INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from NPR
On Wednesday, the state of Virginia removed the 12-ton statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee more than 130 years after it was installed in Richmond.
Despite its massive size, it was lifted from its pedestal in one piece and is headed for storage. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, was there as the statue came down and appeared pleased by its removal. A crowd also chanted and cheered as the statue of Lee — atop a horse — was lifted into the air by a crane.
In the decades following its construction in 1890, the statue became a focal point for a wealthy, all-white neighborhood; Lee was later joined by statues to other Confederate leaders. In 1996, a statue of Black tennis champion Arthur Ashe was added to the avenue despite serious opposition under the direction of then-Gov. Douglas Wilder, the first Black person to serve as governor of any state since Reconstruction.
Lee's statue was the largest Confederate monument in the city of Richmond and one of the largest in the country. Nearly every other Confederate statue in Virginia's capital was removed last summer, either by protesters or the city itself at the request of Mayor Levar Stoney.
Officials said the graffiti-covered pedestal will remain in place while discussions continue about the future of Monument Avenue.
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Reposted from AAM
Last fall, I was a guest presenter in an AAM Webinar on unbiased hiring where I shared some blind screening techniques that we have begun incorporating into our hiring practices at AAM. With several recruitment efforts now concluded, my colleagues and I continue to reflect on the successes, challenges, and lessons learned as we experiment with ways to broaden the diversity of our applicant pools.
The make-up of the AAM staff is currently, and has traditionally been, largely female and white. Some have suggested that our staff is simply a reflection of the museum field at large, but as my colleagues and I learn more about the impact of unintentional bias, we wondered how this may be influencing our recruiting efforts. This question led us to re-visit our recruitment process and to the creation of a goal to adapt recruitment practices that 1) encourage under-represented candidates to apply and 2) ensure that we are consistently evaluating each candidate on the appropriate criteria (relevant skills needed for the job.)
I’ll admit that the idea of overhauling our recruitment process through this new lens of mitigating bias seemed daunting at first. After all, I had carefully crafted a recruitment system designed to deliver a fair and consistent experience for candidates. With detailed templates, suggested best practices and guidelines to outline the process, it also provided efficiency in managing multiple searches simultaneously. This process had served us well (or so I thought) for many years. Initially, I found myself overwhelmed simply deciding where to begin.
If you asked our hiring managers at AAM about our hiring practices, most would tell you they were working well for us. They would probably point to our talented, dedicated and productive staff as proof. In fact, over the years, managers have expressed appreciation for AAM’s established and systematic approach to hiring and the representation of staff from a variety of sectors (non-profit, museum, and private sector) that our system has produced. Given their general satisfaction, I wondered how we would make the case for changing our process? As any manager who has been short-staffed knows, the pressure to fill a vacancy urgently is strong and I feared it would be all too easy to slip into our “default” operating mode rather than making the effort to incorporate new practices.
I’m an HR department of one and AAM has a very “manual” recruitment process. We don’t use applicant tracking software. Resumes are collected, sorted and reviewed by myself and small hiring teams. Given this lack of automation, I wondered how I could implement these changes while supporting a staff of 45 employees in all aspects of employment – benefits administration, payroll, compensation, employee relations, performance management, along with recruitment.
To address these challenges (feeling overwhelmed; not knowing where to start; getting buy-in; limited resources), we realized we needed to think big and then think small. In other words, we needed to clearly articulate our recruitment philosophy and goals while simultaneously identifying small changes we could make with our current resources.
1. Connect recruitment goals to organizational objectives and then communicate those goals clearly and often.
Make sure everyone on staff understands your goal and re-iterate and refer to it often. For us, to support AAM’s Strategic Plan focus area of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, our recruitment goal is to attract the most qualified candidates and broaden the diversity of our applicant pools. We review this goal with hiring teams at the beginning of each search. As people began to understand the objective, we encountered less resistance to trying new methods. In fact, as word started to spread about our new goal and the changes we were making to our recruitment practices, team members were soon making their own suggestions for how we could tweak our methods to achieve our goal.
2. Job descriptions should focus on skills.
We started to look at job descriptions for each vacancy as if the position were brand new. Taking a fresh look made us realize that our job requirements relied heavily on credentials and experience as opposed to demonstrated skills. For example, we often relied on the requirements of a graduate degree or previous museum employment as a method for screening candidates. In so doing, we may have discouraged applicants with relevant transferable skills from applying.
Recognizing that candidates may have valuable skills from other industries has prompted us to evaluate our job descriptions and postings for potential gender-coded language and eliminate the use of industry jargon and acronyms. In our last fellowship search, we utilized free software (Textio) on a trial basis to spot words that may be considered feminine or masculine. For example, we learned that “collaborates” may be more attractive to women than “drives results,” which may draw in more male candidates. With this new awareness, I now ask hiring managers to help me evaluate our job descriptions for potential bias.
3. Be transparent in job postings.
Adding salary ranges, closing dates and providing a list of items to include in cover letters has helped us manage candidate’s expectations and improved the quality of applications we have received. Candidates have commented that our instructions make it clear what skills are being evaluated.
4. Incorporate blind screening practices to mitigate unintentional bias.
We added an element of identity-blind screening in our application process by asking candidates to omit names, addresses, names of schools and graduation dates when submitting cover letters and resumes. Even though approximately a third of the candidates have fully complied with this request thus far, we’ve found that it helps our reviewers remain more neutral in their evaluations and as an unexpected plus, has generated interest and positive feedback from candidates and museum colleagues.
5. Consider how candidates are sourced.
I’ve counted on employee networks as a reliable source for finding strong candidates even though this practice may be perpetuating our homogenous applicant pool. Although we have expanded our recruitment advertising to include diversity-specific job boards and have begun asking any potential staffing firms with whom we work about their practices to engage diverse applicant pools, we recognize that more engagement with diverse communities is needed to tap into these talent pools.
