Museum work, as we all know, can be challenging - especially when it comes to working with committees. Despite individual efforts and the positive “can-do” attitude, the path to communal success can sometimes be unclear. The managing board may have different ideas than the curatorial staff, the curatorial staff may not quite embrace their relationship with the digital strategy team, and the digital strategy team may have difficulties in communicating to the board their potential to impact museum work in profound ways (yes social media can be more than just selfies!)
Yet, teamwork is a fundamental assumption held by most museum professionals and in many ways, it is considered to be the best vehicle for fostering relationships and meeting the demands of a now fluid and (instantly) connected marketplace. In fact, as we delve deeper into the 21st century, many museums have found themselves recognizing the necessity of teamwork and community building to craft a more adaptable and complex portfolio of events and services.
However, even armed with this general understanding, few organizations have taken the time to focus on what is really at stake in cultivating such communities, or more importantly, how teamwork can forge new opportunities beyond just the chance to get the job done. With the proliferation of roles that the modern museum is expected to fill (educator, community leader, cultural steward, entertainment venue), it's a wonder why so few institutions have taken a closer look at the idea of "community" itself - which is just one of the many reasons, I suspect, that Linda Norris of Johns Hopkins University, is channeling her experience and resources into a university/museum experiment focused squarely on the premise of international community building through unexpected museum partnerships.
I’m excited to announce that this fall, I will be taking part in a museum experiment of sorts - an experiment in community engagement under the direction Ms. Norris and Dr. Eugene Chervony of the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, L'viv, Ukraine.
Along with a team of Johns Hopkins University graduate students (including Sean Blinn, Caren Ponty, and myself), we will explore this critical issue of museum partnerships (of all kinds) and see what perspective we can provide on the process of creative engagement and how it can effectively underscore the importance of museum work to the public that it serves.
It is a creative process that (so far) will spans several time zones, six institutions, and team members will break-bread without any fast rules or even clear goals...but it may just be the kind of process that will help us to really grapple with the practical and ideological aspects of teamwork and to forge a pathway to unexpected clarity.
I’ll keep you posted throughout our journey.
For those interested in checking out our new partner, please visit them at http://en.lvivskansen.org/ or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/1971MNAP?fref=nf or read more about the project in Linda's blog HERE.