Monday, October 16, 2017

Little Free Library Meets the Museum

A small wooden box full of books on a post in front of a house, in a field, or on a country road may not seem immediately inspirational. Yet, somehow these book exchange boxes popping up everywhere through the Little Free Library (LFL) have captured imaginations and inspired strangers to share books with others.
Little Free Library at Settergren's hardware store

Ever since I saw my first one outside of Settergren’s Hardware in Minneapolis about 7 years ago I’ve been following the growth of these book hutches with curiosity and interest. Not long after seeing one at Settergren’s, I saw one in Richland Center and another one in Mineral Point (WI) and made my then 90-year old parents stop so I could take pictures of them. Knowing of my delight in Little Free Library, my Dutch pen-pal sent me a photo of one in Leeuwarden where she lives.

Little Free Library was started by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in 2010 in Hudson (WI), just across the river from the Twin Cities. As of fall 2016, there were over 50,000 LFL in all 50 U.S. states and in 70 countries. 

LFL’s 3 commitments–increasing book access, building community, and sparking creativity–reinforce one another with natural ease.
The on-line introduction to LFL and how to get started are both practical and inspirational. Five easy steps for setting up a library include a material list, plans for building, directions for installing one, and guidelines for finding funds. More tips for building support, filling shelves with books, and replacing them are easy to find. Registering a Library brings with it an official charter sign and charter number.

In sharing the plans, tips, and videos of designs and construction from others, LFL expands the range of solutions for making books accessible, highlights creativity, and supports a community joined by passion, whimsy, and a love of reading. Builders have improvised designs and customized decorations that reflect personal interests, local architectural styles, and regional pride. Libraries are fashioned as an Amish shed, a Vermont covered bridge, and a British phone booth. Some stewards add reading lights and benches; others create small gardens around the library’s post; and some even leave power bars and snacks for hungry readers.

Once books fill the shelves, a library takes on a life of its own, strengthening connections between people
Tudor style library matches its house
who know one another and creating connections between book friends who will probably never meet. Neighbors gather at a library and chat. When passersby stop, browse, take a book, and sometimes leave a book, there’s a sense that someone who cares about reading left this book for a reason. Fans and book friends leave notes of thanks. Reluctant readers leave messages about being inspired to read. At least one homeless reader left a note of thanks for access to books.
LFL also inspires significant community efforts. In 2013, the Minneapolis School District collaborated with LFL to establish a library on every block in north Minneapolis, one of the most impoverished districts in the city. A group in Lake Worth (FL) set a goal to place 100 libraries in the city, a project that involved school children, neighbors, and the Vice Mayor. An even bolder vision is being realized by a Sudanese woman who has set a goal to establish 1,000 libraries in her country.

Where are LFL at museums?
The Pink Palace Museum Little Free Library
Museums seem to be natural hosts for libraries with their interest in building community connections, being a good neighbor, activating community partnerships, and in nurturing reading. Several museums have installed libraries on their sites including the following.

• The Little Free Library at the Blairstown Museum in Blairstown (NJ) is “designed to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering a neighborhood book exchange.” 
• The Little Free Library in front of the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis (TN) is a replica of the museum’s façade including its distinctive pink Georgia marble and green tile roof. The museum hopes that by hosting a place for people who visit and those living next to exchange books it can be an active part of its community. 
• The Children’s Museum in Bloomsburg (PA) is a collaboration between the museum and the 4 county branch libraries.
• The Neville Public Museum in GreenBay (WI) installed a library on its grounds in spring 2017 built to look like its original home.

Almost any museum could install a library in front of its building inviting passersby to pause, browse, and take a book. Selected books could relate to museum exhibits and programs, feature local authors, or celebrate the region's history. Designed to be consistent with the museum’s brand and possibly offering seating, a museum can make its library into an inviting and distinctive place. Inside, libraries might be located in exhibits as book nooks offering visitors opportunities to dig into a topic or pursue a question or read for the joy of it. Designated spots for collecting books can help support the exchange.

For some museums, LFL could be more than a rotating collection of free books. Rather it might be an opportunity to advance a museum’s broader interests and goals and create greater impact for children, families, neighbors, or residents. (Check out LFL’s Impact Library Program.) Just as the LFL organization’s 3 commitments (increasing book access, building community, and sparking creativity) readily reinforce one another, a museum’s LFL initiative could be a strategy aligned with broader goals, linked with other museum initiatives, and at the heart of an established partnership. Goals might include increasing access to books for community members and encouraging a love of reading; building awareness of local resources; strengthening a sense of community; introducing the museum to new audiences; sharing resources; or extending learning beyond the museum’s wall. Partners and collaborators might be a neighborhood group, community clinic, libraries, the parks department, the school district, or a local clinic.  