6. Recognize that resume bias comes in all forms.
Like many HR professionals faced with large numbers of applicants, I’m usually looking for ways to screen people out rather than in. I was trained to seek out the gaps in employment history, typos and questionable grammar usage on resumes and treat them as red flags even though these criteria alone are rarely the most relevant to the job.
Working with dozens of hiring managers over my HR career, I have always found it fascinating to learn about individual preferences when reviewing resumes. “Too many words” was the criteria that put a resume in the “no” stack for one hiring manager.
With each new search, members of hiring teams are asked to share their own “pet peeves” about reviewing resumes. It can be cathartic to openly discuss our own biases and how they influence our perceptions of candidates. What characteristics cause you to eliminate a candidate at the resume review stage? What resume characteristics influence your impression of a candidate?
7. Engage your hiring team in creating resume review protocols.
We all have biases. Hiring processes will inevitably involve preferences. Owning up to our own biases helps us minimize them and makes us more intentional about what skills we are seeking in a candidate. Through candid discussions of our personal preferences and relevant job skills, our hiring teams come to an agreement on which biases (evaluation factors) we will use to evaluate candidates.
Along with the agreed upon evaluation factors, we create a list of protocols to help us manage our individual biases. We identify factors that may influence our perceptions of the candidate but are not relevant to the job and agree not to use any single factor as the primary reason for eliminating a candidate at this stage (use of grammar, writing style, personal interests or affiliations.) Additionally, some hiring teams have agreed not to seek out any additional information about the candidate at the resume review stage (no internet or membership data searches.)
8. Allow hiring team members to share input equally.
Having two hiring team members independently review all resumes has helped us keep our biases in check. I ask each to independently identify their top candidates and then we meet as a group to create a list of our top 5 candidates.
Hiring team members have reported that they have a stronger “voice” in the process. The independent resume review minimizes the “group think” that sometimes occurs when resumes are reviewed in a group setting.
9. Create opportunities for candidates to demonstrate skills.
We often have pre-conceived ideas on what a successful candidate’s career path might look like, what experience they should have, where they may have worked. As noted earlier, in past searches, I probably over-emphasized the value of credentials (a title, a degree or certification, etc.) versus a demonstration of the actual skill needed, such as a work sample.
Instead of relying on credentials and experience listed on resumes, we are finding that creating opportunities for candidates to demonstrate their skills gives hiring managers a better sense of a candidate’s ability to perform the job duties. We are now asking candidates to respond to specific questions in cover letters and have incorporated challenge-like activities such as role-playing and short presentations in interviews.
Hiring teams are now able to witness first-hand how a finance candidate explains the components of a financial statement or how a development candidate communicates the value of museums as part of a proposal.
10. A collaborative approach has multiple benefits.
Taking a collaborative approach has helped people understand the goal and contribute to it. Inviting hiring team members to share their own recruitment experiences opens up the conversation about biases. Having teams come to an agreement on which skills to evaluate provides clarity on the team’s purpose. Brainstorming on techniques for mitigating biases allows team members the opportunity to support one another in achieving a common goal.
Of course, a collaborative approach and any change takes time. With each new vacancy, we try to determine what constitutes a reasonable timeline. It may be different for each situation.
By facilitating these discussions and collaborating with hiring managers on determining appropriate changes to our recruiting methods, we created an environment of learning and experimentation. Trading the HR subject matter expert role for that of a facilitator was insightful for me. As a subject matter expert, I was expected to prescribe or recommend a solution. It feels refreshing to play the part of facilitator in which my objective is to engage my colleagues on our goal, facilitate the process non-judgmentally and document group decisions, successes and challenges.
Sharing the experience (both successes and failures) with others has generated observations and ideas which are helping us see our current practices through this new lens.
Although these are relatively small changes, they have contributed greatly to changing our mindset in how we view our purpose and goals in attracting candidates. This experience has helped us question our assumptions; challenged our ways of thinking; encouraged us to examine our own biases; solicited candid discussions between colleagues; improved objectivity in our assessments; and is opening us up to new possibilities and new ways of working. All qualities that will serve us well in other aspects of our business operations. - by Katherine McNamee
At the height of the pandemic, as so many aspects of our professional and personal lives hung in the balance and emotions fluctuated between despair and hope, effective leadership surfaced as essential. Facing public health restrictions and loss of revenue, leaders needed to make difficult decisions that affected staff’s livelihoods, including having to cut programs, reorganize teams, and pivot projects. Many felt ill-prepared to have these tough conversations during a time when the world was suffering. The need to show transparency and flexibility was evident, but the ability to do this was less so.
As a group of middle managers with leadership responsibilities in museums, we had a unique vantage on this situation. We want to bring this perspective to light, as we believe it can be useful for today’s senior leaders as the field rebuilds, and for ourselves and other middle managers when we take up more senior roles in the future. In this article, we reflect on our individual and common experiences during this period to share what we learned about ourselves as leaders, what we gleaned from staff we supervised, and what we sought from organizational leaders. We do this not to place blame, but to reflect on what we can learn from this crisis.
Below we describe who we are and what makes us a community. We review the types of dispositions we called upon or had to develop to support a team of people feeling isolated, scared, unsure in their workplace, and the types of people management strategies we found useful to address leading during a crisis. Finally, we share what qualities we hope to maintain as we take on more leadership roles within the field.
