I like social media. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a social media junkie, but I definitely enjoy keeping up with friends, voyeuristically connecting with acquaintances and curating what I share with others. Facebook is my primary platform of choice, but I also use LinkedIn to showcase my CV. Pinterest is mostly for collecting recipes and pictures of Memphis murals, an odd, but real, passion. I initially stayed away from Twitter because it confused me and from Instagram because I came late to the smart phone revolution. Subsequently, I realized that I need to not be connected all the time and decided three social media profiles are enough. Too much “connection” feels alienating.
Nevertheless, I do think that social media platforms offer a real opportunity for nonprofits in general and museums in particular. Some places do it exceptionally well—like @SUEtheTrex (The Field Museum) on Twitter and The Charleston Museum on Tumblr. In fact, my favorite class to teach in museum studies is the afternoon we spend talking about social media and other marketing. I always ask my students to think up a broad based marketing campaign for one of the university’s museums, and the results are always better than I expected.
The past couple of weeks have seen a few crowd sourced, hashtagged shout outs to public history institutions. January 21 was the second Museum Selfie Day, which was inaugurated last year by museum blogger Mar Dixon. Today is #libraryshelfie Day, which also started in 2014 and was instigated by the New York Public Library. I took part in both because they were fun and got me out from behind my desk. Museums and libraries are interesting places, and the more that we do to encourage our patrons to visit, linger and make the place their own, the better off we will be.
The Memphis Pink Palace Museum has a wide variety of objects in our permanent collection, including a biological collection of organic specimen in jars. The “wet collection” is stored in fluid, usually a pure alcohol solution or a mixture of alcohol, formaldehyde and acetic acid. The specific type of liquid depends on the developmental stage of the animal and the intended use of the specimen. Specimens will last for several decades as long as they are stored in well-sealed containers in a cool room. The preserved animals can be used for research, teaching and exhibits. The Pink Palace’s collection consists of worms, jellyfish, reptiles, amphibians and a few mammals.
Samples from the wet collection will be on display in Animal Grossology, a temporary exhibit that opened January 24 and runs until April 19, 2015.
We recently moved a bookcase, which freed up some space in our living room. Upon taking a step back, we realized it would make a lovely spot for a lamp and a reading chair, largely due to the inability to see the TV from that location. The thing is, we have many projects (big and small) that we want to undertake this year, which means there’s no budget for a comfy chair.
Enter the reading chair fund. We are savers by nature, and we decided that we can reasonably take some small cash denomination out of each paycheck and wait a year. The idea is that next January, we will have enough cash on hand to buy our chair. It is a way for us to separate out some money to do something small that we simply want. Sometimes I need to be reminded that money is not an enemy, and this envelope of delayed gratification will help.
When the first Piggly Wiggly opened in 1916, it had a cousin named Floppsy Woppsy. The Floppsy Woppsy was a fruit window located inside the lobby of the original stores. It carried grapes, citrus, peaches, apples, pears and cantaloupes (but never watermelons).
Floppsy Woppsy turned out to be a flop. In June 1917, Saunders pronounced, “Floppsy Woppsy is dead amid tears!” He decided that the fruit window was not profitable in its current location because produce was wilting before it could sell. He encouraged his customers to patronize market wagons for their produce until the Piggly Wiggly changed its setup. A week later, Saunders replaced the fruit window with a store directory and placed a bench underneath it. He started selling vegetables again within his serpentine aisles, instead in front of the turnstiles where “too many of [Floppsy Woppsy’s] friends imposed on her.”
Over the past few years, I have written many hundreds of thank you cards. A wonderful thing about our society is the idea of reciprocity. A major life event occurs and the people who care about you lift you up. They carry you to this new place and then help you build up something where there was nothing before. In my case, those major events were a marriage and a birth. My family, my friends, my parents’ friends, all provided us with the outward makings of our new lives. They gave us the pots to cook with and the lamps to read by. They gave us quilts to keep us warm and art to make our home. They provided a glider to read stories in and bouncers to calm. Diapers to change and clothes to wear. Reciprocity means that when the people I love are on the verge of something new, I will help them build their new lives as well. I realize in these moments of giving and receiving how connected I am to other people and how much those connections matter.
Because the truth is that it isn’t about the pots and the quilts and the onesies. It is about the fact that other people showed up. They listened to stories and nervous chatter. They made dinner and rocked a crying newborn. People are, often, wonderful.
What I have come to realize is that I enjoy writing thank you notes. I get out stationary and my nice pen and surround myself with the necessary address book and stamps. And then I stop and consider why it is that I am thanking this person, and it is always for more than the obvious. The latest round of notes began as a way to thank people for my son’s birthday gifts, but in that pause before I start to write, I realized that what I really wanted to thank everyone for was for being there this past year. The people who came to my kid’s party are the ones who came to the hospital or made dinners. They are the ones who stopped by when I needed company. They are the ones who answered the phones. They were there, and I believe that is worth being thankful.
