll be doing professional development workshops for Context Travel but I hope to squeeze some museum-going time in as well.  I'd love to meet colleagues, so please be in touch if you'd like to meet up (I'm very sorry that my schedule doesn't synch with the Museums Showoff in London!)

Already on my list of to-dos if there's time:

The Museum of London:  my colleague and city museum expert Rainey Tisdale rates it as one of the best in the world. Currently on exhibit,  "Doctors and Resurrection Men,"  described by Time Out as "well worth coffin up for."  (groan).

In Berlin, I follow the DDR Museum on Pinterest, so I want to check them out in person.  RegistrarTrek's Angela Kipp has provided some great ideas for other museums there, and I'm hoping to spend a day there with Uncataloged guest blogger and fellow adventurer Katrin Hieke.

In Rome I'll be spending some of my vacation time taking a Context Tour of the Coliseum and Forum--I visited the sites in November, found all of it hard to make sense of, and am looking forward to a great scholar-led tour. 

In Budapest,  Terra Haza (the House of Terror)  greatly intrigued me the last time I visited, on a crowded Museum Night in May several years ago.  I'm hoping for another visit to delve deeper.

In Istanbul, of course, the Museum of Innocence, opened by Orhan Pamuk and based on his novel is on my list.

And for Context, in addition to the workshops,  I'll be getting to observe and enjoy more walks on everything from baguettes to the Bourbons.   I've been surprised how many of my colleagues have, or know of people who have, taken a Context Tour somewhere along the way.  And I even met a new Context docent at the Small Museum Association conference this week!  Their in-depth, scholar-led tours present unique experiences that we, as museum people, can all learn from.

So, dear readers, if you want to meet, get in touch, and if you have a museum in any of these cities that you love, or want to see me write about, comment away or contact me directly.   One of you suggested the surprising Museum of the Hunt in Paris, so I know there are great, off-the-beaten track places to see.   Field reports to come...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

History at the Table: Let the Conversations Begin!

In April,  I'll be joining a dozen or so historians in a convening of the Public Historians and Local Food Movement Working Group at the National Council on Public History annual conference in Ottawa, Canada.  The working group is led by Michelle Moon and Cathy Stanton, who've encouraged us to begin the conversation through a series of entries on Cathy's blog.  Mine, inspired by the ablove photo that came through by Facebook feed one morning (thanks Katya Kuchar)  explores the connections between the personal and the political as we think about food--in Ukraine, in the United States, and in museums.  For the full post (and other great posts as well) please go here.

I'm really looking forward to the conversation about the ways in which public historians and museums might connect more deeply to an understanding of food--but it does require, as I titled the post, moving beyond the butter churn.   How does your museum connect to stories of food and place?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dogs, Sandboxes and More: Your Creative Stories

Head on over to Rainey Tisdale's and my Museums & Creative Practice blog to read some great stories of personal and institutional creative practice shared by colleagues from around the world.  And of course, this sneak peek is meant to encourage you to share your own story of creative work.  It could be about how you're inspired,  how you work together, or how you encourage visitor and community creative.  Don't worry about writing perfection, but share away, in the comments or by contacting me directly.

Photo by Drew Harty

Monday, February 4, 2013

What I'm Learning as a Mentor

When I invited applications for a mentorship with me during 2013, I had no idea what would happen.  Would I get any applications?  Who would apply and what would they be interested in?  I felt that my talents as a mentor lay not necessarily in skill building, but in conversations and creative connections, so I tried to design the application to reflect that.  You can see it here.

The result:  almost 2000 hits on the blog post and, in a very short time frame,  more than three dozen amazing applications from around the world.  My choice was far, far, harder than I ever anticipated--and although I ultimately selected  not one, but two mentees, I hope my connections with all the applicants continue to grow--I've already met one of those in person for coffee and conversation.  

I'm very pleased to announce that Alicia Akins of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang, Laos  and Jessimi Jones of the Columbus Museum of Art will be working with me in the coming year--I'll introduce them fully in a follow-up blog post and you'll be reading some posts from them as well.

What did I learn?  what was I reminded of?

There are lots of ways into the museum field.  I had applications from people with museum studies graduate degrees and people who entered the field from other fields entirely.  Some of you had questions about whether a museum studies degree was worth it;  and others had questions about how to transition from other careers (as diverse as child protective services, art therapy and college admissions) into work that they're passionate about.  But it's still tough to find a job, particularly one paying a living wage. 

It's lonely out there!  Mid-career mentor applicants were struggling with where they fit.  Some were working at institutions trying to figure out if being a director was for them, others had been recently laid off,  and still others were looking to recharge the passion that attracted them into the field in the first place.  I've been thinking hard about how we can make deep conversations and connections happen more often.

Creativity comes in many forms.  In answer to a question from Twyla Tharp's Creative Inventory about your first creative memory,  answers ranged from arranging stuffed animals, to baking, to coloring to Lucinda Hannington's lovely long attraction to All Things Considered, 
The first creative moment I remember is not so much a single moment as a series of them, all of which take place in my dining room.  As a very young child--three or four years old--I would sit at my desk--a horrible green plant stand--and write stories as my mother cooked dinner.  I would ask her how to spell words, usually shouting to make myself heard over NPR, then, with my masterpiece completed, I would walk into the kitchen and read to her.  This was a nearly daily occurrence for a long time, and to this day, the opening music of All Things Considered gives me the urge to write, even if I’m driving.
And a corollary to creativity coming in many forms is how often the child was the mother to the woman.   Jessimi Jones loved building forts as a kid;  and now she loves building programs and connections.  No surprise--she's a builder at heart.

It's a smaller world.  Quite a number of the applicants had an interest in international work, something I can't even remember imagining as a possibility when I finished graduate school. The opportunity to work internationally and learn from colleagues everywhere is a tremendous asset for the field.

Guys don't need mentors.  Five percent of the applicants were male.  The museum field is female, and growing more so, but this surprised me.  Reasons posited by colleagues in a tweet chat and other conversations included the fact that of course, men already have a leg up;  that the field is overwhelming female, that men more easily find mentors in their own circles, or that it's easier for women to ask for help.  

And most importantly,  the idea of abundant thinking was strengthened for me.  By making an offer of my time, it seems clear that new connections, new ideas, and new creative networks have already been abundantly returned to me.