Saturday, April 28, 2012

Canadian Museums Association Conference 2012 - Part 3

Carol Sprachman Memorial Lecture - Jean Labonté, paralympian
I quite enjoy when non-museum speakers are invited to museum conferences. It's nice to get an outside perspective. So here are some life lessons from Labonte that I think would serve the museum community well to remember:
1. Whether we like it or not, we are part of a team. We can either bring everyone down or build eachother up.
2. When good things happen we rarely take the time to live in that moment and celebrate our success. We need to change this and reach out to share our successes with others.
3. We have to look beyond the obstacles, to fight through them and learn from the process.
4. We can do a lot with very limited resources.

He also shared a great Voltaire quote, "appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is great in others belong to us as well". Surely if we can look up and out, and work cooperatively, we can present a unified voice that heritage matters. Celebrating the successes of other museums and sharing ideas will serve to further enhance our strong reputation among the Canadian public.

Culture, Identity and Climate - How Artists contribute to all Three
David Buckland, International Director of Cape Farewell
Marshall McLuhan's teachings made an appearance again during this keynote address: "I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is happening to it". When people care about an issue they express it culturally. Cape Farewell partners artists with scientists to study and share information about climate change. While the scientists conduct in-depth research, the artists are challenged to create a work that corresponds with 'their' scientist's area of study. The resulting exhibits are shown around the world and shed light on the issue. Click here for a sampling. Blurring boundaries between disciplines strengthens society as a whole (there's that notion of the greater good reappearing).

I recently asked participants at a workshop if museums had any sort of social responsibility to address current issues instead of only sharing information about the past. Only one person said yes. If museums are supposed to be stewards of our shared experiences, how can we say that addressing the worldwide issue of climate change is outside the scope of our work? Or any other issue facing our community, province, country, or the world? This doesn't mean we have to get preachy and turn into activists, but as the Montreal Science Centre learned with their 'controversial' exhibits - these are the issues that resonate with society. Presenting the public with the space to discuss hot topics is a very worthwhile community service.

How Interdisciplinary or Cross-Sectoral Collaboration Can Help Drive Innovation
Instead of sharing the 3 case studies from this session, I'm going to focus on the challenges and strategies faced by the organizations.
1. organization shift - previously focused on goals & mandate and had to start balancing these with goals of partner organizations
2. staff burn out & managing change -  staff are often overworked and were used to thinking and working internally so an external mindset had to be fostered
3. resource allocation - we are already stretched very thin...enough said
4. expense vs. revenue -sometimes boards don't want to support risky ventures, especially when money is involved
5. competing needs of organizations - negotiations must take place and be completely finalized before a partnership is solidified
6. mission driven vs. market driven programming - this connects with the organizational shift of reaching out and being more community-minded and ensuring that there is a balance between the two

the inspiring view from my hotel room
Strategies (aka stuff you don't ever want to forget):
1. look outward and create ties with your community - artists, other organizations...don't limit yourself
2. create a platform for academic thought - people love to be challenged intellectually
3. think about the human experience - the museum should be a place where people come to experience life and relate to others
4. don't just dictate information to visitors, teach them and let them learn by doing
5. address potential barriers such as lack of awareness or access
6. maintain frequent communications with all your partners & community

In case you missed them:
CMA Conference Part 1
CMA Conference Part 2
CMA Conference Part 4

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been using that McLuhan quote in my classes for years!