Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 2015 Update

An alternative title to this post could be Thoughts & Lessons from 2015. It's been a pretty hectic year here at ANSM. The Evaluation Program, Advisory Service, First World War digitization focus, Museums 101 and Collections Management worshops...the list is pretty intense and those are just some of my projects, let alone other ANSM activities that have been or are still in the works.

Throughout my travels, I've made note of various thoughts and lessons and had every intention of blogging about them earlier - of sharing info in a timely fashion after I attended the AAM conference or the Tamarack workshop on community engagement, or just had a good conversation with someone inspiring. The funny thing is, the same themes kept coming up. So let's take a little look at these hot topics:

1. Commemorative Funding - is anyone else sick of hearing that you have to tie in your activities with "approved events" in order to get special project funding? I think a lot of us have felt pretty discouraged by this at one point or another. But I heard a great quote at a conference this year, "Local stories are relevant so can always tie to national narratives". I can't argue with that, so if we need to think a bit harder and write a bit more in applications about how our stories tie in, I think it's worth it. Our goal is to share information after all.

2. Community Asset - You've heard us use this term at the evaluation orientation sessions, but I promise you we aren't the only ones. Time and time again I've heard people say that we need to identify our museums as community partners and catalysts for positive change rather than as attractions. We shouldn't be proud if we are considered a hidden gem; we should be a local hub where people come together. And this includes focusing on the hyper-local, ie our immediate neighbourhood. It turns out, this also makes good business sense.

3. Crowdsourcing - A few museums in Nova Scotia have stepped into crowdsourcing, by funding the purchase of an artifact, the feeding of animals, or almost anything else. One of the coolest crowdsourced museum projects I heard about this year is Virginia's Top Ten Endangered Artifacts. Crowdsourcing isn't just about finding funding, but about community engagement, raising awareness, and being more transparent about museum work.
On a personal ANSM note, we've just backed a kickstarter project about strategic planning for museums and are pretty excited to put this into play (literally) in Nova Scotia. More on that in the new year!

Room of Martyrs
Center for Civil & Human Rights, Atlanta GA
4. Creativity - I know, super broad right? But this year I saw some great examples of museums troubleshooting issues in creative ways, be it in storage, exhibit design, or programming. And you don't have to break the bank. My example here is a pretty small room where the important stories of individuals are being told in an interactive way. Easy to change out content, easy to add more, and allows your visitors to get up close and personal with history.
In the areas of preservation & storage, I saw museums using fibreglas screens on windows while fundraising to purchase proper UV filters, conversion of garment racks and carpet tubes to awesome rolled storage units...the list goes on and on.

Those are just some of the things I've seen this year, and for the most part they give me hope and get me excited about where museums are headed next year (aka tomorrow). So I'm going to wrap up this quick little post with some of my favourite one-liners of the year:
"Ask yourself what you do better than others in your region"
"Pick three things you're good at and focus efforts there. Don't try to be everything to everyone"
"We need to take time to reflect on our work in order to learn from it"
"Sometimes your longest term employee is your database"
"Exhibitions do not equal engagement"
"Diversity in your board is a marker of success"

"A museum is good only so far as it is in use" ~John Cotton Dana

Happy New Year!