Wanda Draper:

083 – Museums as “Curators of Epiphanies”: an Untapped Treasure Trove of Lessons for Leaders with Wanda Draper

Wanda Draper:

083 – Museums as “Curators of Epiphanies”: an Untapped Treasure Trove of Lessons for Leaders with Wanda Draper

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In this episode, we are joined by Wanda Draper, who is the Executive Director at Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture to discuss her experience on the board of a museum and how museums can influence innovation. Wanda has over 40 years of experience in both broadcast and print journalism and has previously worked as Director of Programming at NBC-affiliated WBALTV, Director of Public Information for the Governor of Maryland, and as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

  • How Wanda uses her transferable communication skills from her time as a journalist to create a new communicative culture
  • Why museums can offer fresh and creative perspectives that can help spark innovation
  • How Wanda is helping to shape a new and different kind of museum experience

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • Inclusivity: how museums are helping to influence visitors of all generations and ethnicities to learn and connect
  • Lessons: why exhibitions and artworks offer a lesson to be learned
  • Growth: how museums today are offering unique and personal learning experiences

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode


In this episode, we are joined by Wanda Draper, who is the Executive Director at Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture to discuss her experience on the board of a museum and how museums can influence innovation. Wanda has over 40 years of experience in both broadcast and print journalism and has previously worked as Director of Programming at NBC-affiliated WBALTV, Director of Public Information for the Governor of Maryland, and as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

Wanda Draper

Wanda Queen Draper was appointed Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture on September 28, 2016. A native of Baltimore, she is no stranger to the Museum. She served on the founding board for eight years, chaired the Marketing Committee and co-chaired the grand opening in June 2005.

Wanda has extensive broadcast communications and management experience and came to the museum from WBAL-TV of the Hearst Corporation in a number of capacities including Director of Programming and Public Affairs. She began her career with Hearst Newspapers as a reporter for the Baltimore News American. She also worked at WJZ-TV and Maryland Public Television. She spent five years as Director of Community Affairs and Visitor Services at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, managing admissions, security, catered events, retail sales and community affairs.

What Was Covered

  • How Wanda uses her transferable communication skills from her time as a journalist to create a new communicative culture
  • Why museums can offer fresh and creative perspectives that can help spark innovation
  • How Wanda is helping to shape a new and different kind of museum experience

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • Inclusivity: how museums are helping to influence visitors of all generations and ethnicities to learn and connect
  • Lessons: why exhibitions and artworks offer a lesson to be learned
  • Growth: how museums today are offering unique and personal learning experiences

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Wanda, it’s a great pleasure to have you on the Innovation Ecosystem podcast and thanks very much for your time today.

Thank you for having me.

And, Wanda, let’s get into your career. You had a long and successful career in journalism before moving into your current role, so can you just talk a little bit about what led up to you becoming a journalist?

Well, initially I loved reading and I pretty much thought I was going to be a reading teacher. I decided two things; one, my family owned a dry cleaning business and I was not doing dry cleaning, and two, my mother worked in radiology and I decided that x-rays were boring and I wasn’t doing that either, so I really knew what I didn’t want to do, and so then I took a school visit to a convent and I decided that I wanted to be a nun, and for most people that would be okay except when I came home and told my family they were in awe and the reason is we’re not Catholic. And so, they waited me out on that when they didn’t say yay or nay, they just looked at me and said, ‘Okay,’ and when I got to high school I took my first journalism class and the instructor said, ‘Welcome to the fourth estate,’ and I thought, ‘The Fourth Estate? What’s the Fourth estate?’ I’d never heard of it before so I looked it up and I found out. The first thing I thought was, ‘I don’t know what the Fourth Estate is, and what is the First, Second, and Third Estate?’ but one of the things I discovered was I love writing and I loved my journalism class. So, as a part of your journalism class you had to be on the high school newspaper and that was my aha moment because I loved it and got very, very excited about it except at the time that I did this there were very few women and definitely not people of color in the industry. And so, there was kind of the spirit in my family that I was going to end up like these writers you read about on park benches in New York’s Central Park trying to sell your work because none of them had ever seen or known up close a professional journalist, but I decided that that was really what I wanted to do. So, I made a deal with my dad and it was I would go to school, he would pay for me to go to college, I would major in journalism, but I would ‘minor in something where I could get a job,’ so I decided to minor in linguistics. I had no intention of being a speech pathologist but thank God my college paid for. So, I majored in journalism and minored in speech pathology and linguistics, and loved it even more and I got hired by a local newspaper in high school and as a matter of fact, they read my work in my high school newspaper and asked me to come write for them but they didn’t tell me I was being paid and then I got a check, I’m like, ‘I really like this is!’


