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by Marla Dobson, Curator, Museum of Health Care at Kingston

Walking into the Toronto Hilton for the 2019 Canadian Museums Association Conference, I was eager to get to know some of my fellow colleagues and to engage in some big thinking on behalf of the Museum of Health Care at Kingston. I am very grateful to Andornot for awarding me their Professional Development Grant, which allowed me to enjoy this conference.

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In total, I attended four educational sessions, two of which were, on paper, about art. As a PhD in art history, this is a topic close to my heart. While this may, at first glance, seem at odds with the role of Curator of the Museum of Health Care, I believe that we can learn a lot about providing a people-centered visitor experience by examining the ways in which communities engage with the arts. At their core, these sessions demonstrated new ways of thinking about museum programming, not just in art galleries, but in museums of all kinds. Through the use of artist-in-residence programs as well as arts-based therapy programs, many museums are more deeply engaging their communities and providing innovative and potentially life-changing programming. The overall takeaway was the importance of involving your community more actively in programming, as well as thinking more creatively and thematically about your collections.

Another session I attended was all about abstract thinking in exhibition planning. For many years, museums have typically focused on providing ‘cold hard facts’ as central components of their exhibitions. While this is obviously still of vital importance, especially in the case of science and medicine museums, the session facilitators pushed us to think about how thematic and abstract ideation could help create more dynamic and engaging displays. At the end of the day, studies have shown that informational, text heavy exhibitions are not the best way to convey ideas. Thus, it is useful to consider interpretive methodologies that ask broader questions, provoke conversations, and deal with more abstract themes in order to make content more relevant and engaging. This way of thinking struck a chord with me in terms of the Museum of Health Care collections, which can be used to address a number of themes related to the human experience of health and disease.

Image 5Overall, these sessions helped to focus my thoughts and gave me ideas moving forward as a curator. I was also lucky enough to meet many interesting and influential people, as well as listen to a keynote address by Indigenous artist Kent Monkman, who spoke eloquently about the need to decolonize museums across the country. These experiences inspired me to think bigger and to consider the ways in which our organizations can continue to move beyond insular, traditional ways of thinking.

For the third year in a row, Andornot is pleased to award a Professional Development Grant to a working professional, to aid them in attending a conference or workshop.

This year’s recipient of the $1,000 grant is Marla Dobson, Curator of the Museum of Health Care in Kingston, ON.

Marla-Dobson

In her application for the grant, Marla writes:

As the Curator for the Museum of Health Care at Kingston, I have responsibility for planning, organizing, and supervising exhibition development, collections development and maintenance, as well as programming support. I care for a collection of 40,000 objects related to the history of medicine and health care in Canada. I also act as an ambassador for the museum, building its public profile within the regional community as well as at national and even international events.

The collection is available at https://mhc.andornot.com, with a search interface developed from our Andornot Discovery Interface, and hosted by our Managed Hosting service.

Marla adds:

I wish to attend the Canadian Museums Association National Conference because it is vital that I develop and expand my professional network within the Canadian museum community. I am new in my position and as an emerging professional, wish to expose myself to workshops and networking events that will firstly, improve my ability to be a successful curator, and secondly, help me make connections with other organizations with which we could partner on projects and exhibitions.

Andornot strongly believes in the value of attending conferences to foster professional development. We attend events across Canada all year long to learn about new trends and technologies, meet with clients, and share our expertise with like-minded folks.

We receive many excellent applications for this grant each year and face a tough decision in choosing just one. We thank all who showed an interest in the grant and only wish we could send everyone to a conference.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the conferences we’ll be attending this year.

We are excited to announce that the newly published "Librarian's Introduction to Programming Languages: A LITA Guide" includes a chapter written by our Peter Tyrrell on programming in C#. 

Peter was approached last year by the editor, Beth Thomsett-Scott, who has gathered together chapters by experts on nine different programming languages that librarians might need to know more about.

"There are many books on programming languages but no recent items directly written for librarians that span a variety of programs. Many practicing librarians see programming as something for IT people or beyond their capabilities. This book will help these librarians to feel comfortable discussing programming with others by providing an understanding of when the language might be useful, what is needed to make it work, and relevant tools to extend its application. Additionally, the inclusion of practical examples lets readers try a small "app" for the language. This also will assist readers who want to learn a language but are unsure of which language would be the best fit for them in terms of learning curve and application.

This book is designed to provide a basic working knowledge of each language presented, case studies which show the programming language used in real ways and resources for exploring each language in more detail."

Peter is of course both a librarian and a programmer himself, so was delighted to contribute a chapter to the book.

Quite a few years ago my husband and I went out to one of the fanciest restaurants in Vancouver – at the time - and dropped way more money than we expected.  The meal consisted of small quantities of beautifully arranged morsels of exquisitely flavoured food, served over several hours on many small white plates.  Each course, which was introduced and described in great detail had its own series of dishes, including cutlery.  And when we had finished consuming these small flavoured treasures, everything was completely cleared away, right down to the white linen each time.  Then a whole new set of dishes, cutlery and food was brought back for the next course. 

Although the food was delicious, it was certainly not filling and my husband always joked when he tells friends about this experience that he had to go out for a hamburger after it was all over.  All I could think of was how glad I was that I did not have to wash all those dishes and what a great story this will be – embellished with each retelling, of course – to make up for the cost.

But just think about the detail that went into that meal.  It must have taken hours to shop for the food, not to mention those little white dishes, prepare the reduction sauces, the dessert chocolates with the gold lettering, etc.  Clearly what was needed to coordinate the whole extravaganza was a “food concept architect.” 

Ok, I did not just make up that title.  I was recently reading a weekly Vancouver newspaper which featured many articles on food, including mention of the very chef who orchestrated or rather architected the aforementioned meal.  It all made sense when I read that.  Of course, you can’t just be a “chef” anymore – especially one who “just” cooks and serves.  No, apparently some chefs have moved far beyond that.  This “food concept architect” is apparently not the only one using this title, although I must say it has not exactly caught on if you can trust a quick Google Search. 

Is this job title “food concept architect” presumptuous or does it take a certain amount of professional cachet to call oneself that?  Is it just about PR?  I’m not an expert on that, but this got me thinking about librarians, a profession to which I proudly belong.  There are plenty of qualified librarians who would prefer to be called information manager, knowledge worker or a new one I just saw advertised: Informationist, but I don’t believe I have ever heard of "information concept architect.” I ask why not?

Just think about all the wonderful, creative, intellectual tasks that librarians do.  These range from managing a budget, designing databases, searching databases, answering reference questions, supervising/managing staff, attending meetings, defending the cost of expensive resources, deciding what services to outsource, delivering the right information to the right people at the right time, etc.  I could go on and on and on. 

Do librarians not prepare and serve up information to individuals/clients/patrons just like chefs in restaurants serve up courses?  Do they not deserve the same high-falutin’ name?  Perhaps there are only a few elite chefs who can call themselves a “food concept architect” and perhaps there are also just a few librarians who could possibly qualify to call themselves “information concept architects.”  But maybe we should keep trying.  Read Alexander Feng’s essay Corporate Librarian 2.0: New Core Competencies, Bruce Rosenstein’s essay The Core Competence of Innovation or ALA’s Core Competences of Librarianship for further inspiration and participate in Align SLAto help define our profession!

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