Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back at 2019 to Move Forward Into 2020



The Sankofa Bird symbol at the top of this post sets the tone of "looking back to move forward."

Here are six links to topics I posted about on ExhibiTricks during 2019 that will help inform my thinking (and hopefully yours!) about museums and museum work in 2020:



1) Are Exhibit Timelines So Boring Because of the Lines?  The idea of "best practices" and doing things "the way we've always done it before" gets in the way of new museum thinking.




2) Museum Elevators and Exhibit Design  Sometimes museum/exhibit/design inspiration can be found in unexpected places.




3) "Best Museum" Lists are the Worst   If it was up to me, we'd never see another one of these dumb lists, starting in 2020.




4) What Makes A "High Quality" Museum?  On the other hand, there is one key element that sets high-quality museums apart ...





5) 10 Things I Learned As a Fulbright Specialist in Bulgaria  I really learned a lot during my Fulbright work in Bulgaria.




6) Supporting Museums As They Transform: An Interview with Charity Counts  Charity is doing great work as the executive director of the Association of Midwest Museums, especially as an advocate for fair pay for museum workers.




Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy, and CREATIVE start to 2020!



Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Brief Guide to Unionizing at The New Children’s Museum


Given the burst of recent activity surrounding unionization at museums, I thought it would be important to hear from museum folks directly involved in the process.

Fortunately, Cody Machado and Alisa Miller from the New Children's Museum were kind enough to share this description of their unionization experiences with ExhibiTricks readers:


PHASE 1: CONVERSATION
Our journey towards unionization didn’t start with bold declarations or dramatic action. It started with small conversations between friends, talking about the issues we faced in our jobs and how they manifested in our personal lives. Wages had stagnated. We all had second jobs but rent was a struggle every month. Prep time for programs declined while more responsibility was piled onto our plates and the high turnover rate put even more pressure on those who remained. Nothing would change when these issues were brought to management, and the divide in understanding between the floor team and the highest levels seemed to grow wider.

The more we talked the more it became obvious that we had to do something to force a change. We had heard about the growing movement of unionized museums and saw the chance to create true equity in our own workplace. We needed a seat at the table, a parallel structure that would put us on equal footing, and forming a union seemed to be the only way to achieve that.



PHASE 2: FINDING A UNION
A small group of us started meeting at coffee shops and peoples’ houses to lay out a game plan. There is no dedicated museum workers union, so we looked for one with deep roots in our community. It was important that we find representatives who would provide us with the guidance we needed without taking the process out of our hands, and who would work in partnership with the Museum.

It was through a family member that we were put in contact with IBEW Local 465. We met with Anabel Arauz, the organizer at our local, who understood instantly where we were coming from - that we cared deeply about our workplace, and that we had a genuine desire to ensure the Museum could continue to grow without sacrificing the wellbeing of its workers. After just a few meetings we knew IBEW was our home.



PHASE 3: GATHERING INTEREST
With a representative body now standing behind us, we brought more people into the conversation and collected signatures. To hold a union election, you first must file signed interest cards from at least 30% of your potential bargaining unit with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). So we considered the scope of our union. Should it be limited to frontline staff, or did we want to include as many positions as possible?

We believed in the value of union representation for all workers, and so reached out to people in positions that were eligible to be included - essentially, those without hiring or firing power and without access to secure information. We knew we were asking our coworkers to take a big step with us and held weekly meetings to address concerns and build consensus.

After hearing about the challenges faced by other colleagues, we were certain that forming a union was the right step. With a union, we would have more say in our workplace than had ever been possible without one. We could advocate for fair wages and transparency at all levels. We could ensure that all work was treated as valuable, essential, and dignified.


 NCM Union bargaining committee members at IBEW Local 465 Union Hall.
L to R: Charlie Randall, Cody Machado, Nate Fairman, Anabel Arauz,
Tim Dixon, Hannah Mykel, Jill Grant, Jessica McPeak, Alisa Miller


PHASE 4: FILING AND THE ELECTION
As the unit grew, we prepared for what might happen after filing. We hoped for voluntary recognition, meaning that the Museum would acknowledge our union without an election. Knowing that most businesses don’t do this, we also went over typical union-busting talking points. We knew that if we were told to get something in writing from the union, that that would happen when we had negotiated a fair contract. If someone said that everything would be on the table during negotiations, we knew that bargaining begins from the status quo and not from zero. If we were told that unions weren’t right for nonprofits, we already knew innately that all workers deserve a voice and representation in their workplace. With this knowledge, we could illuminate and contradict anti-union arguments before they took root.

Once we had enough signatures, we filed with the NLRB and within a month we had a vote. That month between filing and the election is a wild ride, and it is critical that you face it together. We continued to meet, talk with our reps, and reiterate the fact that the union is us. Workers are the heart and soul of the union and the Museum.

And then we won! Our election passed with 75% of the vote. IBEW Local 465 can represent us and bargain with the Museum on our behalf. Members of our bargaining unit will now work alongside IBEW representatives to negotiate a fair and equitable contract.



PHASE 5: NEGOTIATIONS
Since our victory at the ballot box, we haven’t slowed down, selecting people for our bargaining committee and keeping everyone informed along the way. We try to be as open with the public as we are with our own unit in an effort to build industry-wide solidarity and contribute to the movement within our field.

We sincerely look forward to January, when we will finally take our seat at the table alongside management and begin negotiations. We have always worked closely with those not in the bargaining unit, and the value we place on those relationships remains unchanged. Together we will build a path towards a better future for The New Children’s Museum, and hopefully for the museum field as a whole.


A note: the whole process can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re new to unions (like us). Luckily, there are resources already available for those who are interested in learning more! The Unions for All spreadsheet from Art + Museum Transparency is a great place to start.


NCM Union members and supporters at Little Dame Shop in San Diego

 

Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Have good Big Ideas and write short labels."



I sent my colleague Beverly Serrell**  an email asking how best to respond when a museum team wants to "digitally expand" the information on exhibition labels using QR codes or screens or the like.

I liked Beverly's response so much, that I asked her permission to share it here on the ExhibiTricks blog:


This is a very familiar idea, that there are museum visitors who might want more information than they see and use on the labels in an exhibition and would be willing to follow a link or code to get it somewhere else (e.g., in another gallery, on their phone, on the Internet). There are several assumptions embedded here that make this a weak or even bad idea, because.... 

1. The number of people who actually want more information is a small percentage. 

2. The number of people who use QR codes or remember to look for more information in another place is small. 

3. The amount of work to provide high-quality information for that small percentage is not worth it. 

4. More people will actually use shorter labels, so writing short labels to begin with makes a better user-ratio.  

5. Lots of information is instantly available on visitors' phones. You don't need to write more.

Notice that the above is all based on "information" rather than "interpretation." The purpose of exhibit labels is interpretation, not information. Information is about presenting knowledge. Interpretation is about provoking curiosity, revelation, interest, and meaning. Anyone who gets stimulated by the labels (and we hope that lots of people will be) can search for what exists already on the Internet to find out more.

So, the mindset should be: Have good Big Ideas and write short labels. 


**Beverly Serrell is the author of Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approachthe definitive book about (wait for it ...) exhibit labels.  If you don't already own a copy you should click on the Amazon link above and get Beverly's book for yourself. (Or at the very least read this interview I did with Beverly when the second edition of Exhibit Labels was published.)



Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Designer's Toolbox: Information is Beautiful


Can information be beautiful? 

The website Information is Beautiful answers that question by helping users make more informed decisions about the world through data visualizations based on constantly updated facts -- some of which I've featured in this post.

Created by David McCandless and his team, Information is Beautiful seeks to transform important (if sometimes somewhat complicated) data into strong and understandable visualizations.




The infographics cover a range of vital topics such as health, energy, and society. I appreciate how these images inspire me to think of dense information in new ways.

The Information is Beautiful team has also made all their datasets freely available, so you can dig into the numbers yourself (and check the veracity of their graphics if you like!)

Check out the related website called Beautiful News that serves up daily infographics highlighting data-rich topics focused on current events.





Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"