Earlier this month, Bill and I attended the annual mameeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Richmond, Virginia. I was fortunate to be able to chair a session on our project No Idea is Too Ridiculous, accompanied by the fabulous Kathy McLean, principal of Independent Exhibitions, and three project participants: Matt Shoemaker, Director of Digital Collections and Systems at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Kristin Qualls, Collections and Exhibit Specialist at The Franklin Institute; and Laura Keim, Curator at Wyck.
We got off to a truly ridiculous start, when just as we were about to begin the session, a circuit blew and we lost power to our laptops, projector and microphones. But the A/V techs came to our rescue, and we did the session as we'd planned (without needing to substitute interpretive dance for the slides we'd prepared). To a packed room, Kathy talked about how easy it is for museum professionals to become burdened by organizational conservatism and feelings of isolation (among other things). The No Idea project was designed to allow participants to address those challenges while finding ways to do projects that were new for them and their organizations—to practice risk-taking and creativity.
Matt, Kristin, and Laura all described their experiences participating in the experiment, and the projects they did with their teams (for more information on the projects, please click here). We got some great questions from the audience (Q: “Did you ever feel fear during the process?” A: [from everyone] “yes!”). The feedback we’ve gotten so far suggests that at least some of those who attended were inspired to push back at some of their own organizational constraints and try something new. Thanks to my co-presenters, who made that possible by being so clear and open about their own process and challenges.