What was so important that more than seventy of Philadelphia's movers-and-shakers took valuable time off from their jobs, and from their personal lives, and gathered together for two-and-a-half days?
Stuff. At the most basic level, their meeting, from November 11-13, 1999, was all about stuff. Objects. Things you can touch. Items that people might have created, but which now have lives of their own, independent from human participation. Material culture now found in museums, archives, libraries, historic sites, and even in the region's landscape. In spite of the meeting's ambitious title -- "A Sense of Place: Creating a Collective Vision for the Cultural Heritage Resources of the Philadelphia Region" -- it was, at its heart, about stuff.
And that was true, right from the start. Sister Loretta Linsalatta, from the music department of Little Flower High School, showed off a toy bank made by her aunt, who was a welder in World War II. Elizabeth McLean did her show-and-tell with a piece of mirror from the Frank Furness-designed building on Locust Street owned by the Library Company of Philadelphia, where she's on the board. An "authentic Humphrey dress" from the Democratic National Convention in 1968 was brought in by Nancy Moses, executive director of the Atwater Kent Museum. Joseph J. Kelly, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, proudly shared a family prayer book with his ancestral history written in. These, and other wonderful and quirky personal or civic artifacts that were displayed for the entire meeting, reminded attendees to keep coming back to the caring for and sharing of personally important items -- the stuff that brought them all together in the first place.
Sponsored by The William Penn Foundation, this was no ordinary gathering at which people who represent various and, perhaps, antagonistic perspectives. They came as stakeholders who are often detained or derailed by their differences, but met to hack out a fresh view of the future. This "A Sense of Place" meeting was a Future Search, and new things really happened.
In fact, at the meeting's conclusion, participants were tremendously satisfied. Ninety-one percent of attendees said that as a result of the meeting they were personally committed to working with others to move the vision forward. Eight-eight percent said "A Sense of Place" enabled participants to identify key areas and opportunities for collaboration and joint action. They reported that they were "hopeful," "relieved," and "energized."
Good stuff, indeed.
Future Search is a dynamic, two-and-a-half-day planning meeting first developed in Philadelphia and used by groups around the world to transform and enhance an organization or community's capability for cooperative action -- even if participants have had no prior contact and/or if they don't typically work together. It is all about vision, action, and implementation. It is all about transcending, rather than getting mired -- about getting beyond, and not bogged down.
One of the secrets of the success of a Future Search conference is how it works best when people from many different sectors participate. By coming together, while still retaining their own interests, representatives from various stakeholder groups create a more comprehensive and multi-faceted picture of the issue. And a Future Search conference culminates in action plans which, ideally, advance the common interests of all of these factions.
The stakeholder groups at this meeting about the Philadelphia-area's cultural-heritage resources were:
Why should leaders from these different yet related perspectives -- and, sometimes, adversarial perspectives -- work together? One stakeholder articulated a simple explanation on the last day of the meeting which, according to facilitator Marilyn Sifford, summed up the entire conference. "Some organizations have a perceived common need, although not necessarily trust," he said. "If people think they'll get something out of it, they'll come together for a mutually-beneficial project."
Back at the beginning, after hearing the ground rules of a Future Search meeting, but before moving on to the first exercise of "A Sense of Place," Jay Calvert, from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, asked a reasonable question: "What do you perceive will be the end product of this conference?" Would there be new ideas? Would attendees leave with some sort of document? What stuff -- or documents about stuff -- might be generated?
"I haven't a clue," answered Sifford, and she wasn't being flip. The result of a Future Search meeting is very much up to the participants, how they take the process and shape it -- sort of like how a potter takes clay and turns it. At the very least, a Future Search meeting results in several tangible action plans, created by attendees who have gone through the step-by-step exercises and ended up with a new perspective, and new energy to advance common interests.
In 1997, The Foundation commissioned a survey of the Philadelphia region's 102 collecting institutions. At its most basic, the survey uncovered the depth and breadth of collections: The combined holdings of the 102 institutions that responded totaled more than 61.2 million objects. (It is notable that 19% of the institutions surveyed hold 97% of materials.) Paper-based materials, photographs, furniture, paintings, and textile collections were the most common types of collections, and are held at approximately half of all the institutions. Library, documentary, and archival collections represent more than 60 percent of the total collections in the region (or 36 million objects). The large majority of natural history, ethnographic, and archeological collections are held by a few. All told, this region is rich in holdings as it is in its history, one of of the nation's centers of collections with such scope and importance.
With all of this material wealth, however, this region's challenges remain formidable. More than one-third of the collecting institutions have inadequate storage conditions. More than one-half have inadequate documentation. And nearly three-quarters of the institutions have collection treatment priorities.
Yet, experts who analyzed the survey saw many possibilities. This region is unique in its opportunity to "deal with the soul of the nation," and to define and own the icons of our collective past, they said. But it was time to "be collaborative, to think grand, and to be willing to take the big leap to benefit others."
To do this, institutions must be willing to build relationships with each other and to find collective, regional solutions. The internal focus that institutions have long been operating under had, in the words of survey respondents, "blinded" them to needs and issues of the field as a whole. Institutions might best advance their own missions and develop desirable roles in their communities by cooperating, rather than competing. "It is not survival of the fittest, but survival of those most able to cooperate," said one member of a panel of national experts who analyzed the survey.