As a group, we first met through the NSF-funded Reflecting on Practice (RoP) program (DRL-1612515), in which informal educators based in social science meet to examine their teaching practices through critical video shares and study research on how people learn. This shared experience has informed our perspective on leadership in a crisis. Participating in RoP teaches you to develop trust, peer support, mutual self-help, collaboration, shared authority, and the ability to forefront cultural, historical, and social issues—many of the same elements that are critical for trauma-informed leadership, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
Even before the pandemic, our facilitation of RoP bled into our leadership practices. During the pandemic, when everyone was struggling to make sense of what was happening in the world, leaning on these established elements helped us survive as team managers. Knowing that our world and the museum field in particular will experience a crisis again, we take this moment to describe the specific strategies that we used so that our future selves can acknowledge and work on deepening these practices.
When the pandemic hit, and it became clear we would need to shut down our physical sites and work from home, most of our institutions put programs on pause for a variety of reasons, whether because they were based physically on site, required use of exhibits that weren’t accessible, or required funding that was unavailable. We all thought the pause would only last a few weeks, but by late spring, it was evident that it would last at least through the summer and possibly into the fall. News reports of staff layoffs and furloughs began to hit inboxes, and a phone call from a supervisor could mean that it was your turn to be furloughed or laid off. Staff felt a range of emotions in this environment, including general anxiety and uncertainty, professional ineffectiveness, distress about job stability and the future of the field, and distrust of their institutions’ ability to handle an unprecedented financial crisis.
Then, in late spring of 2020, the murder of George Floyd brought national attention to the persistent realities of racism that Black people face and how these injustices have been systematized and embedded into our daily lives. Amid the reignited Black Lives Matter movement, every industry was under scrutiny, including our world of museums. Staff were already feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, and lacking in agency due to trauma from the pandemic and the way museums were generally handling furloughs and layoffs. The racial unrest in our country exacerbated the chasm forming between people in leadership positions and those they supervised, as countless informal conversations among museum professionals attested.
Many museums, including our own, were in the midst of addressing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) issues when the unrest began, taking steps like producing DEAI statements, setting goals to address DEAI issues, hiring dedicated staff to focus on DEAI, and instituting training on DEAI topics like implicit bias, power, privilege, and oppression. But the racial reckoning of 2020, as Bryant et al. put it in a 2021 Museum magazine article, led many museum professionals to reflect on how these conversations “often dodged the broader discussion of systemic white supremacy and how it intersects with every facet of museums” and to consider how they could “push more effectively through…coded language to get at the root source.”
Many began to wonder if their institutions were guilty of what Dena Simmons calls “white supremacy with a hug”: stating that DEAI work is important but letting those in power and privilege control the form this discussion and action takes. One example of this—which many of us, including we the authors, have been guilty of—is through “tone policing,” when staff are directed to design and lead DEAI conversations to the comfort level of people in privileged positions, making it difficult or impossible to express hard truths. Another example is “tokenizing,” giving people from marginalized groups nominal roles, such as a DEAI director position or a seat on an advisory group, without the agency, authority, or resources to shape actual changes. In other words, white supremacy with a hug means that institutions claim to be doing the DEAI work, with insidious messaging like, “We have an advisory group composed of diverse people,” “We are working to diversify our board,” and, “We will modify our recruitment and hiring practices to attract diverse candidates,” which are all important steps but avoid meaningfully redistributing power and privilege.
Watching the messages and actions that followed the street protests in summer 2020, many museum staff were concerned their institutions were practicing something like white supremacy with a hug. In our institutions, staff who reported to us were anxious that, while the messages museums were producing were important and timely, they might not be sincere. As middle managers, we ended up in a precarious position. We had to uphold, support, and advocate for the actions our institutions were taking to address DEAI while also listening to, supporting, and addressing the concerns of the staff who felt that these actions were insufficient. We had to find creative ways to exercise the agency we had as middle managers in conveying the feelings from staff to the leadership. Facing this dilemma, we, the authors, came together to support one another in articulating ways we could serve best as middle managers, and identify elements of our leadership styles we could lean on during this time.
In these discussions, we came up with a list of specific practices to lean into: establishing structures, creating trusting relationships, and having clear vision and foundational principles.
In the RoP program, we learned the importance of putting specific structures in place that allow for respect, shared vocabulary around pedagogical ideas, shared authority, and an expectation that individual learning and growth are equally important at work as completing tasks. Originally intended only for reflective practice discussions, these structures have become part of departmental practices in the years since.
In ongoing and consistent meetings, whether as part of regular staff meetings or in additional reflective practice meetings, we take time for professional learning, which might take the form of reading and discussing a relevant article or TED Talk, reviewing institutional documents like mission and goal statements, or co-crafting tactics to meet institutional strategy. Borrowing from effective practices on how people learn, people break out into groups of three or four to discuss topics and then bring the results together in a whole-group conversation. Often the facilitation for the meeting is shared, rather than led by the supervisor.
Having a consistency to the meetings and building on lessons over time creates a shared understanding and vocabulary, routines that are respectful, accepted, and productive, and a trust that these meetings spaces are a safe place to bring up issues. Before the pandemic began, these meetings were a place where our teams were able to engage in difficult DEAI-related conversations where everyone could show vulnerability, offer compassion, and listen to and try to understand different viewpoints and life stories. As we ushered our team through the early parts of the pandemic, the stability of the structures helped us to bring people into a virtual room, maintain a sense of belonging even when isolation was reality, engage in difficult conversations, and celebrate the small wins.
Our future selves need to think about what it means to invest in building such structures at a larger scale and with people from different departments in a museum. We need to think about ways to improve on these structures so that they become second-nature and consistent when conducting museum work. We also need to examine aspects of the structures that could be improved because they may still be privileging certain voices.
