Grow where you are planted

There is a lot of doom and gloom about the fate of museums.  This week American Association of Museums President Ford Bell sent out an email to the membership about pending national legislation that will adversely impact museums.  News articles abound that deal with the financial shortfalls and shifting museum demographics, along with reduced visitation.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a survival kit to cultural heritage institutions for getting through the current tough economic times.

Into this climate comes the Spike TV American Diggers and National Geographic programming that I posted about last week. I believe our response, in large part, should be to make our cultural heritage institutions more relevant to the public we serve.  In every museum related course I teach these days, on the first class meeting we watch the 2009 video interview with Robert Janes on this very issue.  When the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, argued that anthropology programs were a poor use of higher education funds, students at the University of South Florida issued a response that spoke to the issue of relevancy.

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, despite national trends, for the past year, we saw a dramatic increase in our school group visits.  We attribute the increase to our revamping of all programs, now tied directly to curriculum standards, to become more relevant to the public we serve.  An experience this past November illustrates this point.  The lead teacher for a visiting school group of nearly 200 was particularly enthusiastic in her praise for the student experience during their three-hour visit.  She confessed that she was somewhat reluctant to schedule the visit as other teachers in her suburban school cautioned her that Chucalissa’s meagre offerings did not justify the transportation cost for the students.  After her school’s visit, she strongly disagreed and intends to correct the misperception in her district.  In essence, we were able to show our relevance to her students educational needs.

I originally wrote the sentence –  we are a very visitor focused institution – but changed that to user focused.  As a University based facility, we host many internships, student research projects, class visits, and more – again, demonstrating relevancy to our governing authority.

Relevancy can be demonstrated in many simple ways:

  • We have over 800 followers on our Facebook page and 1700 subscribers to our e-newsletter with whom we regularly communicate.  These two outlets can be platforms to present an alternative to the American Diggers mentality.
  • For our weekly staff meetings, each fall we begin with Chapter 1 of Stephanie Weaver’s Creating Great Visitor Experiences and get as far as we can by the end of April.  We have yet to get through the book in the academic year.  This has been a fantastic opportunity to place ourselves in the shoes of our visitors so that me might better live into our mission of supporting them.
  • Our Volunteer Days where visitors are able to work with cultural materials curated in our repository can be promoted as a counter to sitting on the couch and watching American Diggers, by actually engaging in archaeological research.
In the above examples, we live into our Mission statement to “protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities . . .”
Let me close this rather self-congratulatory post by noting that as a small institution we have the luxury to focus on the nuance without the concern of generating funds for multi-million dollar payroll and other operating expenses.  In so doing, we do not attempt to reinvent the wheel or come up with a new gimmick to attract visitors.  Rather, we strive to grow where we are planted in seeking relevance with the public that we serve.  Such an orientation seems our best response to not just economic woes, but the destructive methods and mentality of American Diggers.
How do you demonstrate your relevance to the public that you serve?

Letting Go to Keep the Public Engaged

Without a doubt, my favorite book of 2011 is Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World edited by Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski.  The book liner notes read that ” Letting Go? investigates path-breaking public history practices at a time when the traditional expertise of museums seems challenged at every turn – by the Web and digital media, by community based programming, by new trends in oral history, and by contemporary artists.”   The book is divided into sections or themes, each containing a diverse set of thought pieces (method and theory), case studies, and conversations (application dialogues).  The authors are leading authorities actively engaged in their subject area.  Letting Go? is a very applied presentation.

The first theme Virtually Breaking Down: Authority and the Web opens with an essay by Nina Simon that states the essence of her Participatory Museum model in a concise and convincing way, using several new examples to illustrate her points.  I found the brief essay fine-tuned some arguments in her published volume.  I suspect that for those new to Simon’s Participatory Museum, the essay will spur them on to read her book.  Simon’s thought piece is followed by Steve Zeitlin’s case study, City of Memory, based in New York City.  Next is a conversation with Bill Adair and Matthew Fisher that considers the problems and potentials with public engagement in online art museum projects and an oral history/video project in Philadelphia.  The final essay in the section by Matthew MacArthur takes up the role of objects in the digital contexts.  A strength of this section, and all the sections in the book is the reflective nature of the pieces.  In a most refreshing way, all the authors consider the shortcomings, problems, challenges, and opportunities of their own digital or participatory contexts in a user-generated world.