Based on the survey results and their analyses, the Foundation decided to advance the region's community of collections-based institutions -- the museums, libraries, archives, and historic sites -- by offering them to opportunity to develop a collective vision and shared strategies to advance that vision.
The William Penn Foundation chose to do a Future Search for several reasons.
In early discussions, leaders within the region's cultural heritage community insisted that they and their colleagues were ready to be convened to develop a collective vision. Also, the idea that the "system" could be convened in a room -- an essential part of the Future Search and its approach -- was doable.
Consultants who were involved in the early planning stages of this project thought that the scale of the cultural-heritage-resources community's problem, and the fact that the community has a regional focus, made a Future Search an appropriate fit. The subsequent planning committee concurred.
A Future Search meeting is task-focused and brings together people assumed to have a stake in the future of the organization or community. By using dialogue and learning as catalysts for action and follow-up, stakeholders -- working both with people who share their own relationship to the conference topic and, sometimes, within a "mixed" group -- explore their past, present, and desired future, and make concrete action plans. By working together in new configurations and with liberating groundrules, stakeholders may devise new forms of cooperative action that will last for months or years.
Future Searches can bridge lines of culture, class, gender, ethnicity, power, and hierarchy by having stakeholders work as peers on tasks of mutual benefit. Also, freed from having to problem-solve, stakeholders discover previously undiscovered common ground.
Four key principles underlie a Future Search:
The sequence of tasks in a Future Search meeting first grounds stakeholders in the past, then leads them into an examination of the present, and finally frees them to envision an ideal future, temporarily unencumbered by real-life concerns and realities. And having arrived, step-by-step, at this perspective, stakeholders are able to identify what is common among these visionary futures, and from there, based on these commonalities, to develop action plans to take back to and, hopefully, energize the real world.
The goal of this Future Search meeting as defined by the planning committee was "to develop a collective vision to increase the appreciation, utilization, and care of our region's cultural heritage resources." And even before the work of the meeting began, questions about that goal emerged: How are we defining "our region?" What is a "cultural heritage?" Both issues, and others, kept reappearing throughout the meeting, popping up to remind stakeholders to return to and integrate the basics before moving forward.
It was appropriate, then, that the meeting begin by tapping the stakeholders' thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the past before moving on to analyzing the present and imagining the future. To start, each person contributed comments to three timelines that were hung on the walls of the meeting room: a personal timeline, on which to note personal highlights and milestones from the past 50 years or earlier, up until today; a global timeline spanning the same time; and a local cultural-heritage-resources timeline.
Small groups than analyzed the various timelines to uncover themes and patterns of these stakeholders, and to make meaning of them; in other words, what story do these timelines tell, and what are their implications? The personal timelines revealed that the stakeholders care greatly about life-cycle events such as births and deaths of key people, religious rites, marriages, children, their connection to Philadelphia, educational achievements, and career achievements -- and that the group generally lacked ethnic, racial, and educational diversity, which became a theme of the meeting.
The global timelines uncovered many important trends that were to play out during the rest of the Future Search:
The third timeline, "cultural heritage," showed as much about Philadelphia's cultural heritage as it did about general cultural developments, some of which appeared alongside their opposites. Trends included:
Interestingly, this timeline revealed a lot of pessimism and negativity -- and the absence of certain things on the timeline, such as institutions of color and the focus on institutions rather than individuals, were noted. "This may represent a certain tunnel vision in the way we look at the city," said Daniel Rosenfeld, director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
How did these three timelines connect? What themes reappeared? What jumped out? What was missing? Here are some of the many diverse reactions:
At this point, the meeting shifted to working with and understanding the present. Together, all attendees created and worked with an enormous and intricate mindmap, adding external trends that will affect the future of Philadelphia's cultural-heritage resources.
The trends most frequently identified as important by the group were:
There were many reactions to this important list. "The top three issues are linked," said independent scholar Page Talbott. "The 'who' here is the kids in schools now, and the 'how' may, to a large extent, be how we use the technology. For example, wouldn't it be cool to have an internet site where people who are interested in giving things to museums could put them on the website and museums looking for things could find them?"
While Cathy Weiss, former program analyst at the William Penn Foundation, said she was pleased by these top trends because "it shows an awareness of the need to be relevant to a community and to an audience," other people, such as Jay Calvert, were surprised that certain audiences -- especially the Baby Boomers-- weren't identified as a major factor in shaping cultural-heritage resources. And relevance to audience was underscored; "If our stuff isn't meaningful to today's world, then it's all going to go into boxes," said architectural historian George Thomas.
In addition, Brent Glass, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, in Harrisburg, warned the group to consider the role of politics and how it affects cultural resources. "The way cultural institutions participate in the political environment is an important factor, beyond just issues of funding," he explained. "We should be more aware of that." In a related vein, Joseph Kelly, executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, emphasized the growing importance of state and local governments in cultural resources.
