Staying Alive Strategies for Dealing with Change and Increasing Professional Viability Heidi S. Raatz Minneapolis Institut...
 
http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/31099/timeline-museums-and-the-recession/
 
 
<ul><li>Embrace it. </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity v. loss </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborate </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate </li...
2. Define it. <ul><li>Discuss </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Role & Responsibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><...
3. Prove it.
4. Change it up.
 
 
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Staying Alive: Strategies for Dealign with Change and Increasing Professional Viability

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Heidi S. Raatz, Minneapolis Institute of Arts presentation at VRA 28 Atlanta.

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2010 Atlanta – Session 2: Staying Alive – Strategies for Dealing with Change & Increasing Professional Viability
[ppt slide – session title]

A little over a year ago, as a result of the worsening global economic crisis, museums nationwide—actually worldwide—began announcing grim news.

[ppt slide – layoff headlines]
[ppt slide – timeline ]

At Minneapolis Institute of Arts we had all been called upon to creatively think about revenue streams, check budgets, reduce projected expenditures, anything to help. Still, it was not enough. On Wednesday March 4, 2009 an urgent all-staff e-mail called everyone to a 4:30pm meeting in the auditorium.

[ppt slide – layoff news, MIA]

19 of our colleagues lost their jobs that day. Additional staff were laid off the following week. Morale plummeted. Our new director Kaywin Feldman called it, “…the worst day of my professional career.”

Job change can be stressful in the best of times. Instant, unexpected, out of left field job change? Well…it can leave you feeling a bit like this.
[ppt slide – wipeout]

But the title of this session is “Staying Alive”, so let’s shift our focus. I’d like to suggest that—once past the shock—these rapid changes are also opportunities for us to help reshape what our visual resources profession will mean in the future.

[ppt slide – embrace it]
Embrace the change. Initially such change seems terrifying and daunting. Do what you can to view the changes to your situation as an opportunity rather than a loss. Define what it is that you bring to this change to make it work best for you and for your employer. If you have not yet been called upon to do so, now is certainly the time to begin thinking more in terms of your skills as information and collection managers and less about the particulars of our "traditional" visual resources job responsibilities. It could also be the time to evaluate the collections you have so carefully nurtured and curated over the years, thinking in terms of the specialized, unique content contained within and how best to showcase, preserve and share these materials.

My advice is that it is absolutely essential for visual resources professionals to involve themselves in every opportunity that comes their way to collaborate interdepartmentally -- and if none come your way then seek them out! There is danger in being seen purely as a specialized service or resource for one thing. You also need to communicate and share your expertise on projects and initiatives that serve an institution-wide function, particularly if this function is directly tied to the mission or strategic plan of your institution. It's about YOU and the skills, expertise and training you have that applies to various projects and initiatives.

[ppt slide – Define It]
Define the change. Job change for me at MIA meant being assigned responsibility for the museum’s rights and permissions workflow in addition to continuing duties for managing the museum’s collection of digital assets. Permissions, formerly a half-time permanent position, was one of the jobs lost in museum layoffs. Administrative changes also resulted in my joining a new department, Photo Services, moving office space, and reporting to a new supervisor. Luckily in my case I had worked with my new boss, the museum’s chief photographer Dan Dennehy, as part of our Digital Assets Management team. One of the first things Dan did as my new supervisor was to meet with me to discuss my new role, responsibilities and the department I would be joining. We also met with Dan’s supervisor, the Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, to further define how the department – not just me alone – would tackle our new permissions responsibilities and how our work addressed the museum’s mission and specific goals of the strategic plan.

It

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  • 2010 Atlanta – Session 2: Staying Alive – Strategies for Dealing with Change & Increasing Professional Viability
    [ppt slide – session title]

    A little over a year ago, as a result of the worsening global economic crisis, museums nationwide—actually worldwide—began announcing grim news.

    [ppt slide – layoff headlines]
    [ppt slide – timeline ]

    At Minneapolis Institute of Arts we had all been called upon to creatively think about revenue streams, check budgets, reduce projected expenditures, anything to help. Still, it was not enough. On Wednesday March 4, 2009 an urgent all-staff e-mail called everyone to a 4:30pm meeting in the auditorium.

    [ppt slide – layoff news, MIA]

    19 of our colleagues lost their jobs that day. Additional staff were laid off the following week. Morale plummeted. Our new director Kaywin Feldman called it, “…the worst day of my professional career.”

    Job change can be stressful in the best of times. Instant, unexpected, out of left field job change? Well…it can leave you feeling a bit like this.
    [ppt slide – wipeout]

    But the title of this session is “Staying Alive”, so let’s shift our focus. I’d like to suggest that—once past the shock—these rapid changes are also opportunities for us to help reshape what our visual resources profession will mean in the future.

    [ppt slide – embrace it]
    Embrace the change. Initially such change seems terrifying and daunting. Do what you can to view the changes to your situation as an opportunity rather than a loss. Define what it is that you bring to this change to make it work best for you and for your employer. If you have not yet been called upon to do so, now is certainly the time to begin thinking more in terms of your skills as information and collection managers and less about the particulars of our 'traditional' visual resources job responsibilities. It could also be the time to evaluate the collections you have so carefully nurtured and curated over the years, thinking in terms of the specialized, unique content contained within and how best to showcase, preserve and share these materials.

