January 2016

Reflecting on the Year Ahead

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind us, I love the beginning of the New Year because it offers us an opportunity to take a step back from our work, to reflect on what has happened throughout the past year, and to look ahead to things we’d like to accomplish in the year ahead. I finally have the opportunity to tackle the pile of books that has been growing on my shelf! In Trendswatch 2015, Elizabeth Merritt mentions reflection as something we should foster in our visitors, but it’s also something we need to do as professionals. As we finish one project or program, the next one is already calling our attention and we have to move on quickly. Time for reflection in our field is rare, yet crucial, for our professional well-being.

Conferences allow us some of this space to reflect. In November, museum staff from all over New England traveled to Portland, ME for the 97th annual NEMA conference. Fellow board member, Elisabeth Nevins, and I hosted a session—or rather an “unsession”—on the future of museum education. We solicited a variety of topics from participants and colleagues to discuss both before and during the session. In the session educators discussed visitor-centered experiences, inclusiveness, marketing and messaging and evaluation. Each roundtable discussion focused on a particular topic and was abuzz with conversation, passion and camaraderie. It was thrilling to see how much conversation could be generated so quickly and thoughtfully right on the spot.

The conference also reinforced how important a publication like the Journal of Museum Education (JME) is to our field. People had so many important thoughts and experiences to share just within a 90 minute session.The JME offers colleagues the opportunity to expand on these important conversations, to reflect and share experiences more widely, which keeps the dialogue going. In 2016 the JME will be tackling big picture topics like engaging adult learners (February) and the social mission of museums through programs focused on health and wellness (May). Both topics worthy of continuing conversations.

In addition to reading journals, books, and blogs from the field, I’d encourage you to make writing about your work one of your New Year’s resolutions. Cynthia Robinson, JME Editor-in-Chief and Director of Museum Studies at Tufts University, often says that writing is one of the best ways to reflect on what you do. We know that writing can be daunting when you have so much on your plate already, but it’s a wonderful way to think deeply about what you are doing and really focus on the process, challenges and rewards of your work—and it looks great on your resume! We’d love to share what you have to say on the JME40 blog, or if you’d like to write for the JME, we are always looking for new authors. Resources like the JME, and other publishing platforms, provide important opportunities to share the work that we do in order to assist and inspire current and future colleagues.

In 2016, we start an exciting partnership with Taylor & Francis/Routledge Publishing (T&F) that will allow us to offer many new perks to our members. We will begin publishing the JME four times per year, providing even more content through guest-edited sections and single submission articles. T&F recently digitized the entire 40 volumes of the JME, for easy online access. And finally, through T&F we are offering free online access to the Visitor Studies Association (VSA) journal. “VSA is a membership organization dedicated to understanding and enhancing learning experiences in informal settings through research, evaluation, and dialogue.” (VSA website)

As we look forward to this new relationship with T&F, and all that it offers MER members, I’d like to take a moment to sincerely thank Maney Publishing and Left Coast Press for their hard work and professionalism in publishing the JME for the past 10 years!

Wishing you many engaging conversations and opportunities for reflection in 2016, whether it’s reading, writing, or chatting over a cup of coffee with a colleague!

Brooke DiGiovanni Evans is the Head of Gallery Learning at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She’s worked in the museum field for 15 years in history, science, natural history and art museums in New England. She currently serves as President of the Board of the Museum Education Roundtable and as a peer reviewer for the Journal of Museum Education.

Opening photo credit: “Happy New Year 2016” by iluvgadgets, via Flickr.