At this point, the group broke into stakeholders groups to analyze how these overall trends affect them in relation to the meeting's goal: Creating a Collective Vision for the Cultural Heritage Resources of the Philadelphia Region. Each group then reported its findings to the entire group. Here are some of the trends reported by each stakeholder group:
the attempt to build a large base in the region from entrepreneurs and new businesses
declining cultural literacy
changes in technology -- "We're funding more exhibits with greater use of technology, but we need to do more, to make it more equitable and to not just work with large organizations," said Cathy Weiss.
the need to educate government, and develop ongoing relationships between funders and government
the new federalism, with state and local initiatives becoming more important
the post-industrial city, meaning that the city has evolved into a meeting place and an entertainment venue
politicians' lukewarm support of preservation -- "Unless you can demonstrate that preservation can attract people, there is little that will interest politicians and get them behind historic preservation," said Brent Glass.
the emergence of enlightened land-use policy, especially when it demonstrates positive economic implications for residents
Documentary and Research Collections:
the need to think about both niche and mass markets, partly because entertainment is only part of their audiences' expectations
remembering to focus on the artifact -- "Our job is to collect it, preserve it, catalog it, and make it accessible," said Daniel Traister, of Special Collections of the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania
using content-based websites to attract audiences -- which are not just in Philadelphia, but across America and even internationally -- but not substituting technology for the artifact itself
various other needs: To attract new audiences, to create an enhanced market presence, to collect from as-yet-uncollected areas, to improve cataloging
the need to plan for collecting and planning for the future
the importance of collaboration on space and storage
the importance of knowing what we have and accessing it
the need to establish relevance and connection to external audiences, and to make cultural resources relevant to other groups
staffs and boards need to reflect their audiences
self-esteem -- recognizing that Philadelphia and its resources are valued and respected elsewhere
changing demographics, changing sense of neighborhoods, the move of industry out of the city
the culture of information -- not only does technology affect how sites function, but it also affects how we think
the changing expectations of a changing audience -- "The challenge is to serve these expectations without 'dumbing down' or compromising our product," said Dan Rosenfeld.
realizing the importance of any institution's various resources: human, financial, and collections
audiences' changing expectations and the "Disney syndrome" -- how to learn from Disney's successes
fiscal sustainability and the changing nature of funding sources -- how increased diversification of funding sources can strengthen an organization
accountability taken away from professionals (as in healthcare, education, etc.)
a dichotomy between the "back of the house" activities and the "front of the house" activities -- "Are organizations too focused on the front, and not focused on their core collections issues?" wondered Bruce Katsiff, executive director of the James A. Michener Arts Museum.
the "reinvention" of Philadelphia as a destination, especially since 1985
the "Disneylanding" of audiences, so that they no longer know have the context to know what is real. The perfect example, related by Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation: One visitor to Philadelphia told a cab driver how much he was enjoying the city, "but why did you put Fort Mifflin so close to airport?"
more competition -- "In 1926 there were only 200 cultural destinations in the country; now there are that many between Washington and Williamsburg," said Meryl Levitz. And people expect to be entertained.
the need to create themed packages for visitors
new funding sources
demographic changes -- especially from the city to the suburbs
finding ways to make resources both popular and scholarly -- without losing the organizational mission
the disconnect between schools and cultural resources in terms of access, audience, and expectations
trying to match children's' interests with what institutions offer
the paucity of arts education in the schools -- and the potential successes of partnerships
people's desire to relate to things from their own personal history
Individuals shared their reactions to these stakeholder revelations. Some spoke up about the existence of various attractions that aren't glitzy, yet still merit support as well as visits by locals and tourists. Others told of the disconnect between the business community and the cultural-heritage resource locales, and how measuring the health of a site by a bottom line or being-in-the-black model shouldn't be the only measure of success.
And Amy Freitag, acting executive director of the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, urged the group to recognize and work with the geographic diversity of the Philadelphia region. "How can the Park, which would be the centerpiece of any city, jump onto this bandwagon?," she asked. "We can't just move all the historic houses next to each other."
Remaining in their stakeholder groups, people then identified developments that they were proud of in relation to the conference task, and other developments about which they were sorry. Here, by stakeholder group, is a rundown of some of their "proudest prouds" and "sorriest sorries."
Prouds -- Collaborations; our professionalism; how we've broadened our vocabulary to reach new audiences; the steps we've taken to demonstate our value to others.
Sorries -- We're not making a compelling case to groups outside ourselves; our internal focus keeps us from communicating with our colleagues; our loss of credibility with key decision makers; that we've had to contort our missions to pursue funding.
Prouds -- Increased cultural diversity at our sites.
Sorries -- Our reaction to controversy around publicly funded exhibits; we should be more of a policy-setter in preservation initiatives; that we don't work with businesses on a preservation agenda.
Prouds -- Our international reputation for innovative programs; partnerships that stretch our resources; that we often put service above the bottom line.
Sorries -- We should be better advocates about our programming; we need more mid-career education; we need to think about education as a lifelong process; we need to better utilize technology to tell our story.
Prouds -- The Pennsylvania Convention Center and what it has spawned (such as private-sector investment); the business community's production in spite of losing many members; promoting ourselves outside the region.
Sorries -- Negative self-image of Philadelphians; lack of cultural resources within the local community; lack of coordinated corporate leadership.
Prouds -- Strong track record of funding to support preservation; responsiveness to the community; willingness to take risks; that leaders of the philanthropic community are talking with each other.
Sorries: Inflexible guidelines; insufficient money in the system for operating support; that grantmaking hasn't encouraged enough marketing among institutions so they can sustain themselves beyond the grant period.
Community at Large:
Prouds -- Collaborations; renewal and innovation among major institutions, reinterpreting their missions and reaching out in new ways.
Sorries -- Unwelcoming reception to some audiences; not using the media effectively.
Prouds -- Ongoing work to restore and arrest the decay of the city's historic fabric; that we're attracting a non-museum audience; educational aspects of our mission; collaborative work.
