November 15, 2019
Northern States Conservation Center
Collections Caretaker eNewsletter
10 Leadership Reflections
|Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue
10 Leadership Reflections form 30,000 feet
2020 Course List
10 Leadership Reflections from 30,000 Feet
I don't know about you, but when I am besieged with obligations, meetings, and deadlines, I make lists. Over time the lists become a bit of a joke because things that weren't accomplished one week don't always move forward to the next. Instead they occupy a sort of list purgatory, haunting me as I go about my days. You may have a better way of organizing things. Your lists may be digital. Perhaps you're more efficient, but however you make your way through your tasks, there is always a certain satisfaction in the strike-through, marking something as done, finished, complete, and off your plate for a while.
But then, and maybe this doesn't happen to you, there is another sort of list. It's the list from 30,000 feet. It's always with me, a reminder of ways of being, things I need to focus on, ways I need to be more intentional. This week Anne Ackerson and I read papers from our Johns Hopkins University students regarding leadership at museums, zoos, and heritage organizations undergoing challenge and change. As I read them--many discuss museums that have been in the news for one thing or another--I am struck again, by how complex leadership is, how many moving parts there are, and how important it is that the personal integrate with the organizational.
As I've said here about a million times, reflection in leadership is key. So in that spirit, here are 10 things on my 30,000-foot leadership list for this fall.
- Remembering to pause: whether it's going outside for 15 minutes for a walk; sitting with a non-work friend over coffee; laughing. Life isn't all work.
- Understanding my organization's origin story: Acknowledging the work, gifts, and goals of those who came before me, while moving forward in a world that's changed and changing, and creating a way to make the two work together.
- Listening: Spending part of every day, not waiting to speak, but actually listening.
- Remembering not to judge: Trying to make my go-to be to understand, to empathize, and to be present rather than to judge.
- Acknowledging accomplishments: You've all probably read about Anne's accomplishment jar. I am thinking about creating a team accomplishment jar where our program can acknowledge its best moments over the course of the year. Sometimes it does take a village.
- Making my observations my obligation: Standing up for injustice, for inequity, for the minor--the constant interrupter in staff meetings who rides herd over more reserved colleagues--to the major--the colleague who's bullied or harassed.
- Looking for the through-lines, whether in history, race, gender, environment and class: I work with a collection created by white men in a different age, for a different age. I need to re-center, educate, and through acquisition bring community and collection into alignment.
- Give back to the field: In many ways I've been very, very lucky. I've managed to make a living, to use my imagination, to work in beautiful places, surrounded by interesting collections. I must always give back, pay it forward, and help those following behind.
- Make sure everyone's at the table: From the board to the front-line staff, make sure we represent our communities. And then do my best to make sure all voices are heard equitably, whether in an exhibition or a staff meeting.
- Values permeate the workplace too: While values are important in the front of the house--see #7--they are also important in our workspaces. Leaders content to ignore inequitable pay and benefits are leaders perpetuating the worst kind of patriarchal system. See #6.
Your list may be different, but I hope you have one. Having one fuels forward movement and change.
Thoughts on 21st Century museum leadership by Anne Ackerson and Joan Baldwin
For more information on Leadership please check out other articles from this Blog.
Featured Course:The Basics of Museum Registration
Collections management is a critical component of running a museum. Most
museums have collections and these collections drive the public functions and activities of the institution. Collections management is the physical and intellectual management of these items. In this course we will examine how information is collected and recorded for each object brought into the collection - a process called registration. We will also examine the policies that govern what is brought into the collection, including the most important piece of institutional policy--the museum mission statement. These policies are assembled into the collections management 'bible'--the registration manual. At the end of this course you should have a clear understanding of how and why collections are documented in museums and the governing principles that drive daily museum activities.
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from
30 days prior to the start of that course.
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at
The Early Bird Discount deadline for January Courses is December 7, 2019
2020 Course List
Confirmed courses for 2020. More courses will added to our Course List as they are confirmed in our schedule.
Conferences and Meetings
Archaeological Institute of America/Society for Classical Studies, Washington, DC
January 2-5, 2020
Society for Historical Archaeology, Boston, MA
January 8-11, 2020
California Association of Museums, Los Angeles, CA
March 4-6, 2020
Texas Association of Museums, Bryan College Station, TX
April 13-16, 2020
Museum Store Association, Cleveland, OH
June 21-25, 2020
Association of Midwest Museums, Milwaukee, WI July 22-25, 2020
Museums Association New York, Albany, NY
March 29-31, 2020
American Alliance of Museums, San Francisco, CA
May 17-20, 2020
Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, Alamosa, CO
April 15-18, 2020
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Edinburgh, Scotland
June 7-13, 2020
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
June 17-20, 2020
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Boston/Sturbridge, MA
Society of American Archivists/Council of State Archivists, Chicago, IL
August 2-8, 2020
Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Sioux Falls, SD
September 1-4, 2020
Oklahoma Museums Association, Enid, OK
September 16-18, 2020
Smithsonian Institution and Office of Protection Services
National Conference on Cultural Property Protection, Los Angeles, CA
September 21-23, 2020
American Association of State and Local History, Las Vegas, NV
September 23-26, 2020
Western Museums Association, Portland, OR October 8-11, 2020
Southeastern Museums Conference, Louisville, KY
October 19-21, 2020
New England Museum Association, Newport, RI
November 18-20, 2020
National Association for Interpretation, Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection
Dates and Location coming soon
Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Wilmington, DE Dates TBA
American Alliance of Museums, Chicago, IL
May 9-12, 2021
National Association for Interpretation, Palm Springs, CA
November 3-December 4, 2021
American Alliance of Museums, Boston MA
May 19-22, 2022
National Association for Interpretation, Cleveland, OH
November 29-Decemver 3, 2022
American Alliance of Museums, Denver, CO
May 19-22, 2023
Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month.
Have a comment or suggestion?
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager