Lessons Learned

As we are nearing the end of the semester, I wanted to share some of my takeaways and lessons learned from this blogging exercise. As I have mentioned in many, if not all (sorry), blog posts this process was at times very difficult for me! I never would have taken the time to create a blog without this class, and I honestly never would have thought that I would have much to say. Below are the highlights of my lessons learned:

  • The writing process
    • My writing experience outside of this semester is purely academic. Long research papers, reports, essays are what I am used to. Each of these endeavors required much planning from my perspective. I am known to make outlines that are longer than the required page count, so when I am ready to write the final I sit down and write nonstop from beginning to end. I did not have the time or energy to outline each of these posts, and frankly it is not necessary for blog writing. I would spend a fair amount of time reflecting on subjects that I thought interesting enough to blog about, but there was no formal prewriting process. As describing in an earlier post, this was at first a little stressful for me – changing the way I am used to working. But it is important to try something new, important to break out of your comfort zone every once and a while, whether personally or professionally.
  • Expand thoughts in a narrative form
    • So much of my life is completely immersed in museums and the arts sector. Most of the media I consume on a regular basis is about the museum world. I go to school for it, I have an internship on the Mall. I go to museums for fun. Sometimes I take a step back and wonder how can I spend the majority of my waking hours thinking about literally one subject – but that subject can be saved for another post. The fact is, because of this hyper-immersion in the world, I truly do stay very up to date and aware of happenings. I always think about developments in the field, I will share an interesting article on Facebook everyone once and a while. This blog has created an outlet for me to development these thoughts in a more narrative form. The way that I went about finding outside sources was not different from how I would usually consume this media. Now, I have an outlet to actually develop these thoughts in a more narrative form, which I actually like more than I thought I would.
  • Community
    • This is a lesson I learned more so from Twitter, but having an online community of like-minded people is really great. Of course, I have participated in different communities of people online before. I love the health and wellness community, as well as the yoga community, on Instagram. All of these social platforms are known as networks because they bring people together, they are two-way communication channels. I guess, I have never actually participated in one where the two-way was actually reciprocated. I would die if Chrissy Tiegen responded to one of my tweets – will she ever? Likely not. Throughout the course of the semester I have received responses from the National Museum of American History, The Getty, The Ackland Art Museum, The American Alliance of Museums, as well as great comments on this post from museum professionals on the other side of the world! While I prefer to observe the conversations that happen in the #musesocial space, the fact the community is so open and willing to engage is amazing.
  • Vulnerability
    • While the community is open and accepting, that does not take away from the fact that I felt very vulnerable when interacting with people in the professional sector that I aspire to be part of. I still put a lot of thought into all 140 characters that I tweet, and the above-mentioned comments from the other side of the world made me nervous!! Writing anything is pretty personal, and to know that anyone could read it is one thing, but to have people that you admire respond to it is another! Luckily, the number of people that actually read this blog is slim to none (hi Suse), so the stakes are pretty low. But I imagine if I continue blogging more this vulnerability will lessen?
  • Marketable and impressive skill
    • Finally, I have discovered that merely saying “I made a WordPress website and write a weekly blog” is VERY impressive to a lot of people. I suppose I understand why, especially to someone who might not have any clue how to do this (me – 6 months ago), but lets be clear I am not marketing this as greatness. I am not saying that one time I sent an interviewer the link to my blog (upon request), and I subsequently was not offered the job. I am not saying that these events are related. BUT, I guess I under estimated how valuable and marketable this skill is to have. I have always regretted not taking programming classes in college (if you’re reading this – sorry dad), but this is a small step to greater online literacy!

Thank you for staying with me, my loyal 3 to 4 readers per week! Hopefully this blog will live on and only improve!


Obama and Social Media

In the wake of the emotionally trying election, I do not have any interest in writing a politically charged opinion piece. I am keeping this post to the relevant subject matter for this blog: museums and social media. In class we have briefly discussed the question of – what happens to someone’s social media accounts when they are no longer there? A grim subject, but something that is just as relevant to consider today as making sure someone has access to your bank information. This post will not be that dark, because I am not talking about social media accounts when someone passes. I am talking about what will happen to President Obama’s social media accounts when he is no longer President of the United States?

There has been much to consider in the aftermath of Donald Trump being elected to be the next President, one thing that I never considered is what will happen to all of the social media accounts that Obama and the White House have been so active on for the last 8 years? This article from Smithsonian Magazine brought this question to my attention. At first thought, I would assume the @POTUS handle would be transferred to Trump because he will be the POTUS, but there is more consideration put into this decision. Aside from Trump’s track record on Twitter, which is something to consider in and of its self, Obama was the first president using social media to this extent.

Mashable points out that Obama was truly a “social media” president. Holding office for 8 years, he has been in office as social media was developing and welcomed it with open arms. Utilizing Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Vimeo, MySpace and Instagram (I laughed when I read MySpace – really?!) he was all over the map, in addition to all of the other accounts that are held by the White House. This amount of data and content in text, image, video, form cannot just be left out in the Internet abyss.

The White House Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief Digital Officer wrote a blog past detailing exactly how these social media accounts and other forms of online content are being saved and transitioned. A brief highlight of how some of theses transitions will go:

– Twitter content will be migrated from @POTUS to @POTUS44, and the original timeline will be wiped clean

– Facebook and Instagram White House posts will be migrated to @ObamaWhiteHouse and wiped clean as well

The National Archive and Records Association will save all of this content that is wiped clean – as if they were any other type of document coming from the presidency. This is a trend that is happening more and more in museums when it comes to acquiring objects. The Metropolitan Museum of Art just acquired 176 “original” emoji to their collection. More museums are collecting and maintaining digital collections, and there are more questions arising as to how does an institution “conserve” these objects? And how are they displayed? I personally hope that the Met prints out the emojis and make them wall paper for an exhibit, but that’s just me.

The White House is committed to providing open and public access to these archives and all of the past content. They do not know however, how to exactly provide this access. I appreciate their call for help, and if you happen to have a great idea concerning how to archive, share, and utilize this social media data, you can submit it here.

Week 12

Image credit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/

Anything you say online lives forever ~

The requirement of blogging and tweeting for class this has been anxiety inducing – for many reasons. The reason that is most pertinent for this post is the amount of visibility that these activities give to the author. I had a Twitter account for much of high school and the beginning of college, but this is my first foray into blogging. This anxiety is strange, because I have always had some sort of online/social media presence for much of my existence. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Xanga (anyone remember this??), AIM, all platforms that I had/have active accounts.

Through this blog, I realized that my anxiety stems from of my fear of the judgement that will come from my thoughts and work being read by a wide(r) and unknown audience. There is a reason that I am not in school for journalism, to put it simply.

My birth year is 1993, I have been brought up in the Internet age. I had workshops in computer labs in elementary school, had a smart phone in middle school, and applied to college online at the end of high school. Every application that I have ever completed, every interview that I have entered I have expected that whoever will be evaluating me will have already Googled me (as I have them). It is a strange world to live in, but it is the only one that I know. It is the only one that many people my age and  younger have grown up surrounded in, so the discussion of risk and crisis management is not too new to me. I live in constant fear that my online presence will somehow/someday come back to bite me in the future.

Last week we had an online discussion about risk and crisis management for social media managers. Required readings touched on both sides of the crisis – how an institution sees a crisis, and what happens when an individuals online presence creates a crisis for them professionally. My contribution to the conversation was a summary of best practices as a social media manager to prepare for and react to a social media crisis. Some of my take aways from marketing consulting firm Convince and Convert’s 8-step guide to managing a social media crisis:

How to plan for a crisis:
– Create a literal flowchart that describes who does what in a social media crisis, enact a phone tree, have systems set up for action and communication
– Role play/have “fire drills” to understand how it might play out
These are two great ideas, that might seem like extra time and effort, but will certainly pay off when something unexpected occurs. I am interested to know if where I currently have an internship has these systems in place in their marketing/comm department. The article also mentions that EVERYONE in the institution should be prepped, because contact is so easy now. Important to remember that just the social media manager shouldn’t be ready to take on a crisis.

How to respond to a crisis:
– Acknowledge
– Use the same social media channels (if it erupted on Facebook, respond on Facebook)
– Apologize and mean it
– Create a “pressure relief valve” – make it possible for people to continue to vent/discuss the matter, but in a place that you can control and monitor (I would say beware of deleting anything though – screen shots are forever and you could get into deeper trouble for censorship)
– DOCUMENT everything: save tweets, comments, emails, analyze how/when/where the crisis broke, how did the management work, thank defenders, etc.

The Cincinnati Zoo is an example of an institution still dealing with and reacting to a social media crisis that seems to never end – in the form of jokes, tweets, memes, etc. all surrounding the controversial death of the gorilla.

To be honest, I probably would have never started a blog or a professional Twitter without this class. The premise is great, to create an online professional presence that we will (hopefully) continue to utilize into the future. I have been able to talk about this exercise in multiple job interviews I have recently had and the reception is always positive. Before I post or tweet anything I think long and hard about whether or not it should be put out there – something that I think more people need to do. While I don’t anticipate creating my own social media crisis for an institution to have to deal with, I am actively and cautiously cultivating this presence because the Internet remembers everything.

On an unrelated note – PLEASE VOTE TOMORROW !!

Week 11

“Todays Desk”

There are a couple conversations that I feel like I have on a loop. Whether at happy hour, at a networking event, meeting friends of friends, I can almost predict what the opening of any new conversation will be. It sounds a little something like this:

Person A: What do you do? (Side note: the classic DC conversation opener)
Me: I’m in graduate school, I am getting my masters in Museum Studies
Person A: Oh wow! I didn’t know that was a thing. This is a great city to be in for it.
Me: Yep! I didn’t know it was either until I decided I wanted to do it! And I know, so many great museums.
Person A: So…do you want to be a curator for the Smithsonian?

I cannot tell you the number of times I have had this conversation. And its not a bad thing! Before I had my first internship in a museum after sophomore year of college, I truly never thought about all of the people and job positions that go into a museum. It is a business, that functions on many levels outside of what you just see in the galleries. But that’s just it, all the visitors see are what is in the galleries. So, it makes sense that a curator is the first job to come to mind. It could also be perceived as a potentially glamorous position, although I am not sure all curators would agree.

But there is a predicament, how can we get the general public to see all that goes on behind closed doors? There are programs set up such as tours of the conservation spaces, or potentially into storage. But these can be risky, and an institution does not want to put their objects in danger. And a museum can’t just invite visitors into the office space – frankly it would be boring and we do have work to do!

This week I came across an interesting take on bringing visitors behind the scenes, so to speak. The Getty in California is using their Instagram account to feature #TodaysDesk. This series features a birds eye view of different staff members desks. There is a brief bio, a description of a recent project they worked on, and a quote from the staff member about why they love working at the Getty. While I personally find some of the posts a little corny, and almost like a gimmick to come work at the Getty, I understand their motives. Social media is a way to bring the outside in without physically opening the doors. It is a way to humanize the people that are behind the exhibits, and give them a voice. In this case, it is also a way to show all the different jobs that are behind the museums closed doors. See below a collage of the three most recent photos in the #TodaysDesk series from the Getty’s Instagram feed.



While I understand the motives and value behind these posts, there are always questions concerning the publics reception and interaction. On average, these posts are receiving about half the amount of likes as other content (about 500-600 likes per photo). And there are much fewer comments. There is a multitude of reasons why this could be the case – not as visually stimulating enough, people don’t want to read captions, maybe they were posted a different times, etc. But, I would be interested to know if the Getty has any data concerning the reception of these posts, outside of what can be seen to me.

Week 10

Museums and Instagram

There is no contest when it comes to my favorite social media platform. I am undeniably obsessed with Instagram and with its new addition of the “story” feature it is practically making Snapchat obsolete (if you ask me). I follow over 3,000 accounts, a staggering number even to me, and I have carefully curated my feed to consist mainly of food, yoga, clothes, museums, and artists. I generally only post photos along the lines of the same themes, and it is very rare that a real person is actually featured in my posts. I am not sure when this obsession began, but here we are.

Because of my chosen course of academic study and career aspirations, it only makes sense that I utilize Instagram to follow, interact with, and document my museum experience. Anyone who uses a social media platform as an expression of themselves would do the same. In class we have discussed the idea of looking at the world in a different way, because we are searching for ways to document a moment for social media. I must admit, I am completely guilty of this practice. Every meal I eat, every trip I take, every exhibit I attend, is constantly rated for the “Instagram-ability” if you will. Many of my close friends know not to eat until I’ve taken a photo (none of them resent me for it – hopefully). And I don’t think it takes away from my experience in the present. In fact, I had never thought of it as something strange or different until we started to discuss it in class. To me, it is exciting because I can end up with photos like this –

Life imitates art in one of my proudest Instagram accomplishments, taken this weekend in the newly renovated East Building of the National Gallery of Art

But, as I mentioned in a previous blog post appropriately titled Stream of Consciousness, the thought that visiting museums could be deemed unnecessary with the increased used of Instagram and other digital initiatives is horrifying to me! When I find museums and galleries on Instagram, I use it as a way to learn about exhibits, see new acquisitions, have a glimpse into all the places I miss from my studies in Paris. While my obsession with Instagram is real, it certainly would never replace the in person experience of seeing a work of art in person.

My freshman year of college, I took a course called “Picasso and Matisse: Friends or Foes?” and we had the opportunity to go to NYC for a weekend full of museum and gallery hoping (really set the bar high for the rest of college). For the entire semester, we talked about the definition of “modernity” and the importance of Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon (1907) to the modern art movement.


We talked about this painting for what seemed like the entire semester. But, truly, nothing compared to when I saw it in person at the Museum of Modern Art. The colors, the size, the detail, was nothing like what we had seen in books and online. There’s nothing that can take that thrill away than actually seeing it in person (if you ask me).

As I was researching this post and reading all types of articles I could find regarding “museums and Instagram” and I came across this article titled “Millennial’s Are Discovering Art by Ditching Museums for Instagram and Pinterest”. The title is misleading however, because they article actually cites a study that details millennials are more likely to purchase art online than in a traditional auction setting. Does this speak to the fact that social media is pushing art to millennials, or to the fact that practically everything is available to shop online via Amazon or otherwise? To me, whether purchasing art, looking at art, discussing art, and anything else related, while I am Instagram-obsessed there is nothing better than the in-person experience.


Week 9



“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

On Monday the Smithsonian Institution launched their second Kickstarter campaign, with a fundraising goal of $300,000 to conserve Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers, made for the 1939 musical production of MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland wore these shoes as she convinced people around the world that there’s “no place like home”. These shoes are in possession by the National Museum of American History, but the Campaign is under the larger Smithsonian Institution. As of this evening, the campaign is funded over 50% of the way, with $182,246 pledged by 3,285 backers (to donate, and keep up with the campaign see their Kickstarter page here).

“Are museums allowed to have a Kickstarter?”

For those (in my wide audience) that are not familiar with a Kickstarter campaign even is, I will give a brief description. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform – allowing someone (or some institution in this case) to create a campaign, allowing the general public to pledge money to reach their goal. There is a wide range of campaigns that are put up to be funded, raising money for an invention, for a restaurant, for a special project, just a few examples. Included in campaigns are different “rewards”, giving incentives at varying giving levels, often promising previews, limited edition merchandise, exclusive access, etc.

