Gail Lord is a museum planner and the co-founder and president of Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management. Before participating in a panel asking “Does Art Really Make Us Better Citizens?” at a Zócalo conference in downtown Los Angeles entitled “What Can the World Teach California About Arts Engagement?” she spoke in the green room about rock, rivers, and her habit of living in the present.
What’s the earliest museum experience you remember as a child?
In Toronto, my home city, at the Royal Ontario Museum with my cousin. We would go down to the basement, the then-basement, and there were cases—this is a very old-fashioned museum idea—there were cases of indigenous people. This is a terrible admission; your readers will understand my views are very far from this—but there would be wafts of air going through the cases, and we thought the people in the cases were alive. We would be there—it felt like hours but it was probably minutes. It was very compelling. It was about discovering other people; it was about understanding that museums are places to encounter other people. But it also was very much a sign of the colonial mentality around indigenous people which of course we no longer have.
It seems like you travel a lot. What’s your top travel tip?
My best travel tip is to only have carry-on luggage, whether you go for three days, three weeks, or three months. It makes no difference. I’m very good at packing. More people are interested in how to pack than in how to plan a museum.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I’m not a pet peeve kind of person.
What habit have you most recently tried to break?
Listening to the news constantly.
What music do you like to dance to?
Oh, rock ’n’ roll of course. My generation, you know.
What year, past or future, would you time travel to if you could?
I’m really a person who lives 150 percent in the present moment. So it’s not the way I think. I studied history in university, and some of my best friends are historians. But actually I think a good historian is always looking at history through the lens of the present.
What’s your favorite condiment?
What superpower would you most like to have?
It’s not a superpower, but the big power that we all need more of right now, and I feel I need more of it, is empathy. It’s not really a superpower, it’s a normal power, but we all really need it.
What do you do to relax?
I walk by the river. I go to water and I walk by water. Being by the water is most important.
What’s in your front yard?
Actually the Niagara River is in my front yard. But I also live in Toronto where I have no front yard. Well, that’s not true. In my view in Toronto is the Royal Ontario Museum.
And they no longer have those exhibits in the basement?
I am happy to say, no they don’t!