Ignite MCN 2021: Nobody understands my job, and that’s a problem

Nobody understands my job, and that's a problem (IGNITE)


Unknown Speaker 00:00
So next up, we've got Kate Meyers Emery. Kate Myers is a PhD, has a PhD in anthropology from Michigan State University. And she was trained in mortuary archaeology and human osteo archaeology. Let me just say that again, she is trained in a mortuary archaeology and human osteo archaeology, which she describes as cemeteries and skeletons. But she paid for her degree by doing digital work, which led to her current career as manager of digital engagement at the George Eastman Museum, where she uses digital methods now to find ways to engage the public and museum collections from video games and virtual tours, to educational videos and social media. And she is persistent in our quest to sneak cats into everything. So you might see some cats in this presentation. She's also an amazingly talented Illustrator. So why don't you go ahead and take it away, Kate?

Unknown Speaker 01:06
Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Meyers Emery. I am a 30 something woman. With a dead look. In my eyes, I could only belong to a Social Media Manager paired with a wry smile that lets you know, I've survived it by looking at cat videos. I'm a manager of digital engagement, which means I do everything digital in my Museum, but is public facing from fun and web design to social media to onsite interactives. And I want to talk about the invisible labor of digital work. And one point 2020 someone in my organization was thanking a large group and a Zoom meeting and left out my name. When they were corrected. They excused it by saying, well, Kate is involved in everything. And I think that's a great way to frame the issue here. Digital is so much a part of everything that it almost becomes invisible. And because digital is something people are used to doing personally, running their own Zoom meetings using Facebook editing a personal website, there's a misconception that it's easy to do it professionally. It's not with like the wizards behind the curtain, making sure the whole digital machine works for doing our jobs. Well, you often don't know we exist. Why is the webinar successful? Why is the website working? Why is that Instagram post going viral? Because someone was there with expertise and skills dedicated to making sure it worked. yet because we aren't seen on cameras and our names aren't published, we often aren't noticed. Unless something doesn't work, then we are really really noticed. This isn't a new conversation. I'm not saying anything that's shocking, like what OMG digital people are under recognized. Yeah, we all knew this was an issue before the pandemic hit. And it isn't just a concern for digital folks. It's a museum field issue. But it's become increasingly poignant for digital people since March 2020. When digital went from being a subfield to being everything, we literally became the museum 2020 amplified everything we were feeling and added burnout and overworked to the mix. So how do we fix it? Well, this past year, I had an epiphany. And by epiphany, I mean Baby, I went on my maternity leave, they didn't have the ability to hire someone else to cover my complete role. And instead, other staff in the museum were going to take on my role temporarily. So I was off in my newborn, my co workers were slogging through my work. And when I came back, there was an appreciation for what I do, and an understanding of the labor and strategy that goes into that work. It helped break down some assumptions that were being made. And a light went off in my head, I started looking for other ways to make my work more transparent, testing them out of myself, and they reached out on Twitter to see what other people were doing. So here they are some ways that you too can increase transparency around your work. Number one, you can do it I didn't go on leave. Either you're going to go through the process of getting someone else to take over your job, which will require documentation and sharing of what goes into it. Or more likely your co workers are going to get to help out. But take the leave, take the rest. Take your holiday, take your sick time, don't feel guilty, go somewhere where they can't contact you. No Wi Fi no cellular no trained carrier pigeons. Let others get a taste of what your work is like. Number two, you can invite others to collaborate with you on the entire process and make your documentation and workflows open for everyone to see. This method is a great way to show your co workers how the sausage is made, and what labor and energy is going into what you're doing. You can create an open go Google Drive folder with all of your strategies, workflows and tracking documents and make them available to your organization. I personally love that this is also an opportunity to show off my spreadsheet skills, and I do mean skills here with the Z. Number three, you can share updates about the impact of your work and works as documentation and raises awareness of everything that is happening and who's involved. Sometimes it's easy not to notice ongoing work like social media. So this is a good reminder. Lastly, I think one of the most important ways that we can make this better not just for us, but for museum people in general, is to acknowledge the labor of everyone around us. at the 2020 1am conference, I saw a talk where they did a labor acknowledgement. It's simple, ingenious, let's expand that idea. For example, instead of webinars, instead of just acknowledging moderators and speakers, how about we acknowledge the people behind the scenes. Speaking of that, a big thank you to the MC n team who is making sure that this Ignite happens today. The truth is, we can't hope leadership will all of a sudden recognize our work. But we can take steps to recognize each other to recognize our colleagues set the precedent of making each other's work more transparent. Everyone deserves to be celebrated. Let's be that voice that we want to hear. So thank you. And I mean that thank you for all the work that you are doing to make museums relevant, engaging, accessible, and entertaining. You are perfect. And now that I've said my cat pun, I'm out. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 06:15
Thanks so much. So all those caps were hand drawn and inked. And then I, you know, brought into their presentation, check out cades Twitter for a little peek at what the process was like to prepare these slides. Thank you so much, Kate. That was great.