Friday, June 16, 2017
Odd stuff has been happening lately when I try posting on Facebook. When I start to type an update, a response to Facebook's "What's on your mind?" question, the text ends up scrambled or backwards. Started typing "Awake much too early" and witnessed the letters appearing on the screen as "ke Awa." It's like it was automatically translating the phrase into Hawaiian. Very strange. It's been happening for a couple days now and it doesn't matter which laptop I'm on. If it only happened on one, I'd assume it's a computer glitch, but when it's on both machines? Nope. Gibberish on both.
Oh well. Good excuse to step away from Facebook and stop wasting time. I need to focus on wrapping up the written report for the museum's heritage grant. It's supposed to be in the online drop box by close of business today. It's a moderately tricky report to write. As is really common with oral history projects, it turned out there's a rather noticeable difference between what people remember and think is true and what the written documentation from the time shows. The fact our chosen area of interest -- the history of Indian gaming locally -- proved to be considerably more complicated and controversial than I thought it would did not help. You'd think that after almost 30 years of Indian gaming being a fact of life there wouldn't be much left to debate. You'd be wrong. Indian casinos were controversial when they first started opening and they're still controversial.
Although the trickiest part of doing the report isn't actually the words. It's the numbers. We're in the rather awkward position of not having spent all the money we were given. We over-budgeted for honoraria. We didn't spend it, so now it's got to go back. No big deal except, of course, the project officer for the humanities council is acting like he just saw a unicorn. Apparently having money returned causes accounting headaches. He's done some pretty heavy hinting that it would be really nice if our unspent/unneeded funds just happened to be exactly the same as what the final payment for the grant would be, i.e., 10% of the total. That way all they'd have to do is simply not issue one last check.
Dealing with the humanities grant has had me muttering about never applying for a grant again. It's been a classic "be careful what you wish for." The simple truth is that we were much too small an organization to take on the project, especially when we're all volunteers. We were fortunate in that our contract researcher knew what he was doing, but that was more a matter of luck than skill on our part. Bottom line: apply only for grants that involve tangible issues, like getting a new roof put on the storage building. Avoid the messy stuff that's hard to operationalize and close to impossible to quantify. And think small, at least for awhile. A couple hundred to help pay for printing an activity worksheet for kids is a lot easier to deal with than $25,000 to use for an oral history project.
The worst part of that $25K, of course, is that almost none of it could be used for anything permanent for the museum, like a few nice vitrines or a slat wall for doing displays. The only money that could be spent on anything remotely physical was for printing, photography, and photocopying. We couldn't even buy a good camera -- we had to rent one. We could legitimately purchase office supplies, but let's face it -- there are only so many reams of paper we're going to use in the foreseeable future. Maybe a more creative (less ethical) Financial Director could have figured out a way to siphon off some of the unspent funds to use on other museum needs, but I wasn't up to the challenge.