Oral History of Museum Computing: Lori Byrd-McDevitt
This Oral History of Museum Computing is provided by Lori Byrd-McDevitt, and was recorded on the 7th of May, 2021, by Paul Marty and Kathy Jones. It is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC-BY), which allows for unrestricted reuse provided that appropriate credit is given to the original source. For the recording of this oral history, please see https://youtu.be/LMdOUR-Bw_I.
I spent about 10 years — I say nine-ish, about 10 years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as their Social Media Manager, primarily. I left that role, about two years ago. So, I kind of have two identities that people know me for. [Laughs.] There is that the social media role, but before that, I had become accidentally “nerd famous,” as I like to say, by being their “Wikipedian-in-Residence.” That was around 2010 to 2012. I didn’t become their social media manager until 2012.
So nowadays I feel like people tend to know the term “Wikipedian-in-Residence.” I feel like it’s a little bit more of a phrase you hear, at least in our circles in the cultural sector. I don’t even know how many there are in the world. But, at the time, I was the first Wikipedian-in-Residence in the United States. And the first female Wikipedian-in-Residence in the world. So that was a pretty big deal.
And it’s interesting… also, a fun fact about me is that I married another “Wikipedian-in-Residence,” Dominic Byrd-McDevitt. So, he was the National Archives, the United States National Archives Wikipedian-in-Residence, and we always like to joke that you know, I kind of beat him to it, with the superlative there, because he was just right behind me by a couple months in becoming their Wikipedian-in-Residence, but so that was all about 2010ish that all of that was happening. And there were only a few of us that were kind of gathering together around this premise in 2009-ish going into 2010, around this idea that you know Wikipedians are very prickly.
It’s not easy to contribute content to Wikipedia, to edit Wikipedia — at the time, especially, way back, way back then. And so there were those of us that were involved in museums that really wanted to see museums be able to contribute content to Wikipedia more easily and I got involved in that because I was in the IUPUI museum studies program, so that’s Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and I met a man named Richard McCoy, and he was the Conservator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and happened to be the adjunct professor, along with Jennifer Mikulay, at IUPUI for their collections management course in the graduate school there, in the master’s program for Museum Studies.
At the time, I just was a stay-at-home mom to my little guy, he was like eight months old or something — I don’t even remember how old my little guy, Teddy, was — and I just was planning to be a stay-at-home mom, maybe. I think I was going to get a certificate in Museum Studies. I was going to be thrilled to go hide away in a collections, you know, some lower level collection storage somewhere and organize for the rest of my life. I was going to be happy as a clam to do that. I was going to be a history teacher, and I had lived in Virginia, and my husband, ex-husband now, but my husband at the time, we had moved to Indianapolis, and I’d had the opportunity to switch careers and had my baby and was like, “Meh. Let’s try museums. Let’s go do collections instead.” But Richard was like, he and Jenny, they met me in this class, and they were like, “Lori you, you can you’re legit. Like, you’re a smart cookie. Why are you just getting a certificate? You should be in the full program. And, you know, you’re really smart in this class.” And we were doing work with Wikipedia. We just for whatever reason, they were really… they had had this idea of: Can Wikipedia be a collections management system? Can it be a CMS? It was just a question. We ended up being like, “No, not really.” But the class decided that, because of how the community norms are — you know, you can’t just go in and… you have to have to have citations. You have to have other sources. You can’t go in and just say, “I with my eyeballs see that this public artwork you know is deteriorating.” You can’t do that in Wikipedia, so it can’t be a CMS.
But, you know, we realized… I became very passionate, one of the main people in the class that became the most passionate about, Wikipedia is this historical record. You know, as a historian, I just was like this isn’t just some online encyclopedia. This is an editable resource that over time is being updated by so many people. And I realized, I always say this word wrong, but essentially Wikipedia is a palimpsest, right, so it’s layers and layers of, of everyone’s interpretation of history over time. And I really loved that because as a history student, I was always concerned about you know, what’s going to happen… like, we don’t have diaries. We don’t have journals. We don’t have the, the physical photos anymore, like the 19th and 20th century. In the past… Everything’s digital and that really bothered me, but I really liked that Wikipedia had the “Version” histories, and you could really look back and watch how everything changed. So, I just became obsessed with the premise of Wikipedia because of this class.