This is not the first time that the Smithsonian has launched a Kickstarter campaign – they are now seasoned professionals because this is their second campaign. I kid of course, because I can’t imagine they feel anywhere near experienced at this point. Last year, the National Air and Space Museum successfully funded a campaign to #RebootTheSuit, raising money to conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. This campaign was wildly successful, as their original goal was to raise $500,000 and they ended with over $700,000.

I was asked this week if museums were “allowed” to have a Kickstarter campaign. Interesting question I thought, and my immediate answer “Well, why wouldn’t they be?” I think this question stemmed from the fact that it is quite an untraditional fundraising route for a museum – and generally speaking crowdfunding is a pretty new concept. I recognize that the Smithsonian is a tricky situation as well, because they are a federal entity, and the general publics understanding is that “our taxes pay for the Smithsonian”. This is not true, but I understand how this could be considered true, and I also understand how the public would expect items like the slippers to be protected and conserved no matter what, without the help of outside funding. The discussion of Smithsonian funding could be an entire post on its own, so I will stop there. What is important is the new approach to fundraising, using digital initiatives and crowdfunding

Kickstarter as it relates to social media

There is a very clear relationship between Kickstarter and social media, being that is how the campaign will be shared. While there are many different channels of communication, and many different ways to share information, the easiest way to share a website is on the internet. Advertising the campaign on the museum’s website, as well as all social media channels is the best way to reach the most people in my opinion (as American History is doing herehere, and here).

There is another relation between a Kickstarter campaign and social media that I see too, and that is the planning and decision making that goes into choosing an object and launching the campaign. Many of the same principles are at play, such as content, audience, and engagement. In Air and Space’s case, they had a one of a kind object, tied to an important American event, and anniversary dates on their side. American History has a piece of American popular culture, but it has been pointed out that there are many pairs of ruby slippers, and they are not operating within anniversary dates. While every campaign does not have to be the same to be successful, these are factors to take into account. Similarly to when a museum is planning the content to be shared via social media, they pull from different repositories of content, all the while keeping mindful of their audience, and the goal of engagement.

Finally…what’s in a name?

How do we feel about the #KeepThemRuby hashtag? Choosing a hashtag for a national campaign like this is a big deal, but I can’t help but think they could have done something with sparkle, home, Oz, etc?

Week 8

Image from: https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/kansas/articles/the-wizard-of-oz-a-contemporary-cult-classic/

The “Institutional Voice”?

Last week in class we discussed the merits of a museum’s social media accounts having an “institutional voice” and whether or not that was necessary. On the one hand, museums are considered credible places of knowledge, that should speak with authority. I think that many people would consider an authoritative voice to be formal and academic. But when it comes to social media, there is little that is formal or academic. So the question arises – what voice will your social media presence have?

With the majority of social media users being of a younger generation, I think the best choice would be a move away from a formal voice. I do not believe, however, that moving way from a formal voice will move away from authority. Social media is merely one form of communication between the museum and the outside world. There are many other forms of communication coming from within the museum walls that will present the authoritative voice – publications, exhibition catalogs, and blog posts for example. I think if the museum is considering audience, a relatable voice is ideal.

Having a relatable voice does not mean that the institutions social media feeds will turn into never ending streams of memes and pop culture references. The content that is shared will still demonstrate the expertise of the museum, it is just the delivery of said information that is different. In class we ranked different museums social media posts on different scales relating tone. Tone is part of what effects the voice of any type of communication. The level of humor, the level of authority, are all things that effect how a message is received. As we were completing this exercise, a couple question came to mind.

The first being, who decides what the institutional voice will sound like? As mentioned above, there are many different forms of communication that come from a museum – much of which comes from the communication, marketing, or public relation department. That team of people will decide what all formal communication to the public sounds like. But it has been my experience that in the fundraising department, they format the copy of the acknowledgement letters, either with the help of a consulting company or on their own. And, as a social media manager is becoming a more common position, that is one person who has total control over social media accounts, crafting the voice. Say you are a museum visitor that reads a press release, receives an acknowledgement letter after a donation, and follows the museum on Twitter. They are being exposed to three different voices – is it possible to create a cohesive  voice?

The second question, relating specifically to the social media manager, what happens to that voice when the social media manager leaves? If it is just one individual, their personal voice probably seeps through more than they think. And they have a huge hand in crafting the museums online presence (it is their job after all). Take Emily Graslie at the Field Museum for example. As the “Chief Curiosity Correspondent” she runs their blog/video portion of their site – The Brain Scoop. I understand that she already had some parts of this personal brand created before she was hired by the Field Museum, but now it has become integral to the museum’s online presence. What will happen to The Brain Scoop as her career progresses? Should museums consider training multiple social media staff members? Should they lean away from a distinct voice that might have an expiration date?

I am beginning to think that blogging is just shouting questions into the abyss that is the internet.

Week 7

Stream of Consciousness

This morning I found a GREAT article in the Atlantic, titled “Please Turn On Your Phone in the Museum”  by Sophie Gilbert. It is split into four different sections, and the reason I believe this article is worthy of great in all capital letters, is because I had around 5 different reactions. There were multiple instances I thought “Interesting, I could write a blog about that”. I am now in a predicament, because I don’t know what to write about. Should I write a post that is basically my stream of consciousness as I review each section? Should I choose one thought and really develop it for this post? Should I create a multi-part SERIES of blog posts around this one article? Or maybe I just leave it here because I am clearly overwhelmed.

Just kidding, I have been mandated to write over 600 words a week, so that option is thrown out. Recently I have been both enamored and challenged by this blogging exercise, and I think I will take a chance and go with the stream of consciousness option. These blogs have been a massive step outside of my academic training when it comes to writing, and to be honest it has been difficult for me. Gone are the days when I had one, final, 20 page paper due at the end of the semester that I had spent weeks outlining, drafting, and editing before turning it in. This is one of the first times in my academic career that I am writing without outlining, and it is liberating.

But, that is not one of the many points I wanted to make in reference to the article, so I will save my ramblings on academic writing for later.

Gilbert has written an article for the Atlantic that opens with a pretty surface level assessment of museums and social media. The subtitle “Cultural institutions learn to love selfies, tailor-made apps, and social media.” actually made me groan a little, because I feel like we have been listening to that same broken record all semester, and for the past year to be honest. I am waiting for more depth of analysis to come, there are so many articles written that hit on all of the key words such as “millennial” “selfies” “museums” “Instagram” and make the point that basically, if you can’t beat em, join em. In my opinion, it is general knowledge that any cultural institution that resists social media will be doing themselves a great disservice in the long run.

Her first section “Curating for Instagram” echoes these sentiments, as it discusses immersive exhibits that are perfect for Instagram posts (see the popularity of the Renwick’s Wonder exhibit). Yes, I have fallen into that trap in any museum I visit, I absolutely immortalize my experience on my Instagram feed. Gilbert also recognizes that more and more museums are discussing the use of GPS and Bluetooth technology to create a better visitor experience, which has been a conversation happening for a while. Who will be the first to roll it out? Is there someone using it that I am not aware of?

The second section “History and Art, Augmented” discusses aspects of technology in museums that reach outside of simply creating social media accounts and developing an informational app. She points to technology used to augment reality by virtually adding skin to dinosaur bones, create holograms, and recreate the experience of finding an artifact. These ideas are fresh and new, and also push the envelope of what a “traditional” museum experience should be. As I was searching for the above link to the Wonder exhibit, I came across this article that came out today in the Washingtonian titled “The Smithsonian Just Released a VR App of “Wonder,” and It’s Beautiful”. I had no idea they were planning this, and I think it is a great idea considering the beauty and popularity of the exhibit. Until, the author wrote the following:

“The silver lining is that if museums keep making apps this compelling, we’ll never have to go again.”

And I actually gasped out loud in this coffeeshop – because why would you ever say such a thing?! Of course, I am sensitive to this because I have voluntarily devoted my academic studies and future career to the museum sector. But, it is a real fear that museums are actively grappling with today, will digitizing collections and exhibits drive down museum attendance?

