Tuesday, December 24, 2019


In the waning days of the decade, I’ve been inviting everyone to take stock of and make predications for museums. The first few posts of the month have been focused on the decade we’ve all just experienced, and next week, I’ll share everyone’s thoughts about the future.

Today, though, I thought I’d tell you about an exercise I’ve been doing. It started one late evening when my partner was watching something. I’d been reading a novel, only turning an eye to the show periodically. Two episodes in and I was woefully lost with the narrative and even worse off with the characters. Instead of berating him with my queries about the characters, I started spitballing about museums. He’d done his time in various museum departments over the years. He had ample room to counter my bold statements about museums. (Good ideas rarely come fully-formed from one person.) I grabbed my computer, and as he watched fire-fights and interpersonal intrigue, I penned a long look back on what I’ve learned about museums over the last two years.

My post began with some highlights (and lowlights about my career): 
"I’ve been alone with so many famous works of art, I’ve lost count. I’ve seen the backs and the bottoms and the insides. I’ve heard the secrets I can’t share."

And my ideas included:
1. People will give money to educate kids. But many funders won’t give money to turn on the lights. Who cares if it's hard to educate kids in pitch black galleries?

In the week or so since that post, I’ve been thinking a lot about good times. I had wanted to catalog some high points of the field and my career, as an invocation to everyone to do the same. Meditating on good is harder sometimes than bad. Seizing the moment to remind yourself of your worth can be challenging.

But, in the end, I found it hard. Not because I’ve forgotten the good. Quite to the contrary, actually. The good resides in my mind, just at the edge, its happiness bubbling up at odd times. But, the good times for me turn out not to be outcome-based. My CV and my list of happy memories don’t line up at all. I’ve written things and done things, and I’m sincerely proud of my accomplishments. But those outcomes don’t necessarily hold emotional weight as certainly fleeting, unremarkable moments. The times in the last decade that hold the greatest sway are the feelings, and most of these emotions grown from interactions with my colleagues. I wrote about it on Medium a few weeks ago. The post started like this: 
"I’ve spent twenty years in the professional world. I’d had two decades of relationships at work and in social media. Extrovert of extroverts, that translates as scores of people. So many people have come into my life, flowing in and then flowing out."

So to end this week’s post, I’d invite everyone this week to drop a note to a colleague who impacted you in the last decade. Tell them hello and thanks. Or tell them you thought of them. Or tell them a funny story. Just reconnect. The work and the outcomes, the collection and the labors, are what we do every day. But the people we’ve known are often filling in crevices with goodness and laughter. The webs of people who make work happen are integral to our everyday happiness.

Next week, for the last post of the decade, I'll share our thoughts about the future. Join the conversation about the future of the field, here, or on social media. 

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