And then, therefore, how museums could contribute to it also. It just was dumb luck that, at the same time, a number of other Wikipedians happened to also be starting to chitchat about museums and their contributions to Wikipedia, and also dumb luck that Twitter also happened to be a thing in 2008, 2009, or whatever, going into 2010. And so I found this gentleman, who happened to be about my same age, named Liam Wyatt. He was Australian, and he was a long time Wikipedian, and was just out talking to everybody about how, “All my fellow Wikipedians, stop being so mean to newbies.” “Stop biting the newbies,” that’s what they always say. “Wikipedians, don’t bite the newbies. We need to, we need to come up with policies or new processes to help curators and help museum people be able to contribute in new ways.”
So I just started talking to these people on Twitter. And suddenly, we were going to be meeting in real life, in New York at this event, and they were going to fly me in. They came up with some grant through Wikipedia. I didn’t even know that was a thing, and I was meeting these people I talked to on Twitter, and I again, became accidentally part of this thing this that became GLAM-Wiki. So you know, through my mentors, Richard and Jenny, and meeting Liam and my future husband, Dominic, and a number of other Wikipedians, I kind of was thrown into this world.
Part of that too actually was MCN. It was around that year, it was Austin. I think that was 2010, you guys will just have to correct me. See you guys know what you’re talking about, 2010 was Austin.
So it was all of that same time that we were figuring out all this stuff with open culture, sharing content on Wikipedia, that Koven reached out to — Koven Smith reached out to Richard McCoy and was like, “I’d love your help on a panel down here at MCN, and it’s about open content. I hear you’re doing stuff about that.” And Richard said, “I’ll come and I’ll help you out, but only if you let this random grad student, Lori, come with me and speak.” And I was like, “Don’t make me go speak! I don’t want to speak. I’m just some stay-at-home mom.” And Richard dragged me along to Austin, and to this whole conference that I didn’t know what it was. And I found my people. It was MCN, and I’d found my people. And it was a whole bunch of other nerds that were just so nice and so welcoming, and they just happen to be from the Met, and you know all these places, and the Smithsonian and, but they were not intimidating. And it was amazing.
And that first presentation was sitting right along next to Corey Timpson, who was sharing about his museum up in Canada, the Canada Museum of Human Rights, or… I might be getting that name wrong, but and it’s just, watching us all grow together from that moment, it’s been really amazing. And so, that was really the catalyst for a lot of things, again, just kind of accidentally becoming “nerd famous” in that way.
I never wanted to be out doing public speaking, but I just happened to be one of the first people doing GLAM-Wiki, literally branding GLAM-Wiki, you know, this galleries, libraries, archives and museums, contributing to Wikipedia, coming up with… In that first, I mentioned before, that first event up in New York, that they flew us into, we were coming up with the very first kind of… again, like branding around what GLAM-Wiki is, and policies and procedures around what we really… the values and mission on what we wanted this little mini community to be. And I’m really proud of being able to contribute to that. And it’s really just grown and grown and grown from there, and a lot of these like, little logos that were so silly at the time, they’re still floating around out there and used.
And so from there, you know, we’ve, we’ve developed a lot of these… piloted a lot of projects to do like, Edit-a-thons, which now everyone’s heard of Edit-a-thons in the cultural sector, you know, going into museums and training up curators, and, and the public, and volunteers to use those resources that are on site in museums, or libraries, or archives, and together bringing Wikipedians and the experts, and contributing directly into articles. And then from there even getting more involved in creating themes around them, and that then dovetailed into the gender gap in Wikipedia, and WikiWomen, considering the fact that museums have so many more women in them than men, and how can GLAM-Wiki contribute to the gender gap, and help with the gender gap? It was really amazing to be able to build and build and build on that through the years.