Sorries -- The inability to agree about the degree of accountability; lack of business savvy; missed opportunities because of insufficient resources; lack of self-esteem.
Prouds -- Collections care, and the growing idea of taking a collective approach to collections care and storage; museum collaborations; the more central role that culture plays in economic group and tourism; closer contact with policy- and decision-makers.
Sorries -- Lack of cultural diversity; insufficient professonal development; insufficient collections sharing.
Prouds -- How we've developed cooperation; how the government has involved itself in new and helpful ways.
Sorries -- We haven't managed ourselves for change; we start new things that don't come to completion because of insufficient support; we should to things to include the interest of emerging populations; we should have capitalized on collection-acquisition opportunities; we're not good at making our case to foundations or in appealing to new wealth.
Next, after each stakeholder group reported on their "proudest prouds" and their "sorriest sorries," all participants were asked to identify insights and trends based on what they just heard. Here are some of their reactions:
Now it was time to move on to the future. "You've looked at your collective past, and current trends and how they have an impact on the themes of this conference," said co-Future-Search facilitator Ilene Wasserman. "You've looked at what you have and haven't done -- and most of the things that you haven't done can also be viewed as opportunities." From this perspective, each mixed group was told to project itself to the year 2030 and to look back on all that was accomplished concerning Philadelphia's cultural-heritage resources -- and to present that scenario as a short skit or some other mode of communication.
Here are some components of the visions that the groups created:
The goal of the next exercise was to identify the common ground among all the stakeholders as demonstrated by the visions of an ideal future that they'd just depicted, and to talk them through further. Related issues that emerged about which not everyone could agree on would be relegated to an "unresolved differences" list, consisting of topics that needed to be acknowledged but not regarded, for now, as obstacles.
The common-ground themes that emerged were:
Many of these themes, obviously, have an impact on others.
These common-ground topics, with the exception of funding and exhibitions, were discussed in depth.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "free," "enriched," "lifetime," "arts and culture as part of core curriculum," "intergenerational," "linking institutions with education at all levels," and "promotion of museum standards through professional development."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about education all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
Excellent education needs to be available and accessible for all people.
There also needs to be a place for scholarly activity.
Learning should be lifelong and intergenerational. Adults, like children, need to learn how to learn. And lifetime education should be differentiated from schooling; cultural institutions, for instance, are also learning environments.
Cataloging, programming, and audience outreach spring from education.
Use today's scientific theories about how people learn to find out if an exhibit, for instance, taught what we wanted to teach.
Education is about how to gather information and do research as well as disseminating information.
Should all education be free? Is "free" education different from "accessible" education? Do people value what they pay for more than what they receive for free?
"Engagement" should be a crucial part of education. How do we teach the values of preservation, and how can we develop curricula that can be used in schools?
We shouldn't make assumptions about what goes on in schools; instead, we should maximize the educational opportunities at our own institutions. And we need to learn from people we're not reaching about what they want from us.
The internal education of cultural-heritage-resources professionals merited its own discussion. Because the pool of people available to hire in these institutions is extremely non-diverse, free graduate education would help diversify the profession.
All told, the agreed-upon common ground was: EDUCATION NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "innovative use of technology," "affordability," "ease," "broaden," "free," "diverse," and "centralized."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about accessibility all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
Culture in Philadelphia has become very expensive because institutions, increasingly, are forced to rely on earned income.
There's a "psychological accessibility" issue that relates to diversity. Why aren't some people coming to our institutions? Why aren't some people training to become professionals in our field? We need to be user-friendly institutions.
The real world is political and economical; if we're going to figure out how culture can be more widely disseminated we'll have to deal with money, and how funding can be managed credibly and feasibly.
What's lacking is a compelling reason for many people to go into cultural facilities. "Unless you create a sense of desire, it doesn't matter whether things are free or accessible or not," said one participant, adding that even if entrance to our institutions was free, there would be many people who'd choose to attend a 76ers game than the Art Museum.
We're trying to aspire to an accessibility that was characteristic of neighborhood libraries in the 1950s.
We need a common language. Educators and cultural institutions are both talking about the same concepts, but in different ways.
"We have to have the word 'fun' as part of our language," said Nancy Kolb of the Please Touch Museum. We forget that the reason why people opt to go to the NBA instead of a museum is because they don't have fun at museums, she continued. People have less leisure time, and they often don't choose to spend it in learning situations. "The 'fun factor' is something we're almost afraid to talk about in the cultural world," she said.
"Millions of people are having fun on the internet," said Rebecca Sinkler. "This is a way to get people in."
People have lost the inherent joy in learning and mastering something -- which is, in itself, fun. We can't just tell people something is good for them; there's something about our approach that is wrong.
Only one-third of the population comes to museums.
The agreed-upon common ground was: WE NEED TO INCREASE ACCESSIBILITY TO BROADEN THE SPECTRUM OF PEOPLE WHO USE AND WORK IN CULTURAL-HERITAGE-RESOURCE INSTITUTIONS.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "affordable," "efficient," "regional," "wide-reaching," and "extended."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about transportation all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
Transportation problems are more challenging in the suburbs.
More signage -- and regional signage --is essential.
Some people felt that transportation is an issue about which this group of stakeholders had little or no control or input.
We can create transportation that connects our institutions.
