Sunday, January 4, 2009
The End of the Beginning
This Blog starts with an ending; in this case, my leaving the American Museum of Natural History after the better part of ten years. For the last six of these, I was looking after the Museum's collection of 4.75 million fossils. One of the frustrations of managing a collection of this size is that you spend very little actually dealing with the collection - most of your time is spent writing reports, writing grant applications, writing more reports, dealing with staff, writing even more reports..... oh, did I mention that there was a lot of report writing? The last Annual Collections Report for Paleontology, which we are required to deliver to the Museum's trustees each year, was 50 pages and 15,604 words long. That's about the length of the average disseration for a Masters degree. In an idle moment, I calculated that it contained 2,962 individual pieces of data, provided in answer to 193 questions. Which change every year. By contrast, the annual collections report for my new institution, the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, is a standardized form, 2 pages long, with 75 questions. What will I do with all that extra time? Sleep, probably - the other big advantage of moving to Yale is that I actually live just outside New Haven, cutting my daily commute from 2 1/2 hours each way to about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, like a beaten dog, I'm worried that my behavior patterns have become entrenched and I will be leaping out of bed at 5:00am for at least the next six months.
I'm looking forward to the new job at Yale, but I'm going to greatly miss my friends at AMNH. However it seems that, like Michael Corleone, just when I thought I was out they dragged me back. I still have a bunch of projects going on in New York that will necessitate my returning to the Museum fairly frequently for at least the next year. And apparently I'm going back for a party on Wednesday. It's a good thing I decided to take a week between jobs...
I leave you with a picture of my email in-box on Friday, my last day at AMNH. At one point it had over 17,000 messages in it. To see it empty is a pretty sweet feeling.