Some end-of-year reading on museums, silos, learning, racism, leadership, and climate
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This is a pretty long list of articles, so I'll keep the narratives brief. Many of the articles listed here relate to multiple areas of focus, so my choices are probably pretty arbitrary, but what isn't in the content game?
Now I know that many of my links are not directly museum-related, but I think they're all important for museum folks to consider in their own discussions and decision-making. There's a reason I included a link about Netflix investing in Black-owned banks as a budget line and not charity—museums need to consider the involvement of people in neighboring areas as a business decision and an ethically just thing to do, not just a philanthropic "nice to have" separate from the organizational bottom line for when "times are good."
In so many ways, we in museums need to expand our idea of what it means to work in a museum and what museum work means. Otherwise, we're going to be hiding in our own silos as things continue to deteriorate.
So let's start, beginning with articles tightly focused on museums and then moving outwards.
A recent newsletter from org culture guru Stowe Boyd included a link to this piece, "Do you really want that promotion?" And while it seems to validate the new non-hustle mentality, the article still defines leadership as "going up." Too many leadership programs, in museums and elsewhere, have an end goal of creating a new generation of leaders who are separate from the rest of the staff and have special, uniquely-taught-and-shared skills that they then practice on others. Museum leadership needs a serious re-conceptualization.
The crisis of racism
This Medium piece from Umair Haque explains everything you need to know about racism in tech titan companies, and why nobody cares enough because the Facebooks of the world mostly harm women and minorities.
Wired had this article about Netflix investing in Black-owned banks (though $100 million to Netflix is just some cash lying around). At least the company is treating this as a budget-line expenditure and not just philanthropy.
HBR wrote about "sharing our stories" to build inclusion, but the question is whether this builds understanding or just a practice of white people searching their own lives in a game of find-a-moment-of-imperfection. It's not clear this practice will change org structures.
This piece from Medium is a reminder that the conversation around climate collapse is still primarily individualized, leaving big conglomerates free to continue polluting. (The same blog described how new financial tools are also allowing corporations to buy nature for their own purposes.)
Could the blockchain actually help keep track of climate damage? It's not the worst idea to come out of this space gummed up with scams and schemes.
Finally, I was led to this particular philosopher by the work of colleague Briana Parker about museums and the climate. Timothy Morton's conception of hyperobjects (read here and here) can encompass overarching realities such as the climate and the pandemic. While this might seem academic, I believe engaging with these concepts as we would with physical entities can increase our hope. (I was reminded of sci-fi author Robert Charles Wilson's short story The Perseidsand Caryl Churchill's play Far Away, both of which feature realities where almost everything—from the greatest universe-spanning entities to the smallest iota of nature—is at war, or at least potentially an adversary. There are other higher-dimensional-beings stories like Greg Egan's hard-sf Diasporaand Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker.) It's easy in this society to fall into war-of-all-against-all mindsets, and I'll discuss that next week and next year, but couldn't we also find our way to union-of-all-with-all?
I hope you enjoy, or at least bookmark, these links. Stay tuned next week for a review of the top themes of Museum Human in 2021 and then the final everyone-out-of-the-pool Links of the Week for the year.
cover photo by Mor Shani / Unsplash [description: a sign reading "everything is temporary" next to a flower in a pot and a plant on a chair, on a gravel track in a park, with industrial buildings in the background]