And so it was about two years later, after all this kind of got started that, and piloting these projects, and again, I was more on the outreach side. I wasn’t necessarily the ones like building the bots, and doing the data stuff, I was more the person that was doing the people work, making Wikipedia nicer for the people and doing the messaging work, which was a lot of the more, the important stuff in the early days.
So I did a lot of working with Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation to travel around and do speaking, which again, I never wanted to be the one doing that. I actually ended up asking them or applying to try to be U.S. cultural partnerships coordinator. So I’m getting a role, a paid role with the Wikimedia Foundation, and so that was a one-year position. I developed the role myself. I pitched it to them, I was told no by two different departments, and I ended up being picked up by the third person that looked at the pitch, and it was the man who runs the Global South Initiatives, which I’m not Global South! You know, that’s not at all… but his name is Asaf Bartov, and he really believed in in the GLAM project, and he really believed in me, and my gumption around it all. And so, he was my supervisor for that year, and I just remember not believing at all that this had all happened, that it had come true.
That I went from being a volunteer in Wikipedia to really believing so much in this community of GLAM-Wiki. That I was able to pitch a full paid role with the actual Wikimedia Foundation and after being told no by a couple people — because it’s hard to get a role in Wikimedia — that I was actually able to… I was after, like a week, flown out to San Francisco, and had never been to San Francisco before. I’m by myself, dragging my bag through the streets of San Francisco to the Wikimedia Foundation offices. Getting my picture taken by the little globe that everyone sees and sitting in the office, Asaf’s office and, just like they do. How they use a lot of the donor funds, in addition to keeping the servers running, which is the main most important thing, and then, they don’t have many staff, but what they use the money for is it’s really important to them to bring people together IRL, in real life.
They want the community to gather and keep the work going. The community is so important, so being a Community Coordinator, flying me all over the world to spread the pilot projects, to like distribute the pilot projects around and train other people up on what to do, was really important to them. So here I was sitting in Asaf’s office and he’s like, “Okay, tell me all these conferences you know about. All these museum conferences that you need to go off and train people.” He’s like, “Yep! Going to that one! Yep, going to that one! Yep, going to that one!” And I just like, “What is happening in my life?” [Laughing.] And so, that was just so surreal to me. And I had to go I’m not from, in one to two years from, “Never, do not ever make me stand up in front of anyone to talk!” to, “Well, if I want to go to Barcelona tomorrow, I’m gonna have to be, you know, terrified for five minutes and go talk in front of people about Wikipedia!” But I learned real quick. And yes, this is a big change from being a stay-at-home mom really quickly.
And you know, I was surrounded by a lot of people that really were eager to learn and I was surrounded by a lot of friends, you know a lot of the Wikipedia community, even though it’s prickly. Once you’re in it, they’re very supportive, and it was a huge family to be able to fly from country to country and to meet so many people I really had you know become family to me, and be able to meet them and tour these countries that similarly to the museum tech world, when you get to travel to different cities, it’s so much different and more fun when you are visiting someone you know in a new place right, rather than just going on a trip somewhere where you don’t know anyone.
So my husband Dominic and I, we always say how we feel so lucky that we can go pretty much anywhere in the world, and know someone, have a friend, we could at least visit with or stay with there, be able to go have a meal and know it’s the best restaurant in town. So, I’m really lucky that I have two big, you know kind of work fams, or big, you know, communities, and that’s the Wikipedia community and also the, the muse tech community. But are equally important to me, and so, while that all happened and I had my one year with GLAM-Wiki, and the outreach side really took off, and we realized, we really had to clone ourselves. We all couldn’t do everything. It was going to keep growing and growing. And once people started learning on their own, and we did that through a thing called GLAM Boot Camp.
