Director's Blog

Director's Blog

Lessons from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center - Friday, May 19, 2017

I just came back from attending my first American Alliance of Museums conference. It was a great opportunity to get a small snapshot of the larger museum community that I now work in. I loved getting to meet other professionals who are exploring and grappling with many of the same challenges that we deal with as a museum and as museum workers. I especially loved all of the great conversations around the need for more diversity, equity, access and inclusion (Hey! That’s the conference theme!). I hope to share more about some of the takeaways and cool ideas that were sparked during the conference over the coming weeks.

One of the common issues that seemed to come up in lots of sessions and informal hallway conversations was the challenge of silos. In the library world we’re sort of trained to try and break out of silos through the constant use of group projects, but even there I’ve often seen silos pop up between technical and public service departments. The academic world where I resided for a number of years was known for numerous silos as well, often resulting in the refusal to share resources or work across departmental lines. In many respects, I imagine that it must be common in lots of work place environments and not just in libraries/archives/museums.

So the question becomes should we break those silos and if so, how do we do it? My child has this crazy obsession with Daniel Tiger, the PBS spinoff of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He loves dancing along to the songs and gets excited each time a new character walks onto the screen. Each episode deals with a topic that toddlers should learn—like understanding that grownups come back or the challenges of learning new things. At the heart of the show is the importance of developing empathy for others. You see, it’s easy to care about the projects we work on—we feel emotionally invested in our view and our work. But, do we care about the projects that others’ on the team work on? Are we invested in helping them succeed because when they win, we win too?

One concrete way in which our team at MTCC is trying to think about this is in the way in which we work with our sister resource agencies under the Department of Arkansas Heritage. We recently partnered with the Arkansas Arts Council to co-facilitate a workshop around inclusion in the arts. We came together on the idea when we realized that we had both been doing research independently of each other about making the arts more welcoming to those who experience disabilities. Rather than fight for resources or think that we could somehow take on this issue by ourselves, we actively worked to find ways that we could collaborate around this topic. It turns out that the Arkansas Arts Council is really well connected throughout the state and great at getting the message out and MTCC is really good with trying new things and having the space in which to provide practical and tangible applications. Ultimately our success came in recognizing that we work better when we work together. As Fred Rogers said, “What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”


Resources for more exploration:

There’s some interesting research about how Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood builds empathy in preschoolers here:

One of my favorite Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood clips about the importance of sharing:

Fred Rodgers Archive:

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