And so that was kind of the start of my journalism career. I started in print and in the process, I did some radio and I became a high school reporter for a local TV station, and then I was at a crossroads. I had to make a decision when I graduated from college to do print or broadcast and I was really torn because I loved print because you had time to use your words and people read it, and I loved broadcast because of its immediacy but you had a lot less time to say it. So, a story is ninety seconds at best and so I had ninety seconds to do it that way or hundreds of words the other. So, what I ended up doing was full time going into print and on Friday afternoon I taped a talk show at a network station in Baltimore, and on Friday night I did a talk show for public broadcasting, so I was kind of feeding both of my frenzies. I was doing print and broadcast, and then finally after having fun at both I settled down, I got married, had kids, and so I had to slow down a little. So, I settled down and I went into broadcast management full time, so I spent my last twenty-five years as a broadcast manager for the Hearst Corporation for Hearst television.

Right, right. It’s interesting. One of our previous guests is a guy called David Novak who is the founder and CEO of Yum brands which is Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell, and Pizza Express, and he was a journalist, he went to journalism school and then very quickly went into business, but he saw a huge amount of benefit from his journalistic training in terms of it taught him to look at the world from very different angles and make sure that there was no ‘not invented here syndrome’ in his organization. I’m curious, what was your experience in terms of your training and in terms of ensuring the success that you achieved. How important is it to be able to look at the world through different lenses do you think, Wanda?

Oh, it’s very crucial because it exposes you to so many different people, thoughts, ideas, experiences, you go places you’d never go, you meet people you’d never meet, you find yourself in situations that under any other circumstances wouldn’t happen, and in that process you grow because you have to listen, learn, respond, perform, and grow in whatever those environments are, and the other thing about it is it changes every day. So, often there are jobs where you have an assignment, you go in, and you do it every day. Journalism is not like that. It’s different every day, and even if you have a plan, what you do that day can be so far from what your schedule says you are going to do, and I think it doesn’t happen in many other industries the way it does in journalism that every day can be so different, but so exciting and so invigorating, and what it does is it creates in you that you always want to learn, and know, and grow because that’s the way you survive, and you don’t think about it consciously that way but when you look back on it you see that that’s what it is, and I think it’s important because the other skill you learn is writing and communicating, and in any business I think communication is at the root of it in terms of how you communicate with every sector of the society in which you deal. And so, to have those communication skills and be able to use them in different ways, it’s been very important to me and particularly as I made a transition from broadcasting to museums because they communicate totally differently and just learning how they communicate and then using my communication skills to create a different culture in that environment. So, it’s really almost a leadership skill because you’re the one leading the dialogue, you’re the one in charge of the final product and so it’s important that you’re able to communicate, get what it is you’re looking for, and also discover something that you may not have been looking for and then know what to do with that.

Yeah, and let’s talk about a little bit about that transition because it’s probably quite an extreme transition from a very commercial ten-second sound bite kind of world into a not-for-profit where maybe the next decision is made at a board meeting in a few months’ time. How did you make that transition and what was easy and what was difficult about it?

