Monthly Archives: March 2015
-by Mark Sundlov
Within a few days of arriving at SHA, the rumor started swirling in chats with my SHA-mates that went something like this: “within a very short time many of us would be in different positions at different organizations.” I think the rumor went as far as the inclusion of some imaginary percentages (because, what’s a good rumor without some percentages thrown in to make it more interesting!?)
Most of us didn’t take that swirling rumor too seriously—but it sure made for good, speculative, bar talk.
At the time, I was a very satisfied Historic Sites Manager for the State Historical Society of North Dakota—I wasn’t at SHA because I had any intention of leaving ND, I was there because I wanted to learn new ways to improve my organization and the historic sites that I managed. And, with the tools and networks that I gained at SHA, I like to think that I did just that in my years after SHA.
However, as I write this, nearing 4-years into my post-SHA life, I sit in my new home in Ohio—working in a different position at a different organization in a different state.
And, I’m not alone among my SHA-mates. Members of my class have seen been big geographic moves: Arizona to Indiana; Houston to Indiana; North Dakota to Ohio; Cincy to Columbus and back to Cincy; Las Cruces to Santa Fe; Kentucky to Oklahoma; you get the picture.
While not all of us made a geographic move, many of my SHA-mates either moved up within their organizations—or moved out and then up.
And, for those who have stayed with the same organization and in the same position, while they may not have moved themselves, they have certainly moved their organizations.
And, there are my SHA-mates who make me the most happy, those who have gone on to do the most important job of all—raise their babies and bring us the next generation of brilliant, historically-minded folks.
All said, in less than four years, almost all of us have moved in one sense of the word or another—different positions, different organizations, different fields, different states, different lives. Movin’, movin’, movin’.
Of course, it’s impossible to say that moves would not have happened had we not attended SHA. However, I firmly believe that SHA gave all of us the knowledge, networks, courage, and bold tenacity to make moves that have enabled us to excel as professionals and as individuals. As I watch the moves and successes of my SHA-mates, I’m filled that wonderful family-sense of pride and good feeling. Keep on movin’.
– by K. Allison Wickens
It’s spring time, and for me that means that the Cherry Blossoms come into bloom here in Washington, DC, the tourists are thicker than normal at the museums and historic sites, and there’s lots of NCAA tournament basketball on TV.
In my college days, you could not have separated me from my basketball watching this time of year. Attention to anything else dimmed for about 3 weeks. I had my favorite team (hate me if you want, it was Duke) and my favorite players, coaches, and rituals. I looked to my own basketball teammates to share in this community endeavor. We’d settle in for 12 hours straight of cheering on our teams, even when they differed, and really just hoping for exciting games throughout. We had each other’s backs on the court and off. I could rely on this cohort, not only during practice and games, but in classes, around the dorms, and…in front of the TV during March Madness.
Twenty Years Later, I have a different team. The folks on it still have my back. They keep me in check in my professional endeavors and I can rely on them for great ideas and feedback when I’m out on the court of historical interpretation. It’s my SHA class of 2012. Although we don’t get to see each other every night at practice, like my basketball college teammates did, I feel as close to them as I did that group before. I hear their sage advice in my head when I take a risk at work and look for support from individuals when I need advice. The intense time together for 3 weeks 3 years ago built as strong a bond as years together on the basketball court did for me in college.
Now, every March, when the games come back on inviting me to participate in marathon viewing, I only tune in and out when it’s convenient. I get much more excited to cheer on history in action every day at my job than I ever did cheering on my favorite basketball team. This go around, my teammates are sitting right by me on my virtual couch. We may differ in some of our interpretive methods and cheer for opposing historical figures (sorry Rachel—GW is sooo much better that TJ), but we know that, in truth, we are all on an awesome team together. Go SHA Class of 2012!!!
by Brooke Ashley Lynn Salvanto
SHA Class of 2014, Deputy Director of Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum
Bon Jovi’s words echoed in this Jersey Girl’s ears as she returned to work after three weeks away. Away from being bookkeeper, grant writer, event planner, community organizer, copy machine repairer, and goat feeder. Away from focusing on surviving the moment. Developing History Leaders @SHA provided the opportunity for time and space away from the same place to which I would be returning to think, reflect, challenge, and grow. Many people arrive at SHA with big plans to move onward and upward, thinking of it as a career stepping stone. I arrived committed to returning to Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum, the place I call home, and moving it onward and upward. SHA’s greatest gift to me was perspective. Through the speakers’ generosity of sharing their collective experience, burden began to look like opportunity and change became my mantra. How would I hold on to this new knowledge when staring at the same desk and the same mountain of paperwork?
