At small museums like ours, you have to wear plenty of hats. All hats are not created equal. I like my “curatorial” hat–I picture it as a ranger cap with funky colors and artifacts glued to it.
One hat I absolutely hate: MEDIA PERSON.
I’m not sure what people don’t understand about the word “introvert.” It has all sorts of (completely undeserved) negative connotations, but is it not widely known that we REALLY DON’T LIKE EXTENDED INTERACTION WITH PEOPLE? Especially strangers. And, for me, especially on the phone.
We’ve been in stress-planning mode for an upcoming annual festival since, oh, the day after the last one ended. Our executive director, who generally plans these things herself, has put her foot down and declared that all of us (about 5) are going to have to make “cold calls” to vendors, performers, etc. to gauge their interest in spicing up the festival.
I’m not sure I’ve given a brief description of our 3-4 person, all-volunteer staff, so here we go. Outside the executive director and her husband, we are:
1. Me. I’m an archaeologist and journalist. Phone conversations make me very nervous. I don’t know what the secret is to understanding people (both physically and emotionally) without body language, but it’s an art in which I have not been schooled. Cold calls to anyone, and sometimes calls to friends and family, sometimes end up with me wincing in embarrassment and the other end wondering if they should call a psychiatrist.
2. The Other Tour Guide. He’s an ex-hippie (the “ex” is in doubt sometimes) and in his sixties. His very religious wife thinks the museum is pagan and hates it. He tour guides wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and bear claw necklaces. He mows the lawn a lot.
3. The Curator. I think about this very nice dude whenever I feel bad about my inability to hold a phone conversation. Our curator can’t even hold a face-to-face conversation. He sweats a lot and pops mints to cure a nervous stomach. He also can’t use a computer–never mind the Internet–and has to have his wife send the rare email he can’t avoid. The only time he bothers to show up at the museum is when I call him to identify some stone.
4. The Event Coordinator. Add “who just got an actual paying job” onto that. This is the only person equipped in any way to make “cold calls,” or really any phone calls at all, for the event. It doesn’t help that she’s never around and doesn’t do half the things she says she will.
So, how’s this going to turn out?
Well, the executive director will again do all the work in that department. Meanwhile, I’m confined to sending out press releases to a huge list of strangers who love to then send me “PLEASE TAKE ME OFF YOUR DISTRIBUTION LIST” emails. There’s nothing like the sight of hate mail first thing in the morning.
If you run a small museum, I sure hope you’ve had better luck finding and retaining a volunteer media coordinator than we have.