So, it’s been a while.

Hello, world. What’s new? I realize I haven’t posted here in…jeeze…forever. Sorry about that. I think I started blogging just to have a blog, which is never a good reason to start blogging. Take that as a lesson!

I’ve moved on from the Waterworks Museum, where I was briefly (for 8 months) running their social media, in addition to occasional work on the collections, scheduling Waterworks Wednesdays, and anything else I could fit in to my 15 hour work week. It was a great learning experience, but after a combined 2.5 years there, it was time to move on and seek new adventures. (Don’t worry, you can still find me in the gift shop at the Harvard Museum of Natural History)

Now, I’m a graduate intern at the Bostonian Society, which runs the Old State House Museum in downtown Boston. I’m working with an off-site collection, and that’s really all I can say until I get a better sense of TBS’ social media policy. I’m hoping I’ll be allowed to blog here and there about my experiences there, but we’ll see. I’ll be there for a year (I started in January and will end in December), so there’s a lot of room for growth and discovery. I’m really looking forward to the journey.

I’ve completed all my classes for my graduate degree, and I’ve realized I’ve been spending my days spending money I don’t really have. I feel like I should be reading museum books, but do I really need to be reading more theory? I had an idea while I was tweaking the appearance of this blog (dear lord it took forever to figure out that social menu below my title) — wouldn’t it be cool to visit one or two historic houses and museums in Boston a week, and blog about them? I think that would be neat. And it would get me to write. So I think I’m going to do that. I should make a list of all the historic houses in the area (helloooo Google) and try to get to as many of them as I can.

In other news, Drinking About Museums: Boston and NEMA are co-hosting a networking 101 evening at the Hong Kong on April 15th, 2015. I helped come up with the idea and get it together (sorry to brag but I gotta take some credit, right?), and I’d love it if everyone came! Click the DAM:B link above to RSVP (and make sure to come to the event this Wednesday for casual drinks and chats!).

Speaking of Drinking About Museums, I’m pretty glad the Google+ group exists. I’m heading to Austin, TX in a few weeks (for funsies), and posted in the group to see if anyone wanted to get together¬†— BOOMSAUCE! Got a fun date with a bunch of Texan museum pros on April 6th now. I love the internet. Don’t you?

Time to make that list.

– a

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So, it’s been a while.

Am I Doing This Right? (Fear and Worrying in My Career Path)

ImageI know I’m not the only student in a museum studies degree program who finds herself occasionally worrying: “am I doing this right?” I as myself this question about once a month, to be completely honest. In these moments of overwhelming fear, buried under piles of notes from class and work (both paid and unpaid), looking for a moment of peace in this chaotic world I’ve created for myself, I find myself wondering if I’m going about this whole career path the right way. I start to ask:¬†am I volunteering enough? Am I honing my skillset the right way? Am I staying relevant in this growing, expanding, dynamic ecosystem of museums that I’ve decided to enter? What else could I be doing? How much less free time am I willing to have to get the skills I need? How competitive am I? Why do I feel so insignificant?

These are the moments when I have to truly take a step back and look at everything that I’m doing. I’ve taken every opportunity I can get, to the point of exhaustion. I’m constantly looking for ways to learn new skills, and prove that they’re relevant to the museum world. I went from being semi-engaged, to eating/sleeping/breathing museums. I might as well walk around with a tattoo on my forehead that says “ask me about my museum”.

But there are things that I think about doing, that others in my position have taken up, that I wonder if it’s important for me to pursue. Many of us EMPs appear to be starting YouTube series about museums. I’ve seriously thought about doing this a few times, and I just can’t. Guys, I can’t do it. Not only do I hate seeing myself on camera (note the lack of #museumselfies on my Instagram), but I find myself so overly engaged on Twitter and interacting with real people at events like Drinking About Museums that I think making another series to add to the miasma is just unnecessary. Am I wrong? Maybe. But I’m too involved with other projects to consider it at this point.