And so Dominic and I actually were the ones to develop this curriculum for GLAM Boot Camp and this was basically, training up new Wikipedians to be GLAM people, because we realized that so many people were looking to us to continue to lead, and that just couldn’t be what happened. So we did this, actually at the National Archives, we realized that what’s really important is an “invitation culture.” It’s you know, people don’t necessarily step up and say, “Oh, I’m the best one for this!” People need you to say, “I think you’re going to be awesome at this, you know, I see potential in you.” Just like my mentor did for me, I would never have stepped up. So, passing that along you know, like inviting someone up to take that leadership role, to pass the baton along, so we — forget how many people were at that first boot camp — but we actually had Mike Edson come and speak to them about the importance of “open” in general and just how important the museum professionals needed to hear from Wikipedians. And you got you know how Mike Edson’s just, you know, amazingly bombastic and you know will inspire anyone to do anything. I think between him and the actual Archivist of the United States, stopping by to say “hi,” it was just a really inspiring weekend, where we trained them up on different processes and outreach, and really empowered them to all go back all over the world, actually and America. This was all paid for, by Wikimedia again, we just got grants and flew them in free of charge. And they all went back and became Wikipedians-in-Residence, or did their own, you know events, all over America and different places.
One of the girls, Emily Temple-Wood, she’s based out of Chicago. She ended up just becoming such the long-tail, you know the premise of the long-tail of one person goes and does so much, you know, and kind of that volunteer culture, that she a couple of years later, became Wikipedian of the Year, which is a huge distinction in the community. I mean, there’s I can’t even tell you how many Wikipedians there are, and then at Wikimania, which is a conference every year, which is global, they give this honor, and it’s a really big honor. I mean, one year, they gave it to a Wikipedian who’s a journalist who passed away because of, you know, the rights of Wikipedians, was the European. I mean, so it’s a big deal.
And so, the fact that someone we you know picked as someone we saw was having such potential, kind of like plucked out of nowhere, came and trained up, and that she just went off, and was so empowered and just was so amazing, of her own accord and went above and beyond, and then to become Wikipedian of the Year, has always been really important to Dominic and I.
So that just kind of shows, it’s all kind of gone off on its own, and it got to the point where now things are to the point where it’s like about metadata, it’s Wiki data. It’s all about connecting all the APIs, and getting the content here and there. It’s not about you know, convincing people to use Wikipedia anymore. Definitely it is, to a degree. There’s definitely people that you know, need to be convinced about “open” [access]. But back when we were starting, there wasn’t the Wikipedia card up on Google, right? It wasn’t that Wikipedia was incorporated into every little thing, and it was you go there for the facts. It was still that you had to tell people the very basics of how it worked, and that if there’s a little star up there, that’s a featured article, and that means that it’s been vetted a billion times over.
And so now, it’s a different conversation. Now it’s much more technical. Now it’s all about connecting the information across so many things. So my needs for my skill set have moved on into social media. My husband, he’s always been on the technical side and in outreach side. He’s worked for the National Archives many years beyond that. He now works for the Digital Public Library of America. And he has been doing stuff with APIs and databases and a lot of great work.
I just have more broadly shifted to online communities in general. And still love all of my Wikipedia family, but they just don’t need me in that way anymore. So in 2012 is when I got my role actually as social media manager at The Children’s Museum. And it was Montreal MCN – was that 2014? So a few years into that we started realizing that all the social media managers, we would get kind of frustrated with each other if you stole an idea, or we were kind of in competition with each other sometimes, and that was silly…Oh 2013 was in MCN Montreal.
Okay, so Montreal was where I first met Ryan Dodge, who’s formerly of Royal Ontario Museum and also Canadian War Museum, and he and I now are just the best of friends. And it was at that conference that we were just chatting with a number of, a few of us, and we were like, “Why, why don’t we have a space where we can be more supportive of one another?” Just more proactively supportive, and have each other’s backs, share resources, just have fun. Just, it’s so hard being a social media manager. Even back then, it was hard, and it’s even gotten way harder.
So we started a Facebook Group called Museum Social Media Managers. And it, that was 2013, and so it has grown and grown and grown and grown and grown and grown. And what’s interesting is that I would say my identity was really tied to being a Wikipedian and Wikipedian-in-Residence definitely back in the day. Nowadays, I would say, people when they meet me, they say, “You’re the admin of the Facebook Group, of the muse social Facebook group. I just thank you so much for creating that!” And it’s… I’m so proud of that. I would… I’m proud of both, but I… it’s interesting how that shifted. I also am definitely grateful and appreciative that I’m known for being the social media, the face behind The Children’s Museum’s social media accounts, that I was able to do so many projects through that. But that’s a whole other oral history project. But the Facebook Group is at 7,000 members now. And even a year ago, it was only 4,000 members, so it’s just exponentially growing.
I promise I’m the one that accepts the members in, still. I do have moderators that help me, but that’s my, one of my primary jobs. And I promise, I vet them. I mean I’m really do check in on these people are, and those are all legitimate members. But there just are so many of us, I mean, if you think of all of the museums of the world, and then it’s, it’s anyone who is a social media manager, but then also could be on a communications team. You have to think of, in museums, I mean, staff wear so many hats, so it could be a director of a historic house. It’s also, could be different museum studies students, that are interested in this, and just want to learn. I’m obviously never going to turn that down. And then otherwise, I’m pretty protective of it if they don’t share a good reason for being there other than those main reasons. It’s definitely a safe space.
But one of the reasons I’m shifting to this kind of online community to talk about, it’s definitely become a pretty important piece of the history of museum tech. It really has become a place where we’ve collaborated, and actually really made an impact, which I don’t know that I would have expected that so much. But we’ve been able to, with people like Mar Dixon and a number of other people, I mean anyone can do it. Emily Haight and many others. We’ve created many, countless social media campaigns across museums nationally, internationally, theme-based, you know, organization-based.
One of the ones I like to share about all the time is “#DayOfFacts.” And this one came out of one of the many Trumpian things, Trump lies about things. Back at whatever year it was. I mean, now they all blend together. And so this was based on the premise of just simply museums sharing facts and combating Trump lies. And it was really powerful, and it made you know national news. It was clearly very U.S. centric, so it wasn’t international, but, and I don’t even know all of the stats around it. Actually, one of my agency team members Alli Hartley-Kong actually was one of the organizers of it. But I’m so proud of, of campaigns like that that had true, true impact and were organized in our group. And, and just to then, fun things, like just in the moment, because we have a group like that, massive blizzards you know, like huge swaths of the country or the continent, and then we can say, “Hey, you guys want to have a museum snowball fight? #museumsnowballfight.” And then we do, and then it gets on Tech Crunch, and major tech magazines and things because, “Oh, all the museums are having a snowball fight. That’s worth covering,” because we have that type of impact. And then of course, fun things like “Superb Owl,” to hack Super Bowl of course, classic things like that, so, it’s fun because it’s to the point where there’s people that have said, “Is there a secret society of like social media managers and museums somewhere that are organizing these things?” And we’re just like, “We’ve won. We won the internet.”
So that’s the best side, but then there’s also just the fact that we can support each other. When we’re having bad days, we can go straight there when we see that, like someone at the, the social media manager at the National Park Service has gotten fired because they’ve done something, we can go there and say, “Hey, are you here? Are you Okay?” And … they are. They’re there and we can support them. Crazy things like that. So I’ve been really proud of that community has thrived, and stayed how it is when so many online communities, especially through the different political environments we’ve had to push through have torn apart online communities so much. I’ve been really proud of that. That Ryan, and I were able to build that, and our admins since. And so, basically through that, I always tell people the different advice of it’s, it’s not necessarily about, when it comes to kind of like your online personal brand, it’s not about promoting you and yourself. It’s about sharing others. It’s about standing on the shoulders of giants, I always say that, and our community in muse tech and MCN and, in particular, but muse tech in general, has been so supportive and just gathers themselves around us. We just don’t let anyone fall. And I’ve seen that over and over again. And it’s just, if we share each other then, we keep growing. And that’s just that’s served me well, and just I find such personal satisfaction in helping support my friends and colleagues in the community. And it’s just happened to come back around to me when I haven’t even asked for it. So that’s just been really meaningful for me.
