Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ask More? Ask More!

I've been thinking about writing an end-of-year post for more than a week as I read other reflections, advice,  what-ifs and to-dos.  But I realized that thanks to my great group of planning colleagues, I've been doing that kind of reflection for several months.  So no top ten list from me.  But just this morning, thanks to Anne Ackerson who blogs over at Leading by Design,  I read The Bamboo Project's list of six 21st century skills you really need.

It's a great list--but I really focused in on one skill for me to work on 2012.  It's #2--Asking more questions.  For me, it really relates to all the other skills. Asking hard questions of myself can make me more self-aware;  questioning can help lead to empathetic listening;  question asking can lead to authentic conversations; it can lead to reflection; and question asking can help take me outside of conversations with people just like myself.

So what kinds of work-related questions do I want to ask in the coming year?  Here's just a few...

For myself:
  • What new skills can I learn?
  • How can I stretch my own skills further?
  • How can I continue to encourage or mentor others?
  • What contribution can I make to diversifying our field?
  • How can I better organize my time? (as, sadly, I have realized that the prettiest new file folders aren't the answer)
  • Where in the world could I go next?
For potential new clients: 
  • Do you want real change?
  • How can we be most effective working together?
  • What do you want me to bring to the table?
  • How have you asked questions of your audiences?  What have you done with the answers?
  • Do you have fun when you work?
 For audiences and potential audiences:
  • How can museums make themselves into real places for deep listening, reflection, conversations, and interactivity?  
  • What would make you pay a visit? What keeps you away?
  • What community stories are we not telling?  Can you help us with that?
For museums I visit:
  • Do you really need that no photography rule?
For readers of this blog: (that's you!)
  • What do you want to read more about?
  • What blogs do you want to make sure I read?  Who should I make sure to follow on Twitter?
  • Have you liked the Uncataloged Museum on Facebook yet?
When I began this blog four years ago (four years ago!)  I thought about it as a place to raise questions, to share ideas, and to learn from all of you.  Those same motivations still continue for me--and I'm very interested in working with those of you who share a commitment to active questioning and listening.  So please be in touch if you have a project in mind.

So let's raise our glasses to a question-filled 2012!

Images, top to bottom
dullhunk on flickr
slainte74 on flickr

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Got Something to Say? This Space Available

As the end of the year closes in,  I'm thinking about both the past and the year to come.  As I think about the past year, I realize how many voices I value.  Some of them are the ones close to me--Drew, Anna (above) and the rest of my lively family;  my strategic planning colleagues;  Sarah Crow, my Pickle Project partner; my walking partner Anne; and the clients who dig deep and commit to thinking about new ways of doing things.
My Ukrainian colleagues and friends (for example, Ihor and Tania Poshyvailo, above)  continue to be sources of inspiration as they work to remake their institutions or create new organizations against pretty some pretty incredible odds.  Some of the voices I value are just people I meet along the way.  I love the process of talking to museum visitors and potential visitors, something I just did last week in Canandaigua, NY.  Every museum should do more of it. Some of the voices are the ones implicit in exhibits--from Ukraine to Iceland to here in the US--when an exhibit works, it's a delightful place to be.

Our Pickle Project Conversations this fall showed me that building a space for free and open conversations can be a critical part of creating a civil society.  I'm always thrilled by the willingness of everyday people to share their thoughts on what we're trying to do from 18th century western New York to making manti in Crimea.  At several conferences this year I've found myself having memorable conversations with someone entirely new (a great lesson about approaching strangers at these things).  And conference session participants have been lively and thoughtful.
Then of course, there are those bloggers:  Nina Simon as she takes on a new challenge;  Anne Ackerson; Jasper Visser; newbie blogger Gretchen Jennings;  Beth Merritt ever considering the future; Susie Wilkening and many others.  This year there's also the voices of the people I follow on Twitter, from near and far, as they make me think, lead me to new ideas, and make me laugh, all in 140 characters or less.

For a long time when I wrote this blog, I felt like no one was reading--so the voices of those who comment are especially valued and I'm always happy to see a comment pop-up.  Keep up the great work, you commenters.

But I want to hear more of your voices.  In the coming year, I hope to feature guest bloggers here at the Uncataloged Museum.  Have you read a great book that connects to your work,  seen a compelling exhibit, or just need space to try out a new idea?  I'm particularly interested in featuring colleagues from outside the United States--so as your new year approaches, consider joining me here.   I look forward to many more lively conversations in the coming months.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Wish I'd Known....

What do you wish you knew when you started your first museum job?  This week, I began a new project with the Connecticut Humanities Council and the Connecticut League of History Organizations,  facilitating a series of workshops as part of the new StEPs CT program which uses AASLH's StEPs program, combined with active mentoring and training, to help 20 plus organizations in the state move forward.

My meeting this week was with a talented group of project mentors, who bring, in total, decades worth of experience to the table. To get to know each other better, we began by talking about what we wish we knew when we began our first museum jobs.  Here's what we shared:
  • That what I learned as a camp counselor would be far more useful than what I learned in graduate school.
  • That I could temper my expectations and be more realistic.
  • No matter how good the programming or exhibits, all the board cares about is the bottom line.
  • Customer service never ends.  Every time the phone rings you have to be on your A+ behavior.
  • That all institutions are so different from each other.
  • That when you come to work in an institution, there's a whole host of existing relationships that you can only guess at.
  • I have to be me--not what others expect.
What do you wish you knew when you began your museum career?  Let's hear it!

Photo by elycefeliz on Flickr