Last week I got to do something I rarely get to do--and I find few museums do either. Over the course of two days, amidst bits and pieces of the ongoing project, the core staff at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and I got a chance to reflect on our journey through the reinterpretation of the house, now at the three year mark and nearing completion next year.
I've written often about our work at the Center often, and I know it has resonated with many of you. We've made progress and had great wins, but we also had places where we would have done things differently. I'll share more specifics about what we learned later, but this is just a post to encourage everyone to squeeze out that time to be reflective about your work, with your colleagues. How to start? We tried to think about the path of the project which involved diving back into computer files saying, "when was that meeting?" and saying, "Remember when we thought that was a good idea?"
We began the process just with individual note-taking but then decided that a big flip chart map (above, just one piece of what we finally created) was the way to go, helping us think visually about the path, the lessons learned and what we might do differently.
Doing this before the full end of the project meant that it served as a bit of a reward--a chance to appreciate our work together, and to gather our energies for the final push. If there's one lesson I learned, it's that a thoughtful, creative, interpretive planning process has the potential to transform an organization. That transformation is not just the story we tell to visitors, but in this case, it has contributed to creating a culture of ongoing learning, of creative problem-solving and one of engaging visitors in a continuous feedback and evaluation loop.
If you want to hear a bit more about the re-interpretation you can listen to Shannon Burke, Cindy Cormier and me on WNPR's "Where We Live."
A giant bouquet of appreciation to all my colleagues at Stowe! Below, Shannon, Emily, and Maura embrace our continuous learning over lunch last week, and get a lesson in Pokemon Go from Charlotte, age 9.