The agreed-upon common ground was: TRANSPORTATION THROUGHOUT THE REGION NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED AND IMPROVED.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "neighborhood cultural centers," "increased pluralism," "multiculturalism," "inclusion of marginalized communities in the cultural community," "tolerance," "racial and ethnic harmony," and "intergenerational programming."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about cultural diversity and neighborhoods all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
Some people felt that cultural diversity should be a separate category, apart from neighborhoods; others felt that it was wrong to alienate culture from community, and that cultural development is a form of community development.
Cultural diversity is about education, research, and good scholarship. Maybe we should become better scholars by integrating the experiences of other groups.
Our institutions' governance and collections does not reflect the cultural diversity of our region.
The history of Philadelphia is a story of diversity; we should tell this story, and about how we've evolved into the reality of the present.
The word "diversity" is another way of saying "incusivity," explained Kenneth Finkel, deputy director of the Atwater Kent Museum. There are many ways to expand our scholarship, and to broaden our view about what we consider valuable in our collections. The 20th-century could be better represented by oral history.
We constantly have to challenge ourselves about our own internal thinking about diversity. For example, when did American history start? with Native Americans? with Spanish settlements? with William Penn?
The agreed-upon common ground was: INSTITUTIONS NEED TO WORK MORE TOWARD BECOMING MORE CULTURALLY DIVERSE AND SENSITIVE BOTH WITHIN THE INSTITUTION AND IN THE COMMUNITY.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "cultural ecology," "improved environment," "planning for the system," "interlocking missions," and "North Philadelphia."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about preservation of built environments all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
We should focus on preserving Philadelphia's built environment because it's an integral part of the city's character. "We should be training people to have 'Philadelphia eyes," said Nancy Moses of the Atwater Kent Museum, so they can be alert to the built environment throughout the region.
"Interpretation" of the built environment that they're seeing is still the missing link for most people -- and this interpretation should be social as well as architectural.
The act of "doing" in education, and building stewardship among children, will have a vital impact on improving our greenscape.
The agreed-upon common ground was: IT'S IMPORTANT TO PRESERVE AND INTERPRET PHILADELPHIA'S BUILT ENVIRONMENT.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "widespread," "a dynamic tool," "a tool for education and access but not as a substitute for the real thing," "universal cataloging," "improved communication among cultural-heritage-resource institutions," "to promote virtual and real visitation to sites," and "interconnected and remote access to information."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about technology all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
To narrow the focus, our area of concern is information technology.
Because of today's technology, children are learning differently, including how to do research; our institutions can and should provide the context.
Technology also affects how we market our institutions.
Technology affects both internal and external communications, and we can use it to link us within our organizations, and to our publics.
We can't deal with external technologies before dealing with the internal technology infrastructure; some of us don't even have our own collections available through technology.
We need to apply our scholarship standards to what we make available through the internet. And when we create websites, we should be sure to give sources so what's available is actually valuable.
Information technology means that in an unmediated way, we are linked to the globe, and not through state or federal government. The linkage between local and globe is more immediate now.
The agreed-upon common ground was: WE NEED TO IMPROVE THE TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "linking regional tourism and marketing," "shared missions," "collections sharing," "collaborative storage," "shared databases," "conservation," "coordinating opening and closing times," "community focus," "shared cataloging," "centralization," "regional preservation center," and "regional problem-solving for transportation, funding, and education."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about collaboration among institutions all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
Although collaboration may be seen as a means to an end, cooperation and collaboration merits focus in itself.
We need to collaborate among ourselves, and also with other external groups.
If we share back-office operations we can achieve economies of scale.
Collaboration and cooperation can lead to a closer scrutiny of an institution's mission. This may lead to merger and consolidation and an enlarged mission. It may be possible to find an explanation for many of our problems in our own multiplicity.
Even when we collaborate we need to maintain the standards of each institution.
The agreed-upon common ground was: INCREASED COLLABORATION WILL HELP US IMPROVE, MANAGE, AND PRESERVE OUR COLLECTIONS AND CULTURAL PROPERTIES.
Some of the concepts introduced as integral parts of this common ground included "psychological aspects (including pride and identity)," "collections care and accessibility will be improved through regional approaches," "how to define the region," "reduced fragmentation through mergers," "government," "underwritten," and "endowment."
The discussion that followed aimed to clarify what it is about regionalism all stakeholders agree upon. Key comments included:
To reach a regional consciousness we would all have to agree on a plan to achieve that. We want to be part of a larger geographical area -- and we want variety to be maintained but not to become an obstacle.
What's essential to make both regionalism and collaboration work is trust, and a lot of barriers need to come down first, such as differences between the city and suburbs, large and small institutions, etc.
Some organizations, such as libraries, have a perceived common need, although not necessarily trust; if people think they'll get something out of it, they'll come together for a mutually-beneficial project.
The political culture of the city and the region are critical factors to consider.
We shouldn't be thinking about "finite pies" that have to be divided. We should be imagining an expanding universe rather than a shrinking one.
The agreed-upon common ground was: THE REGION NEEDS TO BE BETTER DEFINED AND BETTER COORDINATED TO AID THE GOALS OF THE CULTURE SECTOR.
Based on all the themes that emerged from the common-grounds discussions, participants then identified activities and projects that they would be willing to pursue after the Future Search meeting, and met in groups to discuss these projects. What follows are these action-planning themes, and the highlights of each group's discussion about its goals and initial actions.
