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.
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.