Reflection: From Sunrise to Sunset: A Day in the Life of a Getty Alumni Museum Professional

Over the past several months, I have been working with a group of museum professionals from across the globe on a truly wonderful program: From Sunrise to Sunset: A Day in the Life of a AAM-Getty International Alumni Museum Professional.

2018 Getty International Participants

Dean Phelus of AAM brought me in to facilitate and coordinate the effort. His charge was simple: to expand participants’ circle of connections across the AAM-Getty International program.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the program, which “is a professional growth opportunity that provides financial support to non-US-based museum professionals to attend the AAM Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.” I have been working with the group since 2017, when Greg Stevens tapped me to help facilitate onsite in St. Louis.

2019 Getty International Participants

In the past four years, I have gotten to know a tremendous group of museum professionals worldwide. Their love and passion for museums and for museum professionals has inspired me. I am forever grateful to be a part of this wonderful program each year.

Since we were unable to meet in person this year, we created a mini-conference via Zoom. Over the course of three days, several dozen international museum professionals met together virtually to discuss their lives and careers in the current era. They organized sessions around five topics: Rituals, Respite, Reflection, Renewal, and Reconnection.

Screenshot of the Reflection session.

Wednesday morning’s session focused on Reflection, things that have been powerful learning lessons personally and professionally. Milena Milosevic Micic of Serbia’s Завичајни музеј Књажевац (Knjaževac Homeland Museum) organized it.

Below are thoughts that Germán Paley, an alumnus of the program, shared with those of us who organized the entire program. They are powerful reminders to me of our work and how interconnected we are. I am sharing them here with you, verbatim.

We started the session listening to a song called “Writing a Future History” and I wonder about history and its senses/meanings. In Western Culture, history is related to legacy and makes us look into the past, but is it possible to move forward to rewrite the future?

Germán Paley (photo: Catalina Bartolomé)

Opening to new possibilities and to end with a legacy that perpetuates what we don’t longer want? This allows us to think of the PRESENT, our present as a time for CHANGE, so… what are we capable of transforming, to write new futures?

This question leads us to the dimension of UTOPIA, to our DESIRE and if we want to create new realities, we should resort to RADICAL IMAGINATION, we need to be more CREATIVE than ever.

However, this pandemic present is full with DYSTOPIA, in a never-ending quarantine and constant lockdowns, what can we do in order to preserve our senses and not to lose meanings?

We are facing unprecedent times, full of uncertainty, moving between enthusiasm and exhaustion, and many of us are still wondering if a cultural reset is still possible…

Our lives have mutated, so how are we going to adapt, how are we dealing with conflict and trauma? Are we going to keep perpetuating what we used to do or we can move forward and create other possibilities? Is it just a matter of cancellation/postponing or we can rewrite what we do? What new missions/visions are we going to allow to create new ways?

We must redefine our practices through active dialogue, support, social bonds, and true engagement. This existential process (not only individual but also professional) forces us to deal with VOID: empty temples and body-less museums… but, what values are being embodied now and projected to the future?

Are we going to resume what we know or take the uncertainty to imagine other possibilities? Is it just a matter of museum activation — Keep Museums Active — or we can become museum activists to make them meaningful places for our communities?

I urge you to consider these questions that your international colleagues have posed to us. They are important in Covid times and beyond.

President of The Lyndhurst Group, a history, museum, and nonprofit firm providing community-focused strategies for planning, assessment, and interpretation.