INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from The New York Times
When Lonnie G. Bunch III, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, announced last year that the organization had received a $25 million gift from Bank of America, he envisioned an initiative that would create safe spaces in communities across the nation where Americans could gather to discuss the country’s racial past.
The result, “Our Shared Future: Reckoning With Our Racial Past,” a two-year series of online and in-person events, will kick off Thursday in Los Angeles with a virtual summit meeting that will focus on income and health care inequality and include subjects ranging from early race science to vaccine distribution. The initial event will be livestreamed at oursharedfuture.si.edu, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.
“We can’t solve the problems of race in America ourselves,” Bunch said in a phone conversation on Monday. “But we can give the public the tools to stimulate those conversations to help people understand race beyond Black and white.”
The organization is planning conferences, town halls and immersive pop-up experiences in communities across the country to allow people to share their experiences and increase their understanding of the legacy of race and racism. Bunch said the goal is to encourage conversations among people who might not otherwise cross paths.
“We hope the Smithsonian can be a trusted place where people with a diversity of political opinions can engage with each other,” he said.
Museums nationwide are reckoning with race in their collections, including how to diversify their historically white holdings and how to display artifacts of traumatic periods in the country’s history, such as Ku Klux Klan robes, with proper context. But the Smithsonian wanted to take the conversation beyond museum walls, Bunch said.
“In many ways, it’s an initiative about race,” he said. “But it’s also an initiative about the different ways the Smithsonian can do our work moving forward.”
Though arrangements are in flux because of the pandemic, the Smithsonian does plan to dispatch a video team to events including the annual Farm Aid Festival, to be held this year in Hartford, Conn., on Sept. 25, in the hope of gathering oral histories from people about their experiences of race in America.
“We want to make sure, as we talk about the grand issues of race and wellness, we reduce it to a human scale,” Bunch said.
Though the program is a two-year pilot, Bunch said he sees that time frame as a starting point, not a deadline.
“We want the relationships we build to go on longer,” he said. “If what we’re doing has an impact, we’ll keep doing it.”
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Reposted from Artnet News
After more than two years of cleaning and stabilization work, France’s Notre Dame Cathedral is now ready to be rebuilt.
The news was confirmed this weekend by Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, the task force charged with restoring the 850-year-old Gothic structure, in a statement on Facebook. The group says it’s on track to finish the project by the spring of 2024, just in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
That was the goal laid out by French President Emmanuel Macron in the days following a devastating fire in 2019—a five-year plan that, to many who had just witnessed the disaster take place in real time, seemed ambitious, if not altogether impossible.
“We’re officially saying that the cathedral is now saved, that it’s solid on its pillars, that its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” the head of Rebâtir Notre-Dame, Jean-Louis Georgelin, told the French news outlet BFM TV. “We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honor to do so, and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”
The now-completed first phase involved reinforcing the cathedral’s flying buttresses, protecting its gargoyles, and removing some 40,000 pieces of damaged scaffolding that had been in place for spire restoration at the time of the fire.
Georgelin explained that the interior walls and floors of the cathedral will undergo a “thorough cleaning process” in late September. Meanwhile, construction on the building, which will be outsourced by the state to private companies, is expected to begin in the next few months.
The money for these commissions will come from the roughly $950 million (€845 million) that has been pledged from private and corporate donors.
In 2020, after a year of speculation over what the redesigned cathedral would look like, Macron announced that the cathedral’s famous spire would be restored to its original state. The president had previously said that the state would hold an international architectural competition to redesign the structure, but changed his mind following a recommendation from France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission.
Rebâtir Notre-Dame’s aim is to have the cathedral ready to host a full service on April 16, 2024.
Reposted from CN Traveler
Being named a UNESCO World Heritage site is the ultimate feather in the cap for travel destinations. But along with the prestige, increased popularity, and tourism dollars, the designation brings greater responsibility—both in heritage preservation and sustainable development. While this summer saw 34 new spots including Nice, France, and the Southern Islands of Japan added to the coveted list, other sites aren’t faring so well.
The United Nations committee regularly places sites marred by mismanagement, climate change, and other impacts on its “World Heritage in Danger” list before delisting them completely. This year, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef narrowly avoided a downgrade and now has until February 2022 to produce a progress report on its health. Meanwhile, Liverpool, England, was officially stripped of its UNESCO designation after several warnings about detrimental new construction along its historic waterfront.
