In my last post I talked about projects co-created during the Fall Semester by students in my Museum Practices graduate seminar at the University of Memphis. This week I report on implementing those project in Peru.
This past January, my colleague and a student in the graduate seminar, Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza and I traveled to the Hualcayán, Peru to deliver several of the products from the student projects. Below is a report on some of the products discussed in last week’s post that we delivered during our January visit:
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and Strategic Plan for cultural heritage development in the Hualcayán community - We delivered thirty copies of the document written byElizabethCruzado Carranza andClaudiaTullos-Leonard to community leaders and other interested residents oftheHualcayán community. The five goals in the strategic plan addressed the cultural heritage needs the community expressed over the past several years. The plan lists objectives under eachgoalto be accomplished in the first year or by the fifth year of the proposed Strategic Plan timeframe, set to
begin on July 1, of 2015. In delivering the documents, we suggested that the community discuss the content between now and the July 1 timeframe start date to refine and amend the Plan’s content. In this way, the Strategic Plan’s co-creation extends beyond the content but to include the implementation – an important step for the community’s ultimate role in administering a sustainable cultural heritage program in Hualcayán.
- Museum Timeline Banners – We mounted and installed the six banners requested by Hualcayán teachers that present a linked local, regional, and international timeline. U of M students Christian Roesler and Mariah Selitsch researched, designed, and printed the banners. The products are of a professional quality, address specific topics raised by the Hualcayán teachers – all for under $75.00 US, thanks to the Museum Practices students.
Oral History Project – A true highlight of Elizabeth and my visit was meeting with Hualcayán high school teacher Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio whose class collected community oral histories over the Fall Semester of 2014 (Spring Semester in Peru). I posted before about the genesis of this oral history project. Leodan’s student interviews exceeded our expectations. We were somewhat concerned if the notoriously shy Hualcayán students and area residents would be able and agreeable to having their stories recorded. However, because of the co-creative nature of the project their hesitancy was for the most part avoided. Some interviewees preferred only to have their voice recorded, but overall the students collected nearly twenty individual 10 to 20 minute histories from community elders. Elizabeth will synthesize those histories into a book form that will report the founding and history of the village and discuss the natural and cultural resources of the Hualcayán community. By July of 2015, we will print 200 copies of the history for distribution to community families and for use in the school. By the end of 2015 we intend to produce a DVD of the recordings in Quechua and Spanish. At the suggestion of one community resident, the DVD will also contain published articles, written reports on the archaeology of the area, along with a copy of the virtual exhibit in the Hualcayán Museum opened in August of 2014. (If you would like to make a much-needed donation to this project, please visit the PIARA website.)
- In January, Elizabeth and I also met with the Women of Hualcayán artisans who are creating woven, sewn, and embroidered crafts that are currently sold at two locations in the United States. The project was launched in the summer of 2014. Alicia Anderson, one of the Museum Practices students, thoroughly researched fair-trade and other similar small start-up projects to determine best practices toward a sustainable operation for the women artisans. In January, we were able to discuss a range of options with the women on how they wished to move forward. The conversation assured that community expectations aligned with the actual possibilities for the project.
An important aspect of our trip to Hualcayán in January was for two archaeologists to make the trek to the rural community, located a 12-hour commute from Lima, for purposes other than those directly related to their archaeological research. The sole purpose of our January visit was to respond to the community’s expressed needs. We went to Hualcayán in response to John Cotton Dana’s (1917:38) prophetic co-creative call nearly one century ago to “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.” I suggest the same call is applicable for outreach work in applied archaeology as well.
I just returned from a quick trip to Peru to update work on a couple of projects. While in transit, I completed a paper that summarizes the past 7 years or so of co-creative work at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. The paper is part of a volume that Beth Bollwerk and I are editing for the Advances in Archaeological Practice journal based on a session we organized for the Society of American Archaeology annual meeting this past Spring. All of the above help solidify in my mind some lessons on co-creation.
