Here We Go Again

Yesterday was a rough day.

One of the fundamental things that I expect from a boss is that s/he will be a leader, a visionary who can guide the organization. But the other is that s/he will be someone to whom I can take my questions and concerns so that we can work towards solutions together. Yesterday I went to the Boss with a major problem — I have to present a program tomorrow to 250 kids and as of this moment, still have nothing to present. Today I’m stuck at the front desk taking admissions all day, so I thought I came prepared — I brought all of my notes and files up to the front desk to work from the computer there all day.

No dice. On an average day, that 386 is so slow it’s ridiculous. But today I can’t even get Word to load, and it can’t make a connection to the network, which is a problem because the files I need are on the server. I called the Boss (who is at home today, leaving me as the only staff person on site) and her response?

“We have to do a better job taking care of the equipment we have. We may not have the nicest computers or projectors or whatever, but we are responsible for taking care of what we have. I can’t help it if you are not taking care of the equipment you are provided. I’m not going to call some computer repair company to come in and tell us that we are not taking care of our stuff. You’ll have to make do with what you have.”

It’s through no fault of my own that the network cable is so frayed that the wires have split and are spilling out of the casing all over the place. And she expects me to man the front desk all day with no resources to do my job, but still holds me accountable at the end of every week for the work that I haven’t been able to accomplish. Guess I can subtract several hours from my sleep tonight so I can type up what I’m going to hand-write at the desk today.

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

I already have two immediate projects on my plate at my new job. One is that in a couple of months, the museum will start major building improvements. The museum is installing better climate control and compact shelving in collections storage, where all of the artifacts are stored. As a result, I will be in charge of managing and coordinating the move of all collections. We have to clear everything out of collections storage before construction and renovation can begin, and then move everything back in to the new shelves & storage furniture once the renovation is complete.

The second project is to research, write, and create a new temporary exhibit. In addition to the museum’s permanent exhibit, the museum opens a new smaller (1200 square feet) year-long exhibit on various topics. While the topic would normally be up to me, this time I’ve been handed the topic that previous curator was working on before she left. And it is

sorry, fell asleep there. The new topic is….yawn…Local legal history.

Just makes you want to jump up and down, doesn’t it!

I’ve spent this afternoon trying to discern what “local legal history” means, but I still have no idea. The way the Boss explained it to me was that the topic was already researched, an exhibit develop committee was in place, ideas had already been formed, the structure and content was being worked out. But all that’s in the files are scribbles and brainstorming notes from a couple of different meetings. There’s no overall theme or concept here. Some of the notes pertain to individuals who played a role in shaping local legal history — a lawyer who worked in water rights, a criminal whose case resulted in Miranda Rights, and a bio of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. There are print-outs of wikipedia articles on specific crimes that happened here, and a list of books about the Indian wars. I’m not seeing how this all relates. And it’s not a topic I am particularly interested in, nor sold on, which makes it hard for me to get other people excited about it.

It strikes me that this topic was chosen simply because it’s sensationalist and not because of anything particularly significant. Don’t get me wrong, there are juicy episodes here — murder, cases that set national legal precedents, and nefarious characters. But to weave together these unrelated episodes is artificial and contrived. I’m all about using the trees to present the forest — each display and topic relates to another and together, help to convey an overall point. But this? I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here, and I’m unable to draw any conclusions from these tidbits. I mean what are we trying to say here? That Phoenix is riddled with crime, racist cops, and an unevenly applied justice system?

The bottom line is if I can’t wrap my brain around what the story is here, and I can’t be bothered to summon interest, how can I expect our audiences to do the same?

Still having no clue and no guidance for the museum’s legal history exhibit, I had asked the Boss for clarification on the idea behind the exhibit. As in, what is this supposed to be about? What was the thinking behind this, in terms of the overall concept or point? What she handed me was a one-page writeup that she had submitted as part of a small grant application. The writeup confused me even more. Basically it said that the exhibit would be about the “history of laws, vice and crime.” Okay….

Hoping for more meaningful advice, I turned to a discussion forum for help. I posted a question asking if anyone had any ideas on any themes or patterns I might expect to find? Like, do laws in western cities from the 1800s through today say something about the community, and what should I be looking for?

The responses nearly all started with, “I’m not sure what you mean by the history of laws, vice, and crime.” HA! Yeah, me neither!

Work. Sigh.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, we had a staff meeting about the fallout from Twitwit’s firing. No juicy details, but this is going to be major. Until the museum hires a new education director, I am to take over that position. All duties, responsibilities, and tasks of the education department. On top of my regular job.  Which is the job of about 6 people. I’m the curator, but I’m also the registrar, collections manager, the exhibit developer, the volunteer coordinator, and the archivist/librarian. And now I’m adding another hat into the pile — that of education director. So here’s a (partial) list of my job duties, all of which are to be completed within my 40 hours per week (yeah, right.)

