It May Be Dark, but the Light Still Shines
My plan when I agreed to write the “end of the year” blog post was to give some historical reflections on 2016 that would lead to some good reasons to attend SHA in 2017. Well, the saying goes that “life is what happens when you are making other plans” and that has certainly been the case over the last four weeks.
December 2 began like any other museum workday but by mid-morning the entire museum staff was called into a meeting and informed that the museum would be relocating to New Mexico in the next 12 – 18 months. Our jobs would not be moving with the museum but we would be needed to assist with the transfer. A tight-knit staff of ten, we were all in shock, heartbroken for the museum and each other, and had hundreds of questions to which there are currently very few answers.
As a museum that exists within a parent organization that has a mission that is not preservation or museum-oriented, there are constant challenges with education and gaining support for professional standards. My mind immediately went to the potential ethical and legal minefields that the closing and transfer of a museum could expose. Of course, this was also an area of museum work that, while I had a working knowledge of, I had never actually had to apply to the closing of a museum (this was not exactly a career aspiration!).
Some of the first people I reached out to were my classmates from SHA and the extended network I now have as a result of being a SHA alum. I needed their support – both personally and professionally – but more than that I needed to start assembling my resources and knowledge arsenal for the potential battles ahead. If you are considering SHA, you are likely looking to further build out your network. It is one of the main reasons I made the decision to commit three weeks and the resources to attend three years ago. But what unfolds at SHA and in the years that follow is more than a network of colleagues that you chat with at conferences.
What I was able to tap earlier this month was so much more – as the lists and post-its of issues, concerns, and to-dos piled up around me and my mind was running in multiple directions I began to panic. I did not have the time or energy for the niceties of asking for favors, but I did not need them because when I sent out a rambling list of needs to the SHAwesome class of 2013 (yes that is our name!), the response was overwhelming. Not only did my task list shrink and my list of contacts and resources grow, but also the texts, phone calls, and messages came in filled with support and encouragement.
I don’t know what 2017 holds for any of us, I expect many of us will face challenges and needs from our communities as we face the challenges ahead. I know for the staff at the National Scouting Museum we are heading into the New Year with a lot of uncertainty but the reassurance that I have amazing colleagues that have my back gives me a ray of light to focus on while walking through the unknown.
Jenn Landry (Class of 2013) is currently Curator at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, TX.