The second theme Throwing Open the Doors: Communities as Curators features a provocative essay by Kathleen McLean on the multiple expert and visitor voices.  She concludes her essay with “We need to find way to bring the museum’s expert knowledge into conversation with the people who attend our museums – people who bring with them their own expert knowledge” (p. 79).  The section is rounded out with a conversation on the diologic museum, a multi-generational family film project in Minnesota, and a conversation based on the Brooklyn Historical Society’s efforts to have community curated exhibits.

The third theme of the volume addresses popular oral history projects such as Story Corps.  A thoughtful essay by Tom Satwicz and Kim Morrisey assesses the challenges, limitations, and potentials of the reality of public curation from trend to practice.  Perhaps one-third of the volume considers essays dealing with  fine and performance arts not related to the focus of this blog.  However, the essays and conversations provide much that is simply good to think about regardless of the specific field of application.

I found the volume particularly refreshing in that all the contributors accept that there are lots of unanswered questions, false starts, and simply wrong turns in the “sharing authority” process of this “user-generated world” in which we now all operate.  The authors do not take on Messianic tones in their presentations, rather, provide thoughtful discussions of their experience in engaging the public’s user-generated voice. If you are grappling with how to incorporate the authority of the many voices that your institution serves, Letting Go? will give you plenty of directions to consider.

Engagement and Sustainability in Museums

Engagement and sustainability are the two words that come to mind when thinking of the challenges facing museums in 2012.  As a small institution, at the C. H. Nash Museum in 2011 we had the luxury to step back a bit, think through those two concepts, without the burden of a huge infrastructure and payroll to preoccupy our every action.

We started off the year by completing a program restructuring to assure we met the expressed needs of our visiting school groups.  We also surveyed our e-newsletter readers to get their input on program priorities for our museum.  We made certain that these discussions were firmly situated within our mission statement.

In April, we led a 12 paper session called “Re-imagining the Engaged Museum” at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Seattle.  This was a fantastic opportunity to hear from other museum professionals on efforts to make their institutions socially relevant.

This year we completed our second Museum Assessment Program (MAP) study.  A key part of both our 2010 Institutional MAP study and the Collections based study this year focused on sustainability.

This fall, visitation by school groups dramatically increased at our museum compared to the past few years.  We attribute the increase to our revised programs. word of mouth advertising, and an aggressive and consistent social media presence.  We have also developed a reputation for having a staff that is very focused on visitor service.  As we remind each other regularly, the only reason we are a museum is because of our visitors.  Without visitors, our function would be that of a repository or research center.

This fall, in staff discussion of our programs for 2012, a common theme was that all of our museum offerings need to be driven by the community that we serve.  I have posted before that our anticipated upgrades and redesign of the main hall exhibits will first solicit the input of key stakeholders and users, along with the casual visitors to our museum.  As well, all of our substantive projects for 2012 including the medicinal plant sanctuary, reconstruction of prehistoric houses, and excavations of the 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corps Camp will only occur with the active participation of our key stakeholders and users – the very same people who will inform our exhibit redesign.

In 2012 and beyond, sustainability of our institution will only be accomplished as a result of community engagement.  We will heed the advice posed by Nina Simon and others that the Participatory Museum should not simply be a hands-on experience for the sake of being a hands-on experience.  Rather, the Participatory Museum’s goal is to fully engage the visitor in the public institutions of which they ultimately have responsibility.   I remain convinced that the long-term sustainability of our cultural institutions will occur when the public for whom we perform the function of stewards for their collections are effectively engaged in the entire museum process.

What challenges do you see for 2012?

Marketing Museums and Archaeology

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, we do a reasonably good job of marketing on a limited budget.  We have a monthly e-newsletter with a 1700 person buy-in circulation that includes 200 press contacts.  We receive consistent press coverage of our events.  Our Facebook page has grown to over 800 likes with a moderate level of engagement.  We have a good regional distribution network for our rack cards.  We are attentive to off-site events in which we can take part.  Also, we are fortunate that the University of Memphis administers and promotes our Museum.

But we still fall short in taking advantage of many opportunities.

