MMA Blog

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  • September 29, 2022 10:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I attended the American Association for State and Local History  conference this month. In addition to making and renewing lots of connections and getting a good sense of what is happening in the history museum world, it gave me a chance to reflect upon the parts of a conference that are most meaningful to me.

    I appreciated the “content” of the conference and all of the concrete information that I learned. It gave me things I can apply to my work to be more impactful (I hope). But, as I think back to all the moments of the conference, it is the conversations and discussions I had outside of the formal sessions that had the most impact. These ranged from talks with different people and groups about the status of museum “work”—including pay equity, training, mentoring, and leadership—to chuckles in the corridors or hallways as someone made a museum or history crack about what we were experiencing. 

    As I think back on all of those moments, I can see a common thread. I felt a sense of connection, belonging, and understanding with other people. It was a space where I could get into the weeds about something few people in my “real” life could relate to or share a laugh about something that again, is only funny to a small niche of people. We shared a point of reference, either in museums or history, and that jump started or renewed our relationship. I don’t mean that I felt completely at ease and never had a moment of loneliness or insecurity. There were plenty of those. But there were far more interactions that affirmed my passion and interest in the work of museums and in history. I felt validated about what I care about in a way that hardly ever happens in real life. I was with my people. 

    I hope that MMA is a place where the Michigan museum community can “find their people.” Yes, we want to help everyone find resources and learn skills to help you in your work, but just as important is that we help you find the others in Michigan who get your museum jokes. We want you to find your people too!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • August 25, 2022 1:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Two years ago, I wrote here about how experiencing the pandemic reminded me of driving through the fog. I knew I was moving, but I had no clue what anything looked like more than a few feet ahead of me. I talked about anticipating the part of driving through the fog when it would lift and I’d be able to see enough to start to figure out where I was. THAT is how I am feeling right now. I can see where I am going, but I’m not sure where I am yet. 

    In many ways, August of 2022 has looked much like August of 2019. The staff has been talking about the conference incessantly, members are checking in with us about their registrations and membership status, and we’ve started thinking about upcoming projects like the year-end appeal and Museums Advocacy Day. This is all pretty normal and consistent with other years. 

    But yet, almost nothing feels familiar. Conference planning feels like we are starting from scratch, we are encountering decreased capacity, and almost everything we are doing is costing more or taking longer, or both. Does this sound familiar? It certainly seems like many people are having a similar experience.

    The good news is that the fog IS lifting and we CAN see where we are going more clearly. Sure, we might be driving more slowly and not know exactly where we are, but at least we can see the traffic around us and the road signs along the way. It’s frustrating to still be unsure of where we are, but we are still going, and that is the most important thing!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • July 27, 2022 3:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When my kids were growing up, we used to mark their height on the doorframe with a sharpie, usually on birthdays. It was always fun to see how they had grown. Sometimes there wasn't a huge change in height, and other times it was a big jump. I was really bad at guessing ahead of time and was usually way under. I was just too close to see the change over time. 

    Last week, I gave our annual "Services to the Field" presentation to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. Because of COVID, it had been over four years since I'd last reported during a meeting. To prepare, I had Claire Johnston, MMA's Membership & Communications Coordinator, put together some statistics that showed change since then. Yowsa. We are MUCH taller than we were in 2018. 

    Since that time, our membership has grown 36% and so has our Facebook engagement. Our membership revenue has grown by 46%! In April of 2018, when I last did our report, Claire had only been part of the MMA staff for a year and was still just a Membership Assistant. She has now been on staff for over five years with increased responsibility, and that impact is obvious from the above statistics. 

    One of strategies for MMA over the years, except for during COVID of course, has been slow, incremental growth. We tweak things that are stable, lean in to things that are working, and set aside things that don't seem to have traction. I feel like I often say that we focus on the low hanging fruit. That can be frustrating because it often means it takes a very long time for a new idea to be implemented in a robust way. But, when we step back for a minute and take some measurements, it's easier to see the progress. 

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

    Check out the full set of slides from the MACC presentation.

  • June 30, 2022 10:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of my favorite things about the Michigan Museums Association is how generous everyone is. This week, we launched our campaign for scholarships to attend the fall conference. So, I’ve been looking at numbers and statistics and the names of past recipients. Did you know that MMA members have provided 71 scholarships over the past six years? That’s amazing to me!