This group combined two common-ground themes -- technology and transportation -- and discussed the use of either to support a plan or planning process that would become the basis of information-sharing within the region's cultural institutions on a three-way basis:
between the institutions themselves
from the institutions to their targeted audiences
bringing targeted audiences to the institutions
Group participants discussed new trends and capabilities of digital-broadcasting technologies and how they can help overcome current limitations within the institutions to afford installation of new technology, etc. This led to the conclusion that a larger group should form a cooperative to keep it abreast of new information-management technologies that can be exploited to enrich programming and institutional reach.
Technology itself was broadened to mean more than just computers but to include television, radio, kiosks, and other receiving devices generally available in the commercial section. Similarly, transportation planning should be conducted around not just bus systems, but also trains, rails, pedestrian paths, bikes, etc., enriching the experience of interacting with cultural institutions.
The group's next steps:
to continue discussions about defining linkage
to conduct a regional asset inventory
to exploit WHYY's distribution platform to improve effectiveness of outreach and utilize new space to support local cultural programming
to create a dynamic real-time kiosk-based cultural programming delivery
to establish a technology cooperative to educate the cultural community about new technologies systems
This group decided its goal is to suggest projects to create awareness and pride in regional arts and cultural assets. Its underlying belief is that information increases pride -- and based on that, 20 project ideas were generated, all of which can be organized into four categories: marketing, training, infrastructure, and product.
local/regional television and print ads with the theme "This is OUR Philadelphia" or "Philadelphia -- proud to call it home"
new segments on television that teach viewers about regional assets
news minutes -- like Bicentennial minutes -- giving viewers "factoids"
partnership with WHYY around a variety of initiatives because its audience is a match with ours
PNI ads driving readers to the GPTMC website for Philadelphia information (already in progress)
widespread use of the "Loves You Back" logo, perhaps like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
development and support of GPCA awareness campaign debuting in 2001
inform frontliners -- police, taxi drivers, clerks, etc. -- about the region's cultural assets
develop and train our local ambassadors -- the people in the region who host friends and family -- to "move their guests around" our regional cultural attractions
encourage the Boards of all our attractions, associations, etc., to educate their county commissioners and legislators how wonderful it is for their constituents to have access to these assets
get all the institutions on the web in an informative, engaging way
ensure linkages among the umbrella and regional organizations to facilitate ongoing communication among staff and boards
Projects to be Produced:
generate lists of fun, interesting, or unique facts, for use in many of the above initiatives
greatly improve signage in the counties, on I-95, and on the turnpikes that direct visitors to Philadelphia
produce a regional cultural festival, like Spoleto, to showcase regional cultural assets
create a Free Day for everyone in the region to sample all the attractions, with a map provided for easy access
place computer terminals "everywhere" so people can get the information they need
create and promote "friends and family" hotel/attraction packages so the local hosts (residents) can easily educate and entertain their guests
create and convene quarterly a "Board of Board Chairs" of attractions and regional organizations to ensure information exchange and coherence of purpose
generate letters from all entities involved to support the need for action on regional pride
The museums, libraries, archives, and historical societies in the greater Philadelphia region who safekeep some of the area's most valuable artifacts and documents suffer from a lack of adequate and appropriate space for collections. In many institutions, the space crisis threatens the collections' safety and impedes the development of these collections.
As a result, this group convened to determine a feasibility and action plan to develop a cooperative collections storage facility (perhaps a centrally located condominium arrangement?) The facility should contain a conservation laboratory for all disciplines, training facilities, common meeting rooms (for preservation workshops and educational programs), collections research space, disaster response space, and swing space for those institutions needing temporary space while undergoing renovations, or between exhibitions, etc.
To make this happen, the committee identified several steps:
conduct a survey of institutions to determine their storage needs
research management structure and level of commitment
dDevelop a potential business plan to determine the project's financial viability
evaluate possible sites
research potential funding partners
This group decided that its goal is to understand, define, and communicate the Philadelphia Cultureshed.
This group was motivated by the historic, persistent, and inadequate definition of the region -- the sphere of Philadelphia. It is and has been particularly felt by those who work or live at its fringes. Philadelphia's identity also interests people who have been working (as site managers, museum directors, historians, and those in the humanities) on place-based interpretive programs.
Group members felt that "the parts do not make good sense until the whole is grasped," and agreed that the cultural sphere of the city, and the region's definition, was shaped over time by a variety of infrastructures and forces, including: the economy, politics, religion, education, transportation, etc. An example of current and future confusion is embodied in the Smithsonian's consideration of Bethlehem, PA, as an appropriate site for the interpretation of the American Industrial Revolution.
Although Philadelphia was once the center of technological innovation, the story of the 20th century is the loss of awareness of this contribution. Because we no longer know what the sites and monuments tell, and what they mean, many have been destroyed and the rest are threatened. The steady erosion of the region's core identity needs to be halted, and that identity needs to be rediscovered and re-told.
Here is what the group determined are its next steps:
creating the means of sharing ideas (e-mail, meetings) for continuing discussions
expanding the circle of collaboration to strengthen the effort
developing a map of the region's Cultureshed by compiling and sharing historical and current representations
a long-term goal would be publication, an exhibition, and a website to define the Philadelphia region and tell its story.
This group's ultimate goal is to create an umbrella organization -- an "institution without walls" -- to coordinate inter-institutional cooperation vis-a-vis research, scholarship, and teaching in the historical humanities.
