It Doesn’t Have to be Toxic

The Met has 53,000 objects on view across our three buildings, and all of them need labels. Another 5,000 labels are produced every year. The label archive is nearly bottomless. All these labels somehow somehow got made. So what could be wrong? Plenty, it turns out. When a room full of 200 curators groans at the mere mention of labels, there’s more going on than just technology can fix. Research into an ambitious proposal to link the Met’s CMS to the label production workflow revealed much deeper issues: entire departments were producing labels themselves because too many small label projects fell through the cracks, different kinds of labels were being produced in entirely different ways, and, worst of all, a toxic organizational psychology had taken hold where the trolls were inside the building. The best solution turned out to be centered on people, not technology. An entire year was spent detoxifying the communication stream and re-establishing ownership, accountability, and just generally getting along. Two years later, we have the basis for a better relationship built on best practices and inspired collaboration. As the Met enters year 3 of a reboot of its label program, learn how the growing emphasis on leading through empathy and understanding creates allies and fellow enthusiasts among longtime and new staff alike, and how a low-cost roadmap of better working relationships is the true basis for any lasting change and progress. Even if your “hater” colleagues wouldn’t be caught dead in a Design Thinking workshop, these empathetic workplace lessons will have even your most suspicious and “that’s the way it’s always been done” people in your museum ready to collaborate. From there, the gateway to experimenting with new systems and models and platforms will be wide open. Speaker(s) Session Leader : Robert Weisberg, Senior Project Manager, The Metropolitan Museum of Art MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA