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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Curator vs. the Komodo Dragon

Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?

Every now and then, when I want to remind myself of what I am suppose to be doing at the museum, or perhaps when I simply want a good chuckle, I will take a listen to Bob and Ray.

They may not be in the same class as Aristotle, Shakespeare, Gibran, or Oprah, but these old sages do make me laugh. Their classic routine The Komodo Dragon touches on issues that preoccupy me in my daily work: the role of the expert, relevance of our message to our audience or our community, and the bi-lateral nature of effective communication. Are the curator and community both on the same page?

Curators are supposed to be experts, but especially in a community-based museum, our expertise derives in large part from a deep understanding of our audience as well as our subject. After listening to Bob and Ray again, I am thinking of a Komodo Dragon Test to help me gauge the value of new accessions and new exhibits. Is the subject relevant; is my message clear?

Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? In a community-based museum that can be the difference between filling dead air and making a difference.

Use these links link to hear Bob and Ray's The Komodo Dragon:
Windows Media http://www.bobandray.com/audio/br_nts.wma
Quicktime http://www.bobandray.com/audio/br_nts.mp3

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Connecting Communities: Up and Running!


If you haven't yet ventured out to see our latest exhibit, Connecting Communities, I suggest you do so!

The exhibit deals with immigration in metro Detroit, by looking at the lives of nine local immigrants. We pair their stories with government-compiled statistical data in an effort to breakdown some misconceptions and negative stereotypes associated with immigrants.

YOU can also have your say in the debate! Visit our Social Media "Dashboard" to find out how your voice can be heard!

If you're camera-shy and/or don't use Social Media you can always comment RIGHT HERE! Think about answering these questions:

1. Do you know who, in your family, immigrated to the United States? When did they come here? Or, are you Native American Indian?
2. Do you think new immigrants should completely shed their native culture and traditions when they come to America? Why or why not?
3. Respond to this statement: America is a nation founded by immigrants and populated by immigrants and their descendents.
4. Why do you think immigration is such a hot-button issue these days?
5. How would you feel if you had to emigrate? What would you miss the most about America? What would you want to take with you?

Your contribution helps shape the exhibit and may appear in the gallery! So visit us often to hear what people have to say and share your thoughts too!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change


Today in the blogosphere is Blog Action Day on Climate Change. We're not an officially registered Blog Action Day blog, but we'd like to talk about the "green" changes we're trying to implement in the Museum.

While we could do so much more, our main focus at the moment is consuming less. We think this is a great way to ease the entire institution into more eco-friendly practices. This applies to everything from office supplies, to electricity, to water and anything else we can think of. While the entire staff is trying to use less paper over-all by going digital as much as possible, the Curatorial staff is going one step further and reusing paper that has only been printed on one side. One drawer in our printer is dedicated to holding this paper for use on non-confidential things that have to be printed but don't need to be printed on a virgin piece of paper. This small step will save us reams of paper a year! We hope to introduce it to the wider staff as time goes on.

Another area we are truly dedicated to consuming less, is with electricity. As a non-profit institution we need to closely watch all of our unnecessary spending. One thing we can easily do is use less electricity by turning off the lights in our offices when we're not in them. A step further is to turn off the lights in the exhibition spaces when no one is in them! This we'd like to achieve by using motion sensors to detect when a visitor is viewing the exhibits, turning on especially for them and then turn off when they leave. The trick is to not leave anyone in the dark! With some tweaking, we think we can achieve this and cut our energy usage in half!

Our final area of interest at the moment, is exhibit building materials. New sustainable building materials are available, such as Wheatboard in place of formaldehyde-laden MDF, canvas instead of vinyl banners, and zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint. Some of these are more costly than their counterparts, but if it makes the Museum a healthier place to visit and work, then we are dedicated to delivering that.

We are excited to see the new eco-friendly products available to us, and we hope that in the future they are no longer considered speciality items, but instead, standard practice. Are you making earth-friendly choices at home or at work? Tell us about it! Give us more ideas where we can improve ourselves!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

One goes down, another goes up...

Today we took down the exhibit, A Yemeni Community: Photographs from the 1970s by Milton Rogovin. While we contract installers to hang our shows, we usually opt to take them down ourselves.

I think one of my favourite things about my job is the grunt work. I love it when I get to be away from my desk for a little while and get my hands dirty. Possibly the greatest thing is getting to peel the vinyl letters off the walls.

If you didn't make it out to the show you can still see the photos in our online exhibit here, and pictures of the gallery on our flikr page here.

The SURA Arts Academy photographs open September 12th!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Hearts Go Out To You

The Arab American National Museum (AANM) and it parent organization, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), are appalled to learn of the horrific act of violence that was committed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. We stand in solidarity with the museum and condemn this act of hate. Our hearts go out to the museum's staff and the family of the courageous guard Stephen Johns who gave his life in service to the museum.

Both the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and the AANM strive to foster a better understanding of the communities we serve. Our institutions work to provide a safe and inclusive environment conducive to learning and reflection. This act of violence serves as a catalyst for us to strengthen our resolve. It is a reminder that, while we have made great strides forward as a society, there is much more work to be done to foster peace and better understanding.

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