There has been much talk about galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) as a collective lately. GLAMSLAM 2018 united us over one long, inspiring, jam-packed day. Usually when I write about events I have attended I will write about certain presentations or workshops and interesting people I met. This time, I want to talk about the general themes and ideas floating around during the day without attributing them to any one person. That is because this conference felt like a very interactive collaborative effort and I kept hearing the same things from different people over the course of the day.
Here are my main takeaways from the day:
- While Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums have much in common and much to learn from each other, we should be wary of convergence and despecialisation. We are all different and our differences make us great together.
- GLAM professionals LOVE their jobs. We are a dedicated, overcommitted, self-sacrificing lot. We are overworked and underpaid but when people show us the value what we do, it makes it worthwhile. We are passionate about what we do. If you are in a GLAM institution and are not passionate about what you do, then do something else!
- GLAM institutions should be always be not just customer-focused but community-focused. We need to LISTEN to our users and SEEK them out to let them know that we are here for them. GLAM institutions are here for EVERYONES benefit, not just the privileged. We need to encourage diversity in our collections, diversity in our user base and diversity in our workforce.
- GLAM institutions need to stop being afraid. We are too cautious about copyright, too precious about our standards and protocols, too ready to declare ourselves ‘totally unbiased and neutral parties’. No cultural institution is neutral, no matter how hard they might try to be or how fervently they believe theirselves to be.
- We need eachother. We need to band together and advocate. The GLAM sector in Australia has been suffering from funding cuts and budget slashing and things are getting dire. We need to make what we do more visible and show that we are not only wanted but needed. GLAM institutions make life better.
- We need to stop making assumptions. We shouldn’t assume to know what our customers want. We shouldn’t assume that people in the humanities are ‘on the same page’. We shouldn’t assume that we know better. We shouldn’t assume that our actions won’t be offensive and insulting because we are ‘trying to do the right thing’.
So what was the day really about? There was a fair amount of showing off (as I tend to do), patting each other on the back, networking and learning about each other’s day to day work and special projects. This is the usual conference stuff.
What was different was that there was also a desperate need to be better and to improve our intuitions and a lot of constructive talk on how we can be better. It is challenge to hear someone say, “We think we are great at this, but we are not.” It is vital that these problems are acknowledged. Moving forward from that we can keep experimenting, keep learning, keep improving and build a better GLAM future.