So, the interesting thing about it is, of course, I’d never thought or pictured myself as a Museum Executive Director but when the museum was being discussed I knew the guy who the governor had asked to be chair of the board and he called and said, ‘Look, the governor’s asked me to chair this board. We’re going to build the Maryland African American Museum and I’d like you to be on the board,’ and so I said, ‘No, thanks,’ and I thought I was done with it, and then two weeks later I got a letter with a big gold seal on it from the governor appointing me to the board of this museum. Well, first of all, nobody knew what it was because it didn’t exist. Usually, you get appointed to the board of something, the Boy Scouts, you know? The Red Cross, something you know about and they just want you to show up, give some money and get some money and that’s it, and so this is different, and so anyway I felt obligated to show up; the governor had never appointed me to anything else. So, I go to this meeting and there are a bunch of rich old guys sitting around the table, and I was like, ‘No, I’m in the wrong room,’ and they’re like, ‘No, we really need you,’ and so they laid it out pretty straight. They said, ‘We need you because we don’t understand the culture, we don’t understand the community, we don’t know how to reach the community, and most of all we don’t have any marketing, media, or PR skills and you have those and that’s what we need, and we’ll raise the money if you’ll give us your expertise.’ And so, it ended up being one of the most rewarding boards I’d ever served on because we got to decide what the museum would be, where it would be, we picked the site, we hired the architect, we fired that architect, hired a new architect, but over a five-year period we raised $38 million dollars, we got an 82 thousand square foot building built, we raised $2.5 million dollars to install the permanent collection and $350,000 dollars for an education program to be written for schools and education systems. And so, I served on that board for eight years, I chaired the groundbreaking, I chaired the grand opening, I chaired the first anniversary, and then I decided it was time to move on, so I left. So, the museum was doing great and about four years later the economy took a big hit and most nonprofits started to suffer, and so I got a call from one of the original board members saying, ‘The museum’s struggling a little. We wondered if you could come back on the board,’ and I said, ‘I won’t come back on the board but I will help you,’ and so I met with the executive director and I offered to write a strategic plan for them to help them move forward, and he was a PhD educator and so he had a different vision and that was okay with me, and so they tried that and it actually didn’t work, and so four years later I got a call saying the museum was really struggling and they had done a nationwide search for an executive director, and they had their final candidates and they weren’t really pleased, and they were wondering if I would come and be the executive director, and so I said, ‘No,’ but I would meet with them. So, I went to meet and I thought I was just going to be meeting with like four or five people from the board but 30 people, the whole board was there, and so I met with them and they had done a retreat and had a strategic plan, and I read this strategic plan and I walked in the room and I said, ‘If I were executive director I wouldn’t do none of this,’ and I said, ‘I wrote the strategic plan in 2005 and you haven’t done that yet, so there’s no way you can do this,’ and everybody just looked at me in awe. And so, I had a conversation with them for about an hour and then being a broadcaster, I made three-minute video telling them what I thought if I were executive director what I would do, and so I showed them the video and they were amazed but the advantage was I had all of the history of that museum. I knew where everything in that building was, and so I left them my video and I left, and before I got home they called and they said, ‘The board just voted unanimously to appoint you as executive director of the museum,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’

Be careful what you wish for, yes. Let’s say a little bit about the museum and maybe you can just talk a little bit about Reginald Lewis as an individual and then what is the mission of the museum because he was clearly a remarkable individual that I certainly had never heard of. Maybe just give a little bit of background to the listeners about his story if you like?

Sure. So, Reginald Lewis grew up in Baltimore and there were six kids, and he was the oldest and always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When he was little he got a newspaper route, so he used to get up in the morning before school and deliver papers, and when he went to high school he got interested in athletics and he played football in high school, and when he had to go to football practice he would assign his mother his newspaper route and then count his money when he got home at the end of the day. But he was very smart, always very smart academically, so he got a scholarship, he went to Virginia State University, he played football, and again he just achieved academically, just had amazing academic success and athletic success but he decided that he really did not want to be a football player because he felt he could make more money with a pencil than he could putting his body on the line. So, he was invited to apply for Harvard and he’s one of few people in the history of Harvard University Law School that was invited to come without applying, and he went to Harvard Law School, again had tremendous success and he graduated from Harvard Law School and went to work in a law firm on Wall Street and he became the first African-American to own a law firm on Wall Street, and in that process he was involved in business law and he decided he wanted to purchase the company which he did, and what he ended up doing was being the first American to do an international billion dollar leveraged buyout.

And this was what, the 70s or 80s?

