Collaboration is Key

Thanks to Nancy Crane, Director of Education, Culture & Heritage Museums, for this guest post.  


After hearing Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), speak on the topic of collaboration at the 2007 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, we knew that we would like to work and collaborate with this new and forward-looking Smithsonian museum in the future.  I mentally filed away many of Mr. Bunch’s comments and ideas as well as the overall vision of the NMAAHC, which specifically addresses collaboration as a core value of the institution.  Indeed, on the homepage of the NMAACH’s website, “collaboration” is one of the main tabs along with collections, education, etc.   The opportunity to work with NMAAHC and our fellow Carolinas’ Smithsonian Affiliates presented itself this spring as part of a joint state museum conference between North and South Carolina.   Working with the staff at NMAAHC and the Affiliations Office, we were able to bring Dr. Rex Ellis to the Carolinas on March 4-5, to present both an afternoon workshop and to deliver the keynote address for the conference.  Dr. Ellis presented an outstanding program focusing on the challenges of interpreting slavery.  His presentation provided his audience of museum staff and volunteers with much food for thought – challenging us to consider different perspectives.  His keynote address was equally stimulating as he wove song, personal stories, and professional experience into an elegant vision for the future of museums. 

Not only was the conference a collaboration between states, but in order to bring Dr. Ellis, we reached out to our Smithsonian Affiliates in the Carolinas for their support.  The Carolinas’ Smithsonian Affiliates came forward and helped to support this initiative both monetarily as well as through staff attendance.  We hope that this may be the beginning of more inter-Affiliate collaborations.

In these difficult economic times, collaborations are one tool which we can utilize to better serve our communities.  Reflect on your institution’s current collaborations as potential partnerships for the future

To put it plainly, you can never have too many friends.