This blog is an archive for my research, interviews with designers and museum staff, and travel experiences as I explore multilingual design practices in Taiwan.
Fulbright research abroad in Taipei, Taiwan began in March 2021.   




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“Is it okay to say I’m not really sure?”

Language: English
Date: Jan 22, 2021
Listening to: “Keep Your Head Up” by Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Many of my conversations in the past few months with loving friends, family, and colleagues have gone something like this:

Me: breathlessly explaining my research topic of multilingual museum exhibition design, why it’s prevalent in Asia, why it should be more common in the Great American Melting Pot, where my affiliated college is in Taiwan, and where I want to live.

Them: “...okay but what are you going to DO over there?”

Well. You got me there. Is it okay to say I’m not really sure?

We are all supportive artists and innovators here, so there’s no need to start this adventure out with half truths: I don’t have a concrete plan for what a government-funded grant on museum design should look like. Since I only just graduated from undergrad, I have never challenged myself to focus on one project goal for a sustained period of time. And to be frank, because of the universally shared intermission of COVID-19, I am just now starting on a grant that I wrote the proposal for over a year and a half ago. I can say with no small amount of pride that I have experienced enormous personal and professional growth in these past two years, and while many of the motives and grand objectives from my original proposal still resonate with me, I feel that I have outgrown a few of my more vague ideas about experience design.

But it’s not all uncertain shades of grey. I have been striving to be more receptive of taking new paths just to see where they go instead of forcing myself to continue down roads that I mapped out at the beginning. In a journal entry from the heart of the pandemic I wrote down: “There is too much time in my life recently ~ time for reflection when I want action. Time for rest when I crave the relief of exhaustion from a hard days work. Time for appreciation of small things around me when I wish I was the small thing surrounded by giant people and grand places.” I know that in retrospect I will find that I spent those months of restlessness well; that my mind was hard at work quietly connecting dots and asking new questions while I did other “unimportant” tasks like learning to cook, spending time with friends, and working as a bartender.

In November I had the chance to chat with the eternally inspiring Elaine Ng, a past Fulbright Arts Research Grantee to Taiwan. When I unloaded (possibly too much because we had only just met) my concerns that I was unable to sustain my research practice for the full 10 months, she kindly advised me to not sustain a research practice for 10 months. That could kill a person. Instead, she said, think of it really as a 4-6 month project to allow for settling in and exploring time. “Consider breaking your overall project into smaller projects, so that you will have built-in moments to reassess after you get started and see if you need to readjust, or if something new has developed that you want to follow instead.” At the end of possibly the most valuable email I’ve received to date, Elaine said that I shouldn’t stress about it until I get in country and get a feel for my university, Fulbright community, and check in with how I am feeling.

I have taken her words completely to heart and have avoided running myself ragged trying to sort out details to a grant proposal in a country I’ve never been to, with people I’ve never met. Instead I’ve taken some time to do other things: write long lists of goals, catch up with professors and designers who inspire me, attend Society for Experiential Graphic Design lectures, reread a book that was transformative to my understanding of museums “Teaching in the Art Museum,” and studied Chinese vocabulary (mostly food words obviously the most important). The bottom line is that there doesn’t need to be plan for every hour of every day for the next 10 months, even if my type A personality is screaming for a bulleted list of unreasonably lofty goals. If I step off the plane at the end of my grant period with a better understanding of my own work habits, knowledge of museum design, and higher fluency in Chinese then I will count this research project as completely successful


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