- Falling into old habits was not an option.
- Status quo would never be good enough again.
- Accept responsibility for being the change.
- If you are not being heard, speak louder.
I owed it to myself, the Seaport, (Bon Jovi) and John Durel. And I was not willing to let any of those people down. If you have not had the pleasure yet, John Durel is the moderator/shaman for SHA. His understated wisdom will inspire and guide you. On the first day back at work after a 20 hour train ride, I never went to sleep and walked in there ready. It was, in fact, all the same, but this time I was different. By association, I too was understated and wise. In trying times, I channel SHA, I share what I have learned, I ask questions, I encourage others (and myself), and I seek out opportunities for change. In the 113 days since I left Indianapolis, there has not been one day when I have left what I have learned at SHA behind. My coordinates remain the same, but everything else is decidedly different.
Walking through the Indianapolis airport, I remained oblivious to the hustle and bustle of its early morning activity. I took comfort in the predictable and measured pace of my steps and let my mind wander through the memories of the past three weeks. I felt like laughing and crying all at once. I blamed my emotional state on sleep deprivation, yet moments before, with watery eyes, I hugged my two best friends from the Seminar goodbye. Already, I missed them. It was seven o’clock in the morning, too early to be in an airport, and for the first time since my Developing History Leaders @SHA class began, I was alone and nervous to go home. Was I ready to face what waited at my office?
Instead of picturing the stacks on my desk or my overflowing mailbox, I arrived at my gate and thought about Laura Roberts and Barbara Franco. On the third day of the Seminar, these museum leaders told our class, “You will have the most power [at work] on the day you come back from SHA.” Was this true? How would I apply what I learned? What did I learn? Overwhelmed, I pulled out my notebook and flipped through the pages filled top to bottom and back to back with my recognizable handwriting—so much content, so many ideas. Almost five years since my time at SHA, I continue to discover the long-term impact of this experience. Here are two of my insights.
Conversation & Community—A Sustainable and Valuable Resource
As my classmate, John Powell exclaimed, “I had no idea it was possible to talk about museums 24/7 for three weeks and not run out of things to say!” The conversations both inside and outside of the formal seminar sessions brought together a diverse range of knowledge and life experience. The difference between class members’ interests, knowledge bases, experiences, and perspectives brings great diversity and often challenged my classmates and me to grapple with and connect ideas which at first seemed contrary to each other. The conversation did not conclude with the end of the Seminar—it created a foundation for continued conversation. Conversations with fellow classmates, conversations with the alumni you meet in the years following, and conversations about case examples you encounter in your post-SHA professional life, strengthen your experience. Conversations and the SHA community become a sustainable and valuable resource to draw on and confide in–a resource to motivate and rejuvenate you at the right moments, a resource that provides you with a foundation to continually build on and support your professional aspirations, explorations, and achievements.
Working with Change
When I left to attend SHA, I needed perspective. I saw SHA as an opportunity to break from my routine, step back, and reflect. I knew the experience would change me because change is one of the few constants in life. I found comfort in the volume of classmates confronting change during our seminar experience. SHA faculty member Sal Cilella, Jr. shared one of his favorite sayings with our class: “If you don’t like change, you are going to love irrelevance.” Laura Roberts’ and Barbara Franco’s session on managing change offered clarity. They shared a change cycle, a vehicle for understanding the stages of change. As Laura noted, change is a lot like grief, a person needs to process what is lost before he/she can realize what can be gained from change. Change is inevitable, but it is easier to face with a strong support system and an effective work team. SHA enhanced my ability to work with change.
A Parting Thought
Looking back on my early morning thoughts in the airport on November 20, 2010, I realize Laura and Barbara were right. I returned from SHA rejuvenated, ready to jump back in, and armed with new knowledge and a greater awareness. While my first day back at work after SHA was a successful day, the power of SHA did not subside, it stayed with me. I no longer work where I did when I attended SHA, but each and every day I build on what came before. As a doctoral student and a museum professional, I remain current with the latest literature and practice in the field. The ever-changing museum profession needs people who can bridge, embrace, and integrate the tensions which often play out between theory and practice, and who can thrive with spirit, flexibility, and a sense of practicality and playfulness as well.