My First Month with Vastari as a Travelling Exhibitions Manager
As my first month as Vastari’s Travelling Exhibitions manager is coming to a close, I feel overwhelmed by the number of fascinating museum professionals I have met (mostly over the phone) and the lessons I have learnt.
In brief, here are my findings.
Cloak and dagger vs the want to share
Let’s face it: the museum world is a discreet one, filled with NDAs and phrases like ‘I am working on this awesome thing, I cannot tell you about, with awesome people I can’t mention’ or in my case ‘The touring exhibitions network is awesome with great museums from all over the world that I am not allowed to name’.
Vastari’s cloak and dagger policy comes from a need to work with museums regardless of the level of disclosure of their future projects, and also a worry expressed by high-level curators that our company would only promote itself by the endorsement of the museums on the platform. That becomes a bit awkward given museums are public institutions and we are a privately held start-up.
So we adopted a company-wide policy to keep things secret. People can share their success stories about Vastari if they wish (and our company name is on some museum labels around the world!) but we will not share anything unless it is cleared by the museum first.
To be honest, I discovered that this cloak and dagger scenario becomes a bit awkward when your business is working to create a peer community and a museum network. The most important part of any network are the people who make it. This bizarre tension between the human want to share, connect, and help each other and the signed non-disclosure agreements was something I had to learn to deal with in my new job.
This month alone I have lost count just how many times I wanted to yell ‘You have to join because so-and-so is part VTEN too’! Or ‘Join because so-and-so just joined and you would be the perfect match’! But of course, professionalism and a respect for the policies Vastari has in place held me back.
Let’s share what we can
I can’t disclose who are the customers of our network, but I can give you an idea of who I spoke to in the last 30 days and let you draw your own conclusions. So with my first month coming to a close it’s time to do the round-up:
This month alone, I spoke with 58 museums from 19 countries.
On a map this looks even more impressive:
And look at this amazing view that one of the museums in the North is enjoying!
I still have to pinch myself when I think about who I got to speak to, on more than one occasion I had to calm myself by taking a few very deep breaths.
Take a look at all the curators, heads of exhibitions, and directors I met:
I got a brief history of Touring Exhibitions from one of you and found out that a while back (before conservation and insurance were a concern) there was an Art Mobile that roamed around Virginia:
One of you decided to be experimental and make some changes to a touring show by adding a working tattoo shop to it:
But the best part of my job was talking to some of the people I have admired for a very very long time. I do hope that I will meet many of you in the months to come and at future conferences.
The next one I, and the rest of Vastari, are attending is MuseumNext in Dublin. See you there?