Story 04: Where Did the Ideas Come From?

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Through Thick and Thin, What Made It Work?

Written by Janet Kamien

In the end there was nothing to do about it but persevere—which is exactly what we did. Out of ongoing clashes, came some wonderful exhibits, in spite of the tensions. Bubbles, Waves, Simple Machines, Tops, Salad Dressing Physics, Raceways, and probably some others I don't remember.

This taught me two important things:

  • We didn't all have to get along in order to produce good stuff, although it was certainly preferable.
  • Our basic agreement—that we were all in this together and that it was all for the visitor—really was our life line. Even when it frayed, it hardly ever snapped.

This basic agreement saw us through an immense amount of sturm und drang. It created the basis for good work among people who sometimes didn't get along or in a few cases, even like each other. For others, the intensity of our belief in the institution and the work we did in it served as the basis for deep and lasting life-long friendships that continue among us to this day, though most of us no longer work there.

There is so much more to tell, to think about, to glean from those years. There is a reason so many of us—some having only served as interpreters for a three-month stint—continued to do museum work and even went on to become important figures in the field. We were all a part of a kind of experiment. Yes, we were happy when we had good attendance numbers, or got the next piece of funding, balanced the budget, got a project completed, or got a compliment from our peers. But what I remember as the real joy of the place was someone bursting into the office to say, "You'll never guess what I saw on the floor today!"

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