Institutionally, this organization would involve research libraries, museums, colleges and universities, and historical sites. The entire gamut of the historical humanities would be welcome.
Unlike PACSCL (the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries), this new organization would not focus on collection management or on cooperative technological control of collections; instead, it would exist to promote knowledge about and use of regional facilities. Happily, several local models of this type of organization exist.
Although an existing organization might take on this goal, prior institutional associations might hinder inter-institutional work.
That work falls into several areas:
funding fellowships to bring outside scholars to Philadelphia or to provide time for local scholars to use local resources
associated programs for fellows and staffs
the use of such a center and its changing body of fellows in teacher and staff education
technological help for the region's house museums and other similar small historical sites
In short, this group envisioned a place that would facilitate research across institutional boundaries, providing a context in which even supervised stack access might be arranged for scholars whose projects required such access in a multiplicity of repositories.
A side benefit of this "institution without walls" would be helping to define the Philadelphia region as a scholarly destination site.
The group felt that it would be realistic for several things to happen within two to five years: To provide numbers of fully funded stipendiary fellowships for an entire academic year, while also having in-place procedures permitting shared access to all regional resources. Also within that timeframe: other programs could also be in place, specifically fellows programs, public programs, fellows-curated multi-institutional exhibitions, and programs for regional teachers and cultural institution staffs on such topics as the nature and scope of local resources, the ways teachers can use them pedagogically, and the ways their students can use them.
The immediate needs to get this all in motion are:
a salary and benefits for one organizer/staff person with both intellectual interest in such a project and some fund-raising experience
general office supplies such as phones, faxes, internet access, and the ability to become an internet presence
The efforts of the Philadelphia region's cultural heritage community to protect, manage, interpret, and celebrate the region's resources have been frustrated by an historic lack of knowledge of the resources themselves, their relationship to one another, and their relative place within the contextual landscape. This group decided that development of a Cultural Landscape Inventory will alleviate this problem and enhance future programming by providing a comprehensive, accessible data base of the region's significant heritage resources.
The Inventory would serve as a widely used tool to support educational efforts, guide the expenditure of public funds, and optimize strategic planning. It will facilitate collaboration as private institutions, community-based organizations, and public agencies all act as contributors to and users of the system.
An important aspect of the Cultural Landscape Inventory would be the Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.), the tool that maps, assesses, and strategically manages cultural resources. Philadelphia, has developed one of the largest city/county-wide G.I.S. in the world. This resource allows agencies such as the Fairmount Park Commission to benefit from the mapping resources of the larger municipal agencies, such as the Water and Streets departments, to establish cultural resource inventories.
As a mini-prototype for a region-wide inventory, this can demonstrate many benefits:
disaster response / preparedness: FPC can now significantly reduce 911 response times (fire, medical, and police response) and limit the possibility of emergencies with improved cyclical maintenance and management (i.e. making a habit of checking all monitoring equipment -- could have made a difference at the Philadelphia Zoo; ensuring all structures have lightning protection -- could have made a difference at Loudoun Mansion). FPC was also able to quickly and efficiently respond to FEMA requests for data following Hurricane Floyd in areas where the park's features were mapped -- data that would have required weeks of analysis without the GIS, never approaching the same level of accuracy.
thematic interpretation: with the click of a mouse, this system could yield an efficient, user-friendly guide to all places in the region associated with, say, Ben Franklin. This technology almost forces collaboration between agencies by creating shared resource opportunities.
strategic management: as an analytical tool, G.I.S. can weigh multiple variables and assess various dynamic models to assist planners to deploy funds in the most efficient and long-term beneficial way. This is particularly important in a political environment where it is assumed that such choices are made outside of merit or need. The G.I.S. offers an objective, efficient solution for strategic management of numerous diverse cultural resources.
integrated resource-management opportunities: FPC uses G.I.S. as an opportunity to bridge cultural and natural resource management to improve the total park environment. This type of integration is accessible and mutually beneficial.
The key to using G.I.S. as a tool for mapping the Philadelphia region's cultural landscape is the ability of a lead organization to allow full collaboration and information-sharing among the most diverse community of resources possible. The more inclusive and complex, the greater the benefit of this technology.
Action step recommendation:
a steering committee should be formed to establish the audience and participants for a region-wide G.I.S. cultural resource inventory;
the committee should establish goals, objectives, and specific strategies to determine a realistic scope of work and timeline;
the participation of stakeholders already at work on some aspect of the G.I.S system or the Cultural Landscape Inventory will be essential to the project's early success; thus, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Fairmount Park Commission, and the City of Philadelphia must all share in shaping the project's scope and strategies.
In the long-term, the National Park Service will help ensure the system continues to reflect state-of-the-art standards.
This group wants to expand cultural-arts resources and programs to support lifelong learning opportunities, and to make eduation more broad based.
Here are some of its suggestions:
we should identify how the cultural and arts resources impact the region's schools;
we want to expand programs that support lifelong, intergenerational learning;
children should be exposed to activities that introduce them to career opportunities in arts and culture;
we should create model arts and cultural programs to generate ongoing educational support.