Community-based projects in North Minneapolis, Lake Worth, and Sudan are evidence that these libraries are scalable. They can be laid out across a neighborhood, city, county, or country. The possibilities of a geographic focus are open-ended as an example from Visit Seattle that has 9 LFL library book exchanges shows. A strategy to promote Seattle and invite visits, these libraries are in Austin (TX), Boston (MA), and Chicago (IL). Each library is stocked with books that relate to Seattle (by author, subject, or setting). While a museum might not be marketing to tourists across the country, it may be trying to reach and serve audience in rural areas, connect with a nearby tourist area, or have a sister city relationship in another country. Just as the Visit Seattle libraries are thoroughly Seattle (one is made to look like a Seattle ferry), a museum’s libraries could be made to look like the building, an exhibit, local icon, or a popular landmark. 

Book exchange boxes can offer information and activities as well as books. Depending on the focus of the library or selected themes, there could be bookmarks or booklists to pick up; question of the week to investigate; program or event flyers for the museum; simple directions for how to make a book or a cardboard gizmo; or maps of where other libraries are located. Possible extensions are likely to emerge from topics, collaboration, location, and frequenters of the library.   

Mineral Point, (WI)
In taking a LFL project out into the neighborhood, community, or countryside, a museum starts a journey that could go almost anywhere. It might be possible for…

• Libraries to be a project in a museum’s maker space
• Neighbors to paint the boxes to celebrate their neighborhood
• Community members to study the area proposed for the libraries and decide their locations
• Museum partners to collect books to keep the supply going
• Libraries to be located along a bike trail
• Library users to send photos of themselves and their books

What other ideas do you have about how museums could use the Little Free Library?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In Between Research, Practice, and Theory

Habitat Series by Alois Kronschlaeger

I have had a long, strong, although not necessarily steadily-worked, interest in a closer connection between theory, research and practice in schools and museums. I’m not sure where this came from although I do recall that in graduate school the separation of these three areas felt artificial and unproductive to a young, inquiring mind.

Action Research
A seminal experience I had before I worked in museums was working in professional development with the Madison (WI) school district. In my last few years, I facilitated several groups of K-12 grade teachers engaged in year-long action research projects. Teachers in these action research groups spent the school year questioning, observing, introducing new strategies, reflecting, and changing their practice in areas of importance to them. They were invigorated by formulating research questions that mattered to them and critiquing their own classroom practice in order to change it. Modest as it was, these studies laid the foundation for a 25-year action research program in the Madison schools.

Sometimes called collaborative (or participatory) action research, this interactive inquiry into one’s practice is a reflective, collaborative process with a goal of a deeper understanding of practice and change. It moves through stages of looking at current practice, planning and gathering information, taking action, critical reflection on the findings, changing practice, and informing subsequent inquiry. When teachers, or designers, direct their inquiry into their own practice, a new space between research and practice opens, bringing context and relevance to research and experimentation in daily practice.  

Moving into museum work, I carried a strong sense of what pursuing an extended inquiry with others could do for a community of learners and for growing a museum. Along the way I found some practices and a few projects using this approach–just enough to keep the possibility alive.

In an early project at Minnesota Children’s Museum we used action research to investigate exhibit safety. With its rapid, iterative inquiry process, prototyping also brought research and practice together Sometimes small research studies around museum practices (design, visitor experience, interaction, learning, or play) were grounded in learning frameworks. Three children’s museums used action research to continue investigating results of an exploratory study on play at their museums. I have also come across museum proefessionals exploring questions of practice using action research, here and here.

Museums introduced me to documentation, a practice developed in the Municipal Schools in Reggio Emilia. A shared, iterative, reflective process, documentation is both a way of working (practice) and researching that starts at the beginning of a project, not its conclusion. The 4-step process begins with generating hypotheses about what teachers think they might find through the exploration. Observation takes many forms: mental (and written) notes, photos, video, transcriptions of remarks and conversations, drawings, and material explorations. Interpretation reviews and reflects on the collected record of children’s thinking, individually and with colleagues, in a generative way. Relaunch considers the most significant elements that appear to have advanced the learning process and where children's explorations might go next. Part of the daily life of the school, documentation is intent on getting at the deeper structure of learning in this setting.