Related, this week a very common event occurred at the Museum.  I was at the front desk chatting with two visitors in their late 50s headed toward California.  After learning their general route was along Interstate 40, that they had plenty of time and a strong interest in Native American culture, I recommended several stops along the way.  First, I told them about the Mississippian era Parkin Archaeological State Park about 45 minutes into Arkansas from Memphis.  Next, we talked about Spiro Mounds, just across the Oklahoma border and within 20 miles of the Interstate.  Finally, I highly recommended the complex of Chickasaw Nation of cultural heritage venues including museums and a new Cultural Center south of Oklahoma City centered in the Sulphur/Ada/Tishomingo area.  The two visitors were most appreciative as they were not aware of any of these venues.

Here is the punch line to that story.  Were I not standing at the front desk, did not engage the visitors, they possibly would not have found any of these museums and archaeological sites.  We had no brochures for the locations (our fault) but even more so, there is no website, brochure, or other resource that is a one stop shopping for, how to “plan your road trip west if you are interested in museums and archaeology”

What are some solutions?

  • Gozaic is a service that attempts to fill the void, but after two years, judging by their website they have not been very successful.  Neither Parkin, Spiro, or the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center show up on their searches. Administered through Heritage Travel Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Gozaic has the potential of Culture 24 in the United Kingdom that hosts pages and links that direct the visitor to venues by type, such as prehistoric.
  • Trail guides, such as the Louisiana’s Indians Mounds of Northeast Louisiana, the Megalith Trail of the Morbihan region of France, or the Archaeological and Heritage Trails around Inverness, Scotland UK, are becoming increasingly popular as a means for cultural heritage travel.  However, most of these resources stop at modern state or county political boundaries.  The Great River Road website is an example of a tool that might be of more interest to the regional traveler as it traces cultural heritage venues along the entire Mississippi River corridor in the United States.
  • Perhaps most effective, but least efficient is for each cultural heritage venue to stock the rack cards and basic promotional information for everything within a few hundred mile radius of their site.
  • I wrote about Kent Vickery last week, a former professor of mine who retired to Woodland Park Colorado.  About one year ago, a couple stopped into our Museum.  Again, by coincidence I was at the front desk, asked where the couple were from and they said Woodland Park Colorado.  I asked if they knew Kent Vickery.  They replied they went to the same church as Kent, and he advised them on museums to visit during their trip.  This story and countless others, show that word of mouth seems one of our best promotional tools.
How do you market your site or museum to the cultural heritage traveler?

Museums Investing in People

I must confess to a bit of smugness when I read a recent Associate Press article about the struggle of museums in today’s economic climate.  The article cited museum professionals on the need to show relevance in tough economic times.  My smugness came in part from comments from one interviewee that this need for relevance caused their institution to plan the first museum upgrade in 50 years.  Too often museums have fallen into the trap of expecting public support because, well, we said so.

My smugness also comes from a truth I express when introducing visitors to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  I comment that almost every new product, exhibit, and program from our introductory video, hands-on archaeology lab, and Drumming Across Cultures program, to name but a few, are all created by our student graduate assistants, interns, and volunteers at the museum.  We do not have any blockbuster presentations, but drumming circles, dart throwing with atlatls, and low-cost cultural heritage exhibits prove equally engaging.  Our attendance is up.  Smugness here again, but I suspect that in tough economic times, our $5.00 admission fares better than the blockbuster museum fees of $20.00 plus.

I believe that if we can prove our social relevance, we will develop an institutional base of stakeholders, who will drive our museums with their time, talents, and resources.  To me, this all comes down to investing in people. There are many success stories that take this approach.

Over at Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 Blog recently there was a very interesting discussion about interns.  The perspectives ranged from a loose approach where interns pretty much figure out their experience on their own, to a highly structured mentorship in complete accord with the Internal Revenue Service guidelines.  Regardless, all respondents agreed the internship process is an investment in people.

Two of my favorite resources on people investment are Archaeology as a Tool for Civic Engagement edited by Paul Shackel and Barbara Little and Places in Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology edited by Erve Chambers and Paul Shackel.  Both of these volumes report a host of archaeology and museum projects in direct partnership with the community served.  In so doing, the community become less actors on the stage of their cultural heritage expression but become the very producers and directors of the process.

Programs such as Footsteps of the Ancestors among the Hopi youth, the New Philadelphia Archaeology Project in Illinois, and our own African-American Cultural Heritage in Southwest Memphis project are also investments in people.  I used to think that such efforts were simply expedient means for stakeholder development.  I have come to understand that such processes are an essential means in creating an authentic cultural heritage presence.  More importantly, these investments are our mission mandates to be relevant to the public we serve.

How do you invest in people?

The Public in Public Museums

Where is the public in our publicly owned museums?  I have pondered this over the past couple of years in my capacity as the Director at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  Here are some thoughts:

  • At Chucalissa, we host several internships each semester of both the undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Memphis (UM).  We strive to match an intern’s interest with the museum’s needs.  Student feedback suggests we are successful in this effort.  We view the Museum as a classroom, laboratory, or experimental station for our interns.
  • Because of my training as an archaeologist and my place on the UM Museum Studies faculty, I often give the introductory presentation to visiting college age school groups.  Over the past several weeks we had several UM “Fresh Connections” freshman undergraduate class visits.  I emphasized to these students that the Chucalissa Museum is their Museum both as UM students and as a public institution supported by their tax dollars.  I explain the intern, volunteer, and other opportunities available to students during their four years of study at the University.
  • In a recent Museum Practices graduate seminar, we discussed visitors, volunteers, and interns – the public’s physical presence at museums.  I showed a training video we made for our new Graduate Assistants that explores how we view volunteers at Chucalissa.  As I previously posted, we aim to engage volunteers because doing so is our mission and less because we have tasks that our regular staff cannot complete.
  • We are embarking on a project to rework the 20 exhibit cases in the main hall of our museum.  Our approach responds in part to Robert Janes asking in Museums in a Troubled World ” . . . if museums did not exist, would we reinvent them and what would they look like?  Further, if the museum were to be reinvented what would be the public’s role in the reinvented institution” (p.14).  Mallory Bader, a graduate assistant at the Museum, will interview key stakeholders, conduct focus groups with teachers, community leaders, students, and others, and coördinate tracking and visitor surveys as a means for obtaining public input into our reimagined main hall.
  • Over the past year, I posted several items on the public involvement in our African-American Cultural Heritage exhibit.
In their reading journal for last week’s Museum Practices seminar, one student wrote they found the participatory museum articles interesting but perhaps overly idealistic.  The student posed the question – what if it does not work?  Specifically – what if the students who created the African-American Cultural Heritage exhibit at Chucalissa produced something that simply could not work?  What is the impact of the youth working on a project that might never see the light of day? A good question that cannot be answered with “But it did.”  I believe that the answer is found, at least in large part, in this graphic from a post of last year.  I am struck that a key role that museum professionals play is to help the public to take on the ownership responsibility of their institutions.  That process is messy, consumes a great deal of time and energy, but ultimately is key to the mission of public museum and the ability of those institutions to achieve long-term sustainability.
Your thoughts?

What does Steve Jobs have to do with IT?

What does Steve Jobs have to do with Archaeology, Museums & Outreach?  My answer is not found in any of the recently published homages on his life or in one of his visionary quotable quotes.  Instead, consider the perspective that likens Steve Jobs and Apple Computer to a museum and the Apple products to the exhibits or the archaeological excavations.  Here are just a few points of comparison:

