Getting philosophical at the end of the trip

Getting philosophical at the end of the trip

Copenhagen is a very easy city to visit. The only problem with this is that it doesn’t give me anything to rant about or feel like I need to tell the world. Apart from the prices – I made the mistake of wandering into the Danish Waitrose. I have never left a supermarket so fast in case they charged me for borrowing the basket.
Perhaps I have become comfortable with the upheaval of moving city every few days, getting used to different surroundings, languages, beds and food. Perhaps I am now comfortable with change? And I will be honest, it’s not that hard when everyone can easily switch into your language, your phone tells you where you should be going and investing in a travel card means you can always jump on a bus when the legs give out. All of the cities I have travelled to have made the change of surroundings as easy as possible to cope with.
I visited the Experimentarium yesterday, now they are experiencing change on an unprecedented scale. Their building required some upgrades so they took the opportunity to make it larger, add in a roof top space and rethink their exhibitions. I think the Danish reserve prevented them from being fully honest about how tricky the process has been, but they had a temporary site in the city centre for a while, their offices are in a different site and they even had a fire in the old building to make things even harder. But the new building will be open late January and I’m sure it will be worth a visit – just to see the glorious staircases winding up through the middle!

Change is often feared as difficult, expensive and fraught with pitfalls, but in many of the places I have visited, amazing things have risen from large and scary change – whether that is a new building, new management, financial problems, drop in visitors etc. And that is easy, that leaves very little choice apart from to change (and now I’m having visions of Gordon Ramsey screaming at a scared restaurant owner), but the trick is really how to incorporate it even when things are ticking along just fine. What sort of scaffolding for staff, stakeholders and audiences can you provide so that everyone looks forward to change? I guess the main things I have learned are:

– agree your terms. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to frame ‘science’, ‘learning’ and even ‘centre’

– Be honest about what you are planning and why; it’s ok to want to connect with more people, or to narrow the focus or to be more playful.

– Involve them. The more everyone can see a role for themselves in the new era, the less protective they will be of the old way of doing things.
Today I visited the gem of museology research that is the Medicinsk Museion, definitely sharing more than a content theme with the Wellcome Collection. They are proud to have been experimenting with process and content and pretty much everything since their beginning. The building is incredible, some of the content is pretty edgy and the staff don’t have traditional roles but capacities for working on projects as curators and researchers. No hierarchy means that the right answer has to be found, there is no one who will point to the right direction. Exhausting, but it has opened my eyes to the possibilities when you stop the editorial voice and accept uncertainty and multiple lenses. Goodness – it sounds a great deal like an honest appraisal of the scientific process. At the museum they believe in a philosophy which steers them, but everything else is up for grabs. That sounds pretty exciting to me.

So that’s it. Churchill adventure is near enough over. Just tonight’s Danish dinner and tomorrow waiting for a plane. And then the report to write up – or draw. I don’t think they will accept an interpretive dance or mime so that’s out. It’s been amazing, mind expanding and generally really good. Now I just need to make sure that work remains at this level of excitement for years to come.

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