Friday, September 19, 2008

What's on your mind these days?

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately.

In August I interviewed community bankers in places like Lancaster and Hershey, PA. They spoke with passion about customer service, enduring relationships, and opportunity. Values before profits.

I spent much of last week’s AASLH meeting in Rochester, NY, asking museum colleagues about their challenges and frustrations. And I got an earful. Which is what I had hoped for after agreeing to share a booth with Dale Jones, a Qm2 colleague whose work involves helping museums and sites make connections with their visitors.

Here’s a sampling of what I heard from the directors, educators, board members, interpreters, site managers, and CEOs who stopped by our booth:

My biggest challenge is...

  • Trying to get a dysfunctional board to develop a plan
  • A CEO who just doesn’t get it
  • Engaging the board, especially in fundraising
  • An inherited staff
  • Dealing with the “founder’s syndrome”
  • Getting return visitation from local, non-members
  • A community that doesn’t know what a treasure they have in their own backyard
  • Money

I wake up in a cold sweat at night...

  • Afraid that the project I’ve been trying to get going just won’t happen
  • Wondering how I can overcome the attitude “We’ve never done it that way.”
  • Thinking about my dysfunctional board—micromanagers who lack commitment
  • Worried about our poor/non-existent marketing and promotion
  • Feeling anguish over the closing of historic sites in the future
  • Because we’re undercapitalized

So, what’s keeping you up at night these days? And, more importantly, what are doing about it?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Qm2 at AASLH in Rochester

Qm2 is in Rochester Sept 9 to 12 for the annual meeting of the American Association of State and Local History. This is where people who work in museums, archives, historical societies and historic properties gather to learn and share.

The theme this year is TRANSFORMATION. Our industry has been experiencing a fundamental transformation from internal to external orientation, from being collections driven to audience driven. This transformation has been playing out in every organization - some adapting more quickly than others - and with every individual - some enthusiastic, some resisting.

The historical profession today is far more open and accessible to diverse audiences than it was 20 years ago, when we first started using focus groups. Now, knowing one's audience is recognized as essential to success. Qm2 associate Dale Jones is a leading expert in gathering and using audience feedback to shape museum programs and exhibits.

Beyond asking the audience what they like or need or want, some organizations have begun to invite audiences in to partner in creating exhibits and programs. Deborah Schwartz, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Historical Society, has been a leader in this. BHS has a community gallery and the staff supports community groups who come in to create their own exhibits. The staff provides expertise, the community brings the story. Deb is in the Roundtable for museum directors that we run in Baltimore, and several other members of that roundtable have also created "community galleries."