#6 Congrats on making it to the end of 2020!
Taking a step back and looking at the year behind us - and the things to look forward to.
Medhavi: Overwhelmed… stressed... exhausted... burned out…? Welcome to the end of 2020. We made it this far with a healthy dose of GIFs, cat photos, and our regular conversations on this newsletter. For us, Dig It! couldn’t have come at a better time but we have to admit, we both have had moments when we have felt a dip in motivation (and energy levels!) and a whole range of other emotions that could be tough to articulate. In the past few months, almost every time I have spoken to a friend/colleague in the Indian GLAM sector, I have been greeted with “but this must be so good for your work, right? I mean you’ve been rallying for digital all this time” - and while I admit that it has helped me boost conversations with unwilling museum leadership (no matter how positive I want to be about this situation), living our lives through a screen is certainly not what I wanted for anyone.
Larissa: You might have realized that we did not make it to send out Dig It! every two weeks. We’re sorry if we haven’t met your expectations. But to some degree, that’s what 2020 often felt like for me in a nutshell: Not living up to my own expectations. I wanted to learn more, read more, achieve more. In many cases, I didn’t. One example: I wanted to write an article on digital transformation in GLAMs during the COVID-19 pandemic, I collected all the material in spring and summer - and lost my grip in autumn.
So much has happened for this sector in this pandemic, putting digital at the top of the agenda. So many steps that seemed to be decades away from becoming reality in GLAMs simply happened - in many cases if teams and institutions wanted to or not. However, as we’re not only GLAM workers, but human beings with personal lives, handling the pandemic, the emotional labor around it and, for many in this sector, the effects of intersecting crises like Black Lives Matter and climate change - we are allowed to be exhausted.
Medhavi: This meme from The New York Historical Society for #MusMeme day summarises it all too perfectly for me!
In this edition, we talk about taking time off, pulling each other up, and attempting to make this point of transformation a little easier.
1. Let’s talk about… the pandemic of exhaustion
Larissa: There have been a lot of conferences on the theme of crisis and its effects on innovation and digital transformation in the GLAM sector. In my view, this pandemic has made some changes possible, opened some doors for conversation, as people got a sneak peek at, for example, what working from home could look like in this sector or how important online audience engagement is for GLAMs, especially if they depend on being relevant to their audiences.
However, it also brought with it a lot of tasks on people with an already full schedule, with leadership pushing for more visibility and content online and colleagues asking for digital capacity building.
And then, there has been this aspect that I observed in some of the digital GLAM conversation spaces: The possibility to prove the management, boards, and leaders wrong who ignored and neglected the digital departments of their departments for ages by showing the worth of digital community-building, investments in digital infrastructure, and the need for more staff in digital departments.
Medhavi: Not too long ago, I noticed a post in a museum group on Facebook that I am part of - about institutions taking a week-long break from social media because of... exhaustion! The entire comment thread was filled with echoes of similar feelings. Sometimes, it only takes ONE institution (in this case the Monterey Bay Aquarium) to make the choice to tread differently. On other social media platforms, certain museums have started to publish content thrice a week - and that has increased their engagement.
For me, the whole idea of digital transformation in the GLAM sector has centered around the digital shift in our audience/public’s life. THIS is the time when the majority of people are placing more value on physical interactions and reducing screen time as they battle digital fatigue - so it would perhaps be good for GLAMs to pause, reflect and re-align their engagement strategy. Instead, I see it as an excellent time to look inwards and shift focus onto employees! Because no matter how many digital collaboration tools we use, no app or software can indicate how our colleague is feeling or if they are stressed. What we need is more patience and kindness, but also a time out from our devices.
Larissa: I guess you just named one of the most important and at the same time hardest things right now: Reflecting, analyzing, and adapting your strategy. This could be a crucial time for GLAMs to start treating digital and analog visitors equally important, developing their audiences and even business models accordingly. The crucial aspect next year, when we’ll slowly shift from pandemic to post-pandemic times (please, I really hope it’s next year) is: Who will be heard? Who will be left standing to collect the pieces? And: Whose leadership and boards are going to listen to those who managed the survival of their institution?
Another point you made is sharing these feelings of exhaustion. We need to normalize not feeling well, not being productive, not being fine this year. When you share feelings like that with a colleague, it also means giving them permission to be open about this state of mind as well. It means for all of us less energy invested in hiding the mess 2020 has left behind.
We’d love to know what you've done to combat digital fatigue? How are you feeling when it comes to the end of 2020 and the year we are finally leaving behind?
2. Shout out to… Seema Rao
Larissa: We need more openness and honesty about the current lack of well-being in our sector. I truly appreciated these words by Seema Rao, talking openly about the feeling of burning out because of all the challenges on the digital side of GLAMs this year. Personal accounts of what this pandemic feels like are crucial to remind each other that it’s okay not being fine or productive right now.
“It’s because in the world before the epidemic, you had work and your personal life. You might have been the person who said yes to hobbies and a social life also. Your full life was a combination of personal conditions and personal choices. This year, that fairly full life got a surprise addition--doom. [...] That is the level up we’ve all had to do with the cultural and economic changes that resulted from the pandemic. Basically, we’re loaded up, then the load gets harder to keep in the air, and then the method of keeping it up hits a snag. We’re doing more, with less, and under harder circumstances.” Seema Rao
Medhavi: Conversations such as these seem perhaps too uncomfortable - but at the same time they are unavoidable. While I identify with every one of Seema’s words (like probably so many of us), I feel it would do a lot of good for the dialogue to take place within GLAMs (and outside Twitter).
3. Favourite Discovery
The Swedish Etnografiska museet (Museum of Ethnography) currently has an exhibition on view called Human Nature. It focuses on issues around climate change and over-consumption. One of the online activities is a live-stream of a flower, on display at the museum. If you sign a contract online with the museum that you’ll reflect upon and reduce your consumption in the future, the flower gets 5 ml of water. You can have a look at it right now: More than 600 users have already signed the contract. That equals around 155 days of water supply for the plant.
Medhavi: I love the simplicity of the project and its potential to demonstrate impact! This is such a wonderful example of how museums can take action and promote dialogue on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In these lockdown times, it is also a great way to keep audiences involved even when they cannot visit.
4. And Now For Something Completely Different
Larissa: 2021 seems to start with as much tension and crises as 2020 ends with. However, as a community working together, we can try to balance out some of the negative effects on ourselves by being there for each other.
This TED Talk sums up what it means to be each other's wingmen and women and it somehow really spoke to me. Because we all go through difficult episodes as professionals and I really know how uplifting it can be to have someone by your side who has your back.
“I could have had the choice of actually seeing her as a competitor or we would agree to be each other’s wing-woman and support each other and thereby be more successful together ”
Medhavi: To me, these words are GOLDEN in this time and age. Whether it is us individually or GLAMs or independent initiatives, today success comes with doing things TOGETHER. Period. This is perhaps also why GIF IT UP India with Europeana remains to be the highlight of my 2020. In fact, Burger King UK just did something unthinkable in the world of multinationals!
If this is any indication of good things to come, then well, perhaps we can look forward to big (and blue-tick) GLAMs sharing social media real estate with smaller GLAMs to express solidarity! Be someone’s wing institution ;)
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It's the wingmen and wingwomen who carry us through difficult episodes. We are that to each other, and quite a lot of you to us as well. Who is your favorite wing person? Who has your back in these times? Share it online using #GLAMsDigIt!
We are taking a break and will be back in January 2021! Happy Holidays - and stay safe!
All the best