My regular snippet quotes I use on co-creation include:
To give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals. – Nina Simon 2010:187
Working together or diversifying audiences is not enough. What is needed are reciprocal, co-created relationships that connect the assets and purposes of organizations. Elizabeth Hirzy 2002
. . . the act of engagement with others who are trying to make decisions related to particular heritage resources. Erve Chambers 2004:194
Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs. John Cotton Dana, The New Museum
That was the perspective taken by the 15 students enrolled in my Museum Practices graduate seminar this past semester at the University of Memphis as they worked on projects for the Museo de Hualcayán, Peru that opened just this past summer. The students based their projects on the Peruvian community’s expressed needs. Some of the products included:
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and five-year Strategic Plan created by Claudia Tullos-Leonard and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza. The plan responds directly to the community expressed need for cultural heritage, educational, and tourism opportunities in the rural Andean community. Claudia brought her considerable business expertise from the private sector and Elizabeth her five years of work in Hualcayán to create the plan. The Peruvian community will take the next step to assess and refine the proposal.
- A series of timeline banners for the newly opened Museum created by Christian Roesler and Mariah Selitsch. This past summer Hualcayán high school teacher Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio expressed the need for a resource that linked local, regional, and international events from prehistory to the present day. Christian and Mariah used their graphic and archaeological abilities to produce a series of six banners.
- In a meeting this past summer, Leodan also expressed the need to document the history of the Hualcayán village. He noted that the government issued textbooks covered national and even regional Peruvian history but contained no information on the local community. (This situation is very similar to my experience in Southwest Memphis that prompted an oral history project in that neighborhood.) For Hualcayán, Lacy Pline and Merrileigh Rutherford created a proposal to install a complete oral history program and station to both record and view collected interviews – all at a cost of under $1500.00! They drew on their research interests coupled with internships at the National Civil Rights Museum where a similar program was conceived. I have posted before about the oral history program launched this past fall in Hualcayán.
The website and other social media outlets for Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) were completely revamped and upgraded to reflect current best practices by Remi Chan and Brooke Garcia. Although not an expressed community need, the upgrade does allow for a more effective communication of activities in Hualcayán and prepares for anticipated internet capabilities for village residents.
- Other completed projects by the Museum Practices students included a marketing plan for the Women of Hualcayán craft artisans, a short video on the importance of archaeology preserving cultural heritage, a follow-up to the successful quipu project from this past summer, and several school lesson plans for use in the coming year.
My takeaway on why these projects have value are several:
- The activities foster reciprocal relationships where the needs and interests of the community/students/archaeologists/museum professionals are equally supported and valued. Creating the noted products is not possible without the full participation of all partners. All partners expressed needs benefit equally.
- As an applied anthropologist, I seek to address real world concerns beyond the walls of the academy and present that perspective to my students. In end of the semester evaluations, Museum Practices students consistently report that creating something that lives in the real world is a highlight of the class.
- Coupled with the above, the created products follow best practices for the rural Peruvian context. The completeness and professionalism the students brought to their projects was no different from had they created products for a major metropolitan museum in the U.S.
- Co-creation enhances the stakeholder role of all participants for a long-term commitment to the process.
Next week I will post on the January trip to deliver the products to the community in Peru.
As I noted in two recent blog posts, for the past few years, half of the final exam in my Museum Practices graduate seminar in the Museum Studies Program at the University of Memphis consists of responding to the following:
Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently argued that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?
This week’s post is another excellent essay written by Lacy Pline a graduate student in Art History at the University of Memphis. Lacy is also enrolled in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program with a strong interest in public outreach and education in both art history and archaeology.
Museums Giving Back to Communities
In her blog Museum 2.0, Nina Simon discusses the public argument about arts support, as seen through the lens of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Simon opens the blog with a question: “How often do we get to see what people really think about the value of the arts?” In response, she offered screen-shots from people with varying ideas. Ken Dettloff’s comment particularly stood out to me when he argued: “Detroit needs [an] art museum while City residents do without streetlights, police, and fire protection? [It] doesn’t make sense!”
Much like the prompt for this class, Dettloff raises a very valid point. How can you even begin to justify artistic programming when there are people in the local community who are going without the most basic necessities? How could I, as a public servant, argue that my research or involvement within a museum is worth their money, when they lack fresh water, electricity, or even a place to live?
I thought for some time on this question, at first reading through the “Labor Day and the Cultural Heritage Professional” blog from Archaeology, Museums, and Outreach. I agree with the claims made that cultural heritage can be used as a source for empowering the people. On a larger scale, this can be seen from the example we watched in class. After a sacred hut burned down, the company who documented the site in 3D was able to make this information available to the community, who otherwise might have lost everything. On a smaller scale, the African American cultural heritage exhibit at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa offers a similar community component, bringing people together through a common heritage. I also agree that museums and public servants must be proactive with the communities, helping to empower people through culture at all times (not just when it’s someone’s project). Along the same page, there should be no disconnect between the public and the professional.
As I continued to research this question however, I was a bit put-off by the response I seemed to most often receive. It was essentially that museums help to create vibrant, thriving communities. They connect community members to one another, they provide educational programming, and they offer events. While this is true, if I was Josephine Q. Public and had just lost as much as she had, I don’t know if hearing those reasons would feel enough for me. The hard truth is, it’s extremely difficult to justify the arts in the face of deprivation. The only answer I could come up with is that it is only justifiable when you make it directly benefit these same people. Benefits should reach beyond “providing culture” and other ethereal rewards, to actually making a difference in the lives of the community.
So how would a museum do this? My first instinct was to see what I could provide through my museum that addresses their current problems. While this is somewhat altruistic, it is also a simple business practice – if you make your museum an integral part of the community, a staple, people will want to fund the museum in order to keep the doors open. If community members are suffering from lack of food or clean water, a museum could create a community garden or well. If there are issues of security within the community, the museum could help organize Neighborhood Watch groups, or create a safe haven (a “Third Space”), open to all.
Beyond addressing the necessities, a museum should strive to give back to the people as much as possible. Children could be educated through special programming and summer camp options. The museum could organize a Senior Citizen Night, creating events just for the elderly. Art or photography classes could be taught in art museums on evenings for members of the community. The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville Florida has a night at the museum type of event, where each Tuesday for 3-4 hours, the museum is open to anyone for free. The C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa offers Volunteer Days, where volunteers can come to the museum and help assist or organize artifacts.
Museums could also strive to educate the community on their own unique personal heritage, creating oral or local history exhibits, or co-creating temporary exhibits with visitors, which is described in The Participatory Museum.
In conclusion, the only way to truly be able to justify spending public money is to spend as much as an institution possibly can on giving back to that same community.
 Nina Simon, “The Public Argument About Arts Support as Seen through the Lens of the Detroit Institute of Arts,” Museum 2.0 (August 29, 2012), accessed: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-public-argument-about-arts-support.html
 Robert P. Connolly, “Labor Day and the Cultural Heritage Professional,” Archaeology, Museums, & Outreach (September 3, 2012), accessed: https://rcnnolly.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/labor-day-and-the-cultural-heritage-professional/
Lacy can be reached at lapline(a)memphis.edu
As we move into the New Year, career planning is often at the forefront of folks thinking. I have posted before about career opportunities in the cultural heritage sector. In the guest post below Ariana Carella offers some solid advice on this process. I first met Ariana as the enthusiastic and very helpful voice at the Information Center of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Over our couple years of phone and email contact, I came to know Ariana as an articulate, passionate, and solution-driven individual. Although a loss to the AAM, I was certainly not surprised that one year ago Ariana was hired as the Membership Manager of the environmental advocacy group Rachel’s Network.
In the past, Ariana shared her resume and application cover letter with my students as examples for how they might craft their own application package. Below, Ariana responds to my question of how to make an individual’s application package stand out from the other 100 or more an employer receives for desirable positions.
Getting Noticed in the Job Seeking Process
When I was working in the American Alliance of Museums’ Information Center, I read articles about job-seeking for consideration in the online Career Management Resources library. Most of the materials I read were lengthy essays or narratives, which can be hard to synthesize into a resume. The resource library is a great reference tool, but the articles usually didn’t address the heart and soul of applying for a job, that an effective job-seeking process should be a personal one.
Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with people in the museum community who have shared insights about managing their careers. Below are some of the tips I consider important, which can be used alongside other job-seeking resources:
- Research, research, research. It is essential to research a prospective employer to give you a sense of the organization’s culture, mission, and how you fit might in. Go to the website, read annual reports, and talk to former and current employees. You can also review the organization’s financial viability by looking up their 990 tax form on Guidestar. The more you learn about the organization, the better you can tailor your resume and cover letter to demonstrate your compatibility. If the only tailoring you’re doing to your cover letter is changing the organization’s name, you are not doing enough work. Your resume and cover letter is the beginning of a conversation you will have with a potential employer, and it is fairly evident to those reading a stack of resumes who has or hasn’t done their homework. In some cases, after doing some research, you may decide an organization is not a good fit for you or your career goals.
- Your resume is not a complete representation of your career. One tip I received early on: you will need two resumes during the job application process. The first one is a comprehensive resume, which includes every aspect of work you’ve ever done, including volunteering, certifications, etc. The second resume is what you actually send. Use your comprehensive resume to curate the story you want to tell your future employer. Does the job you’re applying to require strong research skills? Which experiences demonstrate that? Do you see any trends in your qualifications and experiences? In my case, I wanted to tell a story of a person with a strong customer service ethic, so I pulled out aspects of my work history from a varied career, which included working at a bank, at a student union, and AAM. The key is to make it easy for the people reviewing your resume to do their job. That may mean leaving out projects you cared deeply about, but aren’t relevant or important enough to share with this particular employer. Put on your HR hat and consider your resume from their perspective. Don’t make them struggle to draw connections between your experience and the work required for the job. Do the work for them!
- Your resume is not your cover letter. The two pieces work in tandem with each other, but they should never be the same. My resume aims to prove why I’m qualified for the job; it’s a catalogue of relevant tasks, responsibilities, achievements. My cover letter is an opportunity to explain why I’d be a good fit for the organization. For instance, in my resume, I may state that I helped launched a new website as part of a Web team, listing a variety of associated tasks (e.g., copyediting content, managing data migration). In my cover letter, I could then build on that story and say that my experience on teams makes me a good fit for the small nonprofit I’m applying to.
- One-on-one conversations. I cannot stress enough the importance of mentorship and one-on-one guidance. Whenever possible, meeting with someone to discuss your skills is 100 times more helpful than any available online resource. You may have strengths you don’t know are strengths. You may not feel comfortable speaking about those strengths with confidence and conviction. An outside perspective can help illuminate the things you do best and the things you are most passionate about in your work. And these conversations can also help you prepare for the interview, allowing you to practice speaking assuredly and effectively about yourself. Reaching out to my network of former colleagues and Professional Network leaders about my goals helped me structure my thoughts for my resume, cover letter, and interview. Contacts from my network graciously shared their resumes and approaches with me, and their samples helped me finesse a good format and style. Moreover, in opening up a conversation with them, these contacts were then aware of my skills, and when they heard about jobs that may suit me, passed along those opportunities. In some cases, they had the ability and inclination to put in a good word, where they had their own contacts.
The process will take a lot of hard work and time, but simply crossing off items from a resume-writing checklist is not enough. At the end of the day, your job is where you are going to spend most of your waking time. Clarifying what work you like, where you want to work, and what skills you want to develop may seem like a waste of time or too “squishy” and introspective. But doing this hard work will allow your strengths and personality to shine through in every aspect of the job application process. This preparation is the infrastructure of your career pipeline.
I couldn’t be where I am without the help of many people, who contributed different aspects to my job-seeking process. More often than not, people truly want to help you succeed. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, I encourage you to speak up, reach out to your network, and ask for guidance!
You can contact Ariana via her LinkedIn Page.
Great meshing of urban/industrial archaeology and architecture . . .
