Friday, December 21, 2007
We've recently re-introduced (after a 10+ year hiatus) audio tours at the museum I work at. We decided to introduce them based on the feedback we received from our volunteers (and the feedback they've received from visitors). The audio tours are produced using Audacity and the audio tour devices themselves are low-cost MP3 players. We do all the work in-house. We’ve offered them with three exhibitions thus far – for free. The response to the audio tours continue to be encouraging – not to say we haven't had to tweak the product along the way/
Do your museums do audio tours/podcasts? If so, how do you produce them? What type of feedback do you receive from them? How much do you charge for them? Any words of wisdom to share?
Friday, December 07, 2007
Emerging Museum Professionals
2007 Survey Report
View the complete survey and results (pdf).
Activities Planned for Emerging Museum Professionals Check out the exciting events scheduled for the 2008 AAM Annual Meeting in Denver for EMPs. There will be a host of opportunities to network with professionals in the field, such as a reception at the Tattered Cover bookstore, an EMP Power Hour: Action and Opportunity and numerous other activities at this year's Career Cafe! Visit the 2008 AAM Annual Meeting website for more information and to register.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
This year's Association of Midwest Museum Conference was held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Enriching, as always I'd like to take a moment to recap a session I co-presented called "Speaking of Leadership." The session was designed as an informal discussion between young museum professionals and established leaders in the museum field. We had just over 20 participants (which I thought was very successful considering we presented after the last keynote on Friday morning). From all the discussion I found a few things to be most interesting.
When young professionals asked what museums were looking for in staff; the answer was simple and clear – passion and interpersonal skills – I have to admit I was a little surprised by the answer. I was ready for "a masters degree." As the discussion continued many of the leaders established the point – without passion and interpersonal skills and degree means nothing. I agree but a part of me didn't, haven't we been taught to continue our educations until we are overqualified for every entry position available? –Yes...Then why is it that every job posting seems to require a masters? The point was made that practical experience is far more valuable than academic (not to say that is not important because naturally it is).
The session also covered "Passing the Torch," who is actively engaged in succession planning? I made the point, the three other colleagues from my institution with me have over 90 years worth of experience and I have around five. Of those three all of them will be retiring in the next 10-15 years (who knows, maybe we'll all need to work forever). I find that situation to be daunting, imagine this history our older colleagues have with the institutions they've been with where does that leave us. The leaders responded saying they too felt the same way at one time and they too made mistakes. They want young professional that want to learn and not be "young bucks," who only want to abuse the power dynamics to their advantage.
The discussion also brought to light some of the frustrations felt by young professionals, wages, benefits, and respect. Overwhelmingly the point was, “we’ll work hard, to earn your respect, please compensate us accordingly.” This could be more of the exception rather than the rule. But some made the point that they were not making enough to live, even if they were a great asset to their institutions.
All round I found the discussion to be lively and dynamic, would any of you care to share your own perspectives or reflections on this discussion, present or not?
Friday, August 17, 2007
And it's got me thinking, are there substantive geographical differences in all of our museum cultures out there? I could tell you a lot about being a museum educator in New York, in terms of what sort of qualifications and background people are looking for in a given position, what having a particular institution or school or job title on your resume might mean to someone, how my own experience and education compares to my peers, what might differ between different types of museums, what the climate and interactions are between museums, schools, government... But from the little I've heard and seen thus far of the museum community in my new home, I have a feeling the answers here might be different. Or maybe not.
Anyone out there experienced a shift in geography that required a corresponding shift in their conception of their career community? If so, is there anything -- aside from time and networking -- that helped you adjust to your new environment?
Sunday, August 05, 2007
One day as I was looking through some of the executive profiles on our museum and foundation's website, I realized how little I knew some of our managers. Interested in learning more about management and fundraising, last week I struck up a conversation with our Senior Vice President by the microwave. After chatting a bit, I asked him how he got into the museum field and how he has worked his way up the ladder. We talked for a bit longer and then he invited me to discuss it at length over lunch some time. He asked me to arrange a time with his assistant and then we'd meet one day at noon. My instincts were to say, "that's okay, I don't want to bother you," but instead I decided that I would do it. In fact, I made an appointment with him immediately because I knew I would only procrastinate doing it.
I really didn't know what to expect from our lunch or what the heck two people who didn't really know each other would talk about for an hour. So, I decided to do a little bit of research both on my VP and how to do an "informational interview." (http://www.quintcareers.com/informational_interviewing.html) I am glad that I did a little investigation because it helped guide the conversation and helped me decide what I wanted to know from him. In the end, I found that he was a very interesting man with a diverse array of experience--much more closely in line with what I do that what I had formally assumed. He had some great stories and perhaps the most important advice he shared was to diversify my experience and to stay open to interesting career possibilities. In the end, we spent an hour and a half at lunch and he offered to continue the dialogue in the future. So, all and all it was highly positive experience.
I guess this made me think of some of the ongoing dialogue that I have heard here and elsewhere about the need for professional mentors. I doubt that this experience will lead to a long term mentorship, but I don't think that is necessary or important at this stage. In fact, more interactions like this might be as or more beneficial than a set mentorship. Has anyone else had an informational interview before? Was is helpful or pointless? Was there anything you or your interviewee said or did that made your experience more worthwhile?
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The session title and description are below:
Speaking of Leadership: A Conversation between Museum Directors and Young Museum Professionals about Leadership Development
Join us for an informal discussion between museum directors and young museum professionals about leadership development and tomorrow’s museum leaders.
I’m requesting you present me with some discussion threads you’d like explored during this session.
Also if you’re planning on attending the conference are you planning on attending this session (I hope so)?
Monday, July 09, 2007
We changed ours to Manager of Multimedia Interpretive Programs. We were looking for something to encapsulate the duties of the job and the original title had about 13 words in it. This is the shorter version.
Chattanooga is a great city 3 hours from Nashville, 1.5 hours from Atlanta, and 1.5 hours from Knoxville. Let me know if you have any questions about the position, but please forward your resume to the person listed below.
In the comments post 2 things: your job title and what it is you actually do. If we have any Directors of Fun out there then please post.
The Hunter Museum of American Art has an opening for the Manager of Multimedia Interpretive Programs. This education department position will join a dynamic education team and will have an important role in developing tuition-based, tour-based and family-based studio offerings for visitors of all ages. This position is responsible for all multimedia interpretive elements of offered including video podcast projects, cell phone interpretive projects and other future web and gallery-based technologies that will be incorporated into the Hunter’s interpretive plan. This position will assist the department with school focused museum visits, weekly evening programs, and family programs.
Individual must have experience managing a studio program and have at least 3 years professional museum experience with a background in broad based museum education. The position requires strong skills with multiple forms of technology used in the context of museum interpretation. This individual should be well versed in contemporary visitor-centric museum education practices and experience working with novice viewers.
Applications including a letter outlining skills in above areas and a professional resume along with 3 references should be sent in electronic or hard copy to:
Curator of Education
10 Bluff View
Fax – 423 267-9844
Email – email@example.com
Applications accepted through July 31, 2007.
Friday, June 29, 2007
"Thank you for your interest in Emerging Museum Professionals at AAM! We invite you to take a few minutes to complete a brief survey to guide AAM's activities and services for emerging professionals working for and with museums. It should only take a few minutes to complete and will provide us with valuable feedback on the resources and services that you want and need. Take the survey! Thanks in advance for your participation! www.aam-us.org/emp"
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
These two years have offered me the best education I could ever imagine, experiences that allow me to grow continually, and stability in my work life.
As of late, I’m feeling the itch to continue my education or experience some kind of change, this could stem from the fact I haven’t lived in one place for more than a year since I was a young adolescent. I love change, things in flux, and challenges. I thrive on deadlines, on stressful experiences, the new-job learning curve; I’m a glutton for it. It’s not like that doesn’t happen currently but everything feels too safe.
