A Follow-Up to Yesterday

Wow. Did yesterday happen? Yes, Alli, it did, and it was awesome. But now what? What are you going to do next??

I will admit, when I first started this blog in 2013, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was hoping to do something similar to what Emily had over at the UMZM and Field Museum, but I didn’t have the access. I thought, well, maybe I’ll do something similar but with the Waterworks Museum; now I’ve left there, and while I think I did a pretty decent job running their social media, I had dreams for what it could have been if I had infinite time and money and resources. I think I also got bogged down in the process of blogging – what do I talk about? How often do I post? Who is going to care? Will anyone even read this thing? So eventually, I stopped.

Yesterday was amazing, and not only because of Emily’s unofficial official nomination. Yesterday I got to meet Hopi Hoekstra, the Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and it was awesome because we got chatting about how awesome it would be if Hopi could get Emily to come visit Harvard and give a talk to kids and students about getting involved with science. Yesterday was amazing because I got to go to work at the HMNH and spend my day surrounded by fascinating collections pieces whose stories have yet to be told. Yesterday was amazing because I got to spend time with my best friend, seeing one of our favorite bands live.

Now, I feel recharged, refreshed, and filled with a new sense of purpose. Today, I go to work with the reminder that people are curious and want to learn more, and that I have the opportunity to facilitate that learning and help fuel that curiosity, in kids and adults alike. Today I go to work with a storyteller’s eye, seeking the tales (haha, tails/tales, get it) that have yet to be told; hoping to awaken long-dead species to tell their stories to whoever will listen; determined to no longer remain dormant. I am once again an active volcano.

My new goal for this blog will be to post twice a week about something I find fascinating at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (collectively known as the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture). I don’t have a backstage pass for any of these museums (yet!), so what I’ll be delivering is what I can find through research and asking the right people. It won’t be just natural history focused – there will be history woven in as well, because that is my background and my ultimate passion.

I still need to think of a tag for these special posts, but I will come up with something, don’t you worry. Keep an eye out: things are about to get interesting.

– a 

A Follow-Up to Yesterday

The Story Collider @ The Middle East Downstairs

I had an amazing experience last night. I decided to go to The Story Collider, an event at the Middle East Downstairs whose goal is to tell true, inspiring stories about science and how scientists of today became who they are. I went because Emily Graslie, host of the Brain Scoop on YouTube, was going to be there, and I wanted an opportunity to meet her – or at least hear her talk in person.

But boy did I get more than what I thought I would.

When I showed up at the event, I made a few chums waiting in line. We talked about the Brain Scoop, why we were at the show, our jobs, school, what we liked about science…pretty much everything you would expect a bunch of twenty-somethings to talk about while waiting in line for a science event. Upon entering the downstairs, we immediately saw Emily, pacing around, nervous to talk to a room full of people about how she had gotten to where she is now (for those of you not in the know, it’s the Field Museum in Chicago).¬†We immediately went over to talk to her, and I was both surprised and delighted to find out that Emily is actually a human being (shock!) who still doesn’t get why people like her. Talking to her was great, but soon other fans started to circle around, and we had to give them time with her too, so we moved on.

The event was fantastic. Listening not only to Emily, but Kishore Hari, Deborah Blum, and Alan Lightman all share their experiences with their entry into the field of science communication was hilarious and amazing. And then we got to hang out with them after! It was so cool. Intel sponsored the event, so there was free food (from the Middle East, so it was DELISH), and both bars were open. Apparently there was a two-day conference at MIT yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday), which prompted this Story Collider event, so many of the science folks from the conference were there too, and they all wanted to talk. TO US. About how we engage with science, how science can be more audience friendly, how to make science more accessible to the masses instead of the few that understand what gets published in science journals. It was incredible. I got to high-five Kishore Hari! It was great!

But if I’m being honest, the best part of my evening came at the very end. Emily was walking back from (I assume) the green room, and I decided to get her by myself for a moment to talk. She’s incredibly down to earth and so excited about what she does, and the possibility that someone else could be excited too makes her even more enthusiastic. And what did I say? Well, the details escape me, because I was still in a sort of shock that I was actually talking to her, but basically, I thanked her. From the bottom of my heart, I thanked her for being who she was, and for being the one lucky person in a million who got the dream job of going from volunteer to full-time employee. I told her that she was an inspiration to me, not only because she’s a female and she’s my age, but because I know how hard it is to volunteer in a museum that you love and watch as people ignore it. I know what it feels like to put so much time and effort into something you care so much about, only to see less and less funding come in every year. It’s really painful. So again, I thanked her. And she thanked me, for coming to the event, for talking to her, for doing what I do, and for extending her an open invitation to visit my other museum (HMNH, where I work) whenever she had time. She even gave me a hug (what!), and told me to keep in touch, which I plan on doing, because hey, what the heck. And she gave me the best piece of advice: keep doing what I’m doing.

Anyway. This entire experience has changed me quite a bit. Today I went to the Waterworks Museum and told my interim executive director that I wanted to do MORE than I was already doing, and now I’m going to the marketing meeting on Thursday night. My goal at that meeting is to convince the folks there that we need a better social media presence, and that I will do anything it takes to get our name out there and get more visitors in the door. I love this museum and I think it takes more than having free admission to get people to visit, and that’s what I’m going to tell everyone at that meeting on Thursday.

I’ve got my eyes on the prize, and I’m gonna fight like hell until I get it.

The Story Collider @ The Middle East Downstairs