  • Apple products are intuitive but not simple.  They have the power and the ability to do any task but they excel in taking the user from the skill level where they are to where they want to go.  Consider something as simple as the difference between Apple’s Keynote program compared to Microsoft’s PowerPoint.  I think of this point when considering exhibit design.  A while ago I wrote about how we envisioned an ethnobotany exhibit at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa that took complex material but presented the information on multiple intuitive levels.  Last week I wrote about presenting the intricacies of prehistoric engineering to the public.   The punch line is that contrary to our assumptions that folks just won’t understand or be interested in complex concepts, the Apple model suggests that you take folks from where they are at and launch them on a journey without limits.  Apple excels in achieving this end.
  • Here is a dangerous statement – Apple’s customer service is fantastic.  I am certain that some folks have horror stories to tell about their Apple product service.  Here is my story – I have owned nothing but Apple computer products since 1988.  Over that period, I have never had an unresolved issue with anyone at Apple computer – including on one occasion replacing a warranty expired Power Mac at no cost.  My concerns were always at the forefront of the Apple employee who answered the phone or was assigned to my case.  A standard line I go over in both the classroom and at the Museum is that the only reason we exist is for the visiting public.  Without the visitor, museums would function only as repositories or research institutions.  As I noted in last week’s post, I also remind students and staff that the majority of us in museums are on the public dole, supported by tax dollars in one form or another, and  we must be able to explain our relevance to the public who pay our salaries.
  • If you have visited an Apple Store, you know they can be rather chaotic places, especially around the time of new product releases.  But I am impressed that the focus of these stores remains on the Great Thing or the Apple products themselves.  Each store has rows of wooden tables on which sit the complete range of Apple products for the customer to try.  If you look around the store, there are no bells and whistles, techno light shows and so forth.  There are just tables of products and people.  In museums and in archaeology, we often become enticed by the glamor of touch tables, mobile apps, or gaming that become ends in themselves and draw attention away from the Great Thing.  Last year I posted on a low-tech but thoroughly engaging experience at the Pearl Button Museum in Muscatine Iowa.  As well, this book cover has always impressed me with what a very simple tactile engagement with the Great Thing can mean.
As I said at the outset, I don’t know anything about Steve Jobs the person or the business person.  But my 20 year plus relationship with the products his vision inspired has been a great trip.  I am reminded of my experience in  linguistics classes as an undergraduate.  I took more than the required number of the dreaded courses because I found them to be so interesting and applicable to other aspects of my life and research interests.  In fact, those linguistics courses led me to focus my doctoral dissertation work on prehistoric “architectural grammars.”  I find the same thing in what I perceive as the vision of Steve Jobs – it leads in directions, to borrow from Levi-Strauss, that are “good to think with.”  I thank Steve Jobs for the vision.

Telling Visitors the Truth about Archaeological Research

I recently visited the Fort Ancient State Memorial where in 1992 I excavated the “most interesting thing I have ever found” in my archaeological field work.  I remember the event well because the discovery caused me to truthfully answer the questions every field archaeologist has been asked hundreds of times “Finding anything?” and the related “What is the most interesting thing you have ever found?”  On that day 20 years ago, I got asked both questions.

Here is the story – the incident occurred in the summer of 1992 at the end of a hot and humid August day.  I was tired, the mosquitoes were vicious in the ponding area I chose for excavations.  My dissertation research involved documenting the pond and ditch system configuration along the 3.5 miles of prehistoric embankment walls constructed by prehistoric Native Americans some 2000 years before.  Data from soil cores demonstrated that the original constructed form of the interior ditch did drain into the connected ponding area.  But I was puzzled by some odd stratigraphy from an excavation unit placed at the base of a gateway opening in an adjacent embankment wall.  In the unit, I was excavating considerably deeper than the adjacent pond base and still not reaching culturally sterile subsoil.  I was going through various contortions of logic to explain the cultural materials found at the deeper levels.  But then, I came down on a hearth, one meter below the level I should have encountered culturally undisturbed soils.  Burrowing rodents or other “natural formation processes” could not drop an intact hearth one meter below the anticipated base of cultural occupation.

I got out my trusty JVC soil probe, a manual contraption capable of extracting intact soil samples to a depth of 5m below ground surface.  I worked till dusk extracting soil cores from areas of the pond not previously surveyed.  I determined that the a considerable part of the landscape was filled and sculpted by the prehistoric engineers to create the ponding area.  Specifically Native Americans in prehistory filled in a five meter wide erosional ravine beneath the current pond base.  This conclusion was counter to the prevailing wisdom that the prehistoric engineers simply followed the preexisting contour of the natural landscape in their construction plans.  Over the next few years testing at other areas of the site showed similar modifications, ultimately suggesting that the above ground mounds and embankment walls at Fort Ancient represent perhaps only 2/3 of the total soil that was moved in building the earthwork complex.

So on the late August afternoon in 1992 when an elderly couple came up and asked “Finding anything?” I pulled some flint tools from the artifact bag laying in the screen to show.  To the follow-up “What’s the most interesting thing you have ever found?” I decided not to talk about the row of six bladelets laid side by side next to pit feature, or the three-layered limestone pavements outside the earthwork complex – instead, I told about the landscape modification I had just stumbled upon.  It wasn’t glamorous, it didn’t shine or sparkle, but to me it was a marvel of prehistoric engineering.  Standing on the edge of the pond and swatting at mosquitoes as dusk turned to night, the couple was as amazed and interested as me.