From my experience, documentation inspires more than a few people working in museums. Yet, because it is a challenging practice to adapt to museum settings, documentation-inspired approaches tend to be practiced at a small scale and in limited ways. What documentation offers, and, I believe, will be increasingly appreciated, is an open flow between research, practice, and theory with discipline and possibility.

Research Practice Partnerships
A recent article in Curator, Research and Practice: One Way, Two Way, No Way, or New Way? by Bronwyn Bevan, encourages me to hope for more and stronger working connections between research, practice, and theory. Bevan, a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Washington, Seattle, sees an opportunity for museums to contribute to research about learning in informal learning settings and to inhabit a larger role in the learning ecosystem. Her brief review of old ways of conceptualizing the relationship between research and practice notes the persistent dualism around them and the limited use of research in practice. A new cultural model that deeply integrates the perspectives of research and practice is one, she suggests, that co-creates knowledge through jointly negotiated research-practice partnerships, (RPP’s). Bevan describes several approaches to RPP’s including Relating Research to Practice with a set of excellent briefs summarizing research studies for raising practitioners’ awareness of research and theoretical assumptions.

Bevan’s concern with theory helps bring this more challenging piece into a closer relationship with both research and practice. Educators and designers do work with theoretical assumptions and draw on their working theories about program design, instructional strategies, the use of materials, or staff interactions in even small action research studies. Often, however, theory is in the background (or simply missing) from discussion and thinking around practice and research in museums. Theory is needed to inform conceptualizations about meaning making, place, the role of objects, engagement, etc. in these settings. Bringing theory into framing research questions and approaches more deliberately means that research findings are more likely to be useful in that specific context as well as contribute to a broader understanding of practices across contexts.

Many of the 7 characteristics of RPP’s that Bevan identifies align with qualities of action research and documentation. These are long-term explorations concerned with a pressing problem of practice and use iterative processes that test, revisit, and inform practice. These approaches engage practitioners in habits of inquiry and reflection through observing their own and others’ work to deepen and develop everyday practice. Because the questions emerge from those most involved and their particular context, the thinking, discussion, and findings have relevance to the work and setting at hand. As collaborative efforts they build shared language and understanding across teams, museums, and networks.

Possible Encounters
Integrating the perspectives of researcher, practitioner, and theory maker allows us to step closer to theory, research, and practice and to explore possible encounters among them. These usually separate endeavors become 3 reciprocal, productive practices. Daily practice is stretched and strengthened by a deeper involvement with research and awareness of theory. Research findings are integrated into a team’s practice and supporting processes. Seemingly inaccessible theory-making presents itself as a tool at multiple scales and becomes an on-going practice like research. Ultimately, daily practice is not just a by-product of research, but is, in its own way, the ultimate objective. Any one of the 3 is a starting point for museums becoming better at their practice, deepening understanding, and building knowledge.

Related Museum Notes Posts

Related Resources

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rewind: Playing with ... Loose Parts

Inspired by the hand-made felt food I saw in the diner at Madison Children’s Museum, I suggested to my friend Nina who has a family day care with her sister that we make some felt food for their brood’s dramatic play. Nina thought for a moment and politely shook her head. The children, she said, enjoyed such rich play with a changing assortment of objects used for food: pine cones, stones, bottle caps, and knobs. She wouldn’t want them to lose that. The felt food I’d seen was so appealing it was hard to let go of the idea, but I knew Nina was right.

The Theory of Loose Parts
Architect Simon Nicholson first proposed the theory of loose parts in the 1970’s at a time when adventure playgrounds in England were inspiring a rethinking of the aged and static design of American playgrounds. Nicholson believed that the loose parts in an environment offer enormous possibilities and invite creativity unlikely in settings with fixed elements. Environments are richer places for children’s play with loose parts that include everything from sand and water to sticks, plastic crates and buckets, hoses, tubing, and more. I still have my worn mimeographed  (c. 1976) copy of Nicholson's Theory of Loose Parts on goldenrod paper in my archives. Recently the idea of loose parts has begun to catch on with early childhood educators, play experts, and playspace and museum designers.

