Book Report As an archaeologist I have a keen interest in objects that teach us about our history

Book Report

As an archaeologist I have a keen interest in objects that teach us about our history. My career goal is to use historical objects to teach a wide audience via exciting and innovative exhibits. I chose to study museum Leadership as this would give me a platform to reach my career goal. I was recommended a book by Nancy Moses called “Lost in the Museum: buried treasures and the stories they tell”. With this book, Nancy Moses takes the reader on an exciting journey through nine different American non-profit institutions in Pennsylvania. She reveals the richness and the variety of collections through exploring museum objects specially chosen by curators, many of which have never been displayed before, ranging from clothing to drawings, military arms and even human remains. This is familiar to my experiences with the Museum of London Archives and the British Museum. Within both these institutions, there were hundreds, thousands of objects stored and have never been on display to the public. This to a point frustrated me as these objects have stories of the past to tell but never had the chance to do so. Nancy Moses within each chapter tells the story behind the object selected – the person who collected, made or used it. By doing this she is bringing the object and people’s stories back to life. This inspires me and fills me ideas of how to achieve the same result via exhibitions.

Other than bringing the object and people’s stories back to life, the objects are also used as a device through which key museological themes are unpacked and discussed. These topics included: the mechanics of a museum, the gap between institutions/societies and their public, the quandary of how to deal with old style typological museum displays, tempering the imbalance between the display and storage of objects, the relatively new approach of combining art and science within exhibitions, collecting the old and new, making collections relevant and loved by their public and practical matters relating to conservation and funding. These are topics that I have come across within my studies and it was interesting to read about them from Nancy Moses’s perspective as a very experience museum professional. I have gained additional knowledge on how to deal with such topics, which will no doubt come into practice during my career.

The book sets a positive tone, almost childlike with wonder at times. It was enjoyable to read and almost feel the love and enthusiasm Moses has for her job and her field of interest. Each object per chapter had a new story to tell and for me sparked my interest. I would start to think about how I would tell the story to the public via an exhibit. However, a reader with less enthusiasm of objects may at times wane their attention, if the object each chapter is dedicated to does not immediately spark their interest. This book is best dipped into at leisure so that the wealth of detail, different characters and stories can be relished. It is the personal touch through Moses’ own experiences at several of the museums or discussions with curators, which animate this book and break down the boundaries between the expert and the general reader. One observation I made was that the book mainly speaks from and about the white colonial viewpoint, history and experience. The final chapter on the ‘Summer Garments of A Tibetan Princess’, broke this trend, but overall a Native American object chapter was somewhat absent. A little more diversity would have made it a better read and would have given Moses more scope to discuss the museological themes in greater detail.

Overall it is an enjoyable book, leaving me with a deeper understanding of the museum world and insight into the marvelous variety of collections held in institutions in this part of America and indeed all around the world. It has taught me that you do not need a collection of objects to tell stories of the past, you can do so effectively with unique pieces such as those Moses discussed. While reading I was reminded of the radio broadcast “A History of the World in 100 Objects” narrated by former British Museum director Neil MacGregor. This broadcast I enjoyed immensely and like this book it had the ability to rekindle my love for history and give me ideas on how to achieve my career goal, to teach and inspire others. I feel that if giving the chance to develop exhibitions in my future career, I would take a leaf from MacGregor and Moses’ book and tell stories via unique individual pieces in a special exhibit. This would in theory let the audience experience difference narratives with minimal objects. It would eradicate museum fatigue and keep their enthusiasm high.

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With a career focus on developing exhibitions, and having read the aforementioned book by Nancy Moses. I wanted to read a book that discussed leadership within the business environment, as to achieve my goal I would need to become a successful leader. The book I read that met this criteria was; “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success” by Adam Grant.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that the Grant makes his stance very clear from chapter one. This allowed me to reflect on my own behaviour and compare his approaches to real-life situations. Grant’s stance is that he strongly believes that success depends on how we interact with others, and those who succeed are those who contribute value without focusing on what they will receive in return – the Givers. He discusses two further types of people (takers and matchers), within his so called “reciprocity spectrum”. I am also a great believer in success being achieved by how you interact with others. His thoughts echoed those of mine, and I could relate this leadership type to those I have experienced first hand, and that of which I have personally adopted.
Grant’s analysis on the behaviours of successful givers, including their approach to networking, collaborating, evaluating and their ability to influence others, was intriguing. At first glance I assumed his thoughts would be the obvious ones, but i was pleasantly surprised, he was thinking outside the norm, outside the box. Grant presented presents numerous case studies gathered from his research on the reciprocity style of leaders from several fields. One that stood out to me was the example of a giver who compelled his employer to resign in order to protect his colleagues’ interests. Due to his the selfish acts, which began to have a detrimental effect on the company.This was I feel a great example, which showed that givers are driven and ambitious within the business environment and while their focus is to give to the company they can also give strategically.
While I generally agree with Grant on his reciprocity styles, there is one aspect that I disagree with. This is where Grant claims that the distinctions between the three reciprocity styles are solely based within a working environment. In my experience and in my opinion leadership styles are formed of the individual’s characteristics. If a person is selfish in their everyday life then there is a good chance that the will be takers within a working environment. In my everyday life I tend to offer my time to those who need it and in work i give my time to the company for its benefit. This I feel shows me as a giver in both my personal and work environment. Grant discusses how reciprocity styles are behavioural styles that form a persons personality. But behavioural styles cannot be learnt. This was a little confusing to me and I felt that Grant could have been more specific how how reciprocity attributes/styles are different from behavioural characteristics. I feel that the reciprocity style is a honed behavioural style which is used within certain environments. For example when you go to work you put on your work hat, the work hat being the reciprocity style.
Having completed a business degree and been in a business managerial/leadership role for several years, I thought I had a good grasp of leadership styles and how to achieve success. Grant taught me that the old school obvious method is not always the best. There are different styles that can be adopted based on your behavioural styles. Unlike the typical leadership book with inspirational tips and how only hard can warrant success. Grant’s stance on success being achieved through how you treat people, book has encouraged me to look twice at my managers and think about how their reciprocity style can lead to success for the business.
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Both books have taught me lessons on how to help inspire others whether it be via objects or via my leadership style. I can to a small degree see how Nancy Moses leads via her chapters on objects chosen from the several institutions in which she worked. Unfortunately her book does not discuss her as a leader in detail and purly focuses on the objects and their stories. It is difficult to link both these books together. I do however take away ideas on how to inspire and teach others via objects and their story. Adam Grant has taught me different leadership skills that are negative and positive. These styles I feel i could identify and thus help me interact better. I do also feel that these lessons will help me develop a exhibition by allowing me to lead its construction effectively. I feel I could adapt Grants lessons to relate to the public and thus helping me interact with the public better, while networking for example.