2018 Conference Reflections by Alexandra Painter

The following article waswritten by Alexandra Painter, recipient of a scholarship funded by the Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund to attend Museums Alaska’s annual conference, held in Nome in 2018.

In Marieke Van Damme’s conference Keynote “The Joy in our Work,” she addressed many issues about the daily work of museum professionals, and gave simple, yet practical advice on improving workplace culture. For me, the keynote was a refreshing reminder to take care of yourself. To produce your best work, it’s important to be refreshed. Van Damme noted that all museum staff members, at all levels, can help do this, and that it is a collective responsibility in improving workplace culture.

One of my hopes in attending this conference was to leave with some advice on facilitating productive professional relationships. This keynote was a good reminder that good communication, gratitude, and kindness can encourage and propagate relationships with other staff and board members, as well as the community you serve. It makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we will be as employees. Instead of spending time overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, we can, instead, focus on opportunities for positive connection.

Some of Van Damme’s suggestions for improving workplace culture are:

  • Ask colleagues how you can help them.
  • Express gratitude to co-workers through a note or email.
  • Be understanding and patient with those around you.

All of these are straightforward suggestions, and can also be used in connecting with other institutions around the state. She noted that networking is about meeting other people, sharing knowledge, and making connections. It is an opportunity to expand support systems—the people you can rely on when you find yourself in need, and to reciprocate that support in turn.

Moving forward, I hope to improve on existing collaborations and build on new professional relationships. I was excited to hear about all the great work and projects happening at the museums around Alaska at the conference, and feel energized to be involved.

I extend my most sincere thanks to Museums Alaska, the Alaska Historical Society, and the people of Nome who worked so hard to put this interesting conference together. I look forward to seeing colleagues in Kodiak at the conference next fall.