… and Found Objects
I have an addition to make to Nicholson’s Theory of Loose parts. The best loose parts are objects children find themselves and make their own. Traveling close to the ground, eyes wide open, and fingers outstretched, children notice, pick up, and become proud owners of dropped, discarded, and forgotten objects. Pebbles, sticks, plastic caps, pencil stubs, washers and slugs, wheels from toy cars, keys, and more, become their treasures. Children store and stash them in pockets, backpacks, drawers, and ziplock bags where they can find them, use them, and re-use them in new ways. Just check the bottom of any child’s backpack.

When children find objects themselves, objects adults have tossed or overlooked, they enjoy a feeling of ownership they seldom are able to have about toys or school supplies that are given to them by parents and other adults. No doubt they value their toy cars, doll suitcases, LEGOs, and paint brushes. But they have a special relationship with their very own finds. They are the bosses of pencil stubs, empty thread spools, a rusty bolt, a pinecone, and the very valuable spring from a ballpoint pen. They can collect, sort, trade, forget about, and even lose their found objects. They own them and they decide what to do with them. I imagine this is a sweet feeling of control for someone learning to share and figuring out the rules of property created by others; for someone learning about the qualities, the feel and possibilities of objects and materials.

An Openness to Objects
A child’s deliberate or casual search for found objects is a true child-directed activity, a goal often sought and not necessarily fully realized. Their curiosity about and openness to the potential of materials extends their self-directed exploration. Sticky pine cones, a sparkly button, and a cork bobbing in water deliver first-hand information about the world. As children investigate an object, they wonder why it does “that”, where it came from, and what they can do with it. They have ideas. Children’s questions, imaginations, and previous experiences allow them to make connections, to go further than the information given to them, and to create something new and original for them.

Attractive, enticing, and beautiful, found objects have important attributes–fist sized, mobile, and undefined–that allow children to invent, follow, and finish an experience in personal and unexpected ways. An object can become anything a child wants it to be. Chestnuts can become cooking props, bricks in a dump truck, or boulders in an avalanche. Objects invite conversation, inspire stories, and inform theories. They become game pieces, construction units, a puppet, or a precious addition to a collection of similar objects. 

Found items are not only fascinating to children, but they also stimulate children’s personal interests in rocks, vehicles, stories, tools, and tinkering. Loose parts and found objects lead children everywhere and anywhere on their ways to the future. 

Time, Abundance, and Variety
Children need time and opportunity to become fluent in materials. For most children, the more limited environments of their daily lives, often scoured of loose and "dangerous" parts means more limited access to loose parts and, especially, to found objects. Surely there are treasures to be found between car seat cushions on the way to school. But how do they compare to a daily 15-minute walk to and from school or foraging among the bushes at the park?

Hands-on museums do offer loose parts as props and tools in outdoor environments, and indoor exhibits and studio spaces. They can, and need to, give loose parts and found objects a much greater presence by spreading varied and abundant objects and their benefits across exhibits, throughout programs, and into public areas. Museums might just use some of the interest and imagination children bring to loose parts and found objects in doing this. They can also follow the work of educators from Reggio Emilia (IT), explore how some preschools and museums are exploring and adapting material exploration, and think about some starting points below.  

 Grow the variety of loose parts and found objects across the museum. Start gathering! Loose parts can be natural and manufactured. They can come from any room in the house, shelf in the garage, or corner of the backyard; from the museum’s fabrication shop or food service vendor. Increase variety by inviting contributions from staff and board; work with local businesses and museum sponsors. As important as quantity is, interesting qualities (textures, shape, rigidity, color, finishes, etc.) are essential. Be selective; consider safety. Be a participant, exploring materials yourself and with other staff. Try a few materials in activities and notice children’s questions and how they use them. Search with new eyes; feel with new fingers; discover with new possibilities.

Be on the look-out for: Spoons, keys, plastic caps, driftwood, beads, cord, paper rolls, ceramic tiles, wire, marbles, postage stamps, bark, shells, feathers, acorns, corks, knobs, s-hooks, puzzle and game pieces, buttons, rubber washers, ribbons, leaves, seeds, pods, fabric, ribbon, etc.

Sort through loose objects around a possible experience. A possible experience is somewhere between casually putting out a bunch of stuff and setting up a structured, supervised activity. Being both intentional and open to possibilities of how children might explore, experience, use, and combine materials is a good starting place. A child may, or may not, use objects as you intend, but may, instead, follow another direction. Some objects might suggest making faces, others building towers, others creating symmetry; others some inner direction towards beauty. To shape a possible experience, imagine what a child might do with a set of objects: arrange, sort or seriate them; build with them or trade them; make up a story or make a game.   

Puff ball explorations. Photos by Monica Malley
A meaningful and inspiring space. Search for a wonderful place for wonderful exploration. Consider unexpected, incidental, places, as well as the usual places like the maker space, recycle center, messy corner, or studio. Children could encounter and explore objects and materials where natural light shimmers and bounces, a window frames a view, or a mobile floats overhead. Places should be out of the traffic and oriented away from distractions. A child might find intriguing objects on a light table in a quiet corner, at a “story table,” laid out under a suspended branch, or in an alcove. Add mirrors for children to view themselves and their creations from different perspectives.

Presentation. Play around with how to present materials so they are attractive and help control mess. Preparation is key as is making adjustments to find the right mix. Create an inviting order: materials that provoke curiosity, help children make thoughtful choices, and make it as appealing to remove objects as it is to put them back. In the spirit of found objects, re-use interesting containers such as baskets, trays, boxes, and bowls. Think through the supplies children will need. Remember, great explorations are possible without glue or scissors. Work surfaces, seating for children and adults, easy reach to containers and shelves, and display of children’s work are central to presentation.  

Reality Check. There are very real challenges in creating opportunities that encourage child’s exploration of and facility with materials. Adequate storage is always elusive; back-up storage will be needed and is always scarce. Also:
  • Great care and good judgment is a must when collecting and using materials with young children because of potential choking hazards.
  • Involve staff. Take time to develop a shared understanding of the value of material exploration with all staff that will be affected: finding, arranging, facilitating, and picking up materials. Respect their concerns and also invite them to find solutions to display, mess, replenishment, and storage. Be sure to engage them to exploring materials to awaken their memories of discovering and delighting in objects as children and  to renew their pleasure and interest in materials.
  • Keep it playful. Keep it playful. Keep it playful. Keep it playful. Keep it playful.
I must admit that I haven’t lost my childhood fascination with found objects. When I work in the garden and come across a forgotten object, I keep it and place it in a bowl on a windowsill. There is a marble, a square nail, a plastic toy figure, a rusty key, and a ceramic tile. It helps tell my garden’s story.

For more inspiration and guidance:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Consultant’s Role–or Four

Sometimes when I’m asked what I do, I pause to think how best to answer. Of course, I can and usually do reply that I am a museum planner. I also say I am a consultant or an independent professional. Borrowing a term from baseball sometimes I describe myself as a utility player. In addition to being a strategic planner or developing learning frameworks, I step into various roles to help build internal capacity. I coach, train, and sometimes fill in for a senior staff. I sometimes round out a team, as an educator on one team, an evaluator on another, or an experience developer on another. Serving as a utility player works for me and I suppose it does for other consultants as well.

Especially when I am asked what my work is like, I am tempted to reply that I am part lightning rod, part chiropractor, and part editor. It goes without saying that sometimes, I am all 3. This is not in any way a complaint, but an evolving set of insights after 20 years of consulting and what planning with museums involves.

Lightening Rod
Like the lightning rod atop a building protecting a structure from a lightning strike, a consultant often attracts an electric charge in the group, diverting it constructively. By nature of their work and relationship to an organization, consultants often walk into situations with which they are only somewhat familiar and connected. Yet, expectations can be high that this outside specialist’s experience and expertise will not only address the explicit task at hand, but also tackle other issues as well. A mere secondary association with one issue can be enough to attract questions, surface concerns, and set off a reaction. This is hardly surprising because without the strong, on-going relationships among staff and board and with a limited tenure, a consultant’s presence offers a relatively safe discharge of built-up energy.

When lightening does strike during a consultancy, it is likely to strike around what board and staff don’t talk about or won’t address. Serving as a lightning rod means listening for what is not being talked about, noticing who is quiet, who interrupts, or who dominates the discussion. It means registering what information is easy compared to seemingly impossible to come by. Along with glowing reports of grants received, fantastic new board members, great attendance numbers, there might be little mention of long-overdue raises, lack of meaningful follow-through on diversity and inclusion efforts, or an overly active and less-than-transparent executive committee. There might be a disproportionate mention of the past and how things were back then.

Being a lightning rod is also helpful when there is a boardroom bully, internal cliques, an unpaid founding director who will not leave, or a board that has decided to dismiss the executive director–the one who has arranged for the consultancy. Issues related to a capital project, a compressed timeline, an unrealistic campaign goal, or casually taking on debt, definitely attract a charge.