[Marty]: I love the positive angle that you have on this, I mean, it’s, it’s really refreshing and reassuring and I just love the story of social media managers using social media to coordinate social media activities.
I know. It’s very, it’s very meta.
[Marty]: No, but it’s great because how else do you coordinate those things right?
[Jones]: Which gets to what I love most, and that’s the community aspect of what you do. Yeah, really great.
[Marty]: I was taking some notes, as you were talking also… some recurring themes that we, that we have heard a lot. I love the way you talked about how Wikipedia was no longer about convincing people to use Wikipedia but helping people connect information across domains.
[Marty]: This is something that I think has happened so many times in history of museum computing. We first had to convince people to do it. Now we’re getting on board. Now we have to get everybody working together.
Yeah. it’s very true. Yup.
[Marty]: And I think you have, you have the same kind of parallel with social media, right?
Yeah. Absolutely, and I feel like a lot of times, people… it’s about convincing them first to get on board with social media and then they think that they can do it themselves and then it’s about saying, “Well, no. Let me take you that extra click deeper and share that bit of expertise with you about how that can be strategic, and how we can apply that to our museum, and you can do that on your personal channels, but let’s stick to the professional side of things over here,” so…
[Marty]: That’s an interesting comment about being strategic with social media, right because, because, looking at the … like, as you said, you got into this right when Twitter was taking off, right? Right when all the things were starting and I’d be curious know your thoughts about how museums have evolved those strategies, really from nothing, right, to a, to a good strategic plan for outreach online.
Yeah absolutely. So many of us all say that we feel like we grew up on social media together, and that it’s evolved so much, and it’s kind of just like there’s layers and layers and layers of it, and you’ve had to just kind of learn as you go, and get more strategic as you go. I feel like one element to this that’s really important is that, when it comes to social media in particular, that not every human, social media role has to be an expert at every aspect, as it’s kind of been globbed on. And I think that’s a big thing with a lot of tech roles.
A big thing that I do currently, and I’m really passionate about is burnout and mental health. And that’s across our whole field, and with a lot of roles, but social media in particular. You know, you see these job descriptions that are just like, “Here, you can do all of these things, and then five more.” And so where I kind of drew the line and I was lucky that I had a boss that was very thoughtful about this with me, was, it’s Okay that, for instance, I feel like Facebook might be a better example because Facebook changes literally every day. You never know what the heck’s going on.
You know I, I started to try to get into Facebook advertising, like the advertising side of things. That’s fine. I was on top of it for a bit, and then there came a point where I was like, “you know what, this is a thing where someone needs to be an expert in it, and that’s Okay. I’m not going to do that. I am [on] this side of things. You… we need to find someone to be an expert on this side of things,” And you need to be strategic and understanding that in using your resources to you know find those people that can have that depth of expertise in these different aspects of digital. But also understanding that social media is dividing up too. You can’t just keep globbing on every single thing.
Social media is changing so quickly. And understanding the cultural sector — different places have few resources, but social media is also your front door. And the first thing people see, so you need to be thoughtful about what that means for not making your one social media manager have to know everything because they’re going to get burned out, and then you’re going to be up a creek without a paddle. So, that was where I drew the line, was social advertising. It’s such a rabbit hole that I won’t be able to do the online community building, the influencers, the crisis comms, all of this other stuff you need me to do if I have to also understand all of that. So…
[Marty]: It’s a good example, and certainly the connection the mental health is, is exactly right as well. I mean… and again, I think it’s a parallel with, with the history of museum computing that almost in any, or maybe, perhaps even in the whole field, there were museums, where there was one person, and now there’s 200.
