If your venue uses standard replies to written queries, how much have you thought about their use?
Museums, galleries and heritage sites get a lot of the same queries again and again; to check basic details, asking for favours and complaints from people you’ll never be able to make happy.
A set of copy and paste responses save a lot of time and effort, especially if your emails are answered (as is increasingly the case) by staff performing multiple functions. However, their use should be carefully thought about, with the tone, and how and when they are used.
I have no idea how true this is.
However, I would love to see it brought into some of the debates around museums, galleries, libraries and places of cultural value. Debating rights and wrongs and budgets can be done as a cold exercise, with facts and numbers. But there are also deep emotional issues around these places, their messages, and the work they do. Though these two sides do need to be carefully balanced out (there isn't a pot of magic funding, no matter how good all the projects) it would perhaps help perception if some of the inhibitions were removed from the debate.
Recently I was told of a Councillor who broke into tears during a council session, because they couldn't face the cuts they were having to make. Some of the public gallery apparently heckled, but for me, that breaking of self restraint shows how human and troubled the budget slashers can be - trying to implement cuts imposed from above. If a drunken member of the board, or local councilor, could open up on how they feel about the processes, their frustrations, the complexity, the decisions, those on the front line may find it easier to stomach the end impact (still not liking it, but perhaps not bearing any personal malice)
Likewise if those trying to save services and scrape money together were given an open and relaxed environment to describe the deep personal and societal impact of the changes, then stories might emerge where they are listened to, and truly empathised with. These may, in some cases help sway and secure choices, but if nothing else, it would hopefully make the decisions makers honestly feel the drip down impact as more than numbers and stats.
Whether you believe Herodotus or not, there is good reason for the proverb: In Vino Veritas.* Open, honest and emotionally uninhibited debating may not bring opposing sides into agreement, but it may bring them closer to appreciation.
(The other side, is that being uninhibited and slinging vitriol about may put back careful negotiations, but as with any drunken evening, having someone sober enough to pull you on track helps.)
*In wine there is truth - yes, I'm quoting Latin.
If you have some bright ideas, you can find the contact details in the article here. Otherwise, it's well worth a brew in hand and a browse around!
Feeling nervous? The idea of the annual day is "to educate the public about various professions in the museum world" with a website "to provide museum professionals with a platform to inform the general art and museum-loving public about the myriad responsibilities and challenges that they face at work on a day-to-day basis."
Why hugging? "The event is fun, well, because it is, as are museums. And, most of us can do with a hug on a regular basis – especially all over-worked, under-paid with little job-security museum staff." (more here)
They admit themselves that the day's name is "a somewhat flippant title", and it led to some entertaining responses online, (my favourite of which is this article "Many museum workers are introverts who went into museums specifically because they did not want to be near, much less touch, regular people. In fact, they often don’t want to be around their own colleagues either.") followed by a swift explanation on the Hug A Museum Worker blog.
There doesn't seem to be a huge following for the idea yet, with their social media numbers low, and most discussion about the day being jokes made by self-confessed introverted museum workers. What solid interaction there has been seems to have taken to the concept with a good sense of humour.
It's also given a small platform to raise awareness of what benefits museums bring to the community and the broader stage.
It's a good ambition, to make people aware of the full crew that go into making museums happen, and encouraging appreciation of their work. Will it catch on as a thing? Not sure, so let's brace for June 29th 2016.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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