Don’t get me wrong I love my job, my colleagues, and the institution I work at. I look at my colleagues and some are marking their thirtieth anniversary at the Museum – that scares the blank out of me. I know the time will come where I’ll need to move on, but I feel like if I did – I’d betray them and this place – but I understand it’s totally unrealistic for me to think I could stay here for my whole career. Maybe that reveals something about my working environment – in this unfamiliar community where I can count my friends on part of one hand– my job is my identity, I work (and I’m sure many of you do too) more than a full-time job (which I do because I value this place and what we give this community) this position has wedged its way into almost all aspects of my life. My neighbors know me, a trip to the grocery store in the scrubbiest of clothing is always met with a familiar face; anonymity I once found so comforting is gone.
Grappling with this, I’ve looked into different graduate programs, each of them offering more questions than answers, I’ve talked with my director but I haven’t come to a solution. I don’t know what the right answer is, I’ve heard over and over that right is rarely the easy way. I just don’t know how I’d reconcile this with my high-esteemed colleagues or myself.
Advice or similar experiences, please share.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I have experienced brief periods of burnout in my now 8-year-old professional career, and for me, it makes my resume look a little bit like a patchwork quilt. Now, I don't regret my job hopping in the past because it led me to where I am now, a fabulous institution in my hometown doing something that I love. But even now, I need to "refocus" on those aspects of my job (and personal life) which give me the most joy and satisfaction.
In recent months, however, I have recognized these signs of burnout in many of my young-ish colleagues here at the museum. It has helped me to know that I am not alone, but I've thought a great deal about how I can help them avoid the "career quilt" that I've experienced. One place I reached out to was http://www.employer-employee.com. First, the signs....
If you answered yes to a good number of these then you, too, might be suffering from burnout. Not to fear! Finding good stress management techniques can often help alleviate these feelings of dread every time your alarm clock goes off in the morning.
- Have you lost your enthusiasm for your work?
- Is your work become more than a drag but a weight that gets heavier and heavier?
- Are you feeling that you no longer get satisfaction from your job, or are you questioning the value of tasks that you perform?
- Are you entertaining the thought of finding a new job?
- Do you no longer laugh or have fun at work?
- Are you more irritable toward coworkers or customers?
- Do you always see work as a chore?
- Have you developed chronic worry about your job?
- Do you feel lethargic and empty in your work?
Employer-employee.com lays out some relatively simple ways to refocus yourself and to once again find your passion for the job. You can visit the website for a more detailed description of these solutions, but here is my own take on what has worked for me and might work for you, as well (though keep in mind, I'm a museum professional not a mental health professional):
- Look for the positives in a challenge rather than focusing on the negatives. How might this additional project dropped on your plate allow you to improve your visibility in the institution? What new opportunities will become available to you by assuming a new responsibility?
- Have fun at work. All of the important things I've learned in life I learned from the movie "City Slickers". Ok, so not really, but Jack Palance and Billy Crystal were on to something when they talked about finding that "one thing" to make your life complete. The author and philosopher Joseph Campbell frequently referred to your "bliss", or finding and following that thing about which you are most passionate. Some of us are lucky enough to find it, many more are continuously searching...and that's ok, too. But while your on that journey, there is no rule that says you can't enjoy yourself. Try to get those monotonous tasks out of the way early in the day so that you can focus on more enjoyable tasks for the rest of your day. Get out of the office and speak with a student group or a senior group visiting that day.
- You deserve a break today. The marketing geniuses at McDonald's had it right. Take a walk through your museum's galleries to really LOOK at all of these amazing things that so many people pay to come and see. In Milwaukee, we actually had mandatory weekly "gallery walks", which were in essence a walking meditation session. We conducted one-on-one meetings this way, brainstorming sessions, you name it. It really kept us, as a staff, connected with why we took these jobs in the first place.
- Mix it up. Redecorate your office. Work out details for a flexible schedule where you can come in an hour earlier (or later) one or two days a week (or more) so that you can get some things done without the phone ringing or school groups screaming in the lobby. Though it may also sound counter-intuitive, you could also ask for some additional responsibilities or a project which you know you would enjoy.
