Museology Master of Arts Program

December 3, 2021

Putting the cape away

Personal reminders to stay grounded when pursuing change as an emerging museum professional

By Linda Lee

Do you explain certain aspects of your personality by stating your Hogwarts house or zodiac sign? Do you part your hair down the middle, or even understand this reference? How much do you love Lizzo? 

If you responded to any of these questions at all, you are either a millennial or Gen Z. I’m right there with you.

As a rising generation of prospective professionals in our field, there is something we have more of than crippling debt, and that is power. From Baby Boomers to Beliebers, the workplace is drastically moving towards a more diverse and, hopefully, far more inclusive future. We have the power to replace outdated systems, to act as agents of change, to be advocates within our communities, and to spread that message using museums as a soapbox.  

But how do we convey that message without polarizing our audiences? As a fairly opinionated lady, I have to remind myself when writing exhibit content to avoid being preachy or too subjective. I tell myself to put the cape away, reserve my savior complex for pet adoptions, and get comfy in my role starting conversations rather than controlling them. 

These are a few key points that help me:

  • Consent is sexy: Most people who aren’t clinically gross would agree that consent is relevant to every interpersonal situation. As perfectly illustrated in the Tea Consent video, “Just because you made [the tea], doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it”. Contrary to the methods of my religious family, I would rather use empathy and perspective to get a message across than threaten a tentative bystander with eternal damnation

  • Therapy voice: When pursuing her PhD in Psychology, my best friend was unbearable. Everyone was a narcissist and everything I said was “interesting”. No Jessica, that was banal and you need to put that pen down. But she has grown and so has my perspective on therapy, particularly in regards to communication. There’s the classic “speak in I rather than You”, the constant acknowledgement of another person’s feelings, and the all encompassing “Don’t yuck their yum”. I’d like to believe that this style of open, judgement-free conversation might entice visitors with opposing viewpoints to stick around long enough to hear me out. 

  • Call to action: Regardless of what cause I am advocating for in a particular exhibit, there will inevitably be a call to action. Rather than have the entire exhibit revolve around the immeasurable guilt visitors should feel for being so inadequate (barring sociopaths, I think we all feel this way a little too much as it is), I should focus on inspiring positive change and advise on how one can do that. 

Now, this is all just my opinion and these ramblings are points that help me, but you might not agree. Let’s grab a beer and talk about it.