Reflections on the NYCMER 2017 Conference

Originally posted on Medium, May 25, 2017.

On Monday, I went to New York City to participate in the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Conference located this year at the School of Visual Arts. This is my second NYCMER conference I have attended since coming to New York, and both times I enjoyed the learning experience each one offered. Last year I attended with a team and this year I attended on my own. This year’s theme was “Inclusivity: From Within and Beyond” which discusses inclusion and diversity in the museum education field in New York. As with each conference I have previously attended, it was very hard to pick which sessions to attend and I wish I would be able to multiple myself to attend each session offered. The total amount of sessions presented at NYCMER was about 27 sessions, and that does not include the poster session and peer group meet & greet over treats sessions. In this post, I will go into some depth of my experience the second time around providing the highlights of the day, and my experience participating in networking events.

In the morning, I traveled to the train station to take the train into New York City for the conference. Once I arrived at the School of Visual Arts, I checked in, received the schedule, wrote out my name tag, and attended the Keynote Session. The Keynote Session is a session that announces NYCMER business and introduces the conference’s theme. Also, the Keynote also included a discussion about this year’s conference theme with speakers Amy Bartow-Melia (the MacMillan Associate Director for Audience Engagement at the National Museum of American History), Laura Huerta Migus (the Executive Director at the Association of Children’s Museums), and moderator Esther Jeong (Global Tech Diversity Business Partner at Google). The discussion and speeches talked about building a diverse museum workforce where the realities of museology were discussed and the case study of the American History Museum on how the museum developed exhibits and programs that defined what it means to be an American. After the Keynote Session, I attended the first session in one of the School of Visual Arts buildings.

Rainy Train Ride into the City

My name tag from the NYCMER conference

The session I attended was called “Designing Professional Development Experiences which Increase Inclusive, Visitor-centered Teaching”. I enjoyed this session especially because it started with a brainstorming game for how we learn as learners; those include but not limited to retention, visual guides, experiential learning, auditory reflection, and team building. The presenters from the Guggenheim Museum presented examples of ways to create opportunities for educators to learn from their audience or community, and presenters from the Children’s Museum of the Arts based their professional developments on grant goals and the museum’s goals to identify internal best practices with consultants, design sustainable peer to peer learning structure, change practices and institutional approaches, identify tools that benefit all children and empower all staff. After that conference, I met with peers to go have lunch and we traveled the area to find out where to have lunch; we also stopped to admire puppies as we looked at places to eat.

Puppies I saw while looking for a place to eat for lunch

Once we had lunch, I went to the Poster Session which is where professionals give informal presentations on aspects in the museum education field. For instance, one of the posters I saw was for the Guerilla Haiku Movement which presents the argument that poetry can be used to engage new audiences. There is also an activity which challenges participants to create a haiku with 17 syllables about what we learned at the conference so far and our perspectives on museums. I had created one that had one less syllable which states: “Museums provide a learning environment for all learners.” All learners are, by definition, inclusive and it is important that every person who visits museums can learn what they have to offer.

Guerilla Haiku Movement Poster, Poster Session

Haiku I created during Poster Session

The third session I attended after seeing the posters and networking with colleagues was Resource Workshop: Designing Accessible Materials. This workshop was divided into a few sections where each presenter shared their experiences and handed out resources for participants’ references. Then the fourth and last session I attended was The Challenges of Confronting Difficult Content. In this session, the presenters from the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum discussed the school programs they developed and explained how their lessons approached difficult content. This session was interesting since these programs provided a way for students from third grade to seniors to express their thoughts on the events through art and discussion. The takeaways from the session are to address the common question: How to translate difficult content in ways that allow all visitors to correct with sensitive subject matter? And the second takeaway was as a differentiated and inclusive practice, strategy transcends content by incorporating storytelling and historical contents and current resonances/present day connections. Once the session ended, I attended the concluding reception at the Revel Restaurant.

The Revel Restaurant provided a place for NYCMER participants to network and unwind after a long day of attending sessions. The closing reception was a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres event where I could meet more museum professionals. I enjoyed meeting everyone who I made valuable connections with both during the sessions and the concluding reception. The conference experience I have had in the past has always made me feel inspired and fulfilled in gaining knowledge and making meaningful connections, and this conference is no exception. I have enjoyed the NYCMER conference, both last year’s and this year’s, and I look forward to the next one.

What are your favorite parts of a conference or conferences you have attended? Is there a session that made you reflect on your own experiences as a museum professional (or professional of your chosen field)?

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