- Step up and take control. Many times, supervisors recognize that employees may be suffering from burnout but don't know how to address it. Without going up to your boss and saying, "I'm burning out," (trust me, you won't get the response you were hoping for...I know from personal experience), try to suggest some new ways that you might be able to do your job or ask for permission to run a project for a short time to try and put your stamp on it. Own it. Who knows, maybe you'll find your "bliss".
How do YOU deal with stress and potential burnout? Share your suggestions by clicking on the "comments" link just below this posting.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
For my first post I wanted to share how I came to work in the museum field. At AAM this year I encountered a number of students and new members to the museum field in general. Many of them go to AAM to learn more about the museum field, to network, scout out jobs, and gain insight into how they can break in to the field. The question I fielded the most was "how did you get your job"?
This topic is covered greatly on the Museum-L listserv (mostly every year around graduation time) through posts and back and forth banter from museum professionals and students. What worked for me is the year-long internship/volunteer work/free labor I did for a local history museum. I worked in collections and education and recieved a very well rounded experience as a result. I recieved this valuable work experience for free. The museum recieved an extra hand for free. The point is: don't expect to get paid.
There is also a mixture of luck involved meeting the right people; that is where conferences come in to play. I imagine that a lot of "Young Museum Professional" hopefuls also read this blog.
For those of already in jobs I want you to sound off in the comments if you gained your first paying museum job by what you know (as far as experience in an internship or other position) or if you where hired because of who you know...or was it a mixture of both (or something completely different).
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
I often wonder about this, this is my first museum position where these have occurred. Mine are very informal and I wonder if I’d benefit from a more structured one.
What are your experiences with reviews? How are they structured?
I feel like a more structured review would help in identifying potential development areas as well as creating a dialogue opportunity for goal setting and career forecasting.
Please share your experiences.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic
For generation descriptions and suggestions for cross-generational communication techniques. I work at a Museum where all four generations are represented. Myself being the most youthful, I’ve found this dynamic to be a rewarding one, with built-in mentorship, I feel like I’ve benefited from experience of my colleagues without condescension.
This phenomenon creates both rewarding and challenging experiences. How do you communicate successfully? How do you avoid being stereotyped? How can your workplace benefit from this wealth of knowledge, experience, and skill?
Do you work in an intergenerational workplace? If so, how have you benefited from this dynamic? Do you have any suggestions for potentially frustrating situations? If so, please share.
Monday, April 02, 2007
I'm very happy doing what I do, almost certainly happier than I'd be at an art museum. And it seems clear that we need more educators comfortable teaching math and science, and if people with in-depth training in those areas aren't available (because, as I assume, they are going for more lucrative research/corporate/government/ academic jobs? or is there another reason?), surely someone needs to fill that gap. And I personally believe that, at least for grades K-8, it is more important to have smart, enthusiastic educators who can make the material accessible and interesting for their audience than it is to have educators who are necessarily experts in their field. But what do others think? Anyone else out there noticing this trend, or teaching subjects in which they are self-taught?
Friday, March 30, 2007
1. Scope out all of the organizations that you might be interested in joining. Since joining can be a costly endeavor, it pays to understand what you are getting into. There are dozens of professional organizations that might appeal to you and your chosen field, but only a fraction of them will really be of help. While I think that AAM is a great organization and highly recommend joining, it really doesn’t help on a local level. Investigate museum associations in your area. Each region of the country, most states, and many large cities have some kind of association that helps you network with colleagues and offers professional development. Also, be sure to check out organizations that appeal to specialty areas like history, education, visitor studies, exhibitry, etc. They are generally less expensive than larger associations.
2. Budget for membership fees. I have heard that it is smart to budget 5-10% of your salary for professional development which includes memberships, classes and conferences. If your museum pays for professional development, you should count your blessings. Most institutions pay only partially for such affiliations and frequently only to top level staff. Think of it as an investment in yourself and your career.
3. Get involved. You don’t pay the admission fee at Disneyland and then hang out on the bench in front of the Matterhorn all day. You have to get involved to see any benefit. Attend meetings or conferences, volunteer for committees, and introduce yourself to your colleagues. While the main reason most people join professional organizations is to have access to job listings, only those who get involved will learn about the opportunities that go unannounced.
