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.

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