Two Years

I’m still not completely sure how I feel about Facebook’s memories that pop up unexpectedly in my feed.  Over the last two weeks, four of them have been about what I was up to two years ago.  I’ve never had Facebook hone in on a year quite like that before  But how on earth does Facebook know that was such a turning point in my life?

Two years ago, I was in an Indianapolis hotel room, alternating between a comfortable bed and a very uncomfortable couch with my roommate, Natalie.  Luckily, we became friends almost immediately (which certainly makes sharing close quarters easier!), and now, two years later, I certainly count her among my closest friends.

Graduation Day at SHA
Graduation Day at SHA

We were attending SHA (Seminar for Historical Administration), a three week professional development experience organized by the American Association for State and Local History.  When Gary and I first began talking about the possibilities of me becoming Executive Director, I knew I needed to somehow broaden my experience and prepare a bit more.  SHA seemed like the best, most practical choice.

When I arrived in Indy, I was Interim Executive Director.  But after a rather disastrous executive board meeting, I wasn’t sure if I would ever lose the word interim.  In fact, my thoughts at the time were to get through SHA and Candlelight, and in January, I would start looking for a new job.  Today, I’m most definitely Executive Director with the full support of my board.

Two years ago, I sensed that the neighborhood around us was changing.  Vogel Alcove had begun construction on their new home at City Park Elementary, and I knew that there could be a good partnership there.  DHV’s property at 1610 S. Ervay had been placed on the market, and there was almost immediate interest.  We had certainly worried that it would sit for months, if not years.  During SHA, I spent a lot of time talking about the future of these two redevelopment projects.

Last Thursday night, I accepted the inaugural Community Partner Award from Vogel Alcove for our ongoing partnership.  Not only are we doing practical things, like sharing parking and mulch, the kids are using our museum regularly.  There are twice a month, curriculum connected field trips.  I presented on this partnership at AASLH in September and have been asked to write an article about it for The Public Historian. We’re currently working on a major grant together as well.

As for neighborhood redevelopment, two years ago, I was excited about 2 new neighbors.  Today, five major redevelopment projects (all in historic buildings) are set to begin construction soon.  Two of these are new cultural non-profit friends.  Talk is beginning about a new cultural district for the city.  Very soon, we will no longer be surrounded by big empty buildings.  DHV will no longer be an island.

Two years ago, I lamented how difficult it is to have our voice heard, since we’re a small museum in a very big city.  Last year, I led efforts to get Dallas ISD field trip funding reinstated for science and social studies.  We were successful.  By building better relationships with the city’s elected leaders, we got $45,000 to repair three leaking roofs.  Through efforts that I’m a minor part of, overall city funding for the arts has increased each of the last two years.  This has resulted in another $20,000 for our operating budget.  And just the other day, I was complimented by a new board member for the role the museum is taking as we participate in the current swirling conversations about the future of Dallas.

Two years ago, I knew I had a great state and local network, but really didn’t know people nationally.  This past summer, I was able to visit with two SHA friends during trips.  And at this point, AASLH conferences can only be described as marathon slumber parties.  But it’s not just SHA friends that have become part of that network–though those SHA friends are the best part of that network.  We may have shut down a bar one night.  In our defense, the bar did close at midnight, which seems early.

I can’t give credit to all of the good things that have happened in my career and at DHV to SHA two years ago.  But I do know that SHA helped build my own confidence in my leadership abilities.  I know I gained new tools to analyze and react to new opportunities. And, perhaps most importantly, I gained some pretty amazing friends.  I’m the first of my museum educator peers to take the big step into leadership, and I was feeling pretty lonely–the museum world definitely looks different when you’re the boss.  Two years ago, I found my people for this stage of my life and career.

So, I guess I should forgive Facebook for continually reminding me of where I was two years ago.  It was a good place.  And I’m in an even better place today.

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Notes to Self

Just returned from Louisville, where I was attending the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History.  And before I get back involved with the day to day of running Dallas Heritage Village, here are a few notes to myself I’d like to make for next year’s conference in Detroit.

  • Don’t agree to present at two sessions.Yes, both were important topics (advocacy and partnerships) and it was an honor to have two sessions accepted. However, I didn’t get to go to a session that wasn’t my own until halfway through day 2.  And I know I missed good things.  Two sessions also meant that the prep work for the conference was a wee bit more intense.  On the bright side, both session were well attended and we got lots of great comments.  So it was totally worth it, but I would have liked a bit more flexibility in my schedule.
  • Don’t begin the conference with a sleep deficit.  It’s unlikely that I’ll have a college reunion the weekend before ever again.  However, because I’m one of those people that likes to see as much of a city as possible (and I knew I had two sessions!), I decided to make sure that I arrived early enough on Tuesday to do some exploring of Louisville.  Alas, that meant a 7:45 a.m. flight departure.  By the time I got to Louisville, all I cared about was lunch and a nap.  Instead of exploring, I dozed and watched old episodes of Friends and Modern Family.  I should have just caught a later flight.  Sleep is gold during AASLH!
  • Remember the SHA pin!  This is the only time where it makes sense to wear it, and by God, I earned that pin!
  • Pack snacks.  I was a good girl and got up for breakfast twice.  But as the conference exhaustion set in, I probably would have been happier with a granola bar and in room coffee.  Instead, I skipped breakfast and was starving.  Usually, I do this.  Not sure why I didn’t think about it this time around.
  • Bring the travel neck pillow.  I bought mine years ago in anticipation of a long flight to Hawaii, but I haven’t taken it on a trip since.  I hate carrying it, but it would have been so wonderful to have it yesterday for the flights home.  Because I was sleepy!

And here are a few things that I was smart about, and that I probably shouldn’t forget for next time.

  • Pack multiple options for layers.  This was possibly the coldest conference I’ve ever been to.  In some rooms, you could feel a temperature drop of 10-15 degrees as soon as you walked in.  So grateful that I had more than one sweater, because there wasn’t ever a time that I wasn’t wearing some sort of layer.
  • Carve out time for special friends.  My first AASLH was in 2008, and I really didn’t know anyone except a few friends from Texas.  2012 was slightly better, but I still spent most of my time hanging out with neighbors.  And then I went to SHA in 2013, and I suddenly had a national network.  I have one special friend in particular, and we made sure to set aside some time just for us.  Of course, she also brought her adorable baby with her, so there may have been an ulterior motive of baby snoogling on my part.
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The SHA 2013 Class was well represented–and this isn’t even everyone who came!
  • Bring a small purse.  I hate overpacking, but having a small bag for evening events (rather than lugging the giant conference bag) was really nice.
  • Take one official, offsite tour.  I spent Wednesday in Frankfort and it was delightful. You have a bit more time to explore an institution than during an evening event, and you’re more likely to get some behind the scenes scoop.  I adore behind the scenes scoop.  I’ll probably never get to eat lunch in a Governor’s Mansion again, but that was definitely a perk.
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I don’t think we’re used to this level of fancy at conferences.
  • Don’t be afraid to shut a bar down.  You can sleep when you’re home.