MuseumsEtc, an independent publishing house based in Edinburgh and Boston on books for museum and gallery professionals, published the book For Love or Money: Confronting the State of Museum Salaries edited by Dawn E Salerno, Mark S. Gold, and Kristina L Durocher. I chose this book because museum salary is still a relevant topic in the field, and I have wanted to write this book review for a while. Now I am glad that I am re-visiting this book since I am going to be writing more book reviews for this blog. I recommend checking out this book, especially for individuals who are new to the museum field, since each section is incredibly detailed in the topic of what is going on for museum salaries.
It is also a relevant topic now as the pandemic hit the museum field hard (like most if not all professional fields). Many museum professionals faced layoffs, furloughs, salary cuts, schedules cut, et. cetera when museums closed or continue to offer online experiences as a result of the pandemic. There are some that have re-opened their sites to limited capacity and some even require purchasing tickets ahead of the visit. As we continue to move forward, we need to revisit museum salaries. We as a museum field need to continue to make progress in equity for gender and salary, and having these conversations as well as sharing our thoughts, ideas, and actions are important steps in improving the state of the museum field.
For Love or Money is a collection of chapters written by various museum professionals within the museum field. Inside the book, there are twenty-four chapters and are divided into four sections: the state of museum salaries, causes and effects, addressing the issues, and turning talk into action. There are at least 29 museum professionals who have contributed their thoughts and research to this book.
I appreciate that not only are there table charts but also cartoon depictions to illustrate and stress the points being made inside the book. In Taryn R Nie’s “Far Too Female: Museums on the Edge of a Pink Collar Profession” for instance, they included a table chart of compensation expenditure as a percentage of the operating budget and a table chart of gender ratio by position; an example from the gender ratio (according to the AAM 2017 National Museum Salary Survey) is the amount of museum professionals who held the position of volunteer coordinator who identify as male was 12.5 percent and those who identify as female was 86.8 percent.
In Emily Tuner’s “What’s Going on In This Picture? Museum Education as Undervalued Labor”, she included a number of cartoon panels that describe and illustrate the points she made in her chapter of the book. One of them labeled The price of entry to full-time museum education work displayed a hopeful candidate asking a museum professional about a full-time museum education position but was told despite her experience she was qualified for a part-time museum education position.
Also, I appreciate how much detail each writer put into their chapters as well as the amount of research they have included within the text and in their resource sections. In Charlotte Martin, Sarah Maldonado, and Anthea Song’s “A Case for Salary Transparency in Job Postings”, for instance, their chapter described how salary transparency in job postings is a relatively easy step towards the goal for assuring diversity and equity in museum and cultural institution employees, and they described New York City Museum Educators Roundtable’s (NYCMER) transition into changing their policy for all posting jobs on their job board to have salary transparency.
On an additional note, I thought it was really awesome to see a tweet I had posted during the NYCMER conference in 2018 on the announcement of the policy change for their job board.
I recommend checking out this book for yourselves to learn more about what each museum professional has discussed about museum salaries and salary transparency.
If you like this book review and would like to see more of these posts on the blog, find out how you can become a supporter of the blog and website by “buying me a coffee”. Check out the link here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog.
This is the second part of my experience at this year’s virtual NEMA conference. If you have not read the first part, check out the link here: NEMA 2020 Virtual Conference: Part 1: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1bD . Then come back here to see the rest of this post.
On the third day of the NEMA conference, the first session I attended was the keynote with Sarah Sutton, the Principal of Sustainable Museums, and Cultural Sector Lead at We Are Still In. The presentation was pre-recorded, and once we finished watching the presentation Sutton was available to answer our questions. In the keynote Climate Change. Covid-19. Racial Inequality: What Each Crisis Can Teach Us for Tackling the Others, Sutton’s presentation addressed that the lessons from decades of climate advocacy have noticeable parallels with the experience of fighting Covid-19, the efforts to manage an economic recovery, and the work to address racial inequality. Also, the argument made was museums are perfectly suited to help communities because science, data, language, politics, history, and human nature are all mixed up in the problems and the solutions cope with and overcome these crises.
The first session I attended was called We Are Allies: How to Listen, Learn, and Become Anti-Racist Museums with Kristin Gallas (Principal, Interpreting Slavery) as facilitator and the speaker was Katherine Kane (the former Executive Director at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center). Gallas and Kane pointed out that museums must step up and commit to making their work and public spaces welcoming and equitable.
After the session, I had lunch with the Education Professional Affinity Group/Gathering (PAG). At the in person NEMA conference, there were PAG Lunches that encourage conference participants to engage with one another while taking lunch breaks between sessions; I wrote about previous PAG Lunches in past posts about the NEMA conference. Each PAG lunch also had themes for each one, and this year’s Education PAG Lunch theme was Grief and Recovery.
