As November draws closer and a new DEVELOPING HISTORY LEADERS @ SHA class is gearing up to move to Indianapolis, I am preparing my staff and my museum to be without a key staff member for the same three weeks. While it will be difficult to make sure the museum runs smoothly without one third of the staff, I know that having a colleague have the opportunity to learn and grow at SHA is well worth the effort and planning it takes to send someone.
This is the fourth time in five years that I have prepared for someone to attend DEVELOPING HISTORY LEADERS @ SHA – the first was my previous Director, the second a Senior Curator of Collections, then my own journey to Indy, and now a member of my small staff. Each time has needed a different preparation. When my boss left, I had been on the job just six short weeks. While he was gone, I stumbled my way through the largest traveling exhibit the museum had ever hosted and learning how to work within the structure of a city government. I survived and so did the museum. When it was over, the Director came back with new ideas and a new direction to take the organization.
Before the Senior Curator of Collections attended, I made sure that I had all the collections items and files I needed to work with while she was gone. I also prepared my volunteers and staff for the questions and problems that might arise as they worked on various projects. They knew that they would either have to come to me for help or wait until she returned and sorted through three weeks of back-logged emails and inquiries. She returned with a new enthusiasm for museum work and using material culture to enhance exhibits.
When I spent my three weeks at SHA, I was at an institution with only one other employee – a part time person at that. With the help of my division head, I was able to work it out that the part timer became a full timer. Also, as soon as I knew I was going, I made arrangements for volunteers to help my one staff member as much as possible – especially as I was missing out on the preparation for the museums largest annual public program. Being prepared helped immensely and things went smoothly while I was gone. A few questions here and there via email and things were solved. Knowing that all was going smoothly at home, I was able to concentrate on the knowledge offered by the program and my classmates
Now that one of my Curators of Education is gearing up to go, I am in planning mode once again. I have decided to change my work week to match my colleague’s normal schedule to insure that staff is available during all public programs. I have looked ahead at the calendar and decided what extra volunteer help is needed. I have also been offering advice about Indy, coursework, and the amazing people who share their expertise with each SHA class.
Planning is important in everything we do – but planning for someone on your staff or in your department to take the time they need to attend DEVELOPING HISTORY LEADERS @ SHA is key. Take a deep breath, a long look at the calendar, and then realize everything will be just fine. As you send a staff member off to SHA, know that they will come back with great new ideas, a revved up enthusiasm for their work, and a greater appreciation for the leaders in our field – and that makes any inconvenience during their three week journey totally worth it.