Last week, a number of current and former Museum Studies students took part in a workshop put on by the Museum Studies Department and led by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, President and CEO of the Abbe Museum. “The Art of Schmoozing” discussed networking beyond trying to get a job or making a conference more bearable. Networking helps you talk to potential (and current) donors, volunteers, and community members. Knowing how to speak intelligently and politely is important both professionally and personally (picture sitting at a dinner party and not knowing how to talk to the people around you).
Museum Studies Alum Jennifer Clifford (middle) practicing her networking with Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko (right). (Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Robinson)
While many of us panic at the sight of a crowded conference happy hour, and the prospect of talking to billionaires (should we be so lucky) can evoke anxiety, there are several small tricks that can help ease the nerves. Cinnamon imparted some of her own first-hand experiences with some of the following tips:
- Always introduce someone new to the whole group. It seems straightforward, but often someone joins a group conversation in the middle of a conversation. Rarely do people stop in the middle to say, “Oh by the way, this is my friend Colleen…” before continuing on. It’s awkward to halt the conversation, but it’s also awkward to be chatting with an unknown, unnamed stranger.
- To get out of a conversation, either make something up (“Oh you’ll have to excuse me, I need to check on the caterer”) or be straightforward but put the onus on you (“I’m sure there are lots of people you’d like to talk to tonight. I’m sorry for monopolizing your time. It was great to meet you. Thank you!”)
- To break into a group conversation, you can watch body language and wait for an opening (as long as you’re not lurking!), or you can interrupt very briefly and say, “I’m so sorry for interrupting, I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I loved your talk at NEMA. Would it be alright if I follow up with you later? I have some questions I’d like to ask you.” With any luck, you’ll get that person’s card and you can email them later.
Cinnamon’s presentation was frank and funny, and included tips on knowing how to work with people with different personality types (check out DiSC if you’re interested). Afterwards, participants were able to practice their new skills over wine and snacks.
Keep your eye out here and in the Museum Studies newsletter for further fun workshops!
Today’s post is a little bit different – a combination of our What We’re Reading series and our Museums Gone Viral series. Here, Julia Kahn, a Tufts student in the Museum Studies and Art History programs, discusses a podcast she discovered while at the Metropolitan Museum. For a look at the gallery the podcast accompanies, check out this article.
For those of you that include podcast among your “reading” material, here’s a really interesting piece with implications for museums. The Metropolitan Museum recently installed a new decorated room in their American Wing, and have partnered with Nate Dimeo, who makes a podcast that tells vignettes of little known histories. In “Gallery 742,” the bite-sized podcast tells a narrative about the nineteenth century New York socialite who originally designed the elaborate dressing room. The story incorporates some of the salacious details of her life, while inviting us to image ourselves back on a particular day in the 1880s. I found this to be quite a lovely piece to hear, especially when I replayed it standing in front of the room. It is what motivated me to seek out this little exhibit on a recent trip to the museum. It made for a very memorable and intimate experience is this personal, unusual room. It helped me transport myself over the Plexiglas barrier and feel like I was momentarily part of that world.
I’m intrigued by the possibilities of how more museums may incorporate new technologies and trends into their visitor experiences. The podcast medium seems like it may offer some rich possibilities. It allows another (non-“expert”) voice to offer an interpretation. It encourages visitors to use their own phones rather than rent extra museum audio guides. It is available outside the museum as an advertisement or follow-up experience, and is inclusive to people who may be far away. In this case, it also emphasized emotional narrative over informational data points, which is probably more appropriate for a complete, decorated room.
There were some logistical issues with this example. For one thing, it was pretty long to listen to while standing there in the gallery, blocking vantage points for other visitors. And it was awkward for my whole group to try to cluster around my iPhone. Even with these inconveniences, I hope that the Met and other museums continue to think about how to use platforms like podcasts to compliment and extend their exhibitions.
And definitely listen to the story of Belle Worsham. It’s a trip!
Museum Conversations: Curating Data/Challenging History
Monday, April 11, 2016, 6:30pm
Northwest Building, B-103, 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA
Fred Wilson, artist and Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, and Director of the Center for Spatial Research and of the Visual Studies curriculum, Columbia University
In this year’s seminar on innovative curatorial practice, Laura Kurgan of Columbia University and artist Fred Wilson will, from different perspectives, reflect on their work to reimagine how museum exhibits present information, often by juxtaposing the unexpected to create new insights. Their short presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion.
Public Lecture. Free and open to the public.
Co-sponsored by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture and the Harvard Art Museums as part of the Harvard Museums’ Seminar on Innovative Curatorial Practice
REGISTER NOW FOR THE VISITOR STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
July 19-23, Hyatt Regency Boston
With 14 in-depth workshops ranging from introductory statistics to data visualization and reporting, over 45 presentations of papers, roundtables, and think tanks, and keynote speakers from across the fields of data visualization and data science, the 2016 VSA conference will not disappoint! Check out the conference schedule of events and the workshops offered.
In addition to a robust schedule of sessions, workshops, and keynote speakers, The Data Revolution will offer space for both the discussion of innovative uses of data, presentation of new findings and methods, as well as opportunities to reflect on the purpose and utility of current data collection, analysis, and visualization techniques and the ethical and practical issues around collecting and sharing data on audiences.
Register NOW at the cheapest rate. The early bird registration pricing is available for two months, but don’t delay, as workshops have limited space available.
Worried about Boston housing being too expensive? VSA is offering a forum for all attendees to find a roommate.