chapter  6
54 Pages

Between the past and the future

In reflecting upon 15 years of individual and organizational change at Glenbow, it is clear that change is a continuum. It is not something which has a beginning and an end, and it never will, much as we would like to believe that change was much more manageable in the good old days. We are also told daily by all manner of pundits that the pace of change is increasing enormously. In my experience, it is not the mere existence of change, or its pace, that provokes so much anxiety. Rather, it is living with the notion that we will never find that mythical plateau where we can pause and say “we’ve made it.” Furthermore, without the security of this plateau or final destination, the outcome of discontinuous change will obviously never be known ahead of time. This realization compounds the anxiety caused by the omnipresence of change in all aspects of our lives. No matter how hard we might wish it so, there will be no return to “normal,” whatever that may be. The ability to idealize the past is a remarkable tendency among human beings, even when that “past” is largely responsible for the discontent which leads to change in the first place. Museum workers are no exception. It is still not clear to me if idealizing the past, in the face of sufficient evidence to the contrary, has any adaptive value. Could it be that the future needs to be rooted in the past if it is to be real? Charles Handy observes that “the secret of balance in a time of paradox is to allow the past and the future to co-exist in the present.”1