Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Very late AAM wrap up

I meant to post something after AAM in LA this May. Oops. I had some amazing experiences and met a lot of excellent people, including some people I've only known online or as a name on a listserv.

I stayed at the very cool looking Moroccan themed hotel where the rooms were not actually as impressive as one might hope for the price. But it was cool looking and an experience. I roomed with the delightful Ms. Perian Sully. We were in walking distance of the conference, which took place the same week as the American Idol finals. I saw no famous people that I knew, alas. But it was really funny to compare/contrast the AAMers and the American Idol groupies. Not that there wasn't overlap.

The conference: I attended a variety of sessions, including some in marketing and volunteer management which are so far from my homebase of collections work that I felt really out of the loop, but it was interesting to be there. Honestly, I took away less from the sessions (though there were some great ones) than from my personal experiences. The conference took place during a time of great uncertainty for me - my university was making cuts the week I was away and I knew I was being hit, but I didn't know how hard. So, unfortunately, I allowed my anxiety to taint some of my interactions. But at the same time, I learned a great deal and got really great advice from museum professionals I admire and respect.

I presented as part of a panel on Moving Collections for Small Museums. I had a great panel with two lovely and talented women from two very different institutions. The panel was well attended and went fabulously. It was kind of thrilling to be going to THE conference in the museum field and get to be a presenter.

What I am most proud of, however, is my interactions with people. I am an introvert with what may be some low grade social anxiety. I have trouble talking to people. But the conference gives you an automatic link - professionally! I found a few people I could go up to and hang out with at events, I arranged dinner dates, but I also met people randomly and had great conversations. I was meeting people I knew through other people. I was, I discovered, networking. Maybe not very well, or very efficiently, but I was making connections with people.

My favorite moments of the conference were experiences I was able to have at field trips/events. There was an evening event at the Getty. I hung out with Perian and her tech-peeps (who I view with a certain amount of awe) for a while, and then went exploring a bit. The Getty had a da Vinci show. It was... a religious experience. You walk into the first room and there's this enormous statue. By Donatello. And it's the real statue. At this point, you know they're not fooling around. The next three rooms are pages from the sketch books. PAGES. FROM. THE. SKETCH. BOOKS. The man's writing is right in front of me. The man's hand made these amazing images on this very paper. I was filled with a sort of amazement and joy. I wanted to giggle a little. I might have.

The other experience was a trip to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It was the next day, I think, after the Getty. And, wandering around the MJT, I had a very similar experience - not one of awe for da Vinci, but one of glee once I relented and let the absurdity/amazingness of the place wash over me. Just to explore and encounter the weird and wonderful was... wonderful.

The two venues are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the end result was very much the same. It was fabulous.

The best session I attended at the conference proper was "Beyond the Shiny Object: Mission Driven Museum Technology Development." It was the last session of the conference and included Nina Simon, Shelley Bernstein, Beck Tench, and Bruce Wyman, who are all fabulous and energetic and full of ideas. The room was full of ideas and totally vibrant and inspiring. It was the perfect session to end the conference with.

My biggest mistake: Not bringing enough business cards. Rookie mistake.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference. I think I'm getting the hang of these things.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Gearing up for AAM 2010

I'm excited because I'm headed off to the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Museums tomorrow. My schedule is simultaneously seeming quite full and full of gaps.

Especially exciting is the fact that I'm not just attending, I'm involved. I'll be hanging out at the table for the Committee on Museum Professional Training at the Marketplace of Ideas on Monday, talking about the transition from grad school to professional life. And on Tuesday, I'll be part of Heavy Lifting 101: Collections Moves for the Small Museum.

It's also been interesting to see the invitations for registrar specific special events come rolling in through the list-serv, and I've signed up for a few of those. And I'd like to nab tickets to another evening event or two - at the moment, I'm only signed up for a registrar event on Sunday and the emerging museum professional event on Monday (because it was cheap and I didn't know what the funding situation would look like).

And, while I'm at it, I think I'm going to be bringing along a few resumes. At this juncture, I know that my position will be "reduced" but how much I do not know. So I will be looking to see what sort of opportunities might be out there. If you know of an institution looking for an energetic collections manager/registrar/curator with an interest in technology and exhibit design, let me know!

See you in LA!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Personal Reflections on My Job

I was thinking the other day about my job. My job is great. I've grown so much here. When I began this position, I was fresh faced, out of grad school, had never held a full time job in my life (because, you know, I'd been in school for all of it). I had never been in charge of the work of others and had never had real responsibility. So I was thrilled when I was offered the position.

And then tragedy struck. A deep personal tragedy - the kind that rips the fabric of your reality apart, slaps you in the face and then sews that fabric back up with gaping holes and mis-matched edges. I pushed my starting date back two weeks, dealt with what I could, and managed much of the rest those first months on the job. I did a lot of growing up and I did it so fast. So much faster than I would have liked. So the person I have become today, through facing that tragedy, from taking on the challenge of this job, from growing in a multitude of ways over the past few years is a very different person than I think I was when I started this blog in the throes of a Masters thesis.

But I meant to talk about my job. I'm a collections manager. More specifically, I'm a Preservation and Museum Specialist II, which technically mean that I'm assistant to a curator and need to have all my decisions checked. But that is more an issue for Museos Unite than here.

During my time so far I have contributed substantially to the establishment of a new museum with an existing collection. I have moved a museum collection. I have reconciled records, I have digitized records, I have photographed the collection, I have rehoused it, and I have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. And all this was only possible because I learned how to place myself in a position of authority, while guiding and teaching interns and volunteers how to work with collections. And I am learning how to maneuver my way through the many offices and various signatories of our parent institution.

I've had the opportunity to attend and present at two major conferences, with a third presentation coming up this May at AAM. The first two were great, and probably happened as a direct result of my having this blog and sticking my head up at a time when museums were just beginning to dip their toes in the water. When it started, this blog was relevant - to what was happening, to my thesis. Now, not so much. And that's why I'm really thrilled that my AAM presentation will be on the collections move that I did in my professional capacity.

But more than doing the job I set out to do, I have had the opportunity to learn so much more. I have developed a small exhibit and been a major part of tempering the academic-speak of another. I have learned how to work with vinyl, and plexiglass. I am deeply involved in the exhibit design process. I have arranged the objects within their cases for our latest exhibit. I make mounts. I maintain our online presence (although I admit that part is not so great). I attend to the front desk when we have no volunteers to do it for us.

And, you know what?, I love learning all of these new things. The exhibit stuff is great. I love making things happen, and I adore having conversations with visitors who are so into the topic that they can't stop talking about it. I love doing silly little projects. And I love the chance to grow.

But I'm worried. I'm deeply worried. Our parent institution is going through a severe budget crunch and an ax is going to fall somewhere. And, even though we've done really amazing things with surprisingly limited support, even though we've made great strides connecting to the community in a town where the town/gown curtain sometimes feels like it's made of iron, I'm very worried.

So I've been thinking about my job. It's been such an excellent opportunity for me, and I have grown so much, and accomplished many things. I mean, I've been at the beginning of a museum which has so much potential to be a catalyst in the area, and that's a rare opportunity. And it feels good to think that the little things I do every day, even the dull things (photo editing, I'm looking at you), have helped to make something good.

This feels like a farewell letter. I don't know if that's what it is. An ax is going to fall here soon, and I've been open with my supervisors that I would dearly like to find a job closer to my family - 2000 miles is tough. It is what it is. But I'm proud of what I've been a part of so far and feel ready for whatever my next step is going to be.