Is you is, or is you ain’t, my ‘constichensy’?

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podiumWritten by Ruth Brindle, originally published October 8, 2013

I love movies. Some of my favorites are big and serious. Others are pretty brainless and a little embarrassing to admit. But the best ones end up working their way into my vocabulary. And that’s where I got today’s question, from the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Charles Durning as the ultimate greasy, corrupt politician is asking the people before him, “Is you is, or is you ain’t, my ‘constichensy’?” (He’s aiming for constituency…but it sounds better when I spell it the way he says it.)

So, who is your constituency? If you’re like me, you find that you have multiple constituencies. For me it’s: Wilmington College students, Wilmington College faculty and staff, Quakers in southwest Ohio, Quakers across the country, local historians, genealogists, schools…you get the idea. And, of course, no two groups want or need the same things.

I sometimes think of it also as traveling/living/working in three distinct worlds: the Quaker world, the academic world and the museum world. Very rarely do these worlds overlap…but often they collide! I know I’m not alone in this, and appreciating the different needs of constituents goes a long way toward explaining why we might feel we’re being pulled in a million different directions.

So what ideas do you have to make the most out of your exhibits, your programming, your events, your collections? How do you get more bang for your buck and reach as much of your “constichensy” as you can in one fell swoop?

Ruth Brindle is secretary of the Ohio Local History Alliance and curator of the Quaker Heritage Center of Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio.