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Why I’ve disappeared: new job is sucking up all my brain power

September 3, 2011

It’s always challenging to do a good job maintaining a “hobby” blog while working full-time and also trying to have a life. Now that I’ve started my new job as executive director of the North Platte Valley Museum, I have even less time. I have so much to learn to become a competent director, I’m essentially working full-time as well as developing a college-level self-study class.

Here’s the front entrance to “my” museum.

Over the past two weeks, approximately 4,162 people have asked me how my new job is going. My response has generally been a deer-in-the-headlights look and, “Wow, have I got a lot to learn!”

I wear multiple hats at the museum: custodian, curator, administrator, archivist, volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, tour guide, office manager, tech support, grant writer, webmaster, P.R. and H.R. person, handyman, landscaper. As the only paid staff member at the museum, a good portion of operational responsibility falls on my shoulders. Whatever needs doing, I get to try to find the resources and time to do it, or find a volunteer to help.

Thank goodness I am not out there completely on my own! The museum has a great board of directors with members who really care about the museum and are actively involved in its operations. The museum has some really awesome volunteers, too. I could just hug them all! There is no way that museum could operate without them.

UPDATE: in reading back through this post, I realized I left out an important source of assistance: Barb Netherland, the outgoing director, has been a HUGE help in teaching me how the museum functions. I wouldn’t have progressed nearly as fast in my museum education without her. A thousand thank-yous, Barb!!

To give you a taste of what I and the board and volunteers are up against, here is a smattering of things I have learned just in the past two weeks:

  • The location of (most of) the light switches
  • The codes to activate and deactivate the security system
  • Which items in the sod house and log cabin are known for sure to be original furnishings
  • Membership data is on the office computer, while other data sets are on “archive computers one and two”
  • How to get an empty roll off the toilet paper holder in the public bathrooms
  • What the current gift shop stock is
  • Trash pickup is Friday
  • When the miller moth population is high, remove the bulb from a certain door light or risk a middle-of-the-night wakeup call from the security system due to detection of moth motion
  • The difference between a national register-listed property and a national historic landmark
  • Where the weak spot in the caboose floor is
  • Who some of the people are who have expertise in certain historical topics
  • Email communication with board members don’t work so well when some of the members’ email accounts have blocked museum communications for “having characteristics of spam”
  • Where most of the school-related documents are in the archive
  • Which shutters in the sod house and log cabin to leave shut, which to open only on nice days, and which to open even when the weather is iffy
  • City of Gering staff generally mow the lawn on Thursday, so the sprinklers needs to be drug around and gotten out of the way before then
  • Even though the museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we still have to pay sales tax
  • How to update the museum’s website
  • The “toilet trick”
  • The museum’s can of wasp spray puts out less than its advertised spray distance
  • Our sod house has a construction different from most other sod houses
  • PastPerfect is a pretty nifty piece of museum software
  • The “greeting spiel” for museum visitors
  • There are at least six different types and sizes of light bulbs used in the museum and its displays
  • How to enter into a ledger the admission fees, donations, gift shop sales, membership renewals and other sources of museum income
  • To write a check, I have to get signatures from two of the four board members who are authorized on the checking account
  • Which grants have functional obligations in the near future, and which new grants might be applied for soon
  • When the printer refuses to print, every network connection must be unplugged and reset in an attempt to remind the system how to transmit data
  • What to do when someone brings an armload of stuff from their basement/attic/garage and wants to donate it to the museum collection
  • How to calculate FICA and federal and state tax withholdings
  • Where the books of board meeting minutes and artifact loan papers are
  • The location of the drains for the HVAC systems hidden in the museum ceiling
  • How to use a broom to whack a segment of track light with a loose connection and make the lights turn on
  • The museum really needs more financial and volunteer support
  • Which of the dozen keys on my keychain go to what lock

Oh, and then there are the special events coming up:

  • Business After Hours at the museum Sept. 8 with adult beverages and snacks and a wandering musician (to be plugged live on a KNEB radio spot the morning of Sept. 6)
  • Speaking engagements at the Gering Business Club and a retired teachers’ luncheon
  • Annual Meeting Oct. 13 at the Gering Civic Center, which includes dinner (attendees pay for their meals) and a “box raffle” (where people buy $1 tickets to put into boxes for items they hope to win)
  • 50th birthday party for the museum on Oct. 23, which will include party games (I hope), backstage tours, a special exhibit (or two or three), a raffle of gourds painted by artists who donated their time
  • The annual Christmas tree decorating charitable event and holiday season kickoff
  • A new exhibit to honor the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary, to go up in January

Are you exhausted yet? I sure have been, though I’m sure it’ll get better as I become more familiar with the ways and means of the museum.

Hope to see you all at some of the museum events and in the volunteer roster. 🙂 Also hope many of you readers will subscribe to the blog I plan to start for the museum (when I can find the time!).

UPDATE: North Platte Valley Museum permanently closed in 2013 to join forces with the former Farm And Ranch Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum at 2930 Old Oregon Trail in Gering. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2011 8:28 pm

    Do you have any idea how many people have great belief in you?

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink*
      September 4, 2011 7:51 am

      I have some idea, and it’s very humbling as well as pressure-inducing.

  2. Suzie permalink
    September 3, 2011 10:16 pm

    Holy cow! This is like motherhood without the diapers! At least I don’t remember seeing diapers on the list…

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink*
      September 4, 2011 7:51 am

      Suzie, your comment totally cracked me up! I sure hope no diapers appear! LOL!

  3. September 4, 2011 9:19 pm

    Having the person who held your job before you stepped in nearby to answer questions, explain how certain things work and offer helpful advice of ‘I used to do this in this way and found it worked/didn’t work quite well’ is a godsend. Good luck continuing to settle in!

  4. marcpfister permalink
    September 5, 2011 11:32 am

    If you need computer/tech help let me know..

    • Rick Myers permalink
      September 5, 2011 8:36 pm

      Did we tell you that you needed to write down all of the aforementioned information and respective answers to prepare a board packet? 😉

      • Katie Bradshaw permalink*
        September 5, 2011 8:38 pm

        Gaaaah! I haven’t experienced a board meeting yet!

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