Posts tagged museum

Acronym “TWWHADI” with board meetings

I heard this acronym of “TWWHADI” when we left for Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2008 to teach at a western university.  It meant that the person who shared it with us felt hand-tied in trying to get anything done because of the objection of: “The Way We Have Always Done It.”  There are people who do NOT like change and believe that they have a defense in saying that this is the way it is, DON’T change it!  This has recently come to my attention by talking with two board members who think I am going too fast with getting things done around the museum and the Carnegie building.   The one thing I heard several times as a kind of excuse was that with boards, things go slower.  I said that things were NOT changing fast enough because everyone was used to sitting on their hands and not getting anything accomplished. Perhaps it was the person’s way of getting off the hook or feeling less guilt about NOT doing anything more constructive.

I was also reminded of a Kazakh proverb that relates to this kind of inactivity. As a result, we are hurting financially at the museum. We do not have BIG donors because people don’t think we have a problem. We do!   Some may not be interested in history, rather some are all about sports or music. They find history boring. Anyway, the proverb goes something like this: “A place with noise, laughter and chaos is a home but a quiet, inactive place is a cemetery.”  To that effect we have people who are happy with leaving things just the way they found it.  There had been VERY active people who set up the museum about 30 years ago but it has stayed the same since then. Sadly, they have died and taken their good stories of our illustrious past with them to the grave. Also, these contrary people don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who have donated things to the museum.  As a result, we have 20 irons, 6 treadle sewing machines, about 5-6 pump organs and the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, our museum is NOT kid-friendly…or adult friendly for that matter. We have a plethora of material objects that has been given to the museum from grandma’s attic, simultaneously we are living in an area that has depopulated.  These days we don’t have as many children in our town.  Sadly, there is more activity in the cemeteries for the older generation than at the playgrounds for the very young people. This fits with the Kazakh proverb. Noisy Activity =  Life while Indecisive Inactivity = Death. We need to have a paradigm shift in the minds of those who are older and think that things should remain the same as they were 25-30 years ago.  They are NOT!    We live in the 21st century with new technology that helps with preserving the old, tried and true ways from yesteryear.

I liken this fosslized thinking with the bonanza farms that were in this area in the 1870s. There were many big investors from the East Coast and the bigger cities in those days grinding out a profit with the grain fields up and down our farming valley.  These bonanza farmers soon found out that you could not hold on to qualified workers for such tough seasonal work. People from my state acknowledged you were better off with the shift to diversified, family farms in order to make the soil remain tilled and cultivated.  The shift happened and now from smaller, diversified farms we have another shift to huge, family farms that are getting crops out of their 10,000-15,000 acres instead of a half a section or under 300 acres.

Some people on our board are admitting finally that we have a financial problem where our County Commissioners are only giving us $10,000 a year whereas they gave us twice that amount many years ago.  What has changed? Why do we not have the backing of the commissioners?  We are a big county and there are separate heritage centers in other smaller towns.  We do not actually represent ALL of our county even though that is our name of our historical society. Yet that should be our bottom-line when accepting items from donors.  Does this article of clothing, toy, household good, farm machinery tell the County story?  Otherwise, we are going to look like a hardware store full of the same items or appear like a antique dealership showing off how many of the same things available for sell. Although, in our case as a museum, we are NOT selling, we are just wanting to make sure we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by NOT displaying it. You never know, you may have a relative that will come asking if grandma’s wedding dress is still on display or if the tractor grandpa donated is still working…

I realize that things take longer if you go through a committee but I have also found that you also get many good ideas and also cooperation to get the work done in less time. I have been on many committees and several boards.  It is wonderful to see how board’s missions which are articulated and followed can accomplish great things.  As a writing teacher, I see my students’ essays as either being clunky and not getting their message across or those students who know how to streamline their thoughts in writing and get the basic, simple story told.

Instead what we have is a LOT of redundancy (which is never fun to read if you want to see creativity in your students’ writing) and we have a resulting storage issue at the museum.  We need to be either displaying things that are vital to the mission of telling the County story OR store things in acid free boxes which costs money and takes up valuable space.  What we ALSO need to do is sell those things in a live auction so that other interested people can have some of the extra things that are clutter and not needed in our museum.  So, the very people who are concerned about spending too much money on wifi at the Carnegie or other necessary things for proper security or storage are also the ones who DO NOT want to sell things in an auction.

Another problem is that we are short staffed with willing and capable volunteers and we have no museum director because at this point we can’t afford one.  The roadblocks and obstacles that seem to be standing in the way seem insurmountable but I think I have been placed in this job for a reason…I will NOT give up. Hopefully those who are saying negative things about me will step down from their positions of “authority” and be replaced by those who have good ideas and are active enough to see them through.  I don’t see how you can be a “director” on a board if you are NOT directing anything.  Unless, of course, your direction is to be negative and be a naysayer about the person who is trying to get things done.