Well, Gilbert, the smart lady that she is, addresses this very question in her next section: “Museums in Your Pocket”. She quotes Dana Miller (“director of the collection” at the Whitney in New York City) as explaining that digitizing the collection has led to an increase in visitors. While there is no data linked to this statement, if true it is promising. Gilbert also refers to the Google Art Project, an initiative I have previously written about in my blog post On Digitization.

The final section “Art Will Adapt to the Viewer” is expanding on different uses of technology in art and the museum experience. Virtual reality is brought up again, as she highlights exhibits around the world that respond to the visitors presence. Whether producing a video of the visitors taken on hidden cameras, collecting data used as visitors opt into the public Wi-Fi network, these ideas make me question levels of privacy. Similar to an app that allows a museum to track a visitors path using Bluetooth, what are the implications of this technology? Will there be backlash from visitors that feel it is an invasion of privacy? What is the difference between technology tracking a visitor and a security guard taking notes? I think this is an interesting question that will certainly be discussed as these technologies become reality.

SO, there it is. My stream of consciousness around an article that, while brief, brings up thought-provoking subjects surrounding museums, social media, technology. While this furious writing of all of my thoughts and feelings was freeing, it was tiring and next week I think I will go back to my structured practice of writing.

Week 6

Can we create a culture of philanthropy?

After two semesters in the Museum Studies program, I realized that I was to follow the “museum management” course of study, and ultimately pursue a career in museum fundraising. (In case you missed it, you can read more about my background here!) Paired with the museum-focused courses, I also take courses in the public policy school, as I am working towards a certificate in nonprofit management as well. The focus of many of my courses is (unsurprisingly) fundraising and philanthropy in the nonprofit sector. It would be impossible for me to take these courses, and not reflect on the philanthropic giving that is closest to me, being my own.

We discuss different generations of donors in my courses, and it is recognized that my (millennial) generation is up against many factors that might not make us the most philanthropic. Many of us have massive amounts of student debt, that is not going to be repaid anytime soon because entry level job salaries are often times laughable. Especially if you aspire to work in the nonprofit sector (like me!). But, there is also an understood desire to give back, and desire to support groups that we care about. Personally, while it does seem a little bit aggressive for my undergraduate college to be calling for donations very soon after graduation, I plan on giving as soon as I am done with school and I have a steady income. Before I started taking these courses and studying the field, I don’t think I would’ve been so eager to give.

The wonderful Nina Simon related similar sentiments in this blog post, titled “Can we talk about money?”. She details that once she became a museum director and had to start soliciting donors (a MAJOR part of a directors job) she and her husband began thinking of their own giving. She also describes the anxiety inducing moment of actually asking for money, something that I frequently consider as I look towards my goals of being a major gift officer and later a fundraising director. I imagine how awkward the situation must be, or how embarrassing it would be to be shut down. But I had a professor once tell the class, philanthropic-minded people were always going to give, it is just a matter of convincing them to support your organization. That changed my frame of thinking, rather than begging for money, you are making your case for support.

Simon also brings up the fact that “…not everyone is comfortable talking about philanthropy, or about money. When we do so in our field, we’re often focused on pay inequities for the work that we do. But pay and philanthropy are two separate topics. We should be willing to talk about both.” This is baffling that philanthropy and fundraising is not discussed more in the museum/nonprofit field because it is necessary to survive! The number of people who believe that because the Smithsonian Institution is a federal entity they don’t need to seek outside funding is is significantly higher than I expected. Even within the museum field, it should be recognized that in order for all departments to function, collections, exhibits, curation, etc. they need to be funded. Luckily museums are reacting to this necessity and fundraising departments are growing, and hiring more experts to help grow funding. But I think there needs to be much wider spread education concerning philanthropy and philanthropic giving, because there is a deficit and misconception, and the nonprofits we all know and love need to be funded!

And with that, I leave you with this – bfd

Week 5