    My advice is that it is absolutely essential for visual resources professionals to involve themselves in every opportunity that comes their way to collaborate interdepartmentally -- and if none come your way then seek them out! There is danger in being seen purely as a specialized service or resource for one thing. You also need to communicate and share your expertise on projects and initiatives that serve an institution-wide function, particularly if this function is directly tied to the mission or strategic plan of your institution. It's about YOU and the skills, expertise and training you have that applies to various projects and initiatives.

    [ppt slide – Define It]
    Define the change. Job change for me at MIA meant being assigned responsibility for the museum’s rights and permissions workflow in addition to continuing duties for managing the museum’s collection of digital assets. Permissions, formerly a half-time permanent position, was one of the jobs lost in museum layoffs. Administrative changes also resulted in my joining a new department, Photo Services, moving office space, and reporting to a new supervisor. Luckily in my case I had worked with my new boss, the museum’s chief photographer Dan Dennehy, as part of our Digital Assets Management team. One of the first things Dan did as my new supervisor was to meet with me to discuss my new role, responsibilities and the department I would be joining. We also met with Dan’s supervisor, the Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, to further define how the department – not just me alone – would tackle our new permissions responsibilities and how our work addressed the museum’s mission and specific goals of the strategic plan.

    It is imperative to clarify details such as your job description, reporting hierarchy and compensation as soon as possible after job changes are instituted. Doing so in a collegial and cooperative manner, with everyone involved and strategizing as a team, only helps to ensure success for you and your new colleagues. Dan suggested the renaming of the department from Photo Services to Visual Resources. For me this was a clear signal of his willingness to redefine departmental procedures and workflows as well as an indication of our respectful working relationship.

    [ppt slide – Prove It (four-armed Heidi)]
    Prove the change. They’ve retained you—show them they were right. Daunting as it may seem, everyone, including you, will benefit from your quick mastering of new assignments. Believe me, I knew precious little about managing museum rights and permissions prior to the end of March 2009. Nevertheless, I was handed a bunch of files, a neglected database, a second e-mail account bursting with work-in-progress requests, and 'et voila!' instant rights and permissions expert! Just add copious amounts of coffee and a second set of arms!

    In all seriousness, I knew that in the face of economic downturn there were assistant registrars, IT department staff, librarians and curatorial administrators out there in museums and academic collections feeling very similar feelings about their newly acquired visual resources duties and responsibilities. These are amazingly challenging times for our profession as well as the professions of others. We have quite a lot we can learn from each other to grow our profession in new directions.

    [ppt slide – Change It Up]
    Finally, change it up. The new work isn’t necessarily “dumped” on you. Regard it as work assigned because someone saw you as an individual up to the task. My perspectives on image rights issues and assessment of the existing permissions workflow led to changes and improvements in the process, forms, correspondence, and documentation. We’ve now implemented efficiencies and improvements in service. We continue to strategize about ways to streamline the workflow via e-forms, self-service image downloading, and online payment mechanisms. In the process of integrating my new rights and permissions responsibilities with my former cataloging and organizational responsibilities for the digital image collection, the museum has benefited from better data integration, adherence to standards, and consistency of information between our collections management database and our digital assets management system. We’re doing a better job of tracking information on rights holders and contacts in addition to systematically identifying works that are in the public domain, resulting in benefits for image users inside of and external to the museum.

    Museums vary a lot in terms of organizational structures and no doubt in the face of the economic crisis each museum administration sought out their own solution to staff reduction while retaining essential services. I had been aligned with the museum Library, reporting to the Head Librarian. This made sense in that the Slide Library was viewed as a discreet collection of resources, much like the book collection or the museum archives, and I shared a similar background in competencies and education. When visual resources became less and less about a discreet collection of analog materials that were physically circulated, I became a member of the interdepartmental team responsible for identifying and implementing our museum’s DAMS. Digital Assets Team members were from Photo Services, Interactive Media, Information Systems, Visual Resources Library, and later our Technology Training Specialist.

    After the layoffs and restructuring of March 2009 I’m now a member of the Visual Resources Department. Why? Perhaps within the context of MIA it was seen as logical that my work had a meaningful connection with the work of those who were creating the images archived in MediaBin. Permissions became a responsibility of the Visual Resources Department for much the same reason. We are the ones creating the images, perhaps it follows that we should be the ones responsible for the distribution of images to those requesting them internally and externally.

    So far the logic is making sense and paying off in more efficient workflows for image creation, documentation, accessibility, distribution and rights. Visual Resources has become a key department for the museum’s social media communications via our facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts as well. As an added benefit, I’m working with a wonderful, lively and creative department of professionals who have helped to spark new interest in and perspectives on my visual resources career and role within the museum.
    [ppt slide – lunchtime sledding]
    And sometimes they are simply a heckuva lot of fun to hang out with.

    (thank you)
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Staying Alive: Strategies for Dealign with Change and Increasing Professional Viability

  1. 1. Staying Alive Strategies for Dealing with Change and Increasing Professional Viability Heidi S. Raatz Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  2. 3. http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/31099/timeline-museums-and-the-recession/
  3. 6. <ul><li>Embrace it. </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity v. loss </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborate </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate </li></ul>
  4. 7. 2. Define it. <ul><li>Discuss </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Role & Responsibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reporting Hierarchy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Job Description & Compensation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strategize and Establish </li></ul>
  5. 8. 3. Prove it.
  6. 9. 4. Change it up.
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