Story 03: Birth of Playspace

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March 10, 1978

Written by Jeri Robinson

Several more meetings had been called by Mike or Elaine, which I attended with Janet and members of D&P. Things were becoming more and more complicated. Janet and I were asked to make some decisions about Playspace and Before You Were Three before either of them had been fully developed or given their promised tryouts. At this point even the criteria under which the Playspace proposal had been written were being challenged. (One of our main issues was that this space should be designed so that it could be closed off and used by a special group while the museum was open to the public. We felt that without this, it would be difficult to protect the groups who needed privacy and a place to get away from the general museum activity.) These issues were discussed several times, but nothing was resolved. It appeared that Mike or Elaine had a master plan in mind and somehow wanted us to change our minds and agree to what they were suggesting without really defining what they wanted. We felt we were being swallowed up and somehow coerced into agreeing to a design we could neither envision nor absolutely agree with.

After one particularly chaotic meeting, where it seemed no one was listening to anyone else and it left Janet and me upset, I wrote a memo to Mike and Elaine—a last stab at trying to get them to at least hear our issues—and left it in their mailboxes.

The very next day Mike called another short meeting. All earlier meetings had taken place in the Orange Room where small staff meetings were usually held. This meeting, however, was a closed door meeting in the office of Phyl O'Connell, the associate director. I had no idea what to expect.

I had given Janet a copy of the memo early that morning prior to my leaving for a three-hour workshop at a local high school. I explained my reasons for writing it. During the several meetings we had attended on the subject of the Me Bay, I had remained relatively quiet while she had battled with Elaine, Mike, and D&P. I had joined in the conversation only to clarify those points I well understood. Much of what they talked about was beyond me. It stemmed from other Wharf planning meetings. Although I was still undecided about the final form of Before You Were Three, I clearly understood the criteria and rationale behind the Playspace and didn't want to see it lost in the shuffle.

At this meeting, Mike and Elaine's attitude seemed to change. They had decided to let Janet and me think more about how a joint Playspace/Before You Were Three exhibit might be integrated with some of the other exhibit ideas Mike had. Discussions for any final exhibit formats would be postponed and no decisions would be made until after the April vacation week tryout, now back on the table and several weeks away.

Elaine and Mike's reaction to my memo: they "hear the issues loud and clear, and would make every effort to make them a reality." Tabling the discussions seemed best. Janet was leaving for two weeks on a travel grant to look at museum programs for the people with disabilities and I thought that if a major decision were made during her absence it would only cause more problems later.

Next: The Exhibit Develops: March 10, 1978