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Museum Directors and IT Professionals

Posted by on Sunday November 11 2007

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3 Responses to “Museum Directors and IT Professionals”

  1. Perian Sully
    November 12th, 2007 11:05

    My response to a discussion over at the MCN listserv:

    I’m frequently reminded how fortunate I am to be working at an institution which has had some transitions in recent years. That is not necessarily good or pleasant for the staff living through them, but what it has resulted in is a body of staff who do embrace change and who understand the importance of technology in the institution. This gives us a lot of leeway to make leaps of faith and adopt initiatives which may otherwise have taken years to gain support for.

    That being said, there’s a potential for tension with the Board, who, by and large, are not quite as flexible when it comes to changing institutional ideology. Chris’s experience is a great reminder that I may need to sell myself to the Board, particularly with solid results. [Chris’s experience being that he needed to “market” himself to fellow staff by presenting a report of what he does, using their language to help them understand]

    Even as the DBA, I occasionally needed to send out email blasts to my supervisor and her supervisor, letting them know that I’m currently working on 27 projects, please don’t give me any more. Part of this is my own fault, I have to admit, since I don’t want to say “no” and I get excited over the new shiny things.

    We can’t be all things to everyone, but in a smaller setting, it can be great fun to wear a number of different hats and actually do the things you’re setting policy for. But I think it’s also important to make your limits known – to your fellow staff, your supervisors, and also to yourself. Burnout is never fun.


  2. Tim Gaddie
    November 12th, 2007 01:46

    I’m posting something I sent to the MCN listserv after attending this session. Nik asked me to post it here as well.

    My disclaimer is that I’m not an information/IT professional. I’m an educator. And the education supervisor for my institution on track for museum administration. But I’m a wanna-be geek and strong proponent for how powerful technology can be for education (and other areas in a museum). Also, I’ve only been in the museum field for a few years now. In that time and from various conferences, etc, I’ve heard a lot of the same complaints expressed today from the other museum staff positions.

    First point, which some folks touched on, but to reiterate… systems people (which many of you are) should be able to relate to this. If there is a problem, one avenue for troubleshooting is looking for the common denominator. If you tend to have a problem with (many) others, and they tend to just have a problem with you, the common denominator is YOU. So consider that the problem is not THEM; the problem is YOU. What are you doing that is causing a problem for others?

    Another possibility is that you and others have a problem with your administration. So the common denominator is the administration; they are the problem. In your assessment, can you influence that problem to solve it? If not, then LEAVE. As was pointed out today, technology isn’t going anywhere (humans have been depending on it for thousands of years now). Those who don’t adopt functional, reliable technology won’t be around for long (relatively). While natural selection is taking its course, go work for someone else. (I do realize it’s never so simple to just leave your job, but if you’re not even considering it, you’re also playing your part in natural selection.)

    Second point is relative to the whole generational argument… let’s just wait for the “Greatest” Generation and the Baby Boomers to die off, and then everyone will embrace the technology. And then we’ll never have misunderstandings between the information professionals and administration again.

    I don’t know my history well enough to say for sure, but after some reflection to this, my gut-cognitive reaction is “hogwash!”

    Are you telling me that there are not folks of older generations who grew up with whatever technology that they took for granted but their older generations found incomprehensible; and who do not today comprehend the possibilities for new technology?

    When I started as a freshman in college, my father thought it ridiculous that I should have my own land line phone in my dorm room. When he went to school, he had a pay phone on his floor and that worked fine for him. I have never spent any more time talking on the phone than I have to, but it seemed ludicrous to not have a telephone in my own room (never mind the answering machine I later secretly purchased second-hand). Today, I’m already internally conflicted over what I’ll do when my now 4 year old asks me for a cell phone when he’s 6. On the surface, I find the request ridiculous. But then I remember my request for a phone in my own dorm room…

    So what I’m wondering… is it not the case that new technology is always emerging? And while the name of the technology is always changing, the basic concept remains the same. Tech proponents will have to work to convince those who are technologically conservative (i.e. the majority of the populace) that the technology is worth adopting.

    So you can wait for the Great Generation and the Baby Boomers to die out to implement today’s technology (which will be outdated by that point), but then you’re going to have to convince the Gen X’ers and Millenials to implement what is new at the time they are the administrators.

    I’d advocate instead that we do what many folks suggested today–we get better at communicating the value of technology to decision makers (just like we communicate the value of education, collections, conservation, etc.).

    Thanks again to Nik and the panelists for a great session,

    tim

    Tim Gaddie
    Associate Director of Programs
    http://www.minnetrista.net


  3. Chris Alexander
    November 12th, 2007 04:26

    From my original response on the MCN Listserv :

    Hello,

    As a first time attendee of the MCN Conference, I have to say that I was very fascinated by the conversation going on about the relationship between IT Professionals and their Directors. I am fortunate because a little over a year ago the director of the San Jose Museum of Art made a decision to embrace technology and created the position which I currently fill.

    Piggybacking of some of the discussion about communication, I wanted to offer a little info about a situation that arose recently. Around the one year anniversary of my position I was approached by our Marketing Director who mentioned to me that I need to be a little more outspoken about what it is that I do at the Museum. This really caught me off guard. I felt that with every opportunity that presented itself I tried to speak about technology and what it was that I was doing. I went through a lot of denial about this, but finally came to the conclusion that I would draft an email that would recap the previous year’s accomplishments; this email would then be sent to certain staff members who I felt were stakeholders. The email took me two days to write and ended up being a four page memo. In it, I tried to put it in layman’s terms what was accomplished; this many people downloaded our podcast, this many people watched our YouTube Videos, this many people listened to ou r cell phone tours, I went to these conferences, we are mentioned on this blog, etc., etc. I also included links, which most people are pretty comfortable with clicking on. Basically, I became a self promoter. Not something that I expected to have to do, but embraced after I reflected on all the accomplishments.

    The email, with attached memo, was very well received and became “Jerry McGuire”ish from people saying, “Have you read the memo?” or “Hey, I enjoyed the memo! Didn’t realize you did all that stuff!” It was even printed out and distributed by the Director of the Museum to all the Board Members at one of their meetings. It was also forwarded to our Development staff for use in grants and corporate funding initiatives. And, it also acts as a personal record that can be referred to on numerous occasions when shameless self promotion opportunities arise.

    I realize that I might be in a unique situation, but I encourage some of you to take up the reins of self promotion. It might help to clear the air about any staff questions and might give you a better picture of where you stand in your organization.

    Thanks for a great session Nik! I was the last one who received one of the books you were handing out at the end!

    Best regards,

    Chris Alexander
    Manager of Interactive Technology
    San Jose Museum of Art


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