The good news? The looming threat of losing this privileged recognition is a major wake-up call for existing UNESCO World Heritage sites, including those not in immediate danger. As a result, more locations are rolling out updates that will change how travelers interact with cultural and natural heritage, and will, hopefully, increase the resiliency of these sites in the face of growing environmental impacts and overtourism.
“Countries are increasingly signing onto sustainable development models where cultural heritage conservation plays a role,” says Susan Macdonald, head of Getty Conservation Institute’s Field Projects, which recently hosted an in-depth discussion with cultural heritage leaders about the pandemic’s impact on conservation efforts. “In other places, the lure of development makes it hard to achieve well-balanced approaches—this takes commitment, leadership, and long-term vision.”
Anyone who’s been to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu knows just how busy its crown jewel, the Inca Citadel, can get. After receiving an average of 4,000 visitors per day in 2018 and 2019—nearly double the number deemed appropriate by conservationists—Peru’s Ministry of Culture announced last year it would be limiting capacity to 2,244 visitors per day to remain in good standing with UNESCO.
But with a controversial new airport near Cusco scheduled to be completed by 2025 and local entities that rely on tourism pushing to see that number grow, it’s clear there needs to be a better model for sustainable growth. As a result, the park’s conservation team is working to build new routes and visitor centers to better disperse travelers that currently bottleneck the site. After all, the entire park encompasses over 37,000 hectares of land and more than 60 archaeological sites—many of which don’t get nearly the same amount of attention as the famous citadel.
“Heritage and tourism should not be in a permanent fight,” says José M. Bastante, director of the archaeological park. “In the future, with new routes and real-time monitoring of possible impacts, we will be able to increase the capacity of Machu Picchu up to almost 6,000. This will be progressive, based on evidence that the measurements we are taking are successful in avoiding negative impacts on our heritage.”
Reduced tourism during the pandemic allowed the team to improve trails and cover areas with blocks that help prevent erosion. Now, the focus is on opening alternative routes to ease pressure on existing trails and diversify the communities benefiting from tourism. Currently under construction is the Amazon Access Route, which connects the Intihuatana community with the areas of San Miguel, Inkarakay, Mandor, and Puente Ruinas toward Aguas Calientes. The soon-to-be-unveiled second corridor will link the community of Choquellusca (which sits at the border of Piscacucho in the district of Ollantaytambo) with the archaeological site of San Antonio de Torontoy, allowing visitors to pass through lesser-visited cultural sites on their way to the Inca city.
Tourists behaving disrespectfully (lying down in the grass, running, shouting, eating, and whistling are all against the rules) is still a major concern. Bastante says they’re hoping to address this by implementing visitor fines, reducing the maximum group size from 16 to 12, and constructing a new visitor center at the base of the citadel within the next two years. The hope is that the programming here will provide tourists with more information about the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and sacred significance, and help curtail damaging behavior.
Before the devastating fire of 2019, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was one of the most-visited monuments in Europe, welcoming 12 million people a year. Now, with plans to reopen by 2024, conservationists are planning to create a more in-depth visitor experience.
“The average length of the visit was only twenty minutes, which is a very limited amount of time to understand the cathedral, its history, and its architecture,” Jonathan Truillet, Notre Dame’s deputy director of conservation and restoration, told Getty. “As we prepare for the reopening, we want to improve the visitor experience while enabling better conservation and understanding of the monument.”
Part of the challenge is balancing tourism with preservation. For instance, the old flooring in the cathedral was damaged by the high number of visitors, says Truillet. They’re now conceptualizing better ways to control foot traffic and encourage visitors to stay longer.
The new visitor experience will include separate entrances for visitors and worshippers, updates to the site’s museum, and an improved presentation of The Mays, a series of large paintings from the 17th century that is displayed in May in honor of the Virgin Mary, says Michel Picaud, President of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, an organization that has been spearheading the fundraising efforts for the cathedral since 2016.
“We’re also ensuring security measures are well taken care of because the lack of maintenance and technical security devices was one of the weaknesses of the cathedral,” Picaud says. “For example, we had no sprinklers on the roof of the cathedral. This is something we will put in place so that we contain any danger to the monument.”
Also changing is the restoration budget, which has grown from $200 million pre-fire to almost $1 billion thanks to over 340,000 new private donors—none of whom have canceled their gifts since the pandemic began. Unlike some countries that cut conservation budgets in 2020, Truillet says the French government has dedicated more funding to the restoration of historic buildings in a bid to support French companies specializing in old-world craftsmanship, proving that the interest in heritage protection is stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, in Greece, a different kind of fire is burning. As climate change-induced flames rage closer to the ancient sites of Olympia and the Acropolis of Athens, intergovernmental organizations are pushing to use new technology to save UNESCO World Heritage sites from natural disasters.
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Hellenic Group on Earth Observation (GEO) teamed up to launch the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory (UHCO) this spring. The new global platform will use real-time satellite data, advanced sensors, and artificial intelligence to quickly identify the presence of wildfires, floods, and landslides near heritage sites and create post-disaster assessments to better shield vulnerable places, including at-risk locations in Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy, and 20 other countries across Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia-Oceania.
“This is now the era when most countries are trying to build national adaptation plans due to climate change but in most of these plans, the cultural heritage piece is missing,” says Evangelos Gerasopoulos, director of the Greek GEO office. “Symbolically, we are trying to use Ancient Greece, the cradle of western civilization, to mobilize efforts. If we forget the past, we’re doing nothing for our future.”
Reposted from Jing Culture & Commerce
Since 2017, London’s Postal Museum has been home to more than 60,000 objects chronicling the country’s centuries-old communications heritage, but also, a gift shop that comes fittingly well-stocked with postcards, stationery, books on postal history, and Royal Mail Post & Go stamps. No humble museum store, though, it received a tech boost in 2019 in the form of artificial intelligence-enabled (AI) devices that monitor and predict visitor flow to help optimize staff allocation. The upshot? A 97 percent spike in shop revenue per visitor, according to Culture Hint, the company behind the optimization software.
Certainly, AI has already made itself known in the museum realm: it’s assisting in conservation projects, tracking visitor behaviors throughout galleries, and enhancing the exhibition experience. But for Cesare Fialà, who co-founded Culture Hint in 2019, “what is really key,” he tells Jing Culture & Commerce, “is how do you improve operations in a way that has a positive return-on-investment for the museum?” It’s this practical approach that thoroughly informs the company’s offerings that besides capturing insights on visitor numbers, provides forecasts of crowd patterns to facilitate better staff rota planning and visitor care.
Museum retail, in particular, stands to benefit from such optimization. For the Postal Museum, which wanted to increase revenue per head at its store, Culture Hint uses computer vision to record visitor flow before a forecasting algorithm rolls out daily suggestions for staff deployment to maximize conversion. “Whether there were a ton of people or very few visitors in the shop, they always had the perfect amount of staff,” says Fialà. “The service level started to be consistent, regardless of the visitor flow.”
Fialà is due to discuss Culture Hint’s work with the Postal Museum at the upcoming MUZE.X conference, taking place between October 18 to 20 at the University of Malta. Before that, he spoke to Jing Culture & Commerce about the potential for AI-assisted forecasting tools to improve institutions’ operations and revenue.
What were some gaps you noticed in the museum sector that prompted you to launch Culture Hint?
The most widely used tool at the moment for planning in the museum sector is gut feeling. That’s the tool that we had to compete against. The sector as a whole is not proactive in terms of technology, especially for operations. It’s really a giant lack of technology adoption, so we might as well accelerate that. Culture Hint deals mainly with operations, which includes visitor services, security, and retail — all these teams are not seeking innovations as they could. People often take it for granted that innovation will come from other sectors and eventually, yes, they will jump on the train as well, like five years later. But you can’t have that hypothesis because innovation doesn’t happen by itself.
Could you outline how AI is deployed in your services?
The definition that I prefer of AI is the capability of a software to perform human-like tasks. I don’t see AI as a specific way of doing things, but rather as a way of describing things that are done by a machine. In our case, we use artificial intelligence in all the three phases of our service: it first monitors, second, forecasts visitor flow, and third, optimizes the resources of our client according to the forecasts that have been made. Effectively, all three parts of the process use AI.
How have museums responded to the idea of using AI in their operations?
So far, I’ve seen a very good response. Most of the time, the hard part is before you show them what you can do; there can be some skepticism. The issue is, how do you convince someone that can tell you that their museum has been managed by their expertise and gut feeling for the past 200 years? How do you convince them that all of a sudden, there’s a software program that knows better than they do how their visitors are going to behave? This is the challenge, but once you’ve shown them, it’s very easy for them to see that it works.
What has your work with Culture Hint taught you about how museums approach visitor tracking?
The one thing we see is that people are kind of afraid of changing their staff numbers from day to day, so most of the time, you either have too many staff members deployed on a certain position on a certain day or too few. It makes it very difficult for the staff to care about the visitors. But when there’s the right amount of staff members per visitors, you really start to click with them.
Besides forecast based planning, there’s a ton of other technologies that museums could adopt tomorrow on the operations side that can really double their existing revenues. So before embarking on some obscure project, I think that operational technology could be a very good starting point, especially coming out of the pandemic. And this is one of the reasons why we are seeing a lot of demand after the pandemic for Culture Hint’s offerings.
How is Culture Hint planning to evolve its products?
My objective in the future is to come out with a software solution that is completely automated so that we can offer it to micro museums and everyone can have it at a very popular price. There’s also a degree of customization that we want to do.
Another thing is we’re planning to expand heavily in the upcoming months into the UK, EU, and possibly the US in the next year. There’s half a million cultural venues worldwide; our mission is for everyone to use forecast based planning because this will come — it’s just a matter of how and when. Technologies in the museum’s content will come and go, but technologies on the operations and the management side of the museum itself are here to stay.
Mark Wray was working at the concession stand of a movie theater when the pandemic lockdowns hit last year. The movie theater shut down, and he lost his job.
But instead of looking for another low-wage job, Mr. Wray sought a different path. He found a program teaching basic technology and business skills, completed it and landed a job at a fast-growing online mortgage lender. He started in March, working in customer service and tech support. He makes about $55,000 a year, compared with $17,000 at the movie theater.
“The pandemic, weirdly, was an opportunity,” said Mr. Wray, 25, who is a high school graduate and lives in Charlotte, N.C. “And this job is a huge steppingstone for me.”
People returning to the work force after the pandemic are expecting more from their employers, pushing companies to raise pay, give bonuses and improve health care and tuition plans. Paychecks are getting bigger. Wages rose strongly in July, up 4 percent from a year earlier, according to the Labor Department. For workers in leisure and hospitality businesses, pay increased nearly 10 percent.
Yet many workers are also seeking something else: a career path, not a dead-end job.
In recent months, companies have struggled to fill jobs for tasks like waiting on tables, stocking shelves or flipping burgers. Nearly 40 percent of former workers in the nation’s hospitality industry say they do not plan to go back to jobs in hotels, restaurants or bars, according to a survey by Joblist, an employment search engine.
For many workers, the issue is less about bargaining for more money in a tight labor market than about finding a job with a brighter future.
“People in lower-wage work are saying, ‘I’m going to pivot to something better,’” said Stuart Andreason, director of the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Their demands are already reshaping corporate policies. Major employers of lower-wage hourly workers including Walmart, Chipotle and Amazon have announced improvements to their tuition and training programs. Even Amazon, which has huge turnover among workers in its warehouses, has started to talk more about helping improve its employees’ long-term prospects.
Some companies are featuring their newfound or heightened commitment to worker development to lure job applicants. Employer job postings for positions that do not require four-year degrees included the term “career advancement” 35 percent more often from March through July than in the same span two years ago, according to Emsi Burning Glass, a labor-market analytics firm. “Training” was mentioned 32 percent more often.
The new emphasis, if lasting and widespread, would be a significant change in corporate behavior. Companies have often regarded workers — except those at the top — as a cost to be cut instead of an asset that would become increasingly valuable with investment. Training programs were trimmed and career ladders lowered.
One measure of the higher aspirations of workers is the surge in interest and applications reported by major nonprofit organizations, like Year Up, Per Scholas and NPower, with decades of experience training and finding good jobs, mainly for underrepresented groups. They are all expanding.
Mr. Wray is a graduate of Merit America, a newer nonprofit that started in 2018. This year, Merit America is on track to reach more than 1,400 students, up from about 500 last year.
How large the opportunity will be for the striving workers, experts say, may depend on overhauling the hiring and promotion practices of corporate America. For example, companies have long used the requirement of a four-year college degree as a blunt screening tool for many good-paying jobs. Yet about two-thirds of American workers do not have four-year degrees — and nearly 80 percent of Latino and almost 70 percent of Black workers do not.
The college-degree filter, workplace experts say, is not a good predictor of success for many jobs.
That view has gained far more attention and support in the wake of the calls for social and racial justice after the murder of George Floyd last year. Hundreds of companies have pledged to diversify their work forces. Whether those pronouncements and commitments will be followed by action remains to be seen.
But people who have worked in the field of work force development for decades say they see evidence of genuine change. In the past, companies often blamed the education system for failing to produce enough qualified people of color to hire, said Elyse Rosenblum, founder and managing director of Grads of Life, which advises businesses on inclusive hiring practices.
“But now, companies are increasingly looking internally and taking ownership of this challenge,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “That’s a completely different posture.”
The support of business leaders who control budgets and hiring decisions, experts say, is vital.
At Bank of America, one executive in that role is David Reilly, who manages technology for its banking and markets operations worldwide. Mr. Reilly grew up in London’s East End, did not go to college and got his start in technology working the night shift in a London computer center, loading data-storage disks and cleaning the printer.
He showed an aptitude for the work, and one promotion followed another, leading to senior posts at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. He joined Bank of America a decade ago.
His career, Mr. Reilly said, was “blessed by people willing to give me a chance.”
At Bank of America, Mr. Reilly has helped champion the effort to develop upwardly mobile career paths. Bank workers volunteer thousands of hours a year to give talks and mentor recruits without college degrees. The effort also involves regular talks with managers about next steps in a career.
Since 2018, through recruiting partnerships with nonprofits like NPower and Year Up, as well as community colleges, the bank has hired more than 10,000 workers from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Carolina Ferreira had low-paying jobs as a restaurant hostess and as a preschool teacher’s assistant before she took a four-month program at NPower in basic technology skills. It was enough to land a tech-support internship at Bank of America in 2017.
The internship was followed by a contract job and then a full-time position. She is now a technical support analyst on the commodities trading desk, and makes more than $80,000 a year. “I’m still pretty junior, but this has been a big leap for me,” said Ms. Ferreira, 26, who lives in Queens.
Bank of America has close ties with training programs that focus on developing the potential of people like Ashantee Franklin.
Ms. Franklin, 24, lost her job at a dog day care and walking service after Covid-19 hit last year. She decided to make the setback an opportunity, applied to the NPower program and completed the four-month course.
The dog care service had reopened and Ms. Franklin was back walking dogs when an NPower job-placement coordinator called about an opening in an entry-level program at Bank of America. She applied, did well in interviews and was accepted. “I decided my time as a dog handler would come to an end,” she said.
Ms. Franklin, who lives in Brooklyn, started her contract job at Bank of America in June as a technology business analyst. Her starting salary is about double what she made in past years, which was less than $20,000.
Fostering upward mobility in corporate America is the goal of OneTen, a coalition of companies committed to hiring or promoting one million Black Americans to family-sustaining jobs over the next decade.
The coalition began in December with three dozen companies and has grown to 54. They are major employers, including Accenture, AT&T, American Express, Bank of America, Cisco, Cleveland Clinic, Delta Air Lines, IBM, Merck, Target, Verizon and Walmart.
OneTen sees its role as orchestrating the various players in the labor market, sharing best practices and measuring outcomes. It is promoting hiring based on skills instead of degrees. The group is also endorsing training programs, based on rates of completion and job placement. Two dozen have been approved so far.
Digital skills are increasingly an important tool across the spectrum of occupations and career paths in business — jobs in sales, marketing, customer service and operations.
Mr. Wray, who works for Better, an online mortgage lender, is an example. In the Merit America program, he earned a certificate in tech support. But his current role at Better is really customer service, helping potential borrowers navigate the online forms, communicating via live chat.
The goal of the technical training at Merit America, Mr. Wray said, was “to learn enough so you could learn on the job.”
At Better, his next career steps could be to become a loan consultant, a loan processor or, on a technical track, perhaps a network administrator.
One thing he is learning about is mortgage loans — how they work and the many options. “It’s fascinating,” Mr. Wray said. “And now I’m actually on track to afford a house at some point, which I wasn’t before.”
After Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, August 29, the category 4 storm—with gusts up to 172 miles per hour—left a wide path of destruction, and the city of New Orleans largely without electricity. We checked in with several arts and culture organizations and found that, while many were fortunate enough not to have sustained physical damage, the lack of power poses a serious threat to artworks that are sensitive to heat and humidity.
Although conditions were not as severe as those following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, not all cultural entities escaped damage. A former tailor shop that figured in the rise of jazz great Louis Armstrong was completely destroyed, as first reported by The Art Newspaper. Images on social media showed the Karnofsky Shop—where Armstrong once worked and where he bought his first cornet—was obliterated by the storm. The home had been on the National Register of Historic Places.
Margaux Krane, a representative for the New Orleans Museum of Art, said she had spoken with museum director Susan Taylor, who called from the museum on Monday. “The NOMA building and grounds did not sustain any damage. Our collection, as well as our incredible emergency team who are on-site, are safe. The museum will remain closed until we can safely reopen with power,” said Krane.
For now, she said, the museum has emergency generators running to maintain stable temperature and humidity. Although cell-phone service remains spotty throughout the city, she added, “all museum staff are safe and accounted for.”
At the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, a weekend-long opening for the “SOLOS” artists-in-residence showcase—set to debut new works and performances by nine artists and collectives—was canceled on Friday and most staff evacuated the city, said communications director Laura Tennyson. “Our turn-of-the-century warehouse building, a former dry-goods store and headquarters of the Katz & Besthoff grocery chain, withstood the storm-force winds,” executive director George Scheer confirmed. “As a non-collecting institution, the CAC is not managing special collections and is taking necessary precautions to care for the work of Gulf South artists we have on site in our current show.”
The CAC was also forced to cancel “(Re)membering to Never Forget,” a virtual panel related to its current exhibition “Behind Every Beautiful Thing” and designed to commemorate the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, which had been slated for August 29.
The Joan Mitchell Foundation, which established an artists’ residency in the city in the wake of Katrina, reported that it had suffered no significant damage. “We will be monitoring whether prolonged power outages could impact the start of the fall residency session in mid-September,” said a spokesperson for the foundation. The New Orleans Jazz Museum did not respond to Artnet News’s inquiry.
Meanwhile, the storm’s damage has cast uncertainty over the fate of Prospect New Orleans, the citywide contemporary art triennial that is now a decade old. The fifth edition, postponed from 2020, is scheduled to take place between late October and January 2022. Speaking from Austin, Texas, where he has been living since the start of the pandemic, director Nick Stillman said being outside of the storm’s path has not necessarily made his last couple of days any easier.
Noting that the opening is still two months away, Stillman said, “It’s too early to tell right now. We need more information before we make any decisions. We’re right at that stage where we need framers, fabricators, shipping routes. And we can’t make any good decisions until we really know when the city is going to have power again.”
Luckily, most of the artwork slated for Prospect is not actually in New Orleans yet. “We’re not in the kind of situations that I think our other institutions will be, where the encroaching humidity without generators is going to cause condition problems,” Stillman said.
As for the triennial’s planned locations across the city, of which there are about 20, Stillman said that with people still unable to traverse from neighborhood to neighborhood, it is “very hard to collect a full report on how the city is doing.” With the Prospect staff fully evacuated for now, he added, “I don’t think we’ll really know about the condition of the sites until probably late this week.”
Reposted from AAM
A year ago, I wrote about how Venice is using their pandemic induced pause to rethink how they can create a better future of sustainable tourism rather than rebounding to the status quo of day-tripping hordes. Many museums are using the involuntary lulls of the past year and a half to plan for a better future as well. Last week Allison Titman shared how the Alice Paul Institute is using lessons learned during COVID to create workplace practices that promote gender equity. This week Debra Kerr, president and CEO of Intuit: The Center of Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago, tells us how she is integrating pandemic practices into long-term operational change.
— Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President, Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums
After telling funders, board members, survey takers, and colleagues for months that the museum community was re-examining its old ways and our museum was never turning back, I was surprised to see the responses to a question posed to small museums on the Museum Junction CEO Community. The question “will some percentage of the work of your staff continue to be remote…?” was answered by five of the first seven responders: 95-100% fully back on site.
Despite the limitations of a small team—or maybe because of the extraordinary creativity required of a small team—my museum, small by art museum standards, is moving forward in 2021 and beyond with no expectations that we must operate in ways that worked prior to 2020. In fact, the COVID era has freed us from the constraints of history and many of the expectations inherent in a board that still has a small percentage of strong founder voices.
Prior to March 2020, full-time staff were on site Monday through Friday, while unpaid volunteers managed the floor. (Weekends included one part-timer to back up the volunteers.) Intuit had no timed ticketing, so most guests were walk-ins. Volunteers would welcome each guest, orient them to the content, and the exhibitions on view, explain the $5 admission price for those older than 18, and take the money for admission and museum store purchases.
No longer. With City of Chicago rules in place, Intuit now uses timed ticketing and ensures guests adhere to current mask and post-travel quarantine mandates. Paid part-time staff (two of whom were former volunteers) were hired to manage the functions formerly handled by front-line volunteers, typically about 12-15 people who filled 2-3 daily shifts. Initially, this was a management decision. The facility coordinator/registrar and I agreed it was unfair to have volunteers policing guests to adhere to procedures that were new to us and visitors. In practice, unlike the conflicts some museums are experiencing with visitors, Intuit’s guests have willingly put on masks, either their own or ones we provide.
I understand small museums may not have the cash to hire part-time staff, and full-time staff may be handling guest admissions. We managed to make it work through two decisions.
Because full-time staff are no longer expected to provide back-up to volunteers, they can work wherever they choose or need to work—from home or at the museum. Still, it is important to me and our team to maintain our fun and friendly work culture.
All staff, volunteers, and interns are invited to a standing 15-minute Zoom meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Attendance at any given meeting is optional, but folks are expected to attend at least once or twice a week. Full-time staff are just this week instituting a once-a-week 30-minute meeting on Tuesday, which will be our regular in-person day on site. Once a month, we have an all-hands IntuiTalk, in which a staff member prepares and presents a single topic, such as completing a condition report, writing a label for guests with blindness, exit survey results for the recent exhibition, and using SharePoint (a web-based collaboration and storage platform). Once a month, we have a Zoom happy hour, which allows interns in other parts of the country to participate. We adopted Slack last summer to facilitate instant messaging across people and teams.
Before the pandemic, we were desperate for desk space. Our offices are in an 800-square-foot lofted space above the exhibition galleries. There is no privacy. When I needed to do an employee performance appraisal, I took the employee out to eat or to a coffee shop. The chief curator and the development manager were literally shoulder to shoulder at one L-shaped desk. Interns and volunteers, sometimes as many as four, sat at the small table in my office area.
Now, instead of having assigned workspaces, we practice “hoteling”—anyone can use any available desk when they need it. We’re slowly buying new computers. We reimburse folks for a portion of their home Wi-Fi and personal cell phones. Our new, money-saving Wi-Fi-based phone system allows us to forward office phones to cell phones, so callers don’t even know staff answering phones may not be in the museum.
One significant downside is the loss of the volunteer corps, many of whom tend to be college students or recent graduates. Although we’ve had interns throughout the pandemic, we didn’t ask the volunteers back last summer for our first re-opening, and they’ve moved on. Only one person is ready to come back. Volunteer recruitment is starting from scratch.
The staff, all along, have been supportive and demonstrated tremendous adaptability. Two folks pointed out that teaching or taking classes is less disruptive from home. Those with a longer commute enjoy the found time. No one liked being fully remote: “I need team members to give me gusto and energy.” And one staff acknowledged the difficulty of managing interns whom she never met in person. But the pros outweigh the cons: “researching and writing,” “making phone calls,” “eating lunch with my husband” and “preparing lunch in my own kitchen,” and “time at home allowed us to adopt a new dog” and “my cat loves having me at home.” Everyone mentioned flexibility. “I can’t image 9 to 5 ever again. It feels rigid. We all understand we are getting work done when we’re at home.”
In June 2020, our marketing person, Annaleigh, announced she was leaving for another position, throwing me into a mild panic. Then, Lindsey, a woman who’d interned for me over two summers, living in Boston while getting her master’s in arts administration, reached out to ask if she would be eligible for the job. I said, “Let’s try you as interim coordinator.” Annaleigh and Lindsey overlapped for a week, creating a smooth transition. After a month, Lindsey and I decided to make it permanent. She just finished her master’s and moved to Chicago, but we would have lost this opportunity in former times.
As for the program side, Intuit is one of only a handful of museums in the world that focuses solely on outsider art. Intuit’s art-making and education programs will continue primarily online (though we hope to get our local Teacher Fellowship Program back in person one day soon), where we reach a national and international audience. We’re taking our small museum creativity and applying it to all our business opportunities and thinking of new models.
In a recent opinion piece for Hyperallergic, Amy Gilman of the Chazen Museum said, “We should not aim to revert to where we were in March 2020. This is the time we can truly change our institutional cultures. Most institutional change tends to be incremental and accumulative, but COVID has provided an unanticipated opportunity. We must ask, ‘How do we want to begin again?’” Although she is focusing primarily on diversity, this is, indeed, a time of unprecedented opportunity for “conscious decision on how we move forward.”
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.
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.
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