I’m worried about my thesis, mostly because I haven’t done any research on it. I decided not to take a summer class, not only to give myself some time away from being in a classroom, but also to volunteer at HMNH as an assistant for Summer Science Weeks (which hopefully HR will approve!). I have no idea whether or not I will enjoy museum education, but this opportunity has been presented and you can sure as hell bet I’m going to take it. This is the only way I can find out if I want to be an educator. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right, my thesis. I have ideas; I think I have a really great idea, actually. And I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing the research prior to going to my program advisor and saying, “This is my idea, this is the research I’ve already done that supports my idea, this is where I want to do my internship.” It’s just getting to the point of having enough time to sit down and comb through the last few years of TrendsWatch or looking at ASTC statistics. On top of that, I still haven’t cracked open the book on the history of the institution I would ideally like to do my internship at.

On top of all this worrying, I occasionally suffer from self-doubt. Ed Rodley, bless you sir, thinks I would be perfect for running a Boston edition of Invasioni Digitali, a grassroots effort sparked in Italy to “mob” cultural heritage and historic sites and share these visits via social media, therefore creating conversation about preservation, heritage, etc. I love the idea. I think it’s a perfect idea, in fact. But am I really the best person for the job? Maybe I just don’t want to brag about myself; maybe for all my confidence and enthusiasm, I really don’t like being the person that says, “Oh, I KNOW I’m the best person for the job.” I’d rather say, “Really? You think so?” And then prove it with actions. So I guess I’m issuing a call with this post as well: if you’re interested in invading some museums and cultural sites with me at some point this summer, holla at me. Ed is going to MW2014 in April and meeting up with them, so he’ll bring me back a better idea of how it works. But even just writing this paragraph, I’ve got some ideas….

My last concern is my resume. Guys, how the hell do I write something like THE WORLD IS AWESOME AND I WANT TO LEARN MORE on my resume? I can’t! I hate writing resumes and I hate writing cover letters. I don’t know how to convey my enthusiasm for what I do in three paragraphs. I want people to see my cover letter and resume and think “wow, this girl has a spark, let’s interview her”, so I can get into that interview and blow them away. I’m stupidly enthusiastic about my work; you should see me at the Waterworks Museum. I’m about to draft an email to the MWRA about visiting the Deer Island Treatment Facility (where Boston’s wastewater is treated!) so I can live-tweet my visit for the Waterworks Museum, and also learn more. Are there any water departments that need a historian on staff? I think I might fit the bill perfectly after my stint at the Waterworks is over. Yesterday I almost went over to talk to some MWRA employees while they were fixing the emergency backup pumps. How ridiculous is that? Anyway back to my point. How do I write all of this? How to I say, “enthusiastic about the world”?

These are the questions and concerns that plague me. But I’m sure they haunt my peers just as much. I’m sure all of you established museum professionals that glance at this post will understand my fears. If you have advice, tips, suggestions, etc., I’d love to hear it. Comment below or email me. Get coffee with me. Visit me at work. Something.

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Am I Doing This Right? (Fear and Worrying in My Career Path)

#MuseumShowoff Boston!

ImageHey guys! Sorry for not updating as frequently, but I’ve had a lot going on and minimal time to conceive of blog posts!

Let’s get right to it: Museum Showoff. Sitting through a 2 hour class before having to watch five other people showoff before me was possibly the most nervewracking thing ever. George Hein came in to talk about constructivist learning, and we did this really cool group activity where we had to choose a thing to teach someone, and figure out how we could teach that thing using the four main methods of learning and teaching. It was actually pretty hard, but I think our group also chose a difficult concept to teach (the earth goes around the sun). The activity took my mind off my nerves, but only for ten or fifteen minutes. By 6:45, I hate to admit, I was constantly looking at the clock, and feeling very anxious to get out of the classroom and over to Hong Kong. Not too many classmates came, but the ones that did, I really appreciate you coming! It was also great to be reunited with some folks I met at the Story Collider back in September (Becky gave a talk on what it was like being an art history major; and it was Claire’s first time at a DAM/MSO BOS event). I saw a lot of familiar faces, and I’m pretty stoked that my face was familiar to them as well!

The showoffs that I saw were great. (I’m bummed I missed Jeff Steward’s talk about the Harvard Art Museums!) Diana gave a great talk about the HMNH Hack from last month, with some lessons learned from the hack. Emily Oswald’s discussion of the different ways the old Charlesview apartments on North Harvard St could be utilized as pop-up museum space/historic space was incredible, and I totally want to see if that plan can work at all, because that corner is in desperate need of some artistic therapy. Meg Winikates¬†shared what it’s like to have the “From Here to Ear” exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum, a space not traditionally designed for live animal exhibitions. The video she showed and the way she described the exhibit made me really want to hop on the next commuter rail and go see it (and hopefully sometime next month, I will!). Susan Timberlake’s talk about museum badging for the Center for the Future of Museums was really cool, and I am definitely going to learn more about badging now! Becky’s talk definitely hit home for me; as a history major, I was constantly asked what I wanted to do when I graduated, and most people assumed that the answer to that question was teaching.

I went dead last, and I’m not going to lie about how nervous I was. I was shaking when I plugged my USB into the computer. I had a plan for this talk: I was going to introduce the Waterworks Museum, and basically give everyone a virtual tour of the museum, with a handy PowerPoint and everything. And then, the day before the showoff, I realized what an utterly stupid idea that was. I didn’t want to give people a virtual tour, that would give them absolutely no reason to visit (unless the tour piqued their interest, which I’m sure it would have), and I would have been boring and droned on for 9 minutes citing facts about the building, dates of construction, and basically sounding like a history textbook on legs. I didn’t want that. I wanted people to know what I know, and feel how I feel when I walk in to the Waterworks Museum. (to use an awful analogy, the Waterworks Museum is to me what the Millennium Falcon is to Han Solo) I used photos I took from my time there and put them in to a movie that I had playing on the TV behind me the whole time I was talking. No music, just photos; of the building, of the collection, of the engines, of little things I found that fascinate me. I talked about what I do, and why I’m scared, and why I’m proud. I shamelessly plugged our February Vacation Open House. I wanted my presentation to be a call to arms; to rally people to not only visit the Waterworks Museum, but to take an interest in small historic museums and houses that sometimes get ignored, especially when their cultural competition is a place like the MFA or the Museum of Science.

I’d say I was successful.

The next day, walking up an icy sidewalk to the Waterworks Museum, I was bombarded by tweets from Ed Rodley, about the InvasioniDigita initiative that has started in Italy. It’s an incredible #musesocial initiative, where “mobs” of people “invade” cultural institutions and share their experiences via social media. Instead of solo visits to museums, you have groups of people, starting conversations about art and culture and society, and it looks like an amazing experience. And now they want me to participate in their second edition in April! Hopefully I’ll be able to rally the troops at the next Drinking¬†About Museums: Boston, and¬†in class on Wednesday after I attempt to explain the concept to my classmates.

I know¬†I’ve said this in previous posts, but it needs to be said again: I love the museum community here in Boston. Wednesday night made me feel like I really can do this; that the field I’ve chosen is actually limitless as long as you have passion and determination. I have to thank Ed (again) for making¬†me feel welcome¬†in this community, but I also have to thank everyone else who came up to me after my showoff to say hello. Diana,¬†I totally want to collaborate with you on¬†anything and everything; your vision and creativity blow me away. Emily, I want to help you get Charlesview a makeover. Claire Hopkins just¬†started her museum studies degree, and has a fantastic¬†YouTube channel called Brilliant Botany that I suggest everyone check out (she wrote her undergrad thesis on¬†MAPLE SUGARING, how awesome is that??). Dan Yaeger and Heather Riggs from NEMA, it was so awesome seeing you both there, and thank you so so much for letting me come to the office once a month to volunteer. To the entire museum community: you rock.

I should probably go do homework now…

#MuseumShowoff Boston!

#MuseumSelfie Day and Drinking About Museums: Boston!

Yesterday was a great day. It seems like #MuseumSelfie day was a hit around the world, with hundreds of thousands of people, from employees to visitors, posting pictures of themselves in a museum setting on Twitter. Looking at the photos was great! I liked that some people posted multiple selfies from various museum trips they had taken throughout the years, documenting themselves on a journey through the cultural centers of the country and the world. Bravo to everyone who participated, including the museums that retweeted photos and encouraged their staff to actively participate! Woo hoo!

