Meeting in the Middle

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on October 28th, 2008

Most days I am perfectly content to work with and speak only to objects. This might sound like I have gone around the bend but each object in our collection is exceptional and it is my job to interpret that story when designing exhibitions. While working alone has its benefits, even the best of us need inspiration at times and the annual meeting of the Association of Midwest Museums held October 21-24 in Kansas City provided just the lift I needed.

Usually, Midwest museum professionals from seven states comprise the meeting, but this year the 10 state Mountain-Plains Association joined our group in Kansas City—therefore, meeting in the middle.

The four days were filled with informational sessions on museum-related topics including fundraising, developing children’s programs, and ensuring visitor-safe facilities. Other events filling the days included inspirational keynote speakers, an exposition hall with cutting-edge museum technology and supplies, and evening events highlighting local museum collections with the added enticement of sampling local cuisine during the visit.

Along with listening comes the need to participate, which I did, by teaming with two colleagues to form a panel that discussed the crucial need for museum registrars to understand and interpret the language commonly used when recording the condition of objects. This meeting of the minds is important for both the long-term care of the object as well as ensuring its safe return to its lender. More than 75 colleagues joined in the discussion, brainstorming ideas to improve communication.

This week I am back in the office with a renewed vigor and a dose of reality. I move forward using more concise language when writing condition reports, consult a longer list of colleagues to contact when in need of assistance, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for both my colleagues at the Woodson and the greater museum community who are ready and willing at any time to share ideas, lend a hand, or meet me somewhere in the middle.

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