I think that thank you notes are about so much more than acknowledging a gift. They are an opportunity to tell the people who go out of their way for us that we notice what they have done and that it has mattered. That we see kindness and thoughtfulness in their actions and want them to know that those qualities made a difference to us. A well written note is the least I can do for the people who help me build.
One day and one year ago a beautiful, squirmy boy entered my world. There was nothing that could have prepared me for all the hours that have followed. For starters, I never knew how much I could love someone so small. I had no idea that I could sing so many songs or read that many silly books and enjoy it. Or listen to pitiful cries, angry cries, hungry cries and nightmare cries. Or know the difference between them all.
My little boy is beautiful and stubborn. He has a learning face and eats everything we put in front of him. He loves to play with his toys and dance to Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. His face lights up when Greg and I come into the room. He babbles, is constantly on the move, and likes bananas above all other produce.
A year and a day ago, my baby made me a mom. He changed my life in the best possible way, and I will never be the same again.
My boss introduced me to a new website that I find utterly fascinating. Useful Science is a nonprofit website that is run by a group of graduate and undergraduate science students (mostly, a quick perusal of the contributors page revealed at least one journalism major). Their pitch is that they will tell you useful scientific findings in under 5 seconds. The studies are listed under broad headings such as happiness, nutrition and creativity, and each sentence-long, abstract summary links to the original article. The website itself is intuitively designed, which makes me want to stick around and explore.
What I like about this site is its accessibility. I am interested in science, but I have never had any desire to be a scientist. I like reading and hearing about what is being done in labs without ever having to pipette anything. Basically, I am grateful that other people do it, and I want to know what they find. The snippets on Useful Science provide easy entry into a world that I do not really inhabit. As an added bonus, many of the findings are directly applicable to daily activities. For example, “The mere presence of a cell phone, even if not in use, decreased people’s performance on tasks that involved attention and cognitive processing.” So make a mental note to keep your cell phone away from you if you are doing something that requires your undivided attention. Surprising? Not really, but a good reminder nonetheless.
Another science oriented website that I learned about recently, this time from NPR, is Penguin Watch. Penguin Watch is a research project that is enlisting the internet to help monitor penguin colonies around the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers at Oxford have installed camera traps, which take photographs whenever they are triggered, in remote areas in an attempt to study penguin’s winter behaviors. You are given a photograph that you classify, which creates data for the researchers to analyze. The website is easily navigated and beautifully designed in addition to being an example of crowd sourcing at its best.
If you like science, penguins or finding new places on the web, check these sites out!
I found a very short article about a group of comic book censors meeting at the museum in one of the museum’s press scrapbooks. Since I had to go to the library to look at microfilm for an unrelated exhibit, I decided to do a little extra digging and figure out what the story was. So here you go, the story of Memphis’ fight against the dastardly influence of comic books:
1954 was an unpleasant year for the comic book industry. In the spring, psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent, a scathing assessment of superhero, crime and horror comics. He asserted that these books were not safe for young people because of their corrupting factors. This influence made them a leading cause of juvenile delinquency, which was a widespread fear among adults in the 1950s. His writings led to an outcry against comic books in magazine and newspaper editorials as well as a series of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency. In April 1954, Wetham took the stand and stated,
“I can only say that in my opinion this is a public-health problem. I think it ought to be possible to determine once and for all what is in these comic books and I think it ought to be possible to keep the…
2014 was a ridiculously great year. I started it hugely pregnant and quickly found myself with a newborn, which was unlike anything I had ever imagined. The short version, it was better. The long version, read past posts. Professionally, I had my first journal article published and spent my time at the museum working on big projects that matter. We traveled a lot, celebrated friends’ weddings and accomplishments, spent time with all of our big family, had fires in our backyard, drank wine, started and finished home improvement projects, cooked meals and were generally blessed.
I have no idea what 2015 will bring. I know that in a few days, I’ll have a one-year-old who is close to walking. I know that we will start and finish projects, make meals and hang out on the couch binge watching TV episodes. I will read books and try to exercise more. I will consume more caffeine than I did last year largely thanks to Greg’s new espresso machine.
I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions. January is a hard month for me, which makes it a bad time to try to change or create new habits. In the past, it has lead to frustration and made my mental state worse instead of better. So instead of resolving to massively change something, I take on a project. In college, I did a 365 day photo project, which resulted in a visual journal of the year I was 21. Last year, I had a baby. 2015 is the year that I will learn how to cook Asian food.
For those of you geographically inclined, you know that Asia is an extremely large continent. The sheer amount of land mass has resulted in varied food cultures, some with overlapping flavors and others that are quite distinct. That means that saying that I am going to learn how to cook Asian food is ambitious and includes Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines among many others. I want to learn how to make the noodle dishes I like to eat and expand what we have for dinner. Our first dinner of 2015 was chicken apple curry, a very mild curry that the kid loved. Authentic? Probably not. Different and delicious? Definitely.