The ramifications of the pandemic coupled with the explicit attention to systemic racial inequities meant that our museums could no longer ignore the racism of certain historical and current practices. But when leadership tried to address these issues with staff, in emails or Zoom meetings, their messages were often received with concern even though the messages were sincere. There wasn’t a relationship in place between leadership and staff to engage in such conversations. There was fear on both sides of saying the wrong thing, of accidentally offending, and much more. As middle managers, we had to bridge the two sides and advocate for both perspectives. Thankfully, due to our established rapport from the RoP work we had brought to our teams, we felt that staff trusted us to be this bridge. To maintain that trust, we leaned into active listening, explaining perspectives clearly even when they were hard to share, repeating messages as needed to make sure the recipients understood, and sharing our own emotions and vulnerability.
Our future selves need to think creatively about how we develop relationships with staff, especially in larger institutions. What routines and ways of communicating can we put in place that are sustainable so they can be consistently managed, allow for insight into the challenges and successes of the institution, and move towards sharing authority for the success of the museum? How can our future selves feel confident that our staff cares about the success of the institution and draw them into understanding and brainstorming ways to address challenges? Can our future selves embrace showing vulnerability and conveying that we are human, presenting ourselves not as the smartest people in the room but as deft facilitators of critical conversations among large groups of people?
When museums cut or paused programs, many staff perceived this as leaders not valuing the work of the people who ran them, many of whom were among the lowest-paid in the museum. As middle managers, we had to remind staff that the value of their work came not from the specific programs which had to be cancelled, but from the underlying vision and mission behind them. We led our teams in thinking more broadly about their work: What are our high-level goals as a museum? How was the original program addressing that goal—what elements worked in that design and what were problematic?
An Alliance Blog article by Jennifer Martin provided us with useful strategies for reviewing the goals of the department, assuring our teams that their work was important, fostering dialogue about what was personally meaningful to them in their work, helping them feel they could depend on each other, and providing space for their psychological safety. However, incorporating these strategies for the first time during a crisis can create anxiety for both the managers and the staff. Ideally, they should already be in place before the crisis, so that your team is used to weighing the goals of a given program against changing constraints and opportunities. Instead of just filing away the mission, vision, goals, and strategies statements you write, you should be revisiting and reviewing them annually with staff so that the ideas are front and center. That way, they become a beacon for guiding your work—especially during hard times.
A museum education team at one of our sites discovered this firsthand. They found that they were uniquely equipped to roll with the changing landscape that the pandemic brought because they had spent the previous three years examining and reflecting on their own work processes, creating collaboration norms, and identifying core values and design principles so that they could center their programmatic decisions around community needs. By centering community, not curriculum, at the heart of what they did, they were able to navigate through the messiness of the year to redesign how they did what they did. Additionally, by spending time focused on professional learning around DEAI, they had already built the habit of having hard conversations with one another so that they could push each other’s thinking and create a shared power structure built on trust in each other’s abilities.
Therefore, when the pandemic hit, the team members were able to quickly identify how the constraints of the new school year of remote learning would impact their goals of inclusive and equitable access to the museum’s programs. Then, they enacted a collaborative educational design process developed with local teachers to figure out how to prioritize individualized access to the classrooms with the highest needs (e.g., those which were not taught in English or Spanish, consisted mostly of students who had immigrated newly to the country, were special education or inclusion classes, or had little at home adult support). By prioritizing design around the 20 percent of classes hardest hit in the pandemic, they were able to figure out how to better enact their DEAI values, and still offer learning opportunities to all of the other elementary school classes in their city. All of this occurred despite a 15 percent staffing reduction due to financial constraints. It was made possible because of a shared values system within the team, and a nimble staffing structure that sought to give shared power to all members on the team, whether they were educators or reservations coordinators. Their reflective work will continue into the next phase of educational programming, whatever that may be.
Our future selves need to figure out how we will build into our existing structures an annual review of mission, vision, goals, and strategies. How will we develop structures to review the ways we operationalize those strategies and what factors influence our decisions? How will we develop a mindset in our staff that their value is not tied to the program they implement or lead, but to their contributions to the mission?
As middle managers, we have a lot to learn from senior leadership. We recognize the hard work they must do and applaud the small wins from the past year that are due to their leadership. We also recognize those we supervise and the wins that we have all experienced because of their hard work, tenacity, dedication.
What does it mean to do “leadership work” going forward? We ask our future selves to:
We acknowledge and remind our readers that leadership is hard work. Yet there isn’t room for complacency. Using strategies for self-care are critical to fuel ourselves and support others while on the journey. For now, we leave our future selves with these final words: revisit this list of sticky notes often, maintain your humility, make sure you are part of communities like RoP, and be aware of falling into the trap where your leadership is upholding white supremacy with a hug.
Reposted from CNN
Two men attempted to steal a prized Claude Monet painting from a museum in the Netherlands, though the robbery was foiled and the suspects fled empty-handed, according to Dutch police.
Gunshots were fired during the botched raid at the Zaans Museum in Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam, though nobody was injured in the incident, a police statement confirmed.
The oil painting in question, Monet's "The Voorzaan and the Westerhem," is currently being inspected for damage, the museum said over email.
The attempted robbery took place at around 10.30 a.m on Sunday. According to CNN affiliate NOS, museum staff and bystanders intervened and successfully stopped the theft. The two men then fled on a black scooter, which was later recovered by police.
The museum was temporarily closed on Monday. It reopened to visitors on Tuesday, though the painting has been removed from the "Monet in Zanndam" exhibition.
"We are currently investigating if the painting has been damaged (in) the incident, meaning we are unable to put it on display at the moment," Verweij said.
Depicting boats floating along the River Zaan, the muted landscape painting was purchased by the museum in 2015 for over 1.16 million euros ($1.36 million).
Monet painted the river scene on a trip to Zaandam in 1871. It shows the view from the jetty of a hotel where he stayed with his wife and son for four months. Zaandam proved to be a source of inspiration for Monet, with the French artist creating 25 paintings and nine sketches of the city, according to the museum.
