Mar Dixon is from a family of nine siblings and stepsiblings. She grew up with round-the-clock social interaction with her brothers and sisters. Hence, she became what Malcom Gladwell might classify as a “maven,” in that she can’t help herself but share useful information with those around her.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Mar was an early adopter of all sorts of online technologies that helped her to engage with a greater number of people. But, in 2000, when Mar moved with her husband to his hometown of Bridgnorth (population 1200) in rural Shropshire, England, she was shocked to find that internet was only available for 2 hours of dial-up per day.
Mar turned her boundless energy toward exploring many of the cultural sites in the surrounding region with her young daughter, Charlotte. Never a “museum person” prior to that, Mar initially just liked the fact that museums and libraries were free and all over the place. Once she started visiting a lot of museums and libraries, Mar couldn’t help herself from telling anyone who would listen (the curator, the administrator, the guy sweeping the front steps) what she liked about the place and what could use improvement – especially when it came to ways to better accommodate young visitors. “I also realized that these types of cultural institutions shouldn’t be intimidating and they aren’t just for fuddy-duddies,” Mar explains via Skype call from her home office in Bridgnorth.
As Bridgnorth’s bandwidth ballooned, Mar started writing and publishing her museum and library insights on her blog: mardixon.com. She was an early adopter of Twitter and used it to advocate for making museums more kid-friendly. Next thing she knew, she had amassed a global following and was being invited by the museums and libraries themselves to assess their offerings. She became a recognized authority by simply taking an under-discussed issue and talking about it frankly with people across social media. “I am really not an expert,” she says, “but I believe that people appreciate that I am transparent and say what I think.” Now Mar is also an invited speaker to museum and library events in the likes of Denmark and Spain. Prior to attending events, she uses Skype to coordinate with her contacts, even if they’re on a mobile or a landline. “I’m constantly calling different cities and countries.
With Skype I have peace of mind. It’s efficient and saves me time, money – and headaches.” Mar’s basic take is still that “You don’t need to be an art critic or have fancy clothes to visit a museum. We don’t want kids’ only memory of a museum to be that they were forced to stand up straight and carry around some musty clipboard. It’s OK if you just like the look of the building or want to enjoy the cake that’s served at the cafeteria – so long as you go inside and start to engage.” She follows with a smile, “It is hard to define my career as nothing like this existed a few years back. I like to tell people that I am a troublemaker or an advocate – depending on the context. Either way, I’m honored that I’ve found a way to do what I love and meet people around the world.” Find out more about Mar’s work at www.museomix.org and www.museumcamp.org.