    I just looked back at the list of our first scholarship recipients in 2016. We created the program that year because we were worried that people would not be able to attend the more-expensive joint conference with the American Association for State and Local History. We were able to send 18 people to that conference and at least half would not have been able to attend at all without the scholarship.

    Looking at the names made me smile. Quite a few recipients from that year are very engaged MMA members that I see regularly. One is now serving on the MMA Board of Directors, and another is currently helping plan this year’s conference. Clearly, that investment has paid off!

    Another list that makes me smile, is the donor list. It is usually a wide range of people from all types and sizes of museums, and for many different amounts. One year a donor gave us $3.86. I have no idea what that was about, but I was thrilled to get it. Scholarship donations usually bring in more and different donors than what we typically see with the year-end appeal (the fundraiser that helps fund MMA operations), and I’m good with that. There is no better indication of the strength of the Michigan museum community than seeing the number of people who want to help a colleague or a total stranger!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • May 26, 2022 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are a little more than halfway through our year of celebrating #50YearsTogether for MMA. After spending much of the first half focused on the 50 years part and then having our first gathering in 30 months a few weeks ago, I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be together.

    Service to the Michigan museum community is the heart and soul of the Michigan Museums Association, but it is the coming together part that fuels our fire. We’ve seen that over the past several years with the move to online programs. We saw that earlier this month with the Anniversary and Awards Celebration event. And, we’ve seen it time and time again over the past 50 years, starting with that founding group who got together to form a new organization.

    Amazing things happen when the Michigan museums community comes together. Sometimes, it is just an individual feeling of community and belonging that comes from being in the same room with dozens (or hundreds) of other people who are committed to the work of museums. Sometimes, it is a personal moment of insight or inspiration that projects a person forward in the way they can approach their job or career. Sometimes two people or a group of people make a connection that leads to collaboration. And, sometimes, there is a spark that leads to a movement.

    I am so grateful to be getting back to the work of bringing the Michigan museum community together in real life(!), but also to take some time during the rest of our anniversary to reflect upon what that means.

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • April 28, 2022 11:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been thinking a lot about celebrating again lately. I taught the Project Management for History Professionals course for the American Association for State and Local History this winter, and the last concept we covered was the idea of celebrating the conclusion of a project. You may recall that I struggle with this step, and apparently others do as well. We had some great conversations about why this is an important thing to do for a project, but also why we don’t do it enough.

    It turns out that celebration is important for a lot of things. I have been reading the book Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. He really leans on the power of celebration in adding a new activity to your life. He talks a little about this in this video “C'mon, you gotta celebrate!” (about halfway down the page). Celebrating is not just nice — it’s science too!

    And, speaking of celebrations, we are going to have a big one on May 12! There is so much to honor including 50 years of MMA, the Peninsulas Prize recipients for leadership and DEAI work, and the President’s Award for service. We will also acknowledge five people who have been significant donors to MMA, a dozen MMA members who have been appreciated by their colleagues, and 35 people who completed the full 2021 Leadership Series. That’s a lot of celebrating! I can’t wait.

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • March 24, 2022 9:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I remember when my kids were little; I got really good at anticipating a growth spurt. They would often seem to be putting on weight, then they would get super cranky, and the next thing I knew, their pants were too short! I am sure someone has studied organizational change enough to be able to list the indicators for organizations, but it is only now that I can see how MMA has been building up to a growth spurt in the same way that my kids did.

    I have been with MMA for ten years this summer, and we have been growing in small increments ever since then. First, I was VERY part-time. Then, I was half-time. At that point, we were able to add a quarter-time position (Claire) which then grew to half-time. Once Claire's position settled, my time started to grow again, and now I am three-quarters time, which is where I’d like to be a little bit longer.

    Before 2020, our programs and services were growing as well. The conference was more robust each year and we started the Meet and Eat program that kept growing.  When COVID hit we moved to Zoom and have now developed a program of online offerings including MMA member communities. We’ve been getting wider and wider for ten years!

    But lately, we’ve been a little cranky. Or perhaps more accurately, stressed out. Both Claire and I have far more items on our to do list than time. It doesn’t feel sustainable or good. Hence the cranky.

    And now here comes the fun part – a growth spurt! The MMA board of directors approved a new position for MMA earlier this month, and we have already gotten many applications from wonderful candidates. It will be a big change to go from a team of two to a team of three, but we are SO EXCITED. Our strategy for the new position will follow the slow growth pattern as well. It will start at quarter-time and grow as our capacity (and revenue) increases. We know how that works, and we can’t wait to make it happen.

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

  • February 24, 2022 1:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    At my first Museums Advocacy Day in 2013, one of the presentations painted the big picture of what we were trying to achieve. They shared stories of groups that were focused on bringing about change, especially in Federal legislation. They talked about how daunting the goal was at the beginning but how a little at a time the group strategically chipped away at it until they found success. I have in my notes that the goal of Museums Advocacy Day was to “move the needle from nice to have to need to have.”

    In thinking about that goal today, my initial response was that the needle hasn’t moved at all and it still feels like a daunting challenge to get more investment in museums. But, then I thought about how museums were included in the various pandemic relief packages. I don’t think we can say that museums are considered a core need for communities, but the fact that we were considered worth saving says something. And actually, I think it says a lot. This year marks the tenth time I am participating in Museums Advocacy Day, and I honestly can never remember thinking, “Wow, we are really making a difference” at any particular time. But clearly, we HAVE moved the needle.

    On the state level, the development of the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan is one of the most exciting things I’ve done so far in my career. It is exciting to be joining with others in the state to help move the needle for arts and cultural organizations in Lansing. That seems quite daunting as well, but I know if we keep at it, the needle will move there too.

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director
  • January 27, 2022 11:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Leadership is an important focus of MMA, but today let’s take a moment to consider the importance of followship too. defines the action of following as, “to go or come after; move behind in the same direction.” Followship is not the same as that. Followship, according to that same source is, “the practice of doing what other people suggest, rather than taking the lead”. I think the most notable part of this is the second half — rather than taking the lead. To me, the idea of followship is realizing that an idea you have or an action you want to take is shared by someone else and then making the choice to go along with them, instead of going a different direction on your own.

    At first glance, this idea doesn’t seem that significant, or even hard. The world is full of followers. For some, following can be harder than leading. Our culture is so oriented to individualism and individualization, we are used to doing our own thing. Followship requires us to let go, at least a little, of having everything exactly how we want it. It requires that we go along with something, even if we know we could do it better. That is hard!

    As we celebrate the 50
    th anniversary of MMA, we are learning and talking a lot about the leadership of the organization. Followship has been critical for MMA as well. For every person who stepped up to lead, there were many more who may or may not have agreed with the direction or focus, but came along anyway. I think about all the times the organization has faltered or stalled, and I am sure there were many who were frustrated during those times. They didn’t give up and they didn’t start over somewhere else. They stuck with it and supported those who were leading by being followers. And it is those people, and their ability to let someone else lead, that has made what we do possible. Today, I celebrate the current and past followship of the Michigan Museums Association. Thank you to all of you!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director
  • December 16, 2021 9:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How do you celebrate the successful completion of a project?” That was a question from my career coach earlier this month that stopped me in my tracks. We were discussing how I tend to take on two new projects to replace one that is ending. In my head, the issue was that my enthusiasm for good endeavors was greater than my capacity. But in that question, my coach helped me see that at least part of the issue was lack of closure. And indeed, one of the hardest parts of a project for me is completing and filing the final report. And because I dislike that stage, I tend to want to jump right to the next thing.

    Further discussion identified that I don’t even have ideas for how to celebrate most of my projects. To me, the uber-extravert, a celebration must include other people. But I work alone and somehow a screen celebration just doesn’t do it for me. My coach pointed out that an effective closure celebration just needs to be different, not necessarily with others. We decided that to celebrate finally finishing the report for the 2021 conference, the last thing I need to do for that project, I will go to my wonderful local coffee shop and catch up on my professional reading. I’ll still be working, just doing something I enjoy and don’t often feel like I have time for. It’s a win, win.

    That got me wondering what other tasks or completions I put off because I don’t want to do them? Or what are things that I like to do but that fall to the bottom of the priority list because other things are more pressing? As a result, I shredded a stack of papers (so satisfying) to celebrate completing the MMA bookkeeping for November (so tedious). Now, I can’t wait for December to end so I can reorganize a drawer in the file cabinet! 

    I am guessing that I will still take on more work than I should, but I am also enjoying coming up with ways to bask in the moment of completion when I wrap something up. What are some ways that you mark the end of a job well done? 

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director

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