Yeah, the 80s. And he did a leveraged buyout over a couple of days of what really amounted to be about fifty companies around the world. He bought Beatrice Foods, he bought McCall Patterns, he bought companies in Belgium and Asia, all around the world in one leveraged buyout, and so he called that company Beatrice TLC, and just had amazing success. Unfortunately, at age 50 he was diagnosed with brain cancer and it was terminal, so he was diagnosed and died very shortly thereafter. He gave the company to his wife who was also an immigration lawyer whom he met on Wall Street and she has continued to run the company. She’s started to sell it off now but there were some things that he decided he wanted and he set up the Reginald Lewis Foundation to do the things that he wanted when he knew that his life was coming to an end, and so one of the things was to build the law school at Harvard which his wife did so the Reginald Lewis School of Law is at Harvard University. He wanted a high school in Baltimore named after him so there’s a Reginald Lewis High School, and he also wanted an African-American history museum. So, our board had already raised the funds and started building the museum when his wife contacted us. When she found out about the museum she contacted us, and so the agreement we made with her was that she would donate $5 million dollars to the museum and that $5 million dollars would establish an endowment for the museum and in exchange for that she would get the naming rights to the museum. So, the museum was originally planned to be called the Maryland African American Museum of History and Culture and so after her gift and the establishment of the endowment we named the museum the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

And the mission, what is the mission of the museum?

So, the mission of the museum is to expose, educate, and have visitors experience 400 years of Maryland African-American history and culture and we have about 10,000 artifacts in our collection, we have a permanent collection of 4,000 artifacts that trace Maryland African-American history through work and labor, through education and through culture and the arts, and then we have two other galleries that are traveling exhibits where four times a year we bring in different exhibits. We had a Jacob Lawrence exhibit and we had 52 pieces of Jacob Lawrence’s work which has been one of the largest collections ever put together of Jacob Lawrence other than by MOMA in New York, and this year we’re having Romare Bearden, another famous artist, and what we do is we ask people in Maryland who own these precious works if they will loan them to us for four months and they’ve loaned them to us and we mount a collection not seen anywhere else because all of these works come from private collections and from Romare Bearden, we were able to get some of the work from his family, and then we have a gallery on our first floor where we do traveling exhibits and we feature local artists. So, we give artists who’ve never been exhibited before or young artists from the Maryland Institute of Art, we give them an opportunity, and we take their works and make it exhibit quality, and when we take it down we give them to them so they leave having had an experience being exhibited in a museum and they have a professional museum quality piece to take with them.

Wow, and I haven’t personally visited it but we hosted one of our Innovation Leadership Circles at the museum and we’re very grateful for that, and I guess I’m curious, people who come into the museum, what’s their experience? I’ve been suggested by one of my colleagues to ask about the red wall for instance? What impact does this have on people who are confronted by, let’s talk specifically, the red wall, because I’m curious about the different perspectives that that generates in people?

Yeah, so part of our architecture, when you look at our building you don’t know what it is but you know it’s something different because of the architecture and that was done intentionally. We picked an architecture and we wanted the building to tell our story and one of the things that runs through the building from the outside, you can see it all the way through the building inside and then five stories up, and that is this beautiful red wall and the red wall represents the blood that was shed for the freedom of African-Americans in this country. And so, that red wall is seen from just about every vantage point in the building and major spaces throughout the building, and when you enter the atrium on the red wall you see the names of the people who donated and made the building possible, and then facing the red wall we have panels of the life of Reginald Lewis as an example of the sacrifices that people made, the blood that was shed for freedom, and Reginald Lewis being an example of what that freedom means, and so the red wall is pretty overwhelming for most people when they come in and see it and then understand what the red wall means and the importance of it. And then we also have classrooms where we do educational programs for students, we have programs that are based on our permanent collection and our 400 years of history here, but we also do programs based on our changing exhibits. For instance, now we’ve just opened an exhibit on the images of African-American women and we have programs around it, we have African-American women in all different spaces come in, the military, science, an astronaut, just everything you could think of and have those women come in. We have Dominique Dawes who won the Olympics come in and speak to children and then do activities with children. We have an education program where we bring children in and we have a series of programs. We also have a curriculum so whatever they’re studying there’s a curriculum that applies and it is certified by the state. We train teachers and principals how to use it. We now put all of our curriculum online, so a teacher can go online, get a lesson, and then after they do the lesson in the classroom they come to the museum, they see the exhibits and do the experiences, and then they have activities to go along with it. We also have programs for adults and families, evenings and weekends where families can come in and do things together. We have programs where we have author talks where people come, authors come in and do author talks and sign their books. We have a program called Stoop Storytelling where people come in and tell their histories, and share their histories, and have conversations. We have something called Talks and Thoughts where there’s issues and people can come in and discuss those issues, and one of the things I was in was the Leadership Ecosystem class and when people came in we used the facility to have our meetings and then we gave them an assignment and so they walked through the museum and completed their assignment as they learned about the history and the exhibits, and they were all pretty amazed by the experience and what it taught them, and the interaction. So, that’s our goal. We want to be that awe moment, that people come in and they’re really amazed by what they see and experience.

And I’m pleased you mentioned that because a number of our guests in the past have answered one of the questions you’re going to answer later on, Wanda, which is what do you do to remain creative and fresh by saying, ‘I visit museums because they help me look at the world differently,’ and there’s this wonderful quote of this 1960s ad man George Lois who talked about museums as the custodians of epiphanies. What is special about museums? Why is it that people experience these aha moments in a museum? What’s going on do you think, Wanda?

Well, I think when you come in a museum from young children to the oldest people, like we had one exhibit in and some preschoolers came in and they looked at it and they said, ‘Where’s Waldo?’ and so when you come in you bring with you experiences and somehow you see something in there that relates. We had one family come in for their family reunion and in one of our exhibits they saw their great-grandmother in a photo. We have people who come in and say, ‘I remember that’ or ‘My grandparents talked about this.’ You come in and you see something that you can relate to and I mean we’ve had people from Kosovo and Germany and people from all across the country come in and they see something or some story that they can relate to somewhere, and when they do that it changes the experience for them and that’s what museums do. I mean, if you go to just about any museum there’s something in there that you can relate to. I went to a museum in Singapore and I was just amazed because it was my first time, I didn’t know that much about the culture but when I went there I saw things that related to me, that spoke to me, that I left remembering, and I think when you go to a museum anywhere in the world, first of all, you learn because you see things you’ve never seen before, and then secondly you connect and whatever it is you connect to for whatever reason, that’s your lesson, and so everybody’s not going to go in a museum like the same thing and come out with the same but you’re going to go in from your perspective, you’re going to see something that you haven’t seen before, learn something that you didn’t know and then most of all you’re going to connect to something that’s personal to you.

So, I’m sitting in a place called Basel where there are probably thirty or forty museums most of which I haven’t visited yet because you tend to visit museums as a tourist versus as a local destination but what advice would you give to people about how to visit a museum in order to create the likelihood of these aha moments?

Well, I think first of all one of the things we now have is the opportunity. If you’re in a place where there are forty museums, if you have time to see one, you want to see the one that you’re most interested in, and now thanks to the internet you can take a look at those and figure out…for instance, if one is a glass museum and you figure, ‘I’m not really interested in glass,’ maybe you won’t see that. If one is fifteenth century modern art, maybe you’ve never seen that, you’re not sure but you’d like to see that, or if one is a museum related to a particular industry like a streetcar museum or a train museum and figure, ‘Maybe I’d like to see art,’ and so it helps you narrow down and then pick the one that you’re most interested in and go see it.

And once you get there, if I was to show up in Baltimore tomorrow what advice would you give me about how to visit your museum?

Our museum is actually pretty straightforward. Some museums are much larger than ours but our museum you come in, you walk the first floor, you walk the second floor and you walk the third floor and you get it all, but in some museums, for instance, when I went to the African-American Museum in Washington DC it takes like four days to see it, and so what I did was I walked in and I looked at the guide, and it’s by eras, like the 20s through to 40s, and then it’s the 1800s and the early 1900s, and then it goes up so at the top is more recent, and one of the things I noted, the museum was, of course, packed, and one of the things I noticed was that everybody was starting on the first floor and everything was packed so I decided to do the opposite. I went to the fourth floor and started at the top and I had a wonderful experience because it wasn’t crowded. I was able to see everything without waiting or without pushing through anybody and I had a wonderful experience, and so the next time I went I started at the third floor and then I went to an evening event where the museum had been rented for a private event and then I did the first floor.

So, I guess the answer is do whatever takes your fancy and just expose yourself or be open to whatever comes at you based on your experiences?

Right. Do what attracts your attention.

Yeah. Just beginning to wrap this up, Wanda, we live in interesting times in the Chinese expression I guess. What is the role of museums do you think in bridging communities and bridging different ways of looking at the world? What role do museums play in that do you think?

I think museums play a very critical role because museums are a safe place to come, to learn, and to grow, and so when you come in a museum you’re not being challenged, nobody’s judging you, and so you can come in a museum, learn about another culture, see someone else’s expression of something and understand it without the weight of being judged or feeling like you’ve got to apologize. You can just go explore, experience, and learn, and you can do it at your own pace and there’s no test, and I think that’s what’s important, and the role of museums now is not only to just hang art on the wall and say, ‘Here it is,’ but there’s a responsibility of museums to try to bridge the gaps and particularly, expose, and so museums have evolved to that where we can’t just say, ‘Here’s what we think is beautiful and you have to look at it and like it.’ We need to have exhibits that you can explore, understand, and take something away from and I think that has changed museums to that extent, and that’s one of the things we carefully think about when we are doing museums. I mean the reason we picked Romare Bearden is not only because of his artwork but because of the message of his artwork and his message is activism, get active in your community, get active in the process, get active in human rights, and so when you see that artwork there’s a lesson, and so museums now are the place for lessons and you can come and learn those lessons at your own pace and take the ones you want and grow from them, and that’s the most important thing that museums do and that’s why people who are very busy and very cerebral can come into a museum because they can experience it at whatever level, and that’s why preschoolers can come in and sit on the floor and look at exhibits, and do activities and enjoy it because everybody’s enjoying it and experiencing it at a different level.

Yeah, got it. And you mentioned you went to the Washington museum, you went to Singapore, do you make a point of visiting museums every time you travel somewhere new or is that more of a rarity?

No. I am a real tourist. When I go I always like to see different things, and I’m a beach person, I always want to see the beach, and usually, I want to try to see at least one museum because I think there I’m going to get a grasp at least some segment of the culture.

Yeah, got it. Wonderful. Wanda, we could go on for a long time around this topic but let’s begin to sort of wrap up with the three questions that I sent you. First question, what have you change your mind about recently?

So, recently I’ve changed my mind about the organization of the museum. So, one of the things I had determined when I came there was that the museum was structured the way we planned in 2005 and it was 2016 and that structure hadn’t changed, so I did a total reorganization and that reorganization worked and has been very successful for us. We met our financial goal, most of our metrics are up on least 30%, so our attendance is up, our school programs are up, our fundraising is up, our retail revenue is up, our event rentals are up, so that organization has worked, and now as I look at all of the growth we have and where we are, one of the things that I’ve come to grips with is that probably at the beginning of next month I need to sit down and reorganize where we are now. So, in two years we’ve changed substantially and the reorganization plan that I spent months on now needs to be redone.

Right. And do you have any sense of will it be an evolution or are you looking at it from a very different angle?

I’m looking at starting the process and probably spending the month of September working on it and having it in place before the end of the year.

Right, and the earlier conversation around the role of museums in bridging communities, is that going to be part of the context, is that going to be a driver for your new plan do you think?

Oh, absolutely. It is going to be the driver, and the driver is going to be the experience that we offer to our visitors.

Wonderful, wonderful. Second question, where do you go to get fresh perspectives to stay innovative and creative?

