Diffusion Residency with Proboscis, July 2008
Collections Manager, Dundas Museum and Archives
Dundas, Ontario, Canada.
In my curatorial work with the Dundas Museum and Archives, I work with a local history collection, within the environment of a supportive local community, to produce exhibitions and related programming. At the heart of my curatorial approach is the concept of storytelling, and most of my projects have been based on some form of information exchange with members of the community. The primary goal of my residency with Proboscis was to explore ways in which I could build on the most successful aspects of these projects, and to develop additional and alternative approaches to the exchange and presentation of historical material. Specifically, I wanted to learn how I might incorporate eBooks and StoryCubes into the work that I do at the museum, and to see how these tools might lead to new programs or projects.
The best approach for me was to begin by “jumping right in” and producing an eBook. The technical and intellectual process of making my first eBook became a way of thinking through how I might use the eBooks (and StoryCubes) at the Dundas Museum. Additionally, having the opportunity to speak at length with Giles, and other members of Proboscis, about the many innovative and creative ways in which the Generator has been used by others, was a very significant aspect of this residency. Being in the studio, and being able to share ideas and to have an open exchange, was invaluable. Further, having the opportunity to put some distance between myself and the museum allowed me to see things a bit more objectively, which is often difficult to do when you are in the thick of the day to day work.
I think the greatest benefit of this residency was that it resulted in a definite shift in my thinking about how a museum can interact with, and respond to, the community it serves. My approach has always been to encourage dialogue between the museum and the public, but the tools for doing so in an informal yet elegant way have been missing. Consequently, those efforts to facilitate exchange have been sporadic. Those of us who work in smaller museums can often feel very limited in our ability to disseminate ideas, partly because of a longstanding tradition of thematically narrow, expensive and poorly distributed publishing ventures. The Generator, conversely, allows for spontaneous, experimental, low cost initiatives that can be distributed more widely than was ever possible. I think that our future success as a museum will depend on our ability to continue and deepen an ongoing exchange with our local community, and that the eBooks and StoryCubes are excellent tools for us in this regard.
Although the actual residency was for a one week period, I feel that my work with it is just beginning. Not only have I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how past projects might have been enhanced or done differently with the utilization of the Generator tools, but I have also been developing a number of future initiatives, in consultation with other members of the museum staff. While it seems that the eBooks and StoryCubes will need some time to become an automatic part of our curatorial “toolbox,” (i.e. to become a part of our organizational culture), there is a lot of enthusiasm and interest within the organization at this time. There are currently two eBooks under development, and a plan in place to create a StoryCube set for a senior citizens’ education program in the coming weeks. Other uses are also being considered for future projects.
The residency with Proboscis was an extremely useful, thought-provoking, energizing experience, and I feel very privileged to have been invited to take part. The new insights I gained are being shared with my colleagues at the museum, and I am hopeful that it will be the basis for a new, creative approach that will permeate our organization. Working with Proboscis has been very inspiring, and has given me a fresh enthusiasm for pursing my curatorial goals.
Forget Me Not