Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Taking Stock

Spring has arrived in Cleveland. Bright sun, chirping robins, terrible thunderstorms are regular occurrences all of a sudden. 

I was sitting in a rare quiet moment, noticing the season (thanks to a colleague mentioning the arrival of Spring), when I realized it had been years since I’d noted Spring. Great Lakes denizens know spring is a capricious season, often masquerading as winter, fall, spring, and summer in the same day. But, as a child, I vividly remember long expanses of spring puddles. I remember eagerly looking for spring flowers and broken blue eggs. Of course, while seasonal changes have undoubtedly occurred in my lifetime, the biggest difference in the springs of my youth and my more recent springs is likely me. As a child, noticing the world was part of my life and my job. As an adult, I’ve trained myself to notice a much smaller set of elements of the world. Being able to train yourself to be a grown-up can be important for work and life.

But in the last month, every element of life has gone into flux. Work and family now happen in concurrent time frames, all running with a slow, rumbling soundtrack of uncertainty and anxiety. All of society is in change. In the midst of that, for those in the museum field, every aspect of our work has been called into question, at the mercy of the same financial forces of so many other industries. 

In other words, it’s been a tough few weeks. Last month, I wanted to channel the current moment and share some thoughts about the moment both from me and from social media comments. I suspect many of you still need time to share those "at the moment" feelings about the pandemic. I’m happy to listen to those (on social media or in comments). But here at the blog, I wanted to try to find ways to think about moving forward. 

In the next few weeks, I’ve invited people to write blog posts about taking stock of the field in the face of this epidemic. I’ve given them the flexibility in answering that question. 

For me, I’m seeing taking stock as teaching myself, again, to be able to notice the things I’d forgotten to notice. Like the child-like me, who didn’t forgo noticing spring, I’ve been spending time reading and noticing what I’m thinking about those articles. I’m remembering aspects of my work and career and trying to understand how those choices impacted the field and my work now. I’m also thinking hard about what are the best ways to move forward. 

The field doesn’t have to be rebuilt as it was. At the same time, there were important good elements that should be saved. But, without taking stock of both good and bad, we are very likely to make many of the same mistakes. 

In this spring of our future, taking note, thoughtfully, openly, and with a critical eye, can help us work together to develop a better field. 

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