I learned a big lesson that day in archaeology.  We sometimes think that digital supersedes the tactile, that Indiana Jones trumps the mundane, that false certainty is better than asking the visitor “what do you think?”  This last point is particularly relevant.  I discussed this before with headless Poverty Point figurines.    I believe that it is  our task as archaeologists and museum professionals to make these issues relevant to the public who pay our salaries.  Often times that can be as simple as taking the time to tell the truth about our research and not assume that the public only wants to hear about what sparkles and shines.

By the way, today, in 2011, when asked about the most interesting thing I have ever found, I talk about a slate button I once held from the appropriately named Slate site near Yazoo City Mississippi.  The button had a blind hole drilled from the back for attachment.  I remain completely impressed that nearly 4000 years ago, folks in Mississippi used buttons in the same way that we do today!

What’s the most interesting thing you have ever found?

Museums, Memory & Change

So I have a story to tell about a lesson learned.  Here goes . . .

In last Friday’s Commercial Appeal I saw that the Memphis Symphony Orchestra was going to perform Modest Mussorgsky‘s Pictures at an Exhibition.  This piece of music holds a deep fascination for me.  At the age of 14, Pictures at an Exhibition was the first classical music I ever heard.  Since then, I have listened to the half hour score a couple hundred times, either as the original piano piece or as orchestrated by Ravel.  Pictures at an Exhibition is the most powerful piece of music I have ever heard.   Here is the story of all that.

So when I read about the upcoming performance, my wife Emma and I decided to go.  I had not heard the piece played live by a full symphony in about 30 years.  I was excited about the upcoming performance.  I thought the experience might even supersede the incredible Bob Dylan concert from earlier this summer.

This past Saturday was the Symphony performance.  The show began with several movements from Michael Gandolifi’s The Garden of Cosmic Speculations – a pleasant and surreal experience.  Then there was 25 minutes of violin and orchestra concertos that were relaxing and perfectly executed.  Next was the intermission and then there was Pictures at an Exhibition.

Before beginning the piece, Conductor Mei-Ann Chen introduced Jose Francisco Salgado from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.  Salgado talked about the iMaxesque visual performance that was going to play along with the performance that evening.  The visual was going to contain lots of images of the cosmos, galaxies, and other such things.  I listened in complete disconnect.  What did these celestial images have to do with the piece written in the 1800s by Mussorgsky to commemorate the death of a painter friend?  Or my history with the piece that included traipsing through art museums over the years, from my first experience at Cincinnati Art Museum, or the Art Institute of Chicago where I saw my first Van Gogh, to the my favorite, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis?  or how Pictures at an Exhibition played in my head when walking through the cityscapes of my life travels?   None of my history with the piece were remotely related to cosmic imagery.

The musicality of the live performance on Saturday surpassed my iPod experiences with the piece while mountain biking, or now as I write this, or any other sound system Mussorgsky has played on over the past years.  I kept my eyes closed during the concert, trying to get in touch with my expectations for the piece.  I was distracted by the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the audience fixated on the celestial images that broke the reverence I held for the piece.

I talked with Emma about the experience as we left the concert hall.  She thoroughly enjoyed the visual experience and was not buying my point of view.  She raved about how the visual was linked to pace of the music – how it all flowed together.  But the processing of my reaction hit me over the head like a ton of bricks.  I had my history with the piece.  I now experienced what all the folks who come to museums and want to see what they saw as a kid, or thirty years ago.  My response to the concert was no different from the folks who come to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa where I am the Director and want to see the staged Native American performance in the reconstructed village they remember from the 1970s.  I thought about a video from The Pinky Show – “We Love Museums . . . Do Museums Love Us Back?”   The cartoon mockumentary of sorts notes that the museum’s job is “To treat each object in the collection like it is frozen in time.  Nothing is allowed to get old and fall apart, which of course is impossible and goes against the laws of nature.”

To quote Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  I have a new perspective on linking past performance to the present and into the future.  I noted to Emma that had I known in advance about the visual show during the concert performance, I could have reconciled myself to the reality, and even enjoyed the fresh approach.  I think of the occasional letter I get from a disgruntled visitor to our museum whose expectations weren’t met based on their visit from 20 years ago.  Though I can respond about our new exhibits, the hands-on lab, arboretum, herb garden and more, that does not address their expectations not being met.  I understand that place better now.

How do you prepare visitors for change?