Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Farewell Powerhouse, Hello Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

November 15th, 2011 by Seb Chan

It is official now.

Today I’m leaving the Powerhouse after a long stint to take up a new role as Director of Digital & Emerging Media at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. I’ll be starting at the Cooper-Hewitt on November 28 (2011).

I’m looking forward to the new challenges and also the opportunities that I hope will flow from being part of the larger Smithsonian Institution whilst being in the cultural epicentre that is New York. I’m especially excited to be working for the Cooper-Hewitt with its high calibre exhibitions, and well established national education projects.

I’m continuing to write Fresh & New so don’t fret about any loss of signal. It will just be from a different timezone – and possibly, over time, a slightly different set of spelling conventions.

I’d like to thank the support of the Powerhouse over many years – the teams I’ve managed and my colleagues are all kinds of awesome. My digital colleagues have made the workplace one where ideas have flourished and everyone has been committed to trying out new things fueled by coffee, sugary treats, and a sense of mirth. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have worked with such people.

Of course none of the work that’s been done would have been possible without the rest of the Powerhouse, especially the curatorial, registration, and education staff who’ve been at the frontline of how the ‘new museum’ has adapted to rapid technological change. The IT team at the Powerhouse, where I first began as an employee, has also been instrumental in providing a flexible technology environment in which to test and trial new ideas, and they embody the notion that a real IT department should be ‘enablers’, not just ‘fixers’.

I also need to thank my series of supervisors over the years each of whom has supported experimentation and encouraged the prototyping of many wild ideas. I hope my own management style has learned from them.

Most of all I’ve made some (hopefully) lifelong friendships working at the Powerhouse and I’m going to miss hanging out and making stuff with such great people.

It also needs to be said that the Powerhouse, as a workplace, provided a rare luxury – a job that provided great creative stimulation and opportunity, flexible working hours and work/life balance, even within the constraints of a shrinking public service. The opportunity to do ‘purposeful work’ – not just a job – is a luxury not afforded to many and one that needs to be seized.

And of course, “done is the engine of more”.

Now let’s see how it turns out in “the city that is a goal”.

Fresh and New readers should also keep an eye on a new technology and museology blog from the Powerhouse being coordinated by Paula Bray called Open House. It is going to be broader in focus and draw in contributions form across the Powerhouse so make sure you add it to your RSS reader.

Tags: 23 Comments

  • wow, congratulations… it sounds like a wonderful opportunity! 

  • Erikajoy

    May unicorns carry you forward over many rainbows (double) and may all the cats be easily herded.

  • Thank you for the time spent and things done.

  • Nate Solas

    Congrats, Seb. Perhaps our paths will cross more often now! :)

  • Congratulations, Seb. Look forward to catching up with you over here.

  • lifeasdaddy

    Congratulations and good luck.

  • RichCherry

    looking forward to having you just a few time zones away.

  • Brilliant news. Many congrats Seb. May New York embrace you and may you enrich it!

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  • looking fwd to dispatches from NY

  • Thank you so much for all the great stuff you have done Seb, and congratulations on the new position. You have been a source of inspiration, and you will continue to be in your new position, I’m certain. All the best and see you around!

  • I too think  done’s good Seb, but one day, maybe when you’re a way bit older, you might realise that more is not always best. Anyway all the best for New York. In so many ways you’ve enriched all our working lives and challenged us to think in fresh&new ways – you’re leaving big shoes to fill!

  • Virginia Gow

    Go well, Seb! Really glad you’re taking the blog with you – it’s been the textbook for my career.

  • Congratulations, and welcome to New York!

  • Cathy Brickwood

    Congrats on the new job, Seb, and at least you’ll be a bit nearer Amsterdam in the future so I’ll be inviting you over again soon. 

  • Dan Brennan

    Congratulations, from a longtime reader!

  • Anonymous

    smashing great news for us @smithsonian Seb. Let’s misbehave together!

  • Good luck Seb – since the first time we saw you at New Zealand’s National Digital Forum we kiwis have admired your contribution to the GLAM sector, we look forward to that continuing from NY, NY…

  • We’re delighted to have you in New York, Seb! Congrats and well deserved. Can’t wait to see what you’ll get up to here!!!

  • Egurian

    Seb you have done an amazing job and I look forward to seeing more of you in the US. Sorry you are leaving because I agree that the Powerhouse is a most special place but New york and the world awaits. good luck. e–

  • Good luck Seb

  • I meant to to say a bit more than that but the technology confused me… all the very best with the move. I’m sure you’ll keep influencing and pushing boundaries at the Cooper-Hewitt, looking forward to the NYC-style blog

  • Seb. Congratulations!  We will have to connect in NYC or maybe you’ll make it down to the Southwest. Best of luck with the new position.