  • document all donations and loans to the museum
  • research all of the museum’s artifacts and collections
  • develop relationship with potential donors to encourage donations to the museum’s collection by attending meetings, networking, and correspondence
  • meet with donors to collect donations to the museum’s collection
  • data entry and database management for museum’s collections
  • research, develop, write, and present a Collections Policy to the museum’s board for formal approval
  • obtain and manage insurance for collections in preparation for collections move
  • manage ongoing digitization of photographs project and make available online
  • help researchers find the books, archival collections, and photographs they need
  • process photo reproduction orders
  • organize, plan, and closely supervise the upcoming collections move
  • get quotes for and order the new storage furniture for storage of all collections, plan the configuration for the new storage room
  • get dimensions for all items in collection to order storage boxes for all items for upcoming collections move
  • photograph all collections to document appearance and condition before collections move
  • attend weekly meetings for updates on upcoming building construction project
  • train & supervise 5 volunteers
  • grant writing
  • historical research on the region in general, and research on our collections
  • exhibit development for the next major exhibit
  • staff the admissions desk up to 24 hours per week
  • research and production of three 5-minute videos featuring local history
  • reservations and billing for all educational programs
  • deliver all educational programs, on site and off site, for children and adults
  • develop, plan, and run all girl scout programs
  • manage, organize, and staff annual Silent Auction fundraiser

After the meeting, I decided that one of the things I needed to get on top of (and fast) was the upcoming Education programs. So I went to Twitwit’s office to mine her files to find records of upcoming tours, dates, and content for each of the programs the museum offered. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I found almost nothing. I found no “scripts” or documents that covered the content of our educational programs. I found no records of upcoming school tours. I found no receipts or correspondence to indicate any loose threads I could pick up on. It’s not that we don’t have educational programs or upcoming school tours; we do. It’s that she didn’t keep any records of anything whatsoever.

Thanks, Twitwit. I’ve come back from my holiday “break” only to find that on Friday, I have to present an educational trunk show to 3 consecutive classes of over 250 students. But you left me no record of a) where this school is, b) what age group these children are, c) if the school has paid for this program, d) which trunk show they requested, and 3)the CONTENT of any of the educational trunk shows. I opened a document on the server today titled “Trunk Show script” and all that was in it were the words “Good morning boys and girls.” That’s it. That’s all that was there.

So I go to the Boss to let her know of this problem and her response? Consult the manual. Oh! I hadn’t THOUGHT of that yet! What a tool I am! I should just open the manual and there on page 3-34 will be the instructions. Except THERE IS NOTHING IN THE MANUAL. I already checked. I am a resourceful problem-solving person. I used everything I had at my disposal to try and answer my question before I decided to bother you with this to try and problem solve this conundrum. In pointing this out to her, she offered no assistance whatsoever in devising a solution. She simply shooed me out of her office so she could get back to staring at her laptop doing nothing, I guess.

So now I am spending the next 48 hours pulling my own artifacts from collections storage, researching and writing my own content, and developing my own trunk show after having called the teacher myself and sheepishly having to ask the following questions two days before the show: 1) have you paid? 2) what age(s) are these groups? 3) which show did you book? 4) where is your school?

I do NOT appreciate looking like an idiot and looking unprofessional. That really pisses me off about this place. I do my best to get my own work done, even when it means taking it home with me and working til 11 pm most nights and working at my laptop all weekend from my couch, as it usually does. During the week, my time is so fractured between managing volunteers who don’t follow the rules, running educational programs for fourth graders, collecting entrance fees at the front desk, and trying to fix the computers that don’t work so that I can do work that it’s hard for me to get any of my own projects done. It’s hard enough for me to manage the upcoming collections move and the upcoming exhibit, both of which I am ostensibly capable of. But I never asked to be a museum education director, have never done anything like this before, received no training, and continue to receive no support. But since it’s my responsibility now, the presentations and tours are a reflection of the institution and of me, and I don’t appreciate looking like an unprepared, unqualified idiot.

Can I run away? Fake my own death? I’ve already routinely been working well over my 40 hours each week just to get on top of my existing duties. And now I’ve got to figure out how to clone myself just so I can get adequate time off on my days day off. All without any additional compensation. I already work benefits-free — there’s no health insurance, no retirement, no fringe benefits. In a larger, better funded institution, one person would be dedicated full-time to almost each of my tasks and duties. But here, I’ve got to learn to juggle all of these different things and still expected to stay on top of a collection of 25,000 objects I don’t know and can’t track. Sigh. I would say I need an intern or six, but training them would just be more work at this point.