The first time and often the second time of carrying the charge come as a surprise. Gradually, however, knowing that the charge is likely and defusing it to help the museum, team or individual move forward feels more like an opportunity. A well-placed question, a few sidebar conversations, a new timeframe, rethinking the agenda, or calling the question can open up dialogue, create a sense of relief, or allow a graceful exit.

When circumstances change, when an organization grows, when pressures in one area of an organization mount, an organization and its people can feel off-kilter and out of alignment. Lack of alignment can place a drag on an organization’s performance and put a drain on its resources. Its organizational efforts feel uncoordinated, difficult, and frustratingly unproductive.

At times like these, a chiropractic yank can be what a museum needs. A good yank engages and aligns parts of an organization, from guiding ideas, to organizational structure, audience, staff and skills, resources, processes, and relationships with the community.

Museums, like any organization, are complex and changing. Different aspects of the organization are affected by and respond differently to various pressures and trends. Growth occurs at different rates. Mindsets change more slowly than policies. The organizational culture may be at odds with its current leadership style and community expectations. Staff allocations in some departments may reflect 2003 workloads or a mash-up of responsibilities added over the years.  

Not surprisingly, the need for a chiropractic tug often becomes apparent around periods of growth, decline, and transition, whether planned and unplanned. This could be a sign of healthy growth or an early warning signal of trouble.

In some cases a consultant may help identify the need for rebalancing and identify what kind of tug is needed and where. In other cases, a consultant’s work with a team or group provides new skills and a nudge towards more coordinated action. Often, the consultant’s work with the museum, developing a long-term plan or reimagining the museum, activates the big yank and a ripple of adjustments.

Relatively small adjustments like remixing teams and working groups will sometimes refresh and realign work and energy. A strong new lens might be needed to jettison outdated programs and partnerships; activities may still be cherished but have low relevance and place a demand on resources. Larger adjustment, like a new vision and mission, a strategic plan, restructured departments, and shifts in internal operations can activate bigger change. Finally, for a museum facing a critical juncture, a turnaround may be the organizational-sized yank that is needed with restructured programs, finances, management, and marketing strategies.

When key pieces are in place, priorities clearly communicated with related accountability and incentives, there’s alignment. When plans make sense and staff see their part in the museum’s work and when teams work in a common direction towards a shared purposes the chiropractic yank is accomplishing its goal.
Museums are dynamic, productive settings, rich in possibilities. Ideas flow for exhibitions, fundraisers, projects, strategies, partnerships, programs, and marketing strategies. Museums translate their ideas and aspirations into multiple forms; they design, write, share, publish, post, and send e-blasts. An exhibition opens and there are programs, events, a social media campaign. A strategic plan takes shape and there are 7 goals.

Nevertheless, there can be too many ideas, too many priorities, too many words, images, and goals. The fact is, not all ideas are worth pursuing, even ones held passionately. Not all big ideas can be driving ideas. Not all ideas are right for a museum and work well with other ideas connected to its broader purpose. Not all ideas are the right size.

Sometimes the density of ideas simply gets in the way. This can happen when group think rules, a team chases every new idea, an idea won’t die, an organizational culture insists more-ideas-are-better, or frank assessment of ideas is risky. Sorting through the quality, quantity, and relevance of ideas, tasks, and language is an enormous challenge.

Enter the consultant as editor. A consultant can help trim, prune, prioritize, and sometimes take a weed whacker to a thicket of ideas and goals. Removing the excess begins to clear the view of what is important and what can be done well. Does a museum need different gallery activities everyday? Does it even have the bench strength to carry out this schedule? Are attendance projections overly optimistic? Are there strategies for getting there? Do they make sense?

Editing not only trims the number of strategies or goals to a manageable number, but also helps right-size them, their objectives, and impacts for the museum.

As a consultant reflects back what’s more and less important, a museum begins to find its own path forward. Are these words in the museum’s voice? Is this where the museum can do an outstanding job of delivering value because it has a record of achievement–not just ambition? Editing exposes the strong ideas, links efforts that engage powerfully with one another, and helps someone see their work, their role, or their accomplishments in a new light.  

If editing doesn’t work, a chiropractic yank might do which illustrates a truism about these 3 roles. They easily work together. Sometimes all 3 roles play out in quick succession. While consultants frequent this territory, it is not exclusively theirs. When a consultant isn’t around, anyone can and should step forward to move things along. Anyone can be on the alert for questions that need to be asked, ideas that need to be explored, lists that need to be trimmed, and voices that need to be heard.