And then there was Drinking About Museums at Hong Kong in Harvard Square. Have I mentioned how much I love the museum community in Boston? Because I love it dearly. Thanks, Ed, for making me feel welcome, and joking around with me. It was great talking to so many museum pros. I loved that there were some students from the wintersession HACK the HMNH class, too! They did a great job promoting the class and inviting everyone there last night to their party tomorrow night, where their participatory, interactive, and inventive exhibits will be on display for one evening of EXPLORITAS! I’m really stoked I got to talk to Diana, one of the facilitators of the event. It was interesting to hear her perspective on the HMNH, and it was nice to hear some of my own views agreed with. I can’t wait to be at the event tomorrow (I’m actually working it in the gift shop) – it will be really cool to see what these students have come up with.

I’ve signed up for my first-ever Museums Showoff as well, which I’m super nervous about, but also super excited. 9 minutes to talk about whatever I want to talk about, as long as it is relevant to museums? Sounds great to me. I’m planning on talking about the Waterworks Museum (as everyone now knows), so if anyone has any questions about it (things you’d like to know, questions you’d like answered), please let me know and I’ll definitely try to address it. I have the feeling not many people know what the Waterworks Museum is, so it’s definitely going to be an introductory 9 minute talk about it. But super jazzy and fresh. Or something.

Short update, but just wanted to share my enthusiasm and say how psyched I am for this year! Hooray 2014!

#MuseumSelfie Day and Drinking About Museums: Boston!

Unpaid Internships: Are They Ethical?

This is a quick post, but a worthy one nonetheless.

Last week, I read a great post on Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0, by guest writer Michelle Fisher. The post, titled¬†A Shared Ethic for Museum Internships,¬†focused on the ethics of unpaid internships in the museum field, and what effect this phenomenon is having on the field.

My personal feelings* on the issue, just to get them out there, are this: unpaid internships are unethical and devalue the work of the intern, and thus devalue the intern themselves. When you look at the amount of work an unpaid intern must do, for no pay, and sometimes as a requirement for graduation (meaning you just paid upwards of $2000 to work for no money at all…which makes NO sense), it seems borderline illegal. On the flip side of that, sometimes looking at just how¬†little work an unpaid intern is asked to do (I once applied for an unpaid internship where the majority of my 8-10 hour workweek consisted of database entry, photocopying, and occasionally working with the collections manager…um, what?) begs the question of how much the intern will actually take away from the experience, and will it help them in the field? It’s upsetting and discouraging to see that so many interns are being asked to take on a wide range of work for nothing in return, except the possibility of a recommendation letter which may be boiler-plate and your supervisor might not even remember you in the end.

Anyway, this week, Michelle wrote a fantastic¬†follow-up post on CacOphony, the communications blog of Baruch College City University of New York. In it, she asks if it is ethical for professors and other educators to write recommendations for unpaid internships, or to circulate information about them at all. Michelle comes from Glasgow, where it is illegal for internships to be required for credit towards graduation,¬†especially¬†when the internships are unpaid, so her shock at the proliferation of the unpaid internship in return for college credit (when, again, you just paid upwards of $2000 to not be paid) is quite understandable. But it’s also shocking and discouraging to those who were born and raised in the US.

The point of this post is to encourage more dialogue on the subject. Read Michelle’s two articles, which I’ve linked in the post above. Michelle, myself, Nina Simon…all of us out there who question the ethics of the unpaid internship all want to know what you think. Have you ever worked as an unpaid intern? Do you have an internship requirement as part of your graduate or undergraduate program? Share your thoughts with us!

 

*Disclaimer: I accepted a paid internship at the Peabody Essex Museum back in the summer of 2009. It was a full-time, Monday through Friday internship, that was funded by a grant that I believe has since expired. This internship had a full workload and I was splitting time between two departments, and it led to a year of volunteering within the same department after the internship had been completed. I have yet to work as an unpaid intern, although I have applied for many unpaid internships, and I am required to complete a 200 hour internship in order to graduate from my MA program.

Unpaid Internships: Are They Ethical?