Industry Insight with Rebecca Frerotte
While she is based in Lord Cultural Resources’ Toronto office as librarian/research consultant, Rebecca Frerotte supports all Lord’s offices on a diversity of projects, from conception to realization. Frerotte works on strategy, exhibitions, events, and facilities, supporting consultants with report writing, background research for literature reviews, environmental scans, and data analysis. Her responsibilities require her to work collaboratively to provide strategic recommendations and content grounded in thorough research.
Before joining Lord, Frerotte worked with the Aurora Museum & Archives, the John M. Kelly Library at the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College, the City of St. Catharines, Culture for Kids in the Arts, the Town of Fort Erie Museum Services, and the Royal Ontario Museum. Frerotte graduated from the University of Toronto with concurrent Master’s degrees in Museum Studies and in Information, specializing in Archives and Records Management, and from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Arts, highest honours, in Art History.
Questions & Answers
Q. How does your role as librarian and research consultant interact with others in the Lord Cultural Resources Toronto office? How does it connect to some of the international projects Lord is working on?
A. In my role as librarian/research consultant I work very closely with members of our team in all three streams at our firm; organization and strategy; space and facilities; and exhibitions and events, and my work often supports our other offices as well. I work particularly closely with our New York team. Some examples of recent support work include demographic research and survey design for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum Strategic Planning process (a project run out of our New York office); comparables and best practice research for our client the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art, [related to] facility planning; and image acquisition for the new permanent exhibition at the interpretive centre at Green Gables Heritage Place (Parks Canada) in PEI. A lot of my work focuses on our North American clients, though I will often support our international projects in Europe and the Middle East as well.
Q. With your global perspective on cultural organizations, what do you see as some of the prominent trends in the museum world today?
A. We are always thinking about what the trends are in the museum and cultural field to help our clients frame their place in the sector, where they can lead, and where they have some learning to do. When we offer trends research we customize it to the specific institution, as what the trends are for art museums is not the same [as] for science centres. Broadly, however, I would say that the key trends are digital change, both for visitor experience and operations; health and wellness in museums; museums looking to address climate change and sustainability; co-creation; partnerships; and the ongoing goal of seeking sustainability.
Q. How do you go about defining what a museum is in a particular community? What are some of the challenges that can arise when the definition differs for various stakeholders?
A. This is a great question, and certainly a challenge that the museum community is grappling with. Recently ICOM [the International Council of Museums] has put out a call to their members to help them to redefine museums in relation to how they have been radically transformed, adjusted, and reinvented in their principles, policies, and practices. They are planning to reveal the new definition at the ICOM triennial conference this September in Kyoto, where Gail Lord will be speaking. Traditional definitions have focused on collections, and how museums are built to acquire, conserve, research, and communicate tangible and intangible heritage through their collections, but I think the definition of the future will focus more on the communities museums serve. Preserving, collecting, and making available is all well and good, but if we don’t have anyone coming to our institutions they don’t perform their essential purpose of learning. When I speak about learning in a museum I am not referring only to didactic lessons, i.e., “I learned that this vase came from Greece because the label told me so.” Learning in museums can be directly about tangible collections, but it can also be soft skills, cross-cultural understanding, or even how to interact in a public commons. I think that in order for museums to rise to their full potential as learning institutions, their new definition must focus on the communities they serve, and elevate people to the same level of importance as collections.