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Breathe, Exhale, Strategize

March 27, 2020

…and resist the temptation to go whole hog in a new direction that requires new resources.

This was a much-needed message shared on Wednesday’s webinar “How to Captivate, Connect, and Communicate with Your Audience During Coronavirus” hosted by Cuseum.

COVID-19 is hitting the cultural heritage world hard. We’ve heard from many heritage organizations in Oregon that they have already had to reduce staffing and/or completely put operations on hold. If you feel the past two weeks have been confusing and hard, you’re not alone. In addition to figuring out how to keep the people in our lives safe, cultural heritage organizations are also receiving rapid-fire emails with resources on how to keep their operations afloat. It’s hard to keep up, make sense of things, and know where to focus.

If your organization is fortunate enough to have the reserve to keep staff and volunteers engaged, or if you have had to make tough staffing decisions for the long-term health of the organization, this message is for you: —“Be easy on yourself. It’s only been two weeks.”

Wonder what your heritage organization should be doing now, whether you’ve had staff changes or not? The following advice is sourced from the “How to Captivate, Connect, Communicate” webinar:

  • If it doesn’t seem obvious, don’t worry about it. Right now, you’re probably still in the reaction phase to the COVID-19 crisis. Take care of your people and do what’s absolutely needed first. If you don’t know what to do, it’s likely those unknowns aren’t that important.  
  • Don’t overstretch limited resources. Lean on what you have and bring it forward. If you have online collections, or an education project that was already in the works and can be made digital– great. If not, now is probably not the time to launch a brand-new online education program or digital interface. Look at this downtime as an opportunity for your organization to step back and strengthen your core programs.
  • Return to your mission to prioritize work. Let your mission drive the programming and staffing decisions you make now and always. No organization with collections is ever done with collections care. Is there a scanning project that got put on hold a while ago? Can front desk volunteers assist a project that never got finished?
  • Building community within an organization takes effort. There may be a tendency right now to focus all your energy on public facing programs. The public can’t come to you, and you feel you have to get to them ASAP. But remember, with staff and volunteers now physically spread-out and working from home, it takes additional effort to keep everyone focused, communicate well, and keep your organizational culture alive. Because… 
  • Reopening, when the time comes, will take effort. Things will eventually return to a new normal. What needs to be in place so your organization is ready?

Oregon Heritage staff has been fielding resources fast and furiously the past couple of weeks. We have created a COVID-19 Resource page on our website to help consolidate these resources in one place. Please, be easy on yourselves right now. We’re all navigating this together.

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