Museum Resolutions

by Ann Craig

Two months ago we were hearing a lot about new year’s resolutions. Tips on how to keep your resolution seemed especially popular. For example, telling other people your plans is proven to be one of the most successful strategies to keep you accountable. But, with January and February almost behind us, our resolve wanes. We realize how few of us can actually keep a resolution and we’ll tell ourselves that most things are okay “in moderation.” These thoughts might make us feel better, but let’s be honest, it’s taking the easy way out.

So today, I challenge you to make – AND KEEP – a resolution for your museum by trying one of the five activities listed below. If you try one each month, by the time June rolls around you’ll have made at least some progress and you will feel successful. It’s bullet proof, right? And, to help keep each other accountable, let’s check in here on the WMA blog. If we all try some of activities below in our museums, imagine how much good we will do in the universe!

SO, what’s the equivalent of “eating more healthfully, getting more exercise, and drinking more water” for your museum? Below are my ideas and I’d love to hear back from you all in the WMA community on what you’re trying this year!

Try these:

  1. Be more inclusive.

“Inclusivity” is part of my third grader’s list of expectations for her classroom. If 8-year-olds can do it, so can our museums. Look around your community. Who doesn’t come to your museum? Are they invited? Arethey represented in your exhibits? Identify an organization in your community that serves a group of people who are not typically museum visitors. Invite a staff member or volunteer from the organization for coffee and ask them how you could interest the group. Listen and take action.

  1. Look Forward

“Change is the only constant” is posted on my office door. It’s a reminder to all who enter that they the future requires change, and that means taking risks. Museums are shrouded in tradition, whether it’s art canon, historical perspective, or signature events “we’ve always done.” If you’ve had an idea rolling around in your head, but you haven’t had the time, energy, or gumption to try it, now is the time! Take a small step–don’t overcommit yourself–and know that the results don’t have to be perfect. Set a goal to learn how to do something better, not necessarily do it perfectly the first time.

  1. Listen to your communities.

It seems that most times I set up a Community Listening event to gauge interest in a new exhibit topic or seek out partners for a project, I think I know what I’m going to hear. And I’m always wrong. Listening is one of the most important activities a museum can engage in. We might think of it as passive – as not “doing something” – but if we truly listen our actions are more likely to get the results we’re hoping for.

  1. Honor your elders.

As busy as we are taking risks, being more inclusive, and listening to our communities, let’s take a moment to slow down and reach out to an old friend of the museum, a mentor, or a volunteer we haven’t seen in a while. This isn’t just to collect good karma, but to remind us where our institutions have been and how much they have changed. Be generous with your time and attention and you might just be inspired.

  1. Give back.

Who is in need in your community? Museum people often live our work; with so much to be done, it’s easy to make ourselves so busy that we don’t make time for other people or causes. Could your museum staff or volunteers collect food donations for the local food shelf, provide a children’s program to a family shelter, or read to kindergartners at a local school? Don’t expect anything in return, just do it because you want to.

Taken on any of these resolutions? Tell us how you’re doing here at the WMA blog. 

Ann Craig is the winner of WMA's 2018 Impact Award. She is the Director of Public Programs at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.


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