This group would like to develop more effective relationships with elected and appointed governmental officials. One way to create this is for the cultural community to achieve consensus about a common message or issue that could be communicated to the political environment and used to position the cultural community within the political culture. And this effort should include funders and other community resources, such as organizations relating to children, with overlapping interests.
develop consensus within the cultural community to achieve a common message for politicians that reflects the cultural community's common needs. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance might be a good resource and vehicle for communicating the cultural-heritage-resources message;
undertake a detailed feasibility or assessment study on the impact of a regional cultural tax;
develop coalitions with organizations that are not arts and culture organizations;
educate the mayor's advisors about cultural resources;
invite politicians to speak to cultural groups, or to co-host an event;
question how requests to politicians will affect that politician's constituency.
This group believes that a mechanism must be in place to measure the progress resulting from "A Sense of Place." Here are some of its suggestions:
A small group -- ideally, five members -- should be convened to critique this report after its widespread dissemination, in response to the comments and evaluation "from the field" culled from a questionnaire distributed with the report. This group should meet two or three times a year; its responsibilities should also include monitoring and perhaps reporting on the progress of various action plans.
The distribution of the Future Search report should be monitored with a view to increase and broaden the involvement of regional business and political communities. Reactions to the report should be invited and obtained.
An annual meeting of the Future Search attendees, to last no more than a day, should take place.
Consideration of the constituencies represented by the group and at the recommended annual meetings is critical. In addition to broadening the involvement of the business and political communities, careful consideration should be given to the membership based on the regional scope of many of the action plans, and considering the groups and constituencies not represented at the meeting.
Another aspect of measuring progress resulting from the meeting is to understand who is the audience for the region's cultural resources, as well as the audience identity for the meeting initiatives, and to determine a means for measuring audience response to both. The needs of the meeting audience, and the audience for the region's cultural resources, must also be measured.
Ongoing collaboration advocacy on behalf of the cultural resources in the Philadelphia region is necessary and should be addressed by the core monitoring group. Support of the program on an ongoing basis must also be established, beginning with the William Penn Foundation, and including other supporters based on the meeting's initiatives and identified common grounds of the participants.
Two important books that explain the concepts and methods of Future Search are: Discovering Common Ground: How Future Search Conferences Bring People Together . . . , by Marvin R. Weisbord (Berrett-Koehler, 1992), and Future Search: An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground in Organizations and Communities, by Marvin R. Weisbord, with Sandra Janoff (Berrett-Koehler, 1995).
A Future Search Network has been established so that Future Search professionals can work pro bono with nonprofit organizations around the world.
Patricia Wilson Aden
Executive Director, Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
Director, Delaware Council on the Arts
Director of Curriculum, School District of Philadelphia
The Honorable Martha Bark
Mount Laurel, NJ
Michael D. Benjamin, Esquire
Charles L. Blockson
Charles L. Blockson Collection, Temple University
Executive Director, Conservation Center for Arts and Historic Artifacts
National Historical Landmarks Program Manager, National Park Service
Ann Barton Brown
Executive Director, Valley Forge Historical Society
President and CEO, Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority
Jay Calvert, Esquire
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Dr. Gloria Twine Chisum
Julia Moore Converse
Director, Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania
Alan W. Cooper
Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation
Douglas C. Dolan
Executive Director, Mercer Museum of the Bucks County
Director, The Rosenbach Museum and Library
*Sharon M. Erwin, Esquire
Carmen Febo San Miguel, M.D.
President, Taller PuertorriqueZo, Inc.
Deputy Director, Atwater Kent Museum
Amy L. Freitag
Acting Executive Director,Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust
Executive Director, Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission
Executive Director, Wagner Free Institute of Science
James N. Green
Associate Librarian, The Library Company of Philadelphia
Carole Haas Gravano
Assistant Field Director, National Park Service -- Northeast Field Area
Adrienne B. Jenkins
Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Executive Director, Michener Arts Museum of Bucks County
Site Manager, Eastern Penitentiary Historic Site
Joseph J. Kelly
Executive Director, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
Executive Director, Please Touch Museum
U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service
President and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation
Head Conservation, Philadelphia Museum of Art
President and CEO, WHYY, Inc.
Director of External Affairs, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Board of Directors, Library Company of Philadelphia
Executive Director, Fort Mifflin on the Delaware
Executive Director, Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Site Director, Pennsbury Society
President, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Executive Director, Atwater Kent Museum
Roger W. Moss
Executive Director, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Director, University of the Arts
Debra Hess Norris
Director -- Winterthur
University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
Academy of Natural Sciences
Dr. Clement Alexander Price
Director, Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience
Department of History, Rutgers -- The State University of New Jersey
Lawrence L. Reger
Executive Director, Heritage Preservation
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Fort Washington, PA
Education Curator, Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Honorable James R. Roebuck
Director, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Steve D. Rothman
Terrie S. Rouse
Executive Director, African American Museum in Philadelphia
Gregory T. Rowe
Program Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Director, Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania
Michael W. Schantz, Ph.D.
CEO, Woodmere Gallery, Inc.
A. D. Harrington Elementary School
Principal, Sports & Entertainment Strategies, Inc.
*Barbara W. Silberman
Historic Investment Program, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
Rebecca P. Sinkler
Executive Director, University City District
Director, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
Bala Cynwyd, PA
University of Pennsylvania
Curator, Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania
*Cathy M. Weiss
Program Analyst, The William Penn Foundation
Heritage Planner, Brandywine Museum & Conservancy
Chadds Ford, PA
Executive Director, Bartram's Garden
Mutter Museum, College of Physicians of Philadelphia
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