Originally posted on THE MUSEUM SHED:
The Sears Crosstown Building
Architecture can flatter the skyline with its curvaceous silhouettes and distinguishable profiles. The Sears Crosstown building, on the other hand, is more often than not ignored. It commands the sky with its 14 stories and 1.4 million square feet, but on a street that runs through Midtown to North Memphis and hosts a vibrant nightlife of clubs, trolley-goers, and pedestrians, most people are busy looking at eye-level. When people do take the time to look up, it’s to wonder “What’s going on in there?” Usually they are thinking about the present, wondering if anyone has broken in looking for a place to sleep. While neighbors functionally “step around” it, the Sears Tower is a favorite topic of urban planners, land developers, and Memphis historians. These were some of the 40 people who made up the tour group sponsored by the local chapter of the Urban Land…
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Spearheaded by Gretchen Jennings, a timely Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events has circulated on the internet over the past few weeks with follow-up Twitter discussions at #MuseumsrepondtoFerguson. Much of the discussion on this subject addresses the disconnect between museums and the communities they are meant to serve. (Note: I use “community” to include the spatial and other demographic dimensions of the term.)
A key component for museums to engage with communities to address issues such as Ferguson, or any issue for that matter, is to be at least perceived as a stakeholder and social asset of the affected community. If a museum is divorced from and does not reflect the community needs, there is no reason for that community to consider proclamations around Ferguson or racial justice as anything other than a jailhouse conversion. I suggest that the community engagement process must be in place long before the events such as Ferguson occur.
John Cotton Dana’s 1917 statement is fitting: “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.”¹ In 2002, Ellen Herzy asked “How do we encourage museum professionals, trustees, and volunteers to engage with community in open and useful ways, as civic leaders but also as community members . . . Working together or diversifying audiences is not enough. What is needed are reciprocal, co-created relationships that connect the assets and purposes of organizations.”² More recently, Nina Simon articulates that co-creative relationship in a call for museums “to give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals.”³
My takeaway from the above include:
- Co-creative processes are not museums functioning for the community but with the community. The distinction necessitates having a recognized and committed stake in the community’s expressed needs.
- The co-creative process must be part of the normative operation of the museum, not just in crisis situations. This distinction necessitates a museum to have a long-term commitment and co-creative action plan.
The Incluseum challenges to think of “What “right now” actions can museums do to show solidarity?” At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Memphis, Tennessee, we are emerging from a half-century of either ignoring or having a very limited engagement with the community surrounding our museum that is 95% African-American. Based on my admittedly limited experience, I offer the following:
- Hosting Black History month events provide an excellent opportunity for a museum to be of service to the African-American community. In February of 2015, such events can provide a forum for a discussion of racial justice and other issues raised by Ferguson. Over the past five years at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, we have moved from a co-creative Black History month event to one where our museum serves as a host per Nina Simon’s Participatory Museum model.
- The C.H. Nash Museum sponsors and helps coordinate multiple community service learning projects that form a bridge between the community and museum. Our concept of community service learning aligns with Kronick et al where the museum “listens to the concerns of the group or person, lets the ‘other’ define the situation, and responds by trying to meet that need. In listening and learning, receiving and giving, the service-learning relationship is horizontal, lateral, parallel. It is not hierarchal”
- Today is the day a museum can begin a long-term commitment to the process. In so doing, museums will be better able to organically respond to current and future issues affecting the communities in which we serve.
A summary of our experience in community engagement at the C.H. Nash Museum is presented in this article.
¹ John Cotton Dana, The New Museum (Woodstock: Elm Tree Press, 1917), 38.
² Elizabeth Hirzy, Mastering Civic Engagement: A Report from the American Association of Museums. In, AAM (Ed.), Mastering Civic Engagement: A Challenge to Museums (pp. 9-20). Washington, DC: American Alliance of Museums.
³ Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum (Santa Cruz: Museum 2.0, 2010), 187.
4 R.F. Kronick, R.B. Cunningham, and M. Gourley, Experiencing Service Learning (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press) p. 23.