December 10, 2018
By Dan Ayers-Price, Director of Retail, Key West Art & Historical Society
Sitting on an airplane recently, I actually listened to the canned flight-safety spiel that we all have memorized and tend to ignore. It dawned on me that their choice of verbiage is designed to lessen our concern almost to the point of talking down to us. In the “unlikely” event … um, is that supposed to make us feel better? This made me think of multiple recent events, from fires to floods to hurricanes to earthquakes, and that many of us have had to face the truth that even our museums are vulnerable to disaster. It might be “unlikely,” but it can happen.
Some of us are located in areas that are more prone to adverse conditions, and we have come to expect visits from Mother Nature, but we all are at risk of the unknown. How we prepare and move forward shows our strength.
As an organization, MSA is, and always has been, very supportive of its members. MSA members have forged great friendships, wonderful collaborations and a great network among ourselves. Standing strong, together, is one of our key tenets. I don’t really see any of us as the empty “thoughts and prayers” type but more as the “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done” bunch.
I was brokenhearted when the National Museum of Brazil (one of my fellow chapter members) suffered a devastating fire recently. Hurricanes in North Florida, fires in California and earthquakes in Alaska are just a few of the most recent disasters that our fellow members have had to deal with. Most of us are not in a position, physically or financially, to be able to travel to a disaster zone to offer help, but I have been so proud of our MSA community for the various communications via private emails as well as kind words on ShopTalk. The words of encouragement, for someone who is going through hell, often mean more than we can imagine.
Going forward, when something like this happens, I urge and challenge each of us to reach out to those affected and offer whatever help you can. I hear some of you saying “I can’t fly to Alaska or Brazil to help. What can I do from Ohio/New Jersey?” Well, true. Maybe you can’t be there in person, but you can offer to contact vendors on behalf of the affected museum. Maybe you can help with printing needs. Maybe you can help reach out to members for those membership-based organizations. Maybe your marketing department offers to do press releases for them. Maybe just a handwritten note of encouragement is all that you can do. There are so many things in our day to day that we take for granted until it isn’t there anymore.
For our MSA vendors, just being aware of orders that might need to be delayed or invoice due dates that need to be extended are two little things that will mean a lot. During Hurricane Irma, every single MSA vendor that I work with reached out to me with multiple offers of help. Not a single nonmember did. If that doesn’t show you the support of MSA, I’m not sure what will.
Think of what you do in your daily world, and base your offers of help on that. Some of us are lucky enough to only wear one hat, while others wear many. Each of us will have a different perspective on what help we can offer, but I guarantee that something will be much appreciated by someone in need. Our island’s motto is One Human Family. That is certainly something that I see in our fellow MSA members, and I’m proud to be a part of you.
Does your organization have a disaster plan in place? Have you thought about your store and how you would deal with that? Perhaps MSA, at national and chapter levels, should discuss and create guidelines on assisting distressed fellow members.
Dan Ayers-Price is the past president of the Florida Chapter and now serves on their Scholarship Committee. He has been the director of retail for the four separate museum stores of his society and an MSA member for six years.