My Three Weeks “Away” at SHA

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?

Kim's SHA Class of 2010

Kim’s SHA Class of 2010

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.

Kimberly McCray
Adult Programs Coordinator
Shelburne Museum

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Posted on March 9, 2015, in Seminar for Historical Administration, SHA, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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