So departure day is here! I find myself grappling with my new identity as a Fellow. Not only is this new aspect causing me to dig deep for the younger me that was both academic and an international traveller, but I’m also having to juggle the other aspects. How can mother/partner, exhibition manager, cat whisperer, atrocious knitter now make space for Fellow as well, in the same body?
This started me thinking of identities more generally. We are in strange times, the country divided in two about what appeared to be a simple question – EU, in or out. Suddenly we discovered that the question tapped deeply into the identities we have evolved, whether that was as a British European or as a Brit concerned about the gradual erosion of Britishness.
For an interesting attempt to explain the division, take a look at this Nesta blog post:
In it Stian Westlake discusses a values divide, some some people are just more traditional than others and so more likely to vote leave. Those who like diversity and technology voted remain. It boils down to identity – with some economics thrown in for good measure.
So what has this got to do with science centres? Well, we are a part of our communities, indeed we should serve them and that means understanding the different identities and using our resources to facilitate conversations between those with different ideas. Celebrating the diversity of people and opinions and working towards a common goal – a great place to live, work and play. It was also interesting to see Westlake discussing what identities can thrive in the modern ‘intangible’ economy. He mentions the personality trait ‘Openess to Experience’ – think imagination, curiosity and a preference for variety – to be crucial and that is talking our language!
It applies more directly to us as well, we need to be sure of our own identities as cultural venues embedded within a place, not blank sheets in a vacuum of influence, but active centres with beliefs and values that we think will make our communities stronger.
So once we have nailed our own identities and, as that wonderful tome Magnetic and the Our Museums report (highly recommended) remind us, allowed staff to better understand their position within that identity; we are left with some big questions. Do we have a role to play in helping to prepare young people outside of our city centre for the new urban economies so they can flourish. Do we need to extend and redraw the lines of our audience? Can we make curiosity contagious?
But that’s enough pontificating from this international woman of mystery. I need a coffee and a travel adaptor, while this airport appears to be offering oysters and 50 million different perfumes. Special thanks to my old pal Sonia as well for the superb sanity parcel – note I am doing my affirmations right now.
References I will no doubt keep coming back to:
And if you have a fabulous idea, don’t forget to check out the Winston Churchill Travel Fellowships http://www.wcmt.org.uk