A Balancing Act

As it may be evident from my lack of sharing over the last few months, I’ve been a bit busy – I recently started a new position in a small museum in New York City. I am regularly challenged and excited at the prospect of realizing new ideas and programs for my small but fierce institution. With this, there’s been a rather natural transition from considering museums and museum practices on a world stage to focusing on programs and practices at my place of work.

I came across this excerpt for a post in my draft box. It’s from a couple of years ago (ouch). I think at the time I was being optimistically diplomatic in trying to share about my experience while in the thick of it.

While I had the best of intentions to continue writing once I began my (then) new position, I don’t think I fully realized how amazingly challenging it is to be in a leadership role at a small non-profit. At Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum I was only one of two-full time employees (my position was actually part-time when I started). We sustained programs and implemented new initiatives with the help and support of part-time staff, volunteers, and members. Early on I tried to cut myself some slack. As with any new position it takes time to adjust and find a balance in the workplace.

Here are a few things I learned about working in a small-office setting and striking a balance between different projects and responsibilities. Some of these things may seem obvious and I’m sure all can be applied to any work environment.

  1. Make lists: It may sound silly and you may already do it, but making lists really help. I don’t know about you but I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I check something off my “to do” list. I also feel organized just making a list of things I need to get done (either for the week, the day, or even the hour)! I’m not the first person to note this either (and if you really want to read up on this topic check this out).
  2. Mini-jobs on the job: Those of you who wear many “hats” in your workplace know what it’s like to juggle different projects, meet with plenty of people, and try to get it all done (right) and in a timely way. In my own experience it wasn’t too long before I realized I was often getting pulled in a few different directions on a daily basis. It was easy to start one project and get side-tracked. Organizing your workday and in some cases work week to adequately tackle all responsibilities might ease some of the pressure. For example, I focused on different projects and areas of work on different days: Monday = school programs, Tuesday, volunteer and internship programs, Wednesday = public programs and exhibitions, etc. If you consider trying this out, think about leaving some time during the week for free/creative time to just think about things or do something non-work related to get your creative juices going.
  3. Keep meetings short–and–creative: Do meetings eat up your work week? It’s all too easy to schedule meetings and talk about what needs to be done, often leaving little time for the actual doing. It’s important to keep meetings on a schedule (and not go over your time). Try something different like standing up while you meet. Have you heard about this? Sometimes the best ideas come from the for-profit world.
  4. Deadlines are your friend: Regardless of the department or work-wide deadlines you have to adhere to, schedule your own deadlines. Keep to them and have contingency plans. It works and helps. Smaller deadlines help to see the progress of bigger/long-term projects. It also helps you feel like you’re getting things done, even if the end is nowhere in sight.
  5. Say YES to help: As I mentioned above my museum operated with very little staff. Our ability to grow and offer programs was based largely on the support and commitment of volunteers and members. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is let go a little and delegate responsibilities. If you have able and willing support–use them and their strengths to your advantage. Of course incentives to thank and encourage these important groups are always helpful and I’m sure, appreciated.

All too often professionals in our field give all of their time, knowledge, and heart to their job. That’s why any ideas or tips to being a little more efficient and able to stay motivated can really help.

What do you do to make it all work?


Change is Good

Change is good? Change is good.

A few months ago I thought that re-posting one of my previous posts would not only stir some interest, but also get me focused on processing my thoughts and writing more. Meanwhile here we are in the thick of the summer and I’ve been as quiet as a hibernating bear (I don’t actually know if bears are all that quiet while hibernating, but you get my point).

So here’s what I’ve got for you:

  • A new design
  • A new name (Museumer–you like?)
  • Same ole’ me–posting (a little bit more regularly) on all things museum and my wonderful (often chaotic) life

Here are some of the things on my mind that I hope to share about soon:

  • Theme posting: Design projects, ideas, and tips (from my experience as a consultant)
  • Theme posting: Non-museum design projects (invitations, presents, etc.)
  • Post Idea: Kids as curators
  • Post Idea: From the vault: education programming ideas for small historic house sites
  • Post Idea: Getting your interns to succeed: working for and with students

Thanks for sticking around and please enjoy.

