Seattle time

Along with several of my colleagues from PEM, I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting in Seattle. While it is difficult to boil down a whirlwind four days to just a few highlights, below are my top three AAM 2014 experiences.


The Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi show at the Frye Art Museum. I had no idea of the lifelong collaboration and intellectual exchange between two of my most beloved artists, though in a way it would seem obvious that they were influenced by each other. There’s something very powerful about these two having a connection and dialogue through images as neither spoke the others’ language. The Frye held a lovely event and had some great interpretive dancers within the galleries, echoing the sweeping movements of Noguchi’s bodies and Baishi’s calligraphic forms.  The Frye is a gem of a museum. I headed back to my hotel feeling centered and at peace. Not sure if it was the beauty and clarity of Baishi’s calligraphy, or Noguchi’s sketched, yet specific forms, that so soothed my soul at the end of a whirlwind day, or the Frye’s indoor/outdoor features (spare galleries, courtyard topiary and a water feature visible from the event space), but I vowed to go back next time I’m in Seattle.



Three letters: E-M-P. What a fantastic and interesting place! It’s an homage to rock-n-roll, down to the security guards’ uniforms resembling those of concert guards.  Its light-hearted and intelligent approach to interactive tools beckons even this cynic to get into the fun. Is it true I recorded a – quite awful – electric guitar track in the sound labs? Is it true I got in line to play Tetris on a big screen? Is it true that I was charmed by the peephole presentation of the “mature content” in the music video exhibit? Until proof can be found, I take the 5th.

V on guitar

The guitar gallery and Jimi Hendrix permanent collection are excellent and allow for deep dives. And then, of course, they honor, preserve and showcase the story of that most iconic of bands, especially to those of us who attended high school in the 90s: Nirvana. This year marks 20 years since the death of Kurt Cobain. I remember what his music meant, heck means, to me. Growing up an immigrant in a small town, a bit of a weirdo, precocious, quirky, maybe a little too sensitive (geez, not much has changed actually — except I live in Boston now), Nirvana’s music would always take me as I am. I thank EMP for carrying on the legacy of a band that changed rock-n-roll, and so deeply impacted a generation of quirky weirdoes who felt that we “weren’t like them, but we could pretend.”


EMP, what can I can say? I learned, I played, and I may have even dropped a tear in the Nirvana section.


And now, for AAM experience #1: (Drumroll please) My session! In 2011 I was  fortunate to complete the Getty Leadership Institute’s “Next Generation of Museum Leaders’ program. Since then, a group of my fellow graduates and I presented a session at AAM on mid-management career issues.

This year our session was on “Work-Work Balance,” a still embryonic term that is without a set definition. Our group defined it this way: Finding the balance between achieving our professional goals – whether climbing to a new position, or being intellectually fulfilled and appropriately challenged – and completing the work that is neatly a part of our job.

Prior to the session, we conducted a survey via our professional networks and LinkedIn groups to give us a sense of people’s experiences with this topic. Nearly 300 people responded. Here are a few of the results of that survey:

 Work Work PP(Integrated)-1

Percentage on the following


Our goal, rather than to be talking heads, or claim expertise that we do not possess, was to engage our session’s attendees in a meaningful discussion, lead them in a few activities, and send them home with some tools they might use to take inventory of how they are managing this issue. Two of these tools are demonstrated below:

1.)    Fold a piece of paper in half twice, and fill each quadrant with a response (can be written or sketched) to the corresponding question:

where was ISelect one step you can take immediately to begin implementing the lower right quadrant.

1.)    Conduct a time tracking activity:

Next respond to these questions:

I was delighted that our group presented to a full house – 147 attendees total head count, and received some great follow up questions already. Then again, I am working with stars.

GLI group

Laurie Fink, Science Museum of Minnesota; Victoria Glazomitsky, Peabody Essex Museum; Julie Johnson, J2R2 Leadership and Change Associates; Stephanie Parrish, Portland Art Museum; Virgil Talaid, New York Transit Museum; Moderator Janeen Bryant, Levine Museum of the South; Megan Smith, National Museum of American History

Editor’s Note: Ed Rodley shares his AAM session on storytelling on Connected.

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