Well, for me, because I’ve switched industries I have been going… for instance, I’m on the board of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance which is an organization of the executive directors of all of the arts agencies in town, and so I go there and I get inspiration from them. Because we are a tourist attraction, I’m on the board of Visit Baltimore and The Convention Center so that I can learn all about the energy and what’s currently going on in the tourism industry. I’m on a group called downtown partnership which is the CEOs of all the businesses downtown, and so I can keep up with what’s going on in the business community, what’s going on specifically downtown, and so that helps me. I’m on the board of the Global Journalism School here because those students inspire me and I can learn from them what they’re thinking and seeing about the world we live in today.

Right. Sometimes the answer sounds a bit like an echo chamber but that’s not an echo chamber that you’re living in, you’re exposing yourself to lots of different perspectives and generational ones as well.

Right, and I think that’s important because I realized at this cycle of my life where I felt I was living and I was the person that knew everything that’s going on, now I’m older and as I talk to my granddaughter I learn different things and that it’s a new age, and so that exposure helps keep me current in the museum industry, in the tourism industry, and in the business industry because all of those are important to me whereas in broadcasting you kind of know what’s going on in every industry you can be closeted in the museum industry because that’s all you expose yourself to and that’s all you think about, and so that’s why I get out and do those other things and expose myself to different generations, to different industries, and figure or just listen and see and experience and expose and talk to people about what’s going on. I mean, UNESCO, United Nations invited me to an international conference and to be able to go and meet with people who were looking at museum issues from around the world, to sit next to somebody from Brussels and talk about the issues they’re having, I mean that’s important.

Yeah, absolutely. Fascinating. And then final question, what’s been your most significant failure or low, and what have you learned from it and how have you applied that learning, Wanda?

So, I think my most significant failure, and the reason I think it is, and this is not my only one, but the reason I think it is is because when you asked that question it’s the first thing that pops to mind. So, I used to produce an hour-long show and it used to air every Saturday night at seven o’clock, and so one day I had this bright idea to do the show and it was like the worst. When I finished taping the show I knew it was bad, and I was just very, very disappointed and it was controversial and people who were interviewed were complaining and it was a mess, and so I came back to my desk, it was ten o’clock at night and so I called my general manager and I left him a message and I said, ‘I just taped the worst show in my entire career and I’m sure you’ll want to talk to me about it the morning,’ and I hung up and I went home. And so the next morning when I came in his assistant said, ‘He wants to see you,’ and I’m like, ‘I bet he does,’ and so I walked in and he was very calm and he said to me, ‘What happened?’ and I explained to him what happened, I explained to him what my plan was, I explain to him where it went wrong, and so I was sitting there and I was waiting for him to ream me out and then tell me what to do, and he looked at me and said, ‘So how are you going to fix it?’ I thought, ‘Wow,’ because I’d never thought of that. I was so into what went wrong I never thought about a solution and I never thought he would let me come up with the solution, so I had to think and so then I came up with the solution and then he looked at me and he said, ‘That’s what you’re going to have to do,’ and so I had said we needed to cancel the show and he said, ‘We’re not in the business of presenting shows don’t air but you’re right,’ and then he said to me, ‘What have you learned from this?’ and that experience totally changed the way I managed from that point on because then I realized that things will go wrong, you will fail, and when you do you need to accept it and then focus on the solution. So, that was a major lesson for me.

Lovely, lovely. Wanda, this has been fascinating as I knew it would be. I know we’re short of time and very grateful for your insight and also as I said earlier on for hosting one of our events with you. Where can people get in touch with you?

You can get in touch with me, go to www.lewismuseum.org

Okay, and we’ll put the details of that in the show notes when we publish this interview.

Sure, and if you just Google ‘Reginald Lewis Museum’ you’ll get to our site.

Yeah, and there’s also a lot of other material around the individual, we touched on Reginald but as you said he had a number of firsts in terms of his achievements in a very short life and he’s a fascinating character and it sounds like the museum, as I said I haven’t visited it but it does sound from what you’ve said and my research and also from my colleagues who visited it, it’s well worth a stop if you’re on the East Coast of the US. So, really very, very grateful, Wanda, for your time and I’m sure our listeners will have enjoyed it as much as I did and thank you very much indeed.

Thank you for having me

And have a great afternoon. Thanks, Wanda.

Thank you, you too.



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