[Marty]: Was there any, were there any other examples or stories that you wanted to share? We have 10 minutes…
So, I mean, I think that one of the things that’s kind of come more recently in regards to social media and tying it up with kind of mental health stuff is that I’ve just been really proud of how, when it comes to us supporting one another now, we’ve actually been really outspoken about social media and museums and mental health. Like this kind of Venn diagram that’s really dangerous. And we’ve been getting bolder and bolder and talking about the issues and toxicity in hierarchy, in boards, in labor issues and unions, and just having tough conversations around it. And then, where that layers on expectations around first off, kind of just even the mental gymnastics and the psychological games that come along with… well, like unpaid internships. There’s strides going along with that, thankfully, but we got to keep moving on it. With, “You’re lucky to work here.” “You’re … you’re… it’s the mission,” you know, it’s “why would you ever leave?”
It really being your identity that you’re a museum person. I talked to people a lot about that right now, because I’m, I’ve now officially left museums. I’m now in an agency, but I still support museums a lot, right? So I talk about that a lot with people. It still can be your identity, like, I still feel like I’m a museum person, but… so there’s a lot around that of, of feeling like you are expected to stay because you’ve earned this and you should feel lucky. So, just having those tough conversations around that, and then, once you’re there, everyone working 120 percent, 150 percent, and doing five jobs instead of one. And just what that means for burnout. That’s all just anybody’s job. Add on to that social media. Add on to that dealing with trolls. Add on to that dealing with crisis communications, I mean. The social media manager is the one that when there’s such the horrible things happening in the news, they’re having to write the social posts or consider even if they should or not around all these things with, with their museum, and just dealing with mean people on the internet and the negativity that comes with life. And, they never get to turn off. It’s 24 hours a day. And that’s just even dealing with the people. Then there’s everything else, and then every platform changing all the time. I think in our social group, in our muse social group, it’s just probably the biggest thing is, “Please don’t one more thing change.” Like “Please, what is the thing today? What is a Fleet? Oh, my goodness, like I haven’t even started TikTok yet. What’s going, you know, like what…?” It’s, it’s all of that. It’s so much pressure.
And so, one of the more recent changes. I keep using this example, but this topic came up kind of as an aside, even at the most recent MCN because it was a recurring theme in the back channels. And it caused, I think the social media manager and the team at the Field Museum to actually say, “No, we’re going to actually have a pause. We’re gonna have a public social media pause for a week and we’re going to publicly say, ‘We’re pausing.’” And it’s, not even for her to go on vacation or something. It was for her to be able to do her other work. It was for her to be able to strategize for the year. Like, imagine that it wasn’t even like her to have a mental break. It was just for her to be able to organize her life for her work, but she put up on social just, “We’re chilling, and I guess we’re chillin’ for a week. Just pause.”
And that itself was huge! And that itself was a huge step to model for the rest of the field and to be able to take to the C-Suites of other museums and say look the Field did this, the Field Museum did this, so can we do this? And that was, I was really proud of that. So hopefully now, it can be that we can also go on vacations! [Laughs.] Yeah, I just wanted to kind of bring that full circle, of more, more recent things going on, I was really proud of.
[Marty]: It’s a good example, I think, also all along this theme of invisible work, and things that people don’t realize. I suspect the, the general public out there doesn’t quite realize that, that museums are working 24/7.
Mm hmm. Yup, the objects aren’t suddenly just safe at night, just because the lights go off. [Laughs.] I think that was interesting over COVID. Interesting dialogue happening about the value of human life, and going back in, and taking care of the museum and the objects and, versus… and also being there for reopening. And people coming in versus the value of the objects. It was really interesting conversations happening with that.
I don’t know if that’s come up at all with any of your other conversations, but it’s more recent but really, just stunning conversations. And trauma from people of feeling like they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t go in to work. Especially with what our community went through, with all the layoffs and furloughs, and it just… I think it brought us all together more, but definitely this has been a tough year for us. And I’m glad we made it through, but it’s been, it’s been a tough one.