In a letter to fellow Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, Monet said there was "enough to paint for a lifetime" in Zaandam, citing its windmills, colorful houses and "delightful boats." Windmills can be seen towering over red-roofed homes in the background of "The Voorzaan and the Westerhem."
Both suspects remain at large, and Dutch police have issued a call for witnesses.
Reposted from the Irish Examiner
Trinity College warned of the risk of a fire like that which struck Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral in an application for €25m in Government funding to redevelop its historic Old Library.
It said a “litany of destructive fires” at historic buildings around the world illustrated the risks of deterioration and damage to the library, which houses the Book of Kells.
The university wrote directly to Taoiseach Micheál Martin seeking financial support and saying the fire at Notre Dame “underscores the urgency of the project”.
It said it had been 50 years since any major work had taken place at the Old Library and that it was now in “vital need” of upgrading.
Trinity also warned the damage to Ireland’s reputation if anything were to happen to the library’s famous Long Room or the Book of Kells would be “incalculable”.
It said Trinity’s location in the heart of the city and surrounded by “very busy roads” was already causing damage to the library’s collections.
The submission said that due to pollution, the 300,000 volumes on exposed shelving in the Long Room were “coated in dirt, dust, and particulate pollution”.
It said: “This is deleterious to the books and represents a potential fire hazard.”
The university said the ongoing environmental harm to the precious collection of manuscripts was a “quiet disaster”.
The submission said research facilities at the library were also sub-optimal, meaning some volumes could not even be accessed during certain times of the year due to humidity and temperature.
It said reading spaces were “cramped and lacking in environmental control” and that many major world universities with historic libraries were currently undertaking major restoration programmes.
Trinity also said the visitor experience for those wanting to see the Book of Kells was designed nearly 30 years ago and intended for 250,000 visitors a year. It said a new revitalised space would bring visitors through the history of the book in an “imaginative and contemporary way”.
“Currently, the visitor enters the exhibition through a shop, which is small, cramped, and wasteful use of space in a beautiful historic building,” the submission said.
Details of how much Trinity plans to spend on the refurbishment project have been withheld under Freedom of Information, apart from the €25m it sought from Government.
The university would also be using its own resources, as well as seeking philanthropic support, with an undisclosed amount of money already pledged.
The Taoiseach said he supported the commitment of €25m in funding spread out over five years.
The Taoiseach wrote: “I believe that this project is an unmissable opportunity to preserve what is a vital part of our national and indeed global heritage and that it should proceed as soon as possible with full Government support.”
In response, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said he too supported the plan “notwithstanding the challenge” the investment would have on budgets for built heritage in his department.
A spokesman for the Department of Housing said it had been happy to support the plan, which was of “global significance” and a once-in-a-century project.
He said: “Trinity has been a custodian of this national treasure for centuries, caring and protecting it for all our benefit.
“It is iconic but also fragile and in need of protection. Its contents have educated centuries of scholars and – protected appropriately – that unique collection can continue to do so far into the future.”
Reposted from Axios
Employees' mental health is quickly becoming a top concern for companies as they try to hold on to workers through the pandemic.
Why it matters: The firms that confront mental health are poised to win the war for talent.
"These days there are worker shortages everywhere," says Chris Swift, CEO of The Hartford, a financial services and insurance company. Mental health is a massive contributor to that, he says.
What's happening: The pandemic has dragged on, and people are dealing with even more loss and isolation — at the same time that America's opioid crisis has gotten worse. Burnout and addiction are seeping into the workplace.
It's harming workplaces.
Employers can help by providing resources, like mental health days and online therapy sessions. But middle managers must also play a key role, experts say.
But, but, but: Helping workers is not so simple. 72% of U.S. employers say stigmas associated with mental health and addiction are keeping workers from seeking help, per The Hartford's study. The more we talk about it, the faster the stigma goes away, Swift says.
What's next: As workforces transition to remote or hybrid, it'll be even more essential for managers to check in on employees' mental health, says Bryan Hancock, who leads McKinsey's global talent practice.
Reposed from Bloomberg
As Italy’s museums and galleries welcome back tourists and try to recoup some of the 190 million euros ($225 million) in revenue they lost last year, a new data project could help curators understand which paintings and sculptures will be their biggest draws.
A research team at the country’s new-technologies agency ENEA has developed a system based on devices that can calculate how long and how closely museum and gallery visitors observe a particular work of art.
Using cameras positioned near the artwork, the ShareArt system soaks up data on the number of observers and their behavior as they look at a painting, sculpture or artifact, including time elapsed and distance of observation.
That could help define “attraction value” for specific works of art, leading to changes in museum and gallery layout and exhibit scheduling, according to ENEA researchers Stefano Ferriani, Giuseppe Marghella, Simonetta Pagnutti and Riccardo Scipinotti.
Though the system originally conceived of by Scipinotti dates back to 2016, it’s only been rolled out for live trials in the last few weeks, following a government decision to fully reopen museums and galleries that had been largely shuttered due to the pandemic.
Fourteen ShareArt devices are being put through their paces in a joint project with the Istituzione Bologna Musei, using a site that offers researchers the chance to try out their technology on exhibits with a wide array of artworks of various forms, periods and sizes, without compromising observers’ privacy.
“Thanks to simple data elaboration, an observer’s gaze can be translated into a graphic,” Ferriani said in an interview. “We can detect where most of peoples’ attention is concentrated.”
Looking at Trophime Bigot’s Saint Sebastian Aided by Saint Irene, for example, “we realized that observers tended to focus not on the center of the composition, but slightly to the right of the saint’s face, thanks to the interplay of light and shadow created by the artist’s brush.”
