As the end of 2015 approaches, I am wondering: What compelling questions need to be explored in 2016? Please share your ideas, either in the comments section, via social media, or by email. (See the About page for how to reach me by email or on twitter.)
Here are a few things I am thinking about as the new year rolls around:
My post about whether museums should celebrate the holidays has led me to think about how, as the leader of a museum, a department, or a group, one can ensure that staff shares a larger vision. I am looking forward to interviewing a local athletic coach about this question, and am looking for other ways to think about it as well. If a museum strives to challenge the status quo, or create new ways of thinking, how do we hire and train and inspire staff so that they share this vision?
Exhibit costs and value
A recent article in the New York Times noted how expensive it will be to create an exhibit around the confederate flag that once flew over the South Carolina State Capitol. This made me wonder about the expense of creating contemporary exhibits. Clearly one could display a flag, and create signage and programming around it, for less than $5.3 million. What does it mean to responsibly and professionally display important objects? At what point do costs related to creating or visiting museums become so high that museums cease to be the spaces in which we preserve shared history?
While discussing research and evaluation with PlayHouse Museum research partners at Bradley University, I have become very aware that the evaluation conducted by most museum education departments is scientifically useless. We do not have good strategies in place for understanding the impact of programs on individuals, or quantifying this information in any scientifically meaningful way. In an environment that calls for data, when is evaluation worth doing? What does good museum evaluation look like? Is there any way that museums – in particular those without staff dedicated to research and evaluation – can conduct valid evaluation themselves?
I would like to hear what questions YOU have. I work in a small museum, in a small city with few museums, which can be a little isolating. What are you wondering about? What compelling questions do you have? What aspects of our work would you like to see questioned or explored in the coming year?