I didn’t really “go” anywhere…but I’m back. Oh and this is RE: a RE-POST

Many moons ago I wrote up this post asking for feedback about museum studies/education/etc. grad programs…

…and then I fell off the face of the earth. I was so (happily) busy working here and then becoming this (I’m saving all these juicy details for future posts).

I was recently contacted by someone interested in my findings about grad programs. That’s when I realized it’s been two years since my last post (gasp…so much for “going strong”) AND that I hardly received any feedback from readers (cue crickets?)

So let’s start fresh. I’d love to use this post idea as a way to get back into the world of blogging and with your help I’ll be able to do that!

Click here to read the entire post and if you’ve:

  • Completed a non-museum related grad program and work in a museum field.
  • Completed a museum-related grad program and don’t work in the museum field.
  • Completed a museum-related grad program and work in the museum field.

….. I want to hear from you!

Happy sharing.

One Year and Going…Strong

That’s right folks, From the Desk of Valerie Albanese is approaching it’s one-year anniversary! Hold off on toasting just yet. To be fair, I should deduct a few months (at least) from this total based on the lack of writing from June-August and October-February (the latter is pretty pathetic on my part).

Perhaps you thought I was gearing up for winter hibernation a bit early or worse yet, I was swallowed-up by a three-eyed monster. Alas, my musings have dwindled due to a demanding job, bit of traveling, some side projects, and limited time. My only saving grace has been my fairly active twitter page and  tumblr page (thanks to the creative geniuses behind re-tweeting/posting).

As an anniversary present to my loyal readers (as many or as few of you as there may be) I offer you a 2010 full of timely updates, musings, new information, and inspiration! Not to be re-gifted, but definitely to be shared!

Museum Professionals, Member’ing Up

I was recently contacted by a member of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and asked to join their Gen X and Gen Y Advisory Committee. Although I probably just dated myself a bit, how neat is that!? With so many groups, associations, and organizations that are local, national, even virtual, sometimes such great opportunities and connections like this may go unnoticed.

It is definitely easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the number and types of organizations. While the benefits and professional development opportunities are great, financially (especially if you are not joining as part of an institution) it can be a great undertaking.

I currently have individual memberships to a few organizations  to stay in some kind of loop with the conversations, trends, and hot topics in the field. My life-shifts are not unique; I’ve moved to different cities and worked in different types of museums. With this, my affiliations have reflected these changes and new beginnings.

In an effort to share (and perhaps find out about gem organizations I may not –yet– be aware of) I’m going to start a (brief) list of some organizations (all Val-centric) worth noting:

AAM: (Obvious…yes) Around since 1906, the American Association of Museum’s mission is “to enhance the value of museums to their communities through leadership, advocacy, and service.” Not a small undertaking. What I like about AAM is that as a member, you are part of a nationally recognized organization that offers opportunities to bring together museums and inspire institutions to strive to a level of standards and best practices. AAM bookstore is chock-full of great resources for anyone in the field and their annual meeting (albeit HUGE and seemingly overwhelming at times) is a great way to network and step out of your own turf to gain insight and new ideas. Individual membership isn’t cheap (and is currently calculated based on annual income), but among other benefits, it affords you free/reduced entry to MANY museums across the U.S. and I’ve definitely benefited from joining a few subcommittees based on my own interests in the field, including EdCom, NAME, and CARE (all of which are an additional cost).

MAAM: Established in 1945, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums “educate individuals on an array of field specific study and programs…representing those museum interests in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.” It’s one of a number of organizations (such as NEMA, AMM, and WMA) that connect professionals based on geographic location. Along with their Annual Conference, MAAM also hosts, Creating Exhibitions which is an Annual Conference focusing on exhibit design and development related topics.

AASLH: I am a new American Association for State and Local History member and excited to be part of this “family.” This organization, nearly 100 years old, aims to serve and support the many history organizations in the U.S. described as “small, volunteer led and, often, volunteer staffed. [with] small budgets and limited resources.” Perhaps that’s why their website is chock-full of great resources (some for free) and offer an array of services from technical resources and books to professional development, specialized programs and initiatives. My membership folder just arrived in the mail so I will definitely share any “goodies” that cross my path.