Okay, I think I will see what can be accomplished with grading my students’ papers.

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Fox, Full Moon and work at the museum

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Yesterday was quite a day, it meant that I saw a baby fox not once but twice. Once in the morning close to our house and then once in the evening when I was closing up, it was close to our barn.  I was told by our neighbor that her husband has seen FIVE baby foxes in our woods so we have a den of foxes and I’m fine with that.  I hope they take care of our gopher population and any squirrels that are around.  We also have had 13 stripe ground squirrels so I hope that is good riddance to them.  Also, I saw a small bunny on our front porch so I suspect that the fox will be after that too.  I’m not sure if we should feed it our scraps to encourage it to stay around.  Hopefully it will find enough food to maintain a good diet.  I DID see that there were two little song birds together that were chewed at and I couldn’t figure out how that happened.  Now I know, it was the foxes having their meal.

What a busy day at the museum today, lots of talking with people and working together on the displays. No visitors came but we were ready for anyone. I was framing pictures.  I hope that people come during Ox Cart Days to bid on the pictures I have framed, about 250 of them so far. We are learning and experimenting with what we know to do for a fundraiser.  We have to communicate with people about our need for finances to keep our outfit running.  I pray that the members of the board see fit to work alongside and be a part of this instead of being bystanders and watching other people work.

Well, I’m tired and tomorrow will prove to be another day of work.  For now I am happy to see the full moon in the sky but it has rained and is overcast for now. I’m glad for the rain, our gardens need the extra moisture.

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MOVING Experience yesterday at the Carnegie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week was our first week of classes for the spring semester.  I met with my two composition classes to talk up Martin Luther King Day yesterday as a kind of service learning project.  On Monday and Wednesday I thought I had at least 25 students who were on board to get on the bus to come to the Carnegie and help move boxes of books.  By Friday when I had the sign up sheet go around in the first class only ONE student signed up, the others had better things to do.  I didn’t even try to coerce the second class into coming to the Carnegie to lend their “back” support to moving old books and newspapers to another location.  The night before I had told the board of directors for the historical society that I had 25 students, now I realized I had to eat crow.

Things certainly do change in 24 hours. I went to the coordinator of Martin Luther King Day and told her my dilemma.  The one who was in charge of Service Learning was out sick with pneumonia and so I thought we would just do the best we can with 150 boxes full and figure out how to take the Christmas decorations down and assemble 75 more acid-free boxes.  I had asked for TWO pickups to be there at the site because the neighboring library would be closed due to Martin Luther King Day.  I didn’t know if the weather would cooperate because we had been suffering through negative teens and 20s.  All looked lost until I talked to the main coordinator  for MLK Day on Saturday night while I watched our university team lose their basketball game 80 to 50.  Her son was playing on the team but she told me the head football coach was looking for something for his players to do on Monday.

Then I got an e-mail  back that same night from the head football coach saying he would have THIRTY football players ready to work at 1:30 at the Carnegie.  I was thrilled but I knew by Sunday morning that I needed to have many different projects going simultaneously on Monday.  I didn’t know how many other people would show from the historical society but I alerted everyone on the Carnegie committee on Sunday saying: “All HANDS on deck!”  I got about half showing up and three of my students showed up right at 9:00 a.m.  Things moved fast with the small group of about ten people working.  I had to cross things off the lists that I had made.

We were able to fill 75 assembled acid-free boxes and fill them with noting what each box contained.  We added small books to the magazines to fill every possible square inch.  I had the editor of the local daily newspaper come to take photos and write up a story, he was there right at 1:30.  I showed him the upstairs and downstairs, especially all the boxes of books that were lined up ready to go out to the waiting pickup and trailer. We came back upstairs and the lobby area of our Carnegie was filled with all sizes of football players ready to work.  I had them sign the different lists and some went right away to the museum with the Museum Director to move some heavy glass cases.  I had another group go with our guy in charge of the pickup and trailer.  Another group stayed upstairs where the Bose player was sounding out “December” by George Winston.  The latter group I was in charge of making sure the floor was mopped and swept, the shelves were dusted and oil put on and generally staying out of the cookies and pop that were waiting for them after the work was through.

I am happy to say that in one and a half hours, we had 200 boxes moved of books to the other location 1/2 mile away and that there were NO injuries.  There had been ice at first but the temps hovered around 32 degrees and it looked like a false spring day, though gloomy.  I was thrilled that we got sooooo much accomplished in such a short time. I wrote a grateful e-mail to the head coach, I said told him the players were hard workers, polite and got much done for the good of the community.  I hope we can have them again to help when we moves things around again.  I’m glad only 20 of them showed up and NOT 30 because we had done so much in the morning that I am not sure what we would have done with ten more willing hands and strong backs.

Moral of story, sometimes when things look bleak, admit you need help and help may MOVE in your direction!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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