ShareArt also tracks how many patrons stop in front of an artwork and how long they look. Very few works keep museum or gallery visitors “glued” to the spot for more than 15 seconds, the researchers said, with the average observation time at just 4 to 5 seconds.
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Some of the researchers’ findings have been unexpected. Examining observer data from the two sides of a 14th-century diptych by Vitale degli Equi, data showed that “attention was immediately attracted to the ‘busier’ representation of Saint Peter’s blessing, to the right,” said Bologna Musei President Roberto Grandi. He was surprised to find that many visitors simply skipped the diptych’s left half.
The data could lead to changes in lighting, staging and placement of artworks in relation to one another, Grandi said, with findings suggesting that museums and galleries might want to rethink how to make some paintings and sculptures more visible and accessible.
The life-sized statue of Apollo of Veii, dating back to 510-500 B.C., is a case in point, the researchers said. Though the statue is one of the crown jewels at Rome’s National Etruscan Museum, a separate test of ShareArt showed that relatively few visitors give it the attention experts feel it deserves. Placement near the end of the collection, possibly chosen in a “best-for-last” approach, may be leading patrons to skip the artifact altogether, ENEA’s Marghella said.
In addition to opening the doors to art lovers, Italy’s gradual relaxation of Covid restrictions adds another wrinkle for data hunters. As mask restrictions are dropped, advanced techniques may allow ShareArt to assess observers’ facial expressions, allowing researchers to match quantitative data with cognitive psychology analysis, Grandi said.
Reposted from Artnet News
The heat was suffocating on a recent summer afternoon atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof, where visitors jockeyed for selfies with the giant Big Bird perched on the artist Alex Da Corte’s sculptural mobile. An exasperated guard attempted to save the flightless fowl from the crowds, sweating in polyester pants as he shouted warnings.
Gallery attendants within the institution’s air-conditioned halls were also feeling the heat, saying that the lingering effects of layoffs and budget cuts have left them understaffed and overextended. Nowadays, security officers can be responsible for patrolling nearly a dozen galleries on their own—a job normally split between three people—leaving ample room for disasters to happen.
Patrons have physically attacked some employees. Recently, a guard discovered graffiti scrawled on marble sculptures in the museum’s Greek and Roman collection. There were drawings on the pedestals of the Medieval galleries. Another guard noticed that a vandal had painted white dots on the Rembrandts and Vermeers inside the Dutch Masters exhibition.
Now, employees say that the department responsible for keeping the Met and its visitors safe is struggling to function. Guards said they are expected to survey more galleries, work longer hours, and have received fewer breaks than usual. Vacation requests and medical leave are being denied because of staffing shortages, and some employees have complained that they haven’t had a free weekend since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the museum denied that any works in the Dutch Masters exhibition were damaged, and said the graffiti that appeared in the institution’s Greek and Roman galleries was only on pedestals, not on artworks. Additionally, the museum denies that there are fewer breaks than before; the spokesman also added that “no legitimate” medical claims have been denied, saying: “We are presently negotiating with the union to find an equitable resolution to the unusual circumstance brought upon by the unprecedented closure of 5 months during which staff was fully paid and continued to accrue vacation time.”
“Managers encourage using sick days because they won’t schedule us for vacation,” said one guard with more than a decade of experience at the museum. Like other employees interviewed for this article, they asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “Another guard ended up quitting her job because she had two babies and the museum wouldn’t be flexible with her schedule.”
During the pandemic, the Met reduced its staff by 20 percent and predicted a $150 million budget shortfall. Months of temporary closures severely reduced earned income at the museum. But the summer months have brought a surge in attendance.
In a recent email to the public, Daniel Weiss, the institution’s president and chief executive, announced that the museum has more than tripled its daily attendance figures since autumn, seeing more than 10,000 visitors come through its doors each day.
He described the museum as “strong and resilient,” detailing a $10 million grant from the federal government that it recently received. Simultaneously, he announced that the Met would again be open on Tuesdays and would resume extended evening hours on Friday and Saturdays—more work for an already exhausted security force.
“The public health and financial crises that all museums faced caused significant hardship at all levels of our institution,” a Met spokesperson told Artnet News, adding that the museum retained its full staff for many months during its temporary closure.
“We are elated that in recent days we have begun calling back laid-off security guards. At present, half of the laid-off security members have been recalled with more expected.”
Eight employees interviewed by Artnet News for this article said that the museum’s statement overestimated the numbers of security members who had rejoined staff. According to each of them, the security department lost nearly a third of its ranks during the pandemic.
More than 100 guards have been laid off and others received early retirement packages; everyone with fewer than three years of service was let go, including employees who worked long night shifts during the pandemic closure and were assured by managers that they would keep their jobs. (The museum says no guards were promised job protections.)
In March, the museum’s chief security officer, Keith Prewitt, resigned for a similar job at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. His replacement, Regina Lombardo, has been appointed but has yet to start the job, leaving some guards feeling like they don’t have a champion at work.
“There is a hierarchy of who gets listened to at the Met,” said one employee. “The security guards are at the bottom of the pecking order.”
One guard said that they doubted that colleagues in the education or curatorial departments took notice of their plight, saying that warm greetings from other staffers have been rare in their six years at the institution. Security officers are also increasingly frustrated with their union, which has tried to address issues with the Met.
Representatives declined to go into detail, but Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that the union officials were “currently in the middle of negotiations on these issues and absolutely are fighting for the benefit of our members.” The union did not respond to any of the specific claims laid out here.
According to four union members, the organization is considering whether to file an official grievance in preparation for legal action against the museum.
Many guards are artists who joined the museum for health insurance and the opportunity for face time with the collection’s famous Picassos and Pollocks. The pay is relatively low, starting with a $15 minimum wage, and rising slowly with each year of service. One current employee said they currently receive about $19 per hour after work at the Met since 2007. A former guard said that he left the museum after 18 years to become a doorman on the Upper West Side because it paid better.
“We are overworked and covering huge areas of the museum,” said one guard who has worked at the museum for nearly five years. “We want the museum’s leaders to notice that the guards are feeling like they are in a precarious position.”
Five guards said that they currently felt unsafe at work because of the reduced number of officers and rule changes. When the Met overhauled its visitor policies for the pandemic, it temporarily closed the coat check stations and introduced metal detectors. But the rules barring visitors from bringing certain items into the galleries have been loosely enforced, employees said, putting them on edge.
“If something goes wrong, there is nobody to help,” said a guard with more than a decade of experience at the museum. “Someone was having a panic attack in the stairwell. I needed to check if they were all right, but that meant leaving the entire Roman courtyard unattended with nearly a hundred visitors roaming around.”
A lack of supervision leads to a rise in vandalism, according to museum experts.
“What they do is a form of security theater,” said Erin Thompson, an art-crime professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Museum guards act as a deterrent by putting on a show of security that makes everyone realize they are being watched.”
Thompson also expressed concern that a reduction in security officers has made the Met less welcoming to visitors. “The guards are the frontline of museum education,” she added. “People usually ask them questions about the art, but they might have to refuse to answer because they need to keep an eye out for vandals.”
Guards agreed with the assessment, saying that they were now responsible for answering the types of questions that laid-off visitors’-services staff would typically receive. “We don’t have time to do our primary job,” said one security officer, “which is to keep the art and people safe.”
And with the museum extending its hours, security guards worry that their lives are about to get even harder. Some employees are considering a walkout. (The museum said more hours would enable it to bring back more guards.)
“According to our contracts and the insurance rules for the museum, they need guards on the floor,” said one guard, adding that they haven’t had a free weekend for 10 months. “If it wasn’t for us, they would close. And all we want is some respect.”
Less than three weeks after COVID forced museums around the globe to close their doors last year, an article by Arundhati Roy in The Financial Times titled “The Pandemic is a Portal” stopped me in my tracks. In the midst of an exponentially mounting crisis, Roy courageously sounded the call to resist the urge to seek a return to normality. She offered up an alternative, and posed a challenge to us all:
“[The pandemic] is a portal,” she wrote, “a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, . . . and dead ideas. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
At the 106-year-old Museum of Us (formerly the San Diego Museum of Man), which sits on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay Nation, we took Roy’s challenge to heart. Over the past sixteen months, our driving question has been: How can we emerge from the pandemic’s portal to become a better version of ourselves? And while our answer has taken a wide variety of forms (including a long-overdue name change), key shifts in our human resources policies and practices are making the biggest impact of all.
You see, faced with so many unknowns at the onset of COVID, we made the heartbreaking decision to terminate forty-three employees in June 2020. As difficult as it was for us, the pain was far worse, of course, for our colleagues who lost their livelihoods. Although we took many different steps to support our furloughed, and ultimately terminated, team members, it simply wasn’t enough. So, we set out to ensure that something good came out of the harm we caused by laying them off from their employment. Specifically, we committed to rebuild our team (and, in turn, our organization) in more equitable and decolonial ways.
Here are some steps we have taken so far.
As we prepared to reopen our museum consistent with public health guidelines, instead of returning to our old staffing model, we decided to reimagine our forward-facing roles altogether. Specifically, we changed our Visitor Experience Associate position from part-time to full-time, so that every team member would receive our generous benefits package, including a new retirement match of up to 6 percent. We also raised the position’s wage from $13.75 an hour to $20 an hour, committing to annual cost-of-living increases (at a minimum). That way, we will continue to stay ahead of pay equity, rather than losing ground every year. We also redesigned the role so that it is a long-term career position, with an increased focus on opportunities for professional development and growth within our organization. Finally, we are in the process of adopting a reasonable cap (likely in the range of 6:1) on what the highest-paid employee (currently, me) makes relative to what the lowest-paid employee (our forward-facing staff) makes. This will help make our entire compensation structure more equitable going forward.
The Museum of Us offers team members thirteen paid holidays every calendar year. Historically, these have been set holidays designated by the museum as mandated days off. But thanks to input from our BIPOC staff, we’ve come to understand how many of those holidays are deeply rooted in a colonial paradigm: New Year’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. In response, we decided to revise our holiday policy, effective January 1, 2022, to allow team members to substitute (and even group together) holidays that are meaningful to them. Employees still may choose to take any or all museum-designated holidays, if they wish, but the power to decide will become theirs. We are excited about changing this seemingly innocuous practice so that it better supports all of our team members in a decolonized way.
Like most employers, the Museum of Us offers various types of paid leave, including vacation and sick time. But when our Indigenous team members shared that they needed time off to participate in multi-day ceremonies in their home communities, they pointed out the obvious: Their absence from the office was neither “vacation” nor “sick” time. To the contrary, it was hard work, centered around cultivating community well-being. It was for the good of many, and for future generations, not for their personal enjoyment or convalescence. We soon realized the ripple effect of good that could come from enabling all of our employees to take paid time off to do the same.
We considered classifying such leave as “professional development,” but quickly saw the ways this would run afoul of applicable employment laws. So, we settled on a new paid leave category altogether. We call it “Community-Centered Leave,” and it is specifically designed to encourage employees to support their communities in ways that are meaningful to them. Effective January 1, 2022, every team member at the Museum of Us may take up to three days of paid Community-Centered Leave per year.
