One of my friends is in trouble, and I want to help them out.
If they were a colleague having a stink day, I'd take them out for coffee. If they were a friend having trouble at home, I'd bake them something. But they're an art museum, and so I'm giving them what counts - my support as expressed through cash.
At the end of last week, the Brooklyn Museum announced major cutbacks (warning, PDF). Like most arts institutions in America, they're struggling as a result of the economic crisis. Their endowment has been devalued, their operating support has been cut, and their membership and fundraising revenue is shrinking.
Among the measures the Museum is undertaking, some directly affect the visitor. A major planned exhibition has been pulled; a special-exhibitions gallery will be closed; and the suggested admission fees have been raised.
And some measures directly affect staff (and thus have a roll-on effect for visitors). Staff have been told to take a one-week furlough; some are being asked to take paycuts; and a voluntary separation package is being offered. All this is being done in an attempt to "reduce personnel costs sufficiently to avoid or minimize any subsequent layoffs".
In somewhat bittersweet timing, at the same time that these announcements were being made the Brooklyn Museum was being feted at the annual Museums and the Web conference for the awesome work they do online. (If you're a regular reader of of this blog, you're probably already sick to death of hearing me go on about this .)
At the conference, Nina Simon put out a call for people to show some tangible support for the Museum, and buy a 1stfans membership. The Museum describes 1stfans as a "socially-networked" membership; it offers both 'physical' benefits to visitors to the Museum, and 'virtual' benefits to those who follow it online.
And I thought, yeah - that's the least I can do. So Sunday afternoon NZ time, I pulled out my credit card and spent US$20 on a 1stfans membership. Obviously, I don't live in New York. In fact, I've never been there (here's hoping that airline prices keep falling though). BUT....
The Museum feels like one of my friends. I've been following them online for years. They keep me updated on what's going on via Flickr and Twitter. I've learnt more about how I should be doing my job from their blog than from any course I've ever done. And I just about bloody wet myself when this year I was able to arrange for the amazing Shelley Bernstein, the Museum's 'chief geek', to drop into Wellington for a frantic 50 hours on her way back to the States from speaking in Australia.
Within hours of purchasing the membership, I'd heard from both Will Cary (Brooklyn Museum's membership manager) and Shelley, thanking me for signing up: god knows what time it was in New York. And this is exactly the kind of thing that inspires me about the Brooklyn Museum staff. Those people eat, sleep, breathe and dream the Museum: everything they do is focused on the Museum's community.
So here's what I'm doing for my friend
I'm offering to shout 4 more people a 1stfans membership. Just leave me a comment with your name & email address*, and at the end of this week, I'll draw four names out of a random number generator and get you signed up.
I know most of you are New Zealanders, and therefore this mightn't seem this relevant. So - if you know someone else who might like a membership, feel free to ask for one for them instead. If I don't get enough takers here, I'll offer the offer on to Brooklyn Museum directly, and they can give them away themselves.
And if you want to help out too, you can sign up or gift a 1stfans membership yourself.
Thanks heaps. Look forward to hearing from you.
* Don't worry, I pre-moderate comments on this blog, so your name & email won't be published. I also won't sell your contact details on to telemarketers or social media mavens.
Update: 21 April
Just backing up all the stuff I had to say already; the BM's "acceptance speech" for its Museums and the Web awards.
Thank You! from Brooklyn Museum on Vimeo.