0.16 MPH

One of the sucky things about moving from a small town to a major metropolitan area is the traffic. Having just moved here a couple of months ago, I still don’t know my way around very well, so I’ve only figured out a couple of different routes between work and home. I had to close the museum today, so I didn’t get out until about 5:30. In normal traffic, it takes me no less than an hour to get home. But today’s the day before Thanksgiving and Arizona’s major airport lies between my work and my house. It took me 3 hours to get home tonight. That is not a misprint. Three FUCKING hours to go the 18 miles from my work to my front door. Sigh. I miss my small town life.

Twitwit: Quitwit?!

Today was possibly my best, and most unfortunate, day at work. I found out Twitwit had done something “for” me, as in taken the initiative a) to determine I wanted it done (by her freakishly inaccurate powers of mind-reading) and b) doing it, followed by c) neglecting to mention to me steps a and b. When I told her I was pissed, she became really defensive. Hit a nerve, did I?

Guess so, because only five hours later I watched Twitwit be escorted by the Boss from the building. Evidently, she had been given notice and decided to take preemptive action. By quitting. Effective as soon as she could pack her stuff in her office. Class act.

For an instant I thought, Oh Shit! I’d rather put up with her than cover her stupid work until we hire someone else. But then I realized that since she had left, I had finally relaxed, too. Bottom line is, I’d rather pick up her slack than put up with her.

So the good news? I no longer have to endure Twitwit’s antics. The bad news? See: good news. Until now, every day work had the promise of revealing a new Twitwism. Sigh. I guess now I’ll just have to mine the mentally unstable transsexual assistant for gems to put a sparkle on my day.

The Case of the Disappearing Goldwater Files

Barry Goldwater was Arizona’s golden boy. Ever the politician, he created a lifelong legacy by founding Arizona State University’s Arizona Historical Foundation, an organization dedicated to collect, preserve, and make available historical documents that address Arizona and Southwestern subjects.

barry-goldwater-portrait

So it’s a little ironic that the Arizona Historical Foundation has now closed off access to Goldwater’s own papers. Goldwater donated a large sum of money and his political and personal papers to the foundation in 1959, with no stipulations on access to his own files. Most recently, a journalist accessed Goldwater’s files to research an article in a local newspaper. His article highlighted Goldie’s personal unsavory conduct and received such ire from Goldie’s granddaughter C.C., a board member of the foundation, that she succeeded in having his papers sealed.

The Goldwater collection has seen alot of action since it was donated to the foundation. Researchers, academics, journalists, and the just plain curious have sifted through his papers for decades. Some of the resulting articles have aired Goldie’s political dirty laundry, like his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act or his steadfast support of McCarthy to the very end. Writers have pointed out how conservatives from all spectra of the right (old right, new right, and rabid right) alike stood by him. (And those categories pretty much take care of enfranchised Arizonans.) His politics were what made him Arizona’s golden boy, though. C.C. Goldwater had to draw the line at her grandfather’s personal dirty laundry.

From here on out, I guess if you want to know about Goldwater, the man, you’ll have to rely on C.C.’s own recent production, the HBO hagiography, “Mr. Conservative.”

Bite the Ballot

This year’s midterm elections in Arizona meant endless ads for any of the 95 offices and issues up for grabs. The ballot covered every position from governor to state mine inspector and included no fewer than 19 special interest initiatives. Arizona ballot initiatives provide an opportunity for regular citizens to participate in the democratic process . . . and it shows. The idea is so poorly conceived that it requires voters to vote yes or no on each issue, even opposing ones. So, yes, I’d like to ban smoking in restaurants. And yes, I’d like to allow smoking in restaurants. They are always (intentionally?) poorly worded, disenfranchising even the informed. But they do achieve their purpose. They allow all the regular multimillion dollar sleazeballs lobbies to participate equally in spreading rampant racism and homophobia (and generally corrupting the electoral process). I should have known this was a sign of things to come.

I received the early mail-in ballot only to discover a process even dumber than the proposition system itself. In order to select your candidate, you connect a broken arrow by drawing the line between the two points.

mail-in-ballot-picture

Cause they wanted to simplify the procedures, I guess. People had gotten too confused by circling the candidate of their choice or filling in bubbles. A side note: While the accompanying instructions clearly stated “Complete the ballot using no. 2 pencil or pen only. DO NOT USE RED INK,” the last page of the ballot itself read, “Use ink only.”