The result of these changes? Well, it’s still early, but we’ve discovered that employee satisfaction and engagement rates have gone up significantly. And, just as happy nurses make for happy patients, happy forward-facing staff make for happy visitors. Employee retention rates have gone up as well, leading to a plethora of intangible (but also invaluable) benefits. We now have a more stable institutional culture with stronger, more capable teams. Projects have fewer stops and starts. We expend less bandwidth recruiting, orienting, and training new employees. And the list goes on.
Although the benefits of human-centered HR practices are undeniable, they can be hard to see from a short-term perspective. When we play the long-game, however, they become crystal clear. I find three concerns commonly emerge in response to these kinds of shifts:
For sure, these changes have a tangible impact on the bottom line. I would suggest, however, that while maintaining the status quo may save a few bucks on the profit and loss statement, most of our organizations are dying a slow death by a thousand cuts, without us even realizing it. This prevents them from ever truly soaring in a healthy way. The benefits of taking a human-centered approach (starting with the very people upon whom the visitor experience depends!) will far outweigh the associated costs in the long run, particularly when implemented in an intentional way. The key is to move from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance. Viewed through this lens, the script flips and it becomes clear: “We just can’t afford not to put our people first.”
Yes, they will, but only when they aren’t fairly compensated and/or respected for their labors. This is a cultural problem, not a justification for maintaining the status quo. When an employer and an employee have entered into a fair exchange and have mutual respect for one another, they honor each other, too. It may take time to build up trust and goodwill, but the kinds of practices described above will do just that. When leaders consistently show up as listeners and learners, and then do better as they know better, the path to right relationship begins to unfold.
Yes, it can. But liability is not a weakness in and of itself. When managed creatively and in human-centered ways, it can even be converted into a strength. Our Community-Centered Leave is a great example. While an employee could argue that this leave should be subject to the same rules as vacation (including pay-out upon separation), our policy clearly distinguishes between the purpose of the leave (serving one’s community) and that of vacation (personal enjoyment). Moreover, from an employee perspective, we are providing three additional paid days off per year in a values-consistent way. As a key component of our employee recruitment, retention, engagement, and satisfaction strategies (particularly relative to our BIPOC team members), this new policy will undoubtedly pay significant dividends for years to come. I’ll take that benefit-to-risk ratio any day.
I’ll close this post by sharing that, for the Museum of Us, all this is just the tip of the iceberg. The more we learn about how our policies and practices undermine the values we espouse, the more we realize how much more we have to learn. Like so many of our organizations, the Museum of Us continues to be full of hypocritical disconnects between who we strive to be and who we actually are. I believe that, as leaders, we must relentlessly work to identify and bridge those gaps, one by one, in the name of equity and inclusion. And what better place to start than from the inside out?
Reposted from Fast Company
After a year of social distancing, mask-wearing, and–for millions–working from home, many employers are eager to bring their staff back to the office. But for many, the prospect of readjusting to in-person work is a daunting one.
A recent survey found that out of 4,553 office workers in five different countries, every single person reported feeling anxious about the idea of returning to in-person work.
Employers face a conflict of interest. On the one hand, they want to look after their employees’ health and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. While on the other, they’re motivated by financial incentives to justify expensive office rents and have their employees physically on hand for meetings and discussions or to simply monitor their working time.
But putting pressure on employees to return to the office might be creating more anxiety. For those surveyed, the top causes of return-to-work stress included being exposed to COVID-19, the loss of work flexibility, the added commute, having to wear a mask while in the office, and a need for childcare.
Some managers recognize working from home doesn’t necessarily mean reduced productivity, and a “work-from-anywhere” approach could drive greater equality, unlock new growth opportunities, and lead to greater ethical behavior. When people aren’t wasting hours in traffic, the free time unlocked from commutes can lead to more rested, happier, healthier, and productive employees.
What’s worrying, though, is that 56% of respondents in the recent study reported that their organization hadn’t asked for their opinions about return-to-work policies and procedures. Such a breakdown in communication between employees and employers could create anxiety for those employees who don’t want, or are not yet ready, to return to their physical workplaces. They may worry that voicing their concerns to return to work will signal distrust in their managers’ decision to reopen for in-person work.
I’ve studied advice-giving and advice-taking for over a decade and found that people getting advice often struggle to signal distrust to their advisor. People often feel anxiety to express disagreement with or defy an advisor, a boss, manager, leader, or authority figure. Rejecting advice makes employees anxious because it can insinuate that they think the other person is incompetent, biased, or even corrupt.
I call this distinct type of anxiety insinuation anxiety. It arises when people worry that not complying with another person’s wishes may be interpreted as a signal of distrust.
Across a series of studies investigating this type of anxiety, my collaborators and I found that patients frequently follow medical advice, even if they believe their doctor to have a conflict of interest.
Imagine someone’s trying to sell you some advice, an opinion, or a product, and the seller says: “I have a conflict of interest. I recommend you follow my advice, but I should let you know that I get paid more if you follow my advice.” You might think such disclosure would decrease trust and compliance with such advice–after all, there’s now some uncertainty as to the quality of that advice.
However, I found that although conflict of interest disclosures do indeed decrease trust in advice–arguably the “correct” response to such disclosures–they can also counterintuitively increase compliance with that distrusted advice.
Why? Because the other person now feels greater pressure to comply with advice they do not trust, as rejecting it insinuates that the other person has been corrupted by the conflict of interest and is untrustworthy. People are reluctant to signal distrust in another person. Insinuation anxiety persists regardless of the size of the conflict of interest, but it can be reduced if people can make their decisions in private, away from the pressure of their advisor or employer.
As employees navigate the shift back to in-person work, employers should consider the role of insinuation anxiety increasing pressure on their workers to reluctantly comply with new in-person work policies. If employees feel unable to express their discomfort or choose more flexible working options, organizations may end up losing their best talent to workplaces with more open communication and flexibility.
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