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Notes from the Team: An Introduction, or Why Predict the Future, Anyway?

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
 I am so pleased to introduce a new member of the CFM team—Nicole Ivy will be working with me for the next two years, supported by a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. I invited Nicole to introduce herself today—you will be learning more about her, and her work, via the blog in coming months.

“So why try to predict the future at all if it’s so difficult, so nearly impossible? Because making predictions is one way to give warning when we see ourselves drifting in dangerous directions. Because prediction is a useful way of pointing out safer, wiser courses…Best to think about it, though. Best to try to shape it into something good.”

—Octavia E. Butler, “A Few Rules For Predicting the Future”

I am a museum professional. And a skeptical historian. And I am here to help envision the future. At least, this is what I tell my mother. As the newest member of the Center for the Future of Museums team, my job is to research and develop programs that will expand the reach of ground-breaking technologies and ideas throughout the museum community. This work includes identifying trends shaping the museum sector, and also understanding the challenges and implications of these trends—both within and outside of the field. Over the next two years, in my position as a Museum Futurist and an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Public Fellow with the Center for the Future of Museums, I look forward to collaborating with museums as well as with makers, educators, researchers, designers and other individuals (that means you, dear reader) to continue CFM’s work at the leading edge of museum innovation.

In addition to helping incubate projects that shape changes in museum practice, I will also be thinking through important issues raised by emerging conversations around the future of museums. One of my first research projects for CFM will focus on the history of labor organizing in the nonprofit sector. When I arrived, Elizabeth briefed me on recent debates in the field about pay equity and labor conditions, and noted that unionization had been floated as one possible route forward. I look forward to helping lay the groundwork for a serious examination of these issues through the lens of history. By grappling with the histories that inform current debates about fair pay and the unionization of museum workers, we might better envision paths to more equitable stewardship within the field.  

My becoming a futurist with a track record as an historian is not as improbable it might, at first, seem. I come to CFM through my work as an academic, a curatorial fellow, and a public historian. My Ph.D. is a joint degree in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University. I have taught students of medical history, visual culture, Black Studies and women’s studies at Cornell University, Yale, and, most recently, Indiana University. As an IMLS Fellow in Museum Practice at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, I gained experience in curating, exhibition development, and museum education. I also have eight years’ experience in secondary education, having worked with academic enrichment programs in New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut. My scholarly research centers on the race, gender, technology, and the politics of memorialization. I look forward to attending the University of Houston’s certificate course in strategic foresight to add formal futurist training to my credentials.

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I was attracted to the ACLS fellowship position precisely because of these diverse interests: I’m nosily drawn to the future of cultural institutions even as I’m passionate about the pasts that we present-day travelers have inherited. I’m especially inspired by CFM’s commitment to supporting new developments in education and its efforts to promote fruitful partnerships between educators, students, and museums. During my tenure here, I look forward to expanding the practical application of trends in museum innovation into educational leadership. I am honored to solicit your collaboration and feedback as I begin!

Nicole Ivy is a futurist, historian, and lover of slow reading. You can talk back to her on twitter at @nicotron3000.

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  1. I think historians make the best futurists, Nicole, because we have an opportunity to see the full sweep of history and can project it into the future. Welcome to CFM!

    Mary Warner
    Museum Manager (& also a Futurist Historian!)
    Morrison County Historical Society

  2. Mary, thank you for these encouraging words and for the warm welcome! I'm excited to think through the connections between a careful consideration of the past and the shaping of the future. Futurist historians unite (and also, perhaps, untie)!

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