4. Don’t over commit. For most young professionals, being over committed is more of a problem than not being involved at all. Be judicious with how you spend your time. Don’t volunteer to sit on several committees. You will do yourself and the organization a greater service by doing a great job at one or two things than doing a half-ass job on three or four (or more) things. Understand the scope of your commitment and, if necessary, get permission from your supervisor at work. Every museum benefits from heightened prominence when its staff is serving on professional organizations. Often your museum will allow you to do your service during office time.
5. Rotate. It is easy to get entrenched with one organization because you like the people and have made good contacts. But, it is important to find new challenges and to get a different perspective. After being involved with an organization for 3-5 years, look around for a new place to get involved. Ask your colleagues to recommend an organization for you to try out. By all means, stay in touch and remain a member with your old organizations, but focus your energy on a new enterprise to diversify your skills.
Working in a museum is a fun and rewarding career, but all too often we get discouraged or exhausted by distractions and obstacles inherent with each individual institution. Professional organizations provide crucial opportunities for professionals of every age to connect with peers, seek advice and advancement, and reinvigorate their minds. Now, if I could only listen to my own advice.
Are you coming to AAM’s Chicago meeting? EMPs are everywhere in the Windy City! Be sure to catch these two events:
(E)merging Professionals Reception Monday, May 14, 5 pm - 6:30 pm, Cash Bar Meet your peers for drinks, nosh, and lively conversation.
Emerging Museum Professionals Listening Session Tuesday, May 15, 12:30-1:30 pm We want to hear from you! Talk to us about the skills and resources that young professionals need to succeed in the museum field. Suggests ways in which museums can nurture leadership at every level. Tell us how AAM can support emerging museum professionals. Bring your insights, suggestions and comments to this listening session.
For more opportunities to learn and network while you’re in Chicago, visit http://www.aam-us.org/am07/emp.cfm.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Some museums are organizing their staffs in new ways, distributing responsibility for what has traditionally been the work of museum educators among other staff, with other titles, in other departments.
We want to find out more about this trend and invite you to fill out a short survey. Please go to:
We will share the results at the session, "Are Museum Educators Necessary?" at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference in Chicago. The session is Wednesday, May 16th at 2:00 pm.
Gretchen Adams and Jill Sanderson
Museum Education Roundtable Board Members
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Hi, my name is Jason…and I’m a workaholic. Please excuse my taking some liberties here, but for my installment I would like to take a slight departure from the “professional” aspects of our jobs and focus more on the “personal”…or at the very least, how to balance the two.
As some of you may know, my wife and I both work in the same museum—I in Education and she in Development. Four months ago we had our first child. It has been a most joyous time, but we have begun to recognize the strain that being so dedicated to our jobs can take on our “home time”.
This past week has been a prime example. We’re both in the midst of finalizing budgets, preparing for the end of the fiscal/school year, and keeping everything around us moving forward. I had two 10+ hour days in the office, and she had 3. Emails were pouring in all weekend. We found ourselves stretched to the limit to try and fulfill the time-sensitive needs of work and to spend the quality time with our son. Now, to clarify, our son comes first…but we still wonder about how to balance the two.
While my wife and I are still trying to find the answer, how have you managed to balance the professional with the personal? Are there model programs in place at your museums that help you find this balance…or at least support you to find one?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I think it's important to reconnect to our missions/visions/goals and our audiences. Especially during a long winter where the days continue to be gray (at least by me) and we need a little fire starter. Do any of you have similar stories you’d like to share? So we can continue this feel good session!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Two of my favorites to help remind me of what we're all doing here. (But mostly, I just wanted a post that was a little more concise than my previous one.)
It's a silent oasis in the noisy confusion of the world, isolating phenomena so that they can be seen undistractedly. What is being collected are not the artifacts themselves but the undivided attention of the visitors. That is the museum. It lies in the mind of the viewers.
--Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of Love
We want kids to be capable of art appreciation, critical thinking, and outrage.
--Maxine Green, during a workshop at Bank Street College of Education Graduate School