Monday, June 13, 2005

Museum learning

Museums. This week the family visited the extension of the National Air & Space Museum housed in a gigantic hanger on the grounds of Dulles International Airport. The planes enlivened daring exploits (the Gossamer Albatross, Eddie Rickenbacker’s tiny fighter), bold innovation (the flying wing, the Space Shuttle Enterprise), and beautiful design (the lovely SR-71 Blackbird spy plain, an Air France Concorde). Museums display objects that reinforce values, exemplify traits we hold in high esteem. People flock to a good museum; they enjoy what they learn there.

Think how a corporation typically displays its important symbols. A glass étagère in the reception area holds “awards” from vendors, athletic trophies, a token of appreciation from the United Way, and perhaps a prospectus encased in a cube of Lucite. The objects don’t appear here because they support the corporate culture. More likely, no one could find a more appropriate place to put them.

Imagine creating a corporate museum for employees instead of visitors. Then imagine that the corporation hired the Smithsonian to assemble its collection. The galleries would celebrate innovation, organizational values, significant milestones, and corporate heroes through photos, artefacts, vintage advertisements, product displays, and period objects. Benches, stools, tables, and shelves in the main rooms and stuffed into nooks and crannies encourage workers to use the museum as an inspiring site for meetings. If corporate culture is so important, and motivation a key factor in profitability, shouldn’t the question be “Why don’t you have a corporate museum?”

How about a corporate library, too?

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