Happy first birthday to Museum Drip!!
This is also the first post I’m writing on my new, functioning laptop and WOW. I feel like I could actually be successful one day now that I have the proper tools. Once I can afford to pay this bad boy off, it’s over for you bitches. (Little museum salary joke for ya there.)
As I’ve been celebrating over on the social medias this week, my first post, “Don’t Throw Van Gogh Babies Out with the Racist Bathwater,” was published about one year ago on July 6, 2020. I populated the website with a few posts and invited friends that I trusted not to make fun of me to view it a few weeks later, on July 31, 2020. Even with only one year’s distance, it’s hard to comprehend how different life felt last July. My friends and I were just reflecting on how we had imagined ailments all the time, self-diagnosing with life-threatening illnesses, because we felt panic about control over our bodies that seemed impossible to quell. The museum world and a lot of other industries were the same way – it felt like everything was literally, tangibly crashing down around us.
I’ve been in the “museum world” for about a decade. It’s a weird, exclusive, yet at the same time not elite, club. Once while I was in graduate school, a classmate’s partner invited some people they worked with to a party they were throwing. The friends leaned in close to me towards the edge of the night and finally confessed, “everyone has been saying they know each from ‘The Program.’ What….is ‘The Program’? Are you guys all in AA?” We were referring to our degree program and assumed that everyone would know what we meant. This is exactly what being in the museum world is like. Sure, you “belong” to something, but people don’t get it and they don’t necessarily think it connotes anything desirable. I had my observations about this weird cult for years, and I desperately wanted to be able to talk to like-minded people about them. The conferences I attended and newsletters I read just seemed to keep missing the mark on how real people were affected in the real world by some of the ~quirks~ of our chosen profession. I wanted an avenue to speak openly and in un-coded language. I wanted to create a space for people who couldn’t afford to attend conferences or who maybe don’t have another person in their department to commiserate with.
Fittingly for a museum educator, I’m an extremely hands-on, experiential learner. I can’t really absorb information and then do the thing – I have to learn by doing. It’s probably why I’m so committed to my chosen profession. By getting all of my thoughts and ideas about museums out into the world and getting feedback, I’ve managed to turn my churning jumble of thoughts into a direction and a purpose.
I talk a lot about resisting toxic negativity through this platform. I talk about intersections between working in museums and what I’ve learned in therapy. I reject hot takes because I think it’s important to talk things through. Regardless, the proof is in the analytics that negative posts get more engagement, and my DMs show me how futile people think it is to work towards bending towards change. One of the biggest things I’ve grappled with over the last year is – am I naive for choosing to find the good in things? Is it just my privilege speaking that makes me want to fight for that good instead of burning everything down? Is there anything worth saving – in the “museum world,” in America, in humanity?
By writing 5,000 words a month for the last year, I’ve affirmed that it’s not in my nature to stick to the negative. As we explored in “There’s a Little Bit of Sand Left in the Hourglass” and “Soldiers, Don’t Give Yourself to Brutes,” I know I’m opening myself up to criticism if I say positive things, and that’s ok. My platform doesn’t need to be for everyone. What I’ve realized and affirmed is that what I really want to be doing is the exact same thing I’ve been wanting to do since I was 19 and first learned that you could work in an art museum: to make art museums, and the visual arts, welcoming. I want young people to know that being an artist is a viable career path with tons of job placement options. I want people who aren’t artists to realize that expressing yourself creatively is just another basic human need, like moving your body and exercising your brain. I don’t want to meet a single person who feels intimidated by an invitation to stroll around an art museum. I want to demystify art-making and the myth of the Great Artist. All of these things will not be possible to do without radical love for the spaces and processes by which we experience art and human creativity.
Of course – in order to make art museums, the visual arts, and academia welcoming, they must be criticized. Focusing on how to make art museums more welcoming won’t change my indictments of injustice, prejudice, the patriarchy and classicism. The battle for the “museum world” and places of privilege like academia and the arts lies in dismantling the ivory tower. You can read Don’t Throw Van Gogh Babies Out with the Racist Bathwater, Between Hashtags and Hegemony, The Academia to Museum Pipeline, Can You Explain This to Me, or any posts published here from January-March of 2021 to get a quick refresher on how the museum world historically excludes. I wanted to write “is historically exclusive” but that has like a fun connotation. You can read Museums Got Expensive Habits, C.R.E.A.M.: Museums, Money and Accessibility and Advancing Advancement for more on how museums try to appear to be ~exclusive~ in the hot way, but really just exclude people in a mean way.
Throughout the summer I’ve got mostly fun stuff planned for the blog – more Blockbusters, for example – but come fall, my content will gain a tighter focus. I’ll be devoting each post to a way in which museums can be more welcoming. This might mean more resource round-ups to demonstrate great work at museums across the country (because Everything is Not New All the Time), specific action items that can be implemented, or observations on what has not worked in my experience and how you can avoid making the same mistakes. It will mean that I will find ways to talk more about my own professional experiences, as someone who’s fearlessly led toddlers and infants through museums, as well as facilitated high-level speaker series, and everything in between. It will also mean calling out outdated, unfair and discriminatory museum practices and pointing out where corruption or endemic museum problems are stemming from. It might mean that posts are slightly less connected to headlines and current events, but if I can pull it off, there might be new tools that can fill the space in between a long Instagram post and a full blog post. Stay tuned.
THANK YOU to my little community for sticking it out with me over the past year. Thank you for enjoying my chatty writing style, perfect gifs and weird jokes. Thanks for telling me what you want to know about the museum world, what you enjoy reading about, and sharing my posts. And remember why we’re doing this: museums might not seem like the most important thing to focus on during a period in which the world has quite literally gone mad, but museums, for better or worse, are the keepers of Western culture. Perhaps what we put in them and how we think about them is worth a little more attention.