UHA: There are a lot of cool things Upstate History Alliance offers its members. I received my first grant from their GO! grant program to attend their Annual Conference. They also have a great email list serv sharing questions, news, and discussion on various topics and really neat workshops. Founded in 1971, the organization aims to provides “support, advice, and training to historical societies, museums historians, archivists, and other heritage organizations in New York State.” Also worth noting, their Museum Institute at Sagamore program (by application), an intensive, multi-day retreat in the Adirondacks that brings together museum professionals around New York State.

NYCMER: New York City Museum Educators Roundtable is a great organization for local educators to  “address issues of museum and educational interest, exchange and disseminate relevant information, and to explore and implement cooperative programming opportunities.” With a membership base of about 300 individuals and great monthly programs at museums around the city, the annual membership fee of $30 seems like a bargain! It’s also great to hear that they are starting up their “peer-groups” again.

Beyond these organizations, there are MANY alternatives (some free) worth exploring part of list-servs, meet up, facebook, and alumni associations. All are great ways to stay connected and in the know.

Keep me in the know and share your thoughts!

From New York? Love Museums? Check THIS Out!

An original wordle design based on my RSS feed.

An original wordle design based on my RSS feed.

The Museum Association of New York is calling for New Yorkers to share what inspires them about museums (reason 230,428,340 why it’s great to be a New Yorker)!

What’s really neat about this opportunity is that participants have a variety options of how to share this information. From  wordle (a “toy for generating word clouds” from provided text, and yes I am officially obsessed with this) and YouTube to photos and haikus, there are plenty of ways to share what you think museums do best and how museums inspire you.

Besides being wonderfully creative, participating in this opportunity may find you a bit richer than you were before… by submitting your material by July 31st you will be eligible to win an Amazon gift card.

To keep up with the latest on submissions, check out MANY’s blog.

* An interesting note and perhaps something to keep in mind, I came across this opportunity from a museum list serv and upon visiting MANY’s blog, noticed the first two submissions are from fellow professionals. Hopefully, this opportunity will reach beyond our beloved museum walls, because it really is cool!*

Call For Feedback: Grad School Programs on Display

If you:

  • Completed a non-museum related grad program and work in a museum field.
  • Completed a museum-related grad program and don’t work in the museum field.
  • Completed a museum-related grad program and work in the museum field.

….. I want to hear from you!

This year at AAM, I came to learn about so many museum-related graduate programs based in the U.S. and beyond – I’m now fascinated with this. Having recently completed my MA in Museum Education from Tufts University, I am really interested in sharing my experiences and also hearing from graduates of other programs- for a new blog post that I hope will help prospective students navigate these waters.

In an effort to be all-inclusive (aware of the buzz about museum-related grad programs) I do not want to limit this to museum-specific programs (although the more the better) as I’m sure we all have different paths which have led us to museum-related careers. I’m interested in your program and if/how it’s helped you. The more variety – the better!

Alternatively, I am also interested in those of you who may have graduated from a museum-related program and you are not working in a museum-related field. For those of you who were part of a museum studies related program, how has your museum-related degree shaped your career in the non-museum world what has your career path been like?

For those who have the time and would like to contribute please respond to the following and email me: valbanese@gmail.com (while you do not have to answer all questions of course, the more information you can/are willing to provide, the better):

1. Name of School:
2. Name of Department/ Program:
3. Year(s) attended:
4. Degree:

5. Any classes/projects that stand out
6. Elaborate on your overall experience (were you moving to a new area, how did you find the graduate studies department, did you end up staying in the area where you went to school, etc. whatever comes to mind- this is informal so have fun with it!):
7. How has this program prepared/helped you to where you are/what you are doing today- are there any connections:

8. Would you recommend this program to someone else:
9. If you had to do it all over again, would you? Would you change anything (coursework, concentration, where you went to school, etc.):
10. May I include your name in my post (if yes please provide your name and any title you would like me to include):
11. May I directly quote you (yes/no):
12. Please list/note anything you prefer me not to include in my post:

Depending on feedback, I will follow up with you if there are any changes or information about this post. Please understand that this request is for educational purposes only and I do not intend to use/sell any of the information provided except for intended purposes.

Thanks so much in advance for your help!