It Begins

First off: I don’t work in a museum. If you’re looking to dismiss ideas because they don’t come from the proper source, that’s your opportunity.

I am a museum volunteer, for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, and I am looking for a career in museum marketing. I currently work in publishing as an editor for a major professional association’s membership magazine.

What’s guiding this attempted career shift? Publishing is, of course, not the best place to be right now if you want to be sure that your employer will be in business next year. And I’m not at all optimistic that this condition will change, ever, at least not for traditional publishers. I don’t think the industry will die, but I think it’s started a permanent decline, where “desperately holding on” is the best thing that a business can hope for each year.

And yet, publishing, the act that’s incredibly valuable for civilization, is not and will not die. Every entity and every person is now a publisher. And museums even have stories to tell and information that is worth publishing–and often they’re the ones best situated to share those stories.

In a sense, I see museum marketing as the kind of writing I hoped to be doing when I started journalism school. It’s not a perfect allegory, since marketing entails far more than feature-writing, but then again, so does publishing. I’m a lot more concerned with the essence of storytelling than the format anyway.

The word “marketing” has a negative connotation. I get article submissions from marketers and the authors often write with their clients in mind rather than the readers, making the finished product painful to read. I’m trying to embrace a more positive meaning, however: the sharing of information that people want to know, and will benefit from knowing, and that will happen to benefit the organization that’s sharing it as well.

I think that’s a worthwhile goal.

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