Trish Oxford

Technologist, Writer, & Artist

Trish Oxford is a consultant, writer and artist specializing in digital communications to market and promote cultural initiatives driven by results. I am interested in inclusion and diversity rooted in accessibility. I am currently an idea factory and am absorbed in learning, listening and thinking about solutions.

Most recently I served as the Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC. My professional experience is anchored in technology, sales, and project management having worked for Yahoo! Inc., Cisco Systems, and my own online furniture company.

My academic experience is entrenched in the creative arts. I earned my MFA in Media Arts at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA and my BA in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Power of Vulnerability in Museums: Initial Follow-Up

Complete list of questions can be found here

The Question Game during The Power of Vulnerability in Museums panel at #MCN2016: The Human-Centered Museum in New Orleans left much of the direction of the conversation to chance.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: MCN powerpoint template slide reading "The Human-Centered Museum"  and "The Power of Vulnerability in Museums." Background has a trolly car on a New Orleans street. 

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: MCN powerpoint template slide reading "The Human-Centered Museum"  and "The Power of Vulnerability in Museums." Background has a trolly car on a New Orleans street. 

After introductions to panelists, basic guidelines to the game, and key points to frame the discussion, the session launched into questions. The conversation began with every panelist answering:

What change does your work bring to the field?
What did you observe in the field that you wanted to change or challenge?

From there, questions were drawn from a hat. Other questions discussed included:

  • Where do you think empathy is missing in museum work?

  • What has been your career low point?

  • Where are people actually spending their time and resources?

  • What is the collective tolerance for discomfort at your workplace?

  • Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium on comfort?

  • Using all the senses in a museum experience, how does this disruptively engage people in the museum setting?

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: MCN template PowerPoint slide that reads: "Question Types: 10 minutes: Panel Discussion; 5 minutes: 2 panelists answer, 90 second: Individual answer"

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: MCN template PowerPoint slide that reads: "Question Types: 10 minutes: Panel Discussion; 5 minutes: 2 panelists answer, 90 second: Individual answer"

These questions opened up a discussion that surprised me where it went. I look forward to sharing and discussing our observations. However, we didn’t get to answer almost 75% of the questions that prodded at subjects like shame, trust, and change-management in the museum field.

I wanted to share the complete list of questions online to hear how you might implement The Question Game with your team, department, and institution. I would love to hear your experiences and feedback.

Here are some ideas how you might share these questions:

  • Post a question a week in a common area at work and have an anonymous box for written answers to be submitted

  • Use a question as a writing prompt to start meetings and have participants write anonymous responses that could be read at random or compiled for later discussion

  • Post the complete list of questions in a digital or in-person forum for open response

  • Post printed questions in bathroom stalls with a location for written responses to be collected

 

These questions opened up a discussion that surprised me where it went.

 

Here is the complete list of questions:

  1. What change does your work bring to the field?

  2. What did you observe in the field that you wanted to change or challenge?

  3. Is it important who is making change? (Gender, Race, Seniority, etc)

  4. What have you observed to be the most significant barrier to creativity and innovation?

  5. What are institutions afraid to risk?

  6. What does success look like in your work?

  7. What are institutions risking when they try to engage with different types of visitors in different ways?

  8. In your opinion - in general or specifically speaking - what is a museum’s biggest fear?

  9. What is a real professional fear in your work?

  10. As a museum visitor, what is a common fear?

  11. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived in your work and with the institutions that you have worked with?

  12. Describe vulnerability in your work?

  13. What might vulnerability look like for a museum visitor?

  14. What does empathy look like for a museum visitor?

  15. Where do you think empathy is missing in museum work?

  16. What does failure big or small look like in your work?

  17. What has been your career low point?

  18. What has failure looked like in your work? At it’s best? At it’s worst?

  19. What happens when someone makes a mistake at work?

  20. How has silence been used as a solution to a problem in your experience?

  21. How has shame gotten in the way of change?

  22. What does shame look like in museum work?

  23. As contractors or museum workers, what have you been told not to mention or not to talk about?

  24. At what frequency in your work do necessary but uncomfortable conversations occur?

  25. How have you leaned into the “discomfort” of vulnerability in your work?

  26. How do you work through discomfort or vulnerability with your clients, coworkers, students, et al?

  27. How do you personally/physically experience shame? What are your coping tricks?

  28. What behaviors are rewarded or punished?

  29. Where are people actually spending their time and resources?

  30. What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes mistakes in your workplace?

  31. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?

  32. What is the collective tolerance for discomfort in your workplace? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium on comfort?

  33. What do institutions try to make certain that is uncertain?

  34. In what ways do museums “pretend”?

  35. When have you been asked to do more with less and it’s not possible?

  36. What is something (your) institution(s) has/have been silent about that you wish they would take a stand on or be loud about?

  37. What are the ideas, customs, or habits do you find that are held, especially unreasonably, to be above criticism?  Who is most likely to challenge these? Who continues to resist change and stand by these institutional habits?

  38. Is exhaustion a status symbol and productivity a measure of self-worth? How is this problematic?

  39. How do museum workers numb their vulnerability?

  40. What are signs of disengagement?

  41. Is your establishment connected to its visitors?

  42. Have you worked with courageous leaders and coworkers? What makes them courageous?

  43. What is the relationship between trust and vulnerability?

  44. Do you fear or trust your institutional leadership?

  45. Using all the senses in a museum experience, how does this disruptively engage people in the museum setting?

  46. How does your organization receive, reflect, and incorporate feedback?

  47. What are common excuses for not being good listeners?

  48. When has something at your museum/institution/career brought you to tears? (Or, when have you seen a visitor do something that brought you to tears?)

  49. What is one quality that you love about your boss/workplace? What is one quality you wish was present in your boss/workplace that is lacking?

  50. What story do you tell about your museum/workplace when you want to help people understand how it changes peoples' lives for the better?

  51. Who are museums worried about alienating or offending?"

  52. What would you do differently in your work if you weren't afraid to fail or didn't have to worry about any negative ramifications?

 

This list is also available here.

I look forward to collaborating with you. 


Please share your thoughts, experiences, and feedback to trish@trishoxford.com or tweet @trishoxford