The next session I attended was Let’s Take This Outside with Brindha Muniappan (Senior Director of the Museum Experience at the Discovery Museum) as facilitator, and the speakers were Kate Leavitt (Director of Mission at the Seacoast Science Center) and Lorén Spears (Executive Director at the Tomaquag Museum). Within the session, each of them discussed how their four different organizations (children’s museum, science center, historic house/garden, and Indigenous museum) encourage visitors to spend time outside and think about their physical place in the world as a way to build life-long connections with nature and conserve it for future generations.
I attended the Fostering Community Within Frontline Staff with Helen Brechlin and Tom Maio, who are both from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, for the last session of the third day. Brechlin and Maio shared how their frontline staff program not only supports their frontline staff but support the visitors during this pandemic. Their discussion focused on how to build and foster a positive working relationship with and among frontline staff.
The panel session for the fourth day of the NEMA conference was Celebrating Museums with Rebekah Beaulieu (Executive Director at the Florence Griswold Museum) as moderator, and the following individuals were the panelists: Catherine Allgor (President at the Massachusetts Historical Society), Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) the Executive Director and Sr. Partner to Wabanaki Nations at the Abbe Museum, and Hallie Selinger (Visitor Experience Manager at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA). In the panel discussion, they talked about the question: Why do you love museums?
For my first session of the fourth day, I attended the Beyond Hands-On: Tapping the Non-Touch Senses in Exhibitions session. Betsy Loring (Principal, exploring exhibits & engagement, LLC, MA) and Laurie Pasteryak (Director of Interpretation at Fairfield Museum & History Center) spent some time reminding us of the many other senses that exhibitions can invoke instead of – or in addition to – touch. They shared examples of non-touch interactivity through sound, smell, and proprioception; and participants broke out into smaller groups brainstorm ways to inexpensively increase the sensory dimensions of exhibits.
The next session I attended was Planning for Interpretive Planning with Julie Arrison-Bishop (Community Engagement Director at The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association) as facilitator, and the speakers were Matt Kirchman (President and Creative Director at ObjectIDEA in Massachusetts) and Brooke Steinhauser (Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum). All of them discussed tackling the interpretive planning process and shared their tips and tricks for successful project planning.
The last session I attended on the fourth day was Happy House Tours: Working with Homeowners and Volunteers for a Great Event with Sue Goganian (Director at Historic Beverly in Massachusetts) as facilitator, and the speakers were Fay Salt (a Trustee at Historic Beverly) and Beverly Homeowners John and Jaye Cuffe. Goganian, Salt, and Cuffe shared their perspectives on how much work and cooperation it takes to run a house tour event. They discussed how they require many volunteers and lots of coordination, and a great partnership makes it possible even with limited staff and a small budget. Staff members share the financial, organizational, and community benefits, and how it is done before the pandemic and beyond.
Before I attended the sessions for the last day of the conference, I revisited the Exhibit Hall to participate in a live demonstration from Panospin 360. Located in Lowell, Massachusetts, it offers virtual tour services for hospitality venues, universities, conference centers, medical facilities, corporations, retail stores, historical sites, and national parks across the United States. I will go into more detail in a future services examination blog post.
The first session I attended on the last day of the conference was Resource Roundup: A Roundtable for Sharing (and Discussing) Sources Relevant to Contemporary Issues in the Museum Field with many museum professionals participating as facilitators and speakers. It was a session where participants could get a bibliography of sources and engage with colleagues via active discussion to explore resources, ideas, share information, and network. All participants were broken into a number of different groups on various topics, and were encouraged to attend more than one: Museum Compensation/Salary Transparency; Issues of Access; Evaluation; Decolonization; Museum Activism & Social Justice; Gender Equity & Leadership; and Museum Careers & Professional Development. The purpose of the roundtable was to:
highlight the key books, articles, and resources useful for understanding and navigating contemporary museum issues while encouraging participants to seek out and engage with literature in the field, and consider how it influences, inspires, and/ or applies to their professional practice.
While this year’s conference had a different format than usual, the Annual Meeting and Awards still celebrated museum colleagues, associations, and museums. The highlights of the Annual Meeting and Awards luncheon were presenting the annual NEMA Excellence Awards, presented to colleagues who have gone “above and beyond;” presenting the NEMA Lifetime Achievement Award honoring Susan Robertson, executive director of Gore Place; and a brief “state of the association” presentation from NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger. Also, NEMA members voted on this year’s slate of NEMA officers and new members, plus bylaw updates.
The last session I attended for the last day of the conference was Accessibility for Online Programs and Communication Channels with Susan Robertson (Executive Director at Gore Place) as facilitator, and the speakers were Charles Baldwin (Program Officer, UP Designation, Innovation and Learning Network at Mass Cultural Council), Emily Carpenter (Web Designer and Digital Marketer, WA), and Aaron Rawley (Volunteer Coordinator at Gore Place). Within the session, the speakers spoke about how participants of all levels of technical knowledge could improve access to their digital offerings for visitors with disabilities. Participants learned from each presenter on how Gore Place, for instance, makes digital programs and communication channels more accessible through universal design. The discussion included but not limited to accessibility for social media, webinars, and websites.
Thank you all for your patience as I complete this second part of the conference coverage! If you have any questions about the sessions I attended above and in the previous NEMA virtual conference post, you can find my contact information on the Contacts page. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about the holidays this year, and be sure to check out my campaign I have started on the Buy Me A Coffee site:
This year I decided to attend the virtual New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference not only for professional development reasons but to also find out how they will execute a virtual conference. Like in previous conferences, I have also participated in the conversations and shared my thoughts on Twitter using the conference hashtag: #NEMA2020. Also, I decided to split it into two parts since there is so much information I gathered, it would be too long to fit into one post. I will post the second part after Thanksgiving. I learned that the majority of the recordings from the conference will be available after the conference for three months.
In case you are not familiar with the NEMA conference, I have included a few previous blog posts I wrote about a couple of the conferences I attended in the past below. I found out as I signed up for this year’s conference that the whole conference would be held through the app Whova. The app, Whova, has been used in previous NEMA conferences and I have used it as a way to network and keep track of the conference schedule. Whova has provided a platform this year to participate in the conference virtually, and the app could be used not just on the phone but also on the laptop/computer.
The NEMA conference took place between Monday November 16th and Friday November 20th. It was originally going to be located in Newport, Rhode Island (the same place where I attended my first NEMA conference seven years ago) but due to the pandemic it was switched over to the virtual platform. Like the rest of the virtual conferences I attended this year, I missed interacting with people in person however I did find it convenient to attend online. It saved me some time commuting to the in-person location and I did not have to worry about finding a hotel to stay in during the week. This year’s theme is Who Do We Think We Are Now? There are over sixty sessions, multiple keynotes, networking lunches, and a virtual exhibit hall.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the first keynote, three sessions, and visited the virtual Exhibit Hall. The keynote speaker for the first day was Coleen Dilenschneider who is the Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS. Dilenschneider is also author of the popular website Know Your Own Bone, and during the keynote she shared contemporary research about potential museum visitors in New England. This presentation focused on shifting sentiments, the insights these shifts provide for the future, and why agile, strategic museums are especially well-positioned to engage and inspire their communities during this time of change and beyond.
One of the key takeaways from the data Dilenschneider shared was when participants answered the question (what would make you feel comfortable returning to cultural organizations?) the number one answer for participants in the United States and in the New England region was mandatory face mask coverings. She also pointed out that there are three trends that are indicating positive change: superconnection, elevated expertise, and activating new audiences. The following are from the notes I took during the session of the survey results Dilenschneider shared:
to the web at home, work, and on mobile device
people prefer to stay home, the safest place to stay during the pandemic [according to survey]
more people spend time using digital sources for media consumption
highly credible source of information
visiting a(n) [organization type] is educational
opinion has increased during the pandemic
We are trusted experts.
Activating New Audiences:
Length of leisure visit preference in New England: preference to take day trips increased in 2020.
Leisure travel means: increase in personal vehicle preference
Newly activated visitation increased significantly in 2020
Newly activated visitation=new visitors, or those who have not visited in the last 3 years or so.
After the first keynote, I went to the virtual Exhibit Hall to see the exhibitors’ services and what giveaways they are offering for this year’s conference.
The first session I attended was called Your Museum Career: Now What? This session was aimed to help participants get ready to deal with the issues in the field that were amplified by this crisis. Each of the speakers talked about understanding museum salaries and doing your research before applying; the divide between “essential” and “non-essential” positions; coming out of the shutdown trauma and returning to work; taking control of the application process; how to get your digital and physical materials ready; and how to handle an all-virtual process. Some of the advice they shared for the job search post-COVID include:
pay close attention to the details of the job description, and while your resume may not be a 100 percent match to the job description it has to be enough to meet the qualifications
do not be afraid to apply to something you haven’t done in a while
look at the priority of listings in the job description; it will show what responsibilities are the most important for the role.
In the session, the speakers also shared their advice on how to understand museum salaries. A couple of the points they made on understanding museum salaries were:
look up the 990 forms of organizations but keep in mind that everything is different in 2020
do the research first then put down a reasonable number that is fair to you
Also, they provided advice on virtual interviews. According to the speakers, when you get a virtual interview it is important to run the technology beforehand. I believe that advice goes both ways because while it is important that the interviewees should make sure their internet connection, sound, et. cetera is working, it is also important for interviewers to make sure everything on their end is working for a successful interaction throughout the interview. For interviewers, speakers also recommended that the instructions and materials for the interview should be sent ahead of time to the interviewee in order to make sure they know what to expect for the interview process; also, if interviewers do not send log in information for the interview, the interviewee will not be able to get into the interview on time. A couple more advices they shared for interviewees are to dress the part (because it would also be a mood and confidence booster) and to have notes near you so that you would have visual reminders of what you want to say and ask in the interview.
The second session I attended was called What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid. Each speaker talked about how they were coming up with solutions like live radio, letterboxing, alternate reality games, unique Zoom interactions, and GoPro cameras to deliver engagement with an isolated audience using on-hand tools. There were five different presentations that addressed how they responded to and adapted programs because of Covid. Each speaker shared interesting programs, games, et. cetera that museum professionals could create their own versions. For instance, there are online puzzle hunts, radio broadcasts, mobile escape games, and phone- and letter-based immersive theater.
The third session I attended was called History is Happening Now: Collecting the Covid Experience. Representatives from three organizations recounted their efforts to capture the impact of the pandemic on their communities by collecting time capsules, written reflections, artwork, signage, masks, and other objects. Strategies discussed will include fast-forwarding development of projects in a moment of crisis, collecting methods and logistics, reaching different constituent groups, web archiving on a shoestring, and legal considerations. The speakers from the Norwich Historical Society (Vermont), Champlain College Archives (Vermont), and the Vermont Historical Society have shared their projects on keeping track of how the pandemic has impacted their communities and what they have faced during the process. The Norwich Historical Society for instance had a blogger help document curbside pickup for collecting items for their collection, and they also created a space online for members of the community to upload paintings that depict emotions felt during this time; they also had encouraged members of the community to paint murals, called Community Circles, that depict their answers to the question: What brings you hope?
I have also included some highlights of the presentations I shared on Twitter through #NEMA2020
Norwich Historical Society:
Champlain College Archives:
Vermont Historical Society:
On the second day of the NEMA conference, I started the day by attending the second keynote of the conference Museums, Race, and the Road to Inclusion. The keynote speaker was Jamal Jimerson who is the founder of Minority Inclusion Report and the Managing Partner at Thought Partner Solutions. Jimerson spoke about the issues of board and staff diversity, and the layers of systemic racism that is pervasive in society; he also spoke about how museums can stay effective and relevant in this changing world by aligning their values based on equity and inclusion with their practices. Here is a highlight of Twitter posts from this keynote presentation:
The first session I attended was called Leadership At All Levels – Exercising Influence When You Don’t Have Authority. Within this session, the speakers challenged the traditional idea of leadership in museums (leadership comes from the top-i.e. head of an institution or department in order to be a leader). They explored what it means to be an influential mid-level or emerging leader, and shared practical tools for leading without official authority, an understanding of what it means to step up and why it is essential for our success, and strategies for showing and developing our leadership skills no matter where we are in an organization. The following is a highlight from the session I shared on Twitter:
The third session I attended on the second day of the conference was Moving from “George Washington Slept Here” to “Who Cleaned this Chamber Pot?”: Redefining School Programs to Meet 21st Century Learning and Teaching. Within this session, the speaker provided tools, takeaways, and tips to help museum education professionals revamp school programs in order to be more intentional and utilize current strategies in education. The session covered how to make minor, no cost changes that have major impacts that include adaptations for specific grade ranges, sensory learning integration, and student-directed experiences. Each of the sections in the session presented tools and strategies that are applicable across the field and could enhance existing programs.
The session set up was interesting to me because it was a half hour pre-recorded session then the rest of the time was an open discussion; I liked that it was a somewhat different way of participating in a virtual conference session, and I could revisit it when I need to during and after the conference. I liked that there was also an opportunity for all participants to share their own experiences in revamping school programs and our own wants in adapting programs in an open discussion section. Here are a few tweets I posted to contribute to the discussion about the session:
The last session I attended on the second day was Stretching the STEAM/STEM Pipeline- Advancements Through Community Collaborations. It was an interesting session that pointed out museums should ask how they can help their community especially when it is facing social and economic challenges, and the academic achievement of area youth is tested. The speakers from the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, Connecticut shared their experience in answering the question: How can we step outside of our museum walls and unite with likeminded community stakeholders to make a lasting impact on STEAM/STEM achievement?
The presenters used their program “Bringing the Museum to the Neighborhoods” to highlight the steps necessary to successfully engage, coordinate, and manage a common agenda with collaborators and stakeholders who maintained varied missions and processes, and strive to advance a common agenda to support the community. For their program, the Children’s Museum collaborated with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford, the Hartford Public Library, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to provide a program that would encourage families within the Hartford community to engage in activities. Here are some highlights from that session:
The next three days of the conference will be covered in the second blog post covering this year’s NEMA conference. In the meantime, enjoy the blog posts I have previously written about past NEMA conferences I have attended since starting this blog.
To catch up on my live reactions to the virtual NEMA conference, follow me on Twitter at this username: @Steward2Lindsey and check out the hashtag #NEMA2020 for conversations among museum professionals, including myself, about the keynotes, sessions, and virtual meetups.
If you attended this year’s virtual NEMA conference, what do you think of the sessions and the virtual platform so far? Which one of the sessions I attended would you like to learn more about?
As I prepare to go through the virtual sessions I had participated in, the ones I did not get a chance to participate in live, and ones that were pre-recorded, I thought I would do a recap on the rest of the AASLH conference that concluded on September 30th. This conference theme was “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” and each session I attended and the ones that I will continue to attend after they were live addressed this question. The recordings are available until November 11th.
I previously stated in my blog post on the first day of the AASLH conference:
AASLH’s staff worked really hard to make this year’s conference a virtual one. Originally, this conference was going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada. If it were still in Las Vegas, I would not be able to go since I would not be able to afford the airfare in addition to the hotel and conference rate. While I do like to be in person when I participate in professional development programs, I like that by making this year’s conference virtual it is a little more accessible for more people to participate in. Also, at the time I was attending the first session there were 2,245 conference attendees and I believe it was at least more than half of the conference attendees that attended last year. Since the conference is online this year and that I was able to receive a scholarship to attend, I decided to attend this year’s conference to learn more to develop my skills as a museum and history professional.
Since I made the above statement, at the time of the last day of the sessions, the number of participants increased to 2,400 participants. I still agree that by making this year’s conference online it is a little more accessible for more people to participate, and the number of participants this year proved having a virtual conference is beneficial. Therefore, I believe hybrid conferences should be planned to make conferences as accessible as possible.
During the conference, I thought about my answers to the question “What Kind of Ancestor Will We Be?” and I know what kind of ancestor I want to be. I will be the ancestor who continues to learn about the world around me, to listen to other people’s experiences and dedicate my actions to working on a better world until we can truly say all lives matter, to remember to acknowledge my privilege, and to be able to share the lessons I have learned to the next generation. It is also important for all of us to acknowledge that the United States itself is a country of immigrants, including my family; my maternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy and my paternal great-grandfather immigrated to this country from England in the early 20th century. I also thought about previous generations like my great-grandfathers pondering similar questions on what legacy they would leave behind.
I have learned a lot in those days, and I included a highlight of the Twitter conversation I participated in while engaging in conversations during the sessions. It would be extensive to include everything in this post, and to see and participate in the dialogue follow the Twitter hashtag #AASLH2020.
Here is the highlight from the rest of the AASLH conference:
In preparation for the workshop next week, NCoC and Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath, the MuseumEdChat Twitter conversation focused tonight’s discussion on what role museums could play as 2020 comes to a close post-election. The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) dedicate their work to strengthen civic life in America by connecting people together through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge civic health initiative, their cross-sector conferences and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work. With this partnership, museum leaders and thinkers are virtually gathering together to support museum staff and imagine the roles museums, as trusted civic institutions, can play in whatever 2020 has left in store.
The Twitter discussion explored four areas of museum work with the theme of community in each question. For those who are not familiar with #MuseumEdChat, discussion hosts and participants used the Q1/A1 format and the #MuseumEdChat hashtag in replies in order to be seen by all participating in the discussion.
Because Twitter at the time of this post was not letting me, and as I suspect other participants, post our responses to the questions I am posting my answers to this blog post. Here are the following questions and answers for tonight’s discussion:
Q1. Operations: What should concern museums regarding their operations and serving their community after the election? Is your museum discussing this at all? #MuseumEdChat
I think it is important to figure out the decisions that would be best for each individual museum on how they will operate and serving the community since each museum is different and the communities they serve have their own needs to attend to. Museums should be discussing with one another what could be the best approaches for within the museum and community, and the individual museum will use what was discussed to figure out what approach works best for their own institution.
Q2. Messaging: What ideas, messages, publicity, etc. could museums share with the community that would be valuable right now *and* post-election? #MuseumEdChat
I tested posting to Twitter by attempting to send this answer as a response: A2 I think museums can share resources that would best educate the public about what the issues we are voting on and set up programs & statements on what the next steps would be for museums and how they’ll continue to work on serving the community now & post-election. #MuseumEdChat
Q3. Programs: What kinds of programs would you like to see #museums do for the community post-election? (Again, think about those scenarios…)
I would like to see museums plan programs for the community that focus on mental health to help people in the community deal with how the pandemic and the election has impacted them these past months.
Q4. Staff care: How could museums help staff practice self-care and provide for them given the potential election outcomes and the role of the #museum post-election? #MuseumEdChat
Museum leaders should dedicate some time in the day for staff to practice self-care whether each staff member wants to practice by themselves or practice self-care together. There should be focus on letting staff figure out how to care for themselves as well as their families to prepare for the impact the election results will have on what is happening in their own lives.
I plan on attending this workshop coming up on October 21st from 3pm-5pm EST to better educate myself and participate in the discussion on how museums can best serve the community post-election.
The following links are where you can participate in the discussion and to learn more about National Conference on Citizenship:
Earlier today was the first day of the virtual American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference. This year’s theme is “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” It was an engaging and thought provoking first day with sessions focusing on being aware of our blind spots in terms of diversity and we could learn more about women in history through generations. I have included some tweets I released throughout the first day below with brief explanations of what session each tweet is referring to. The first thing I will address is
AASLH’s staff worked really hard to make this year’s conference a virtual one. Originally, this conference was going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada. If it were still in Las Vegas, I would not be able to go since I would not be able to afford the airfare in addition to the hotel and conference rate. While I do like to be in person when I participate in professional development programs, I like that by making this year’s conference virtual it is a little more accessible for more people to participate in. Also, at the time I was attending the first session there were 2,245 conference attendees and I believe it was at least more than half of the conference attendees that attended last year. Since the conference is online this year and that I was able to receive a scholarship to attend, I decided to attend this year’s conference to learn more to develop my skills as a museum and history professional. I also thought about my answer to this year’s conference theme:
One of the sessions I attended was #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter: Black Women Leaders Overcoming the Double Burden. In the session, the speakers revealed a number of disturbing statistics on how many people make up the museum leadership in the entire country:
Meanwhile 85 percent of the individuals in museum leadership roles are white men. This shows that we still have a way to go to making the museum field more diverse. We should not expect that when we fulfill one criteria for diversity our work is done because our society is continuously changing, and we need to continue to learn how to be better organizations.
Another session I attended was Generations of Women: Complicating Traditional Timelines which focused on three case studies of researching women’s history through using sources found from census records, books, articles, et. cetera and generations of their families. The speakers discussed how keeping track of what happened in history through generations rather than dates because people can relate to generations since we all belong to generations.
The previously listed sessions and tweets were just a sample of what I did today. I learned so much, and I look forward to learning more in the next few days (until September 30th).
Last week I participated in the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) first virtual conference, and I began describing my experience in last week’s blog post. I thought that this week I will not only continue to describe my experience at #AAMvirtual but will discuss the virtual conferences in general. After the first day of #AAMvirtual, I attended more sessions from June 2nd to June 4th with an additional session added to address the Black Lives Matter movement.
On June 2nd, in addition to the general session, I attended the sessions: Engagement Strategies During Times of Low (or no) Attendance, Museum-Goers & The Pandemic: New Research, and Pivoting Your Programming: Virtual and Other Unique Options for Small Museums. Also, there were virtual networking events that were divided into four groups: Career Management, Creativity and Innovation, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (which was cancelled since the format of the happy hour did not fit the needs of the field), and Emerging Museum Professionals. The general session featured a keynote from Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian, and a discussion with representatives from the Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Their discussion explored how museums can contribute to a prosperous, just and equitable future as society struggles with intractable social, environmental and economic problems; what priorities and issues are most important to the funders of museums today and into the future; and how will philanthropy become more equitable and inclusive and how will this affect the funding for all types of museums?
In the Engagement Strategies During Times of Low (or no) Attendance session, the speakers took a closer look at how museums can engage with their audience during times of low, no, or altered attendance. This session had speakers Cara Seitcheck (Smithsonian Institution), Rebecca Peterson (Vizcaya Museum & Gardens), and Zachary Wnek (Latah County Historical Society) leading the discussion with participants. The discussion focused on three major ideas which are audience outreach and engagement through digital and virtual means; a crash course on digitization and digital preservation policy as a way of engaging your audience through sharing collections; and an abbreviated guide to hosting awesome outdoor events to put your audience at ease (and allow them physical distance). Also, the discussion took a closer look at the challenges and opportunities involved through the lens of historic sites.
Meanwhile in the Museum-Goers & The Pandemic: New Research session, Susie Wilkening of Wilkening Consulting has been conducting ongoing qualitative research with museum-goers and snap polling the broader U.S. population to assess attitudes toward museums, their value, and their support. Wilkening Consulting is conducting an ongoing qualitative research with museum-goers and snap polling the broader U.S. population to assess attitudes toward museums, their value, and their support. During the session, Wilkening shared the latest results from the research and discussed with the rest of the participants on how these findings can inform how our museums engage our audience virtually and how to reopen with museum-goers’ interests in mind. In the Pivoting Your Programming: Virtual and Other Unique Options for Small Museums session, participants listened to examples of how small museums are continuing to connect with their audiences, even when COVID-19 forces museums to shut their doors, from the session speakers; the speakers were Ann Bennett (Laurel Historical Society), Lin Nelson-Mayson (Goldstein Museum of Design), Marjory O’Toole (Little Compton Historical Society), Rachel Regelein (Log House Museum), and the discussion was moderated by Janice Klein of EightSixSix Consulting. Since in the last blog post I mentioned that I had previous plans before receiving my email that I had the reduced conference fee, I was not able to attend morning sessions in the next couple of days.
On June 3rd, the sessions I attended were The Future of Museum Evaluation after COVID-19 and Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field. The Future of Museum Evaluation after COVID-19 session included a discussion addressing the question: How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact the ways we conduct research and evaluation? Also, they discussed about how we may need to change our data collection efforts at our museums after our doors reopen. A recently added session, Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field session was led by Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and Baltimore Museum of Art), Lonnie G. Bunch III (14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), and Lori Fogarty (Oakland Museum of California). A number of questions were addressed during this serious discussion such as: As museums set their sights on financial recovery and reopening, how do we ensure that we are centering equity and prioritizing the needs of our country’s black and brown communities and colleagues? How do we create a space for healing, and building authentic relationships across difference? How do we use what is an unbearable time for many, to come together in solidarity and use the strength of the museum field to fight racism across the country?
On June 4th, I attended the following sessions: Small Museum Boot Camp: Organizational Management and International Hot Topics: Discussions from Kyoto. In the Small Museum Boot Camp: Organizational Management session, they pointed out that it is especially important to understand the basics of organizational management to help prepare for and guide your institution through a crisis. Since the session was created to meet the needs of small museums, it provided a fast-paced introduction to the main areas of management, including long-range and emergency planning, best practices, and legal requirements. The International Hot Topics: Discussions from Kyoto session introduced issues that were raised at the 2019 International Council of Museums (ICOM) general conference in Kyoto, Japan such as climate change, disaster resilience, and cultural heritage preservation; inclusion, diversity, and decolonization; and immigration, and ethical dilemmas. Each of them was amplified by the pandemic and the search for the new definition of museum. Once the virtual conference had concluded, I thought about each of my experiences at the conferences on the virtual platform and how museum associations have numerous considerations when working on transferring on-site to online.
They need to consider what platforms they would use to host speakers, sponsors, and attendees. The New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) decided to use the Hopin conference platform which I shared in the blog post the demo on how to use the platform. We were encouraged as participants to watch the demo ahead of the NYCMER conference to learn how it worked. Navigating the NYCMER conference felt easier to interact with, and it made me wonder if the conference were on more than one day would the experience feel the same way as it did on a one-day conference. The American Alliance of Museums’ conference, since it is a multi-day conference, had a different experience; it is easy for many museum professionals to get Zoom fatigued after a while. AAM decided to use a virtual platform through CommPartners, which helps organizations conceive, develop and fulfill their education strategy by providing a wide range of online education services including curriculum design, instructional design, webinars, webcasts, livestream programs and virtual conferences . The main learning platform they developed is Elevate Learning Management System (LMS) that helps enable, empower and engage users with contextual learning opportunities enriched by peer collaboration to form dynamic experiences.
Both AAM and NYCMER dealt with various things that they worked on once they learned about attendees experiences throughout the conferences. NYCMER conference committee members made sure that they extended the networking timed one on one sessions up to five minutes when attendees had raised concerns that the initial two minutes was too quick to have a full conversation with other attendees. I myself have begun conversations with museum professionals, and have all of the sudden the conversation ended abruptly leaving conversation topics incomplete. During the AAM conference, I heard about some attendees having hard times logging into sessions and not having a place outside of moderated open-ended chats and networking events to talk with more museum professionals. The staff worked hard to help attendees with technical issues and created a networking tab towards the later half of the conference.
The American Alliance of Museums and the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable conferences were the only virtual conferences I have attended so far since many museum associations have decided to move their on-site conferences online. I received an email from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) earlier this month which stated,
Due to the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, AASLH will hold its 2020 Annual Meeting this fall online instead of gathering in person in Las Vegas…
…We appreciate the hard work of the 2020 Host and Program committees, and we hope to carry as much of that forward as possible. The conference theme, even more relevant now than when it was selected, remains the same: “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” Although it is disappointing not to gather in person this fall, the flexibility of an online format gives us the chance to offer greater relevancy. The conference will address questions that are emerging from the pandemic, such as defining what history institutions will look like and how they will operate in and after the recovery. We will also continue to examine the unique roles that history museums, historic sites, historical societies, and other history organizations, including AASLH, must play in combating racism, among the nation’s most deep-seated societal challenges.
The AASLH Annual Meeting is usually held in August or September each year, and this year it was originally going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada before moving the Annual Meeting online. The New England Museum Association (NEMA) also made an announcement that they were moving their onsite conference that was planned to be in Newport, Rhode Island to online. Also, NEMA decided to change the conference theme to Who Do We Think We Are Now? By updating the conference theme, they stated that it is an opportunity for our field to come together and share lessons learned, emerging best practices, and think tank solutions for the challenges ahead. I look forward to finding out how they will engage attendees in discussions about the museum and history fields and how they will address the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement in their sessions.
If you have experienced virtual conferences or any online professional development program, what are your impressions of the experiences?
In addition to providing museum virtual experiences for visitors, staff, directors, and boards need to figure out how to adapt their operations to the virtual world under fast changing circumstances caused by the pandemic. This past week I participated in a couple of American Association State and Local History Conversation webinar series focusing on what next steps museum staff and boards could do to keep their museums running. I attended AASLH Conversations: Leadership, Boards, and the COVID-19 Crisis that focuses on how leadership should respond as the pandemic continues to effect the world, and I attended AASLH Conversations: Planning for an Uncertain Financial Future to figure out how to develop a financial plan for our museums as we face this unprecedented situation. The information I will share in this post are developing resources and are important takeaways from each one I participated in. What all museum professionals should remember is that, like many of us in and out of the museum field, we are all still learning and adapting to the ever-changing circumstances around the world.
There are many considerations museum professionals have to make decisions when facing this pandemic including keeping communication clear between museum leaders, staff, and board members. During the AASLH Conversations: Leadership, Boards, and the COVID-19 Crisis, some of the most important points made was that it is important to be transparent about the realities with your board and team, be compassionate to others and yourself by stepping back when needed, and be creative as well as flexible to figure out the solutions. The speakers Christy S. Coleman (the CEO at the American Civil War Museum) and Katherine Kane (the former Executive Director at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center) emphasized that: business as usual will not work. It is important to acknowledge that museum leaders have to operate differently and find out how to serve the community. Also, both staff and boards are scared about the pandemic on both the professional and personal level, and as leaders we have to address the hard stuff and explain what we are planning to keep communication open to all. Museum leaders need to recognize that they should adjust their time to virtually meet with board members since they have their own work and families they need to take care of on top of dealing with the pandemic; meanwhile, staff members need to know whether or not they will be laid off, furloughed, or pay/hour reductions. Museum professionals also need to consider their museum financial plans and figure out what their next steps are based on their past and current financial reports.
Becky Beaulieu, the director of the Florence Griswold Museum and author of Financial Fundamentals for Historic House Museums (2017), was the speaker for the AASLH Conversations: Planning for an Uncertain Financial Future in which she shared her insights and advice. Beaulieu pointed out that we are facing an unprecedented time, and because of this the webinar like the previous one was focused on creating a discussion in which she will share her thoughts and answers to participants’ questions based on her expertise. She described in detail about business interruption plans (emergency plans for when something unexpected happens especially a pandemic), and shared three important things that need to be clear when developing a business interruption plan: what is your team and their responsibilities (i.e. who is writing the checks, contacting vendors and sponsors for events, etc.), what is your recovery time, and what are your core operations. Also, she stressed that it is important during this unprecedented time to create a source for all staff members to access resources from the museum community to inspire your own plans. Another important takeaway is to make sure to figure out what your plans A, B, and C are when considering cuts and funding options (i.e. insurance, grants, and for only the last resort-endowments). Museum professionals have difficult decisions to make during this time to make sure we continue to serve our communities, and having these conversations on a regular basis with other museum professionals within the field will help all of us during the pandemic.
One of the ways all professionals, especially museum education professionals, should take advantage of professional development opportunities is taking courses that will develop skills we use in our professions. Sometimes it is more convenient to take online courses that allow museum professionals to schedule their coursework around their available time. Online courses provide opportunities to connect with other individuals when one is not able to get that experience in a regular course. There are many options to explore for online courses especially for museum education courses.
The most recent example of options I came across is from MuseumDev, which offers 4-week courses for museum professionals taught by subject experts with specialized skills and practical experience. MuseumDev courses are offered to those who are currently employed in a museum and want to broaden their skill set, on the job market for museum positions and want to gain a competitive advantage, considering a career in museums or a museum studies degree and want to investigate the field more, and in allied professions and think these courses would benefit their career (such as collectors, dealers, artists, educators, and technologists). These pass/fail courses expect students to spend about 16 hours on coursework, and they are taught asynchronously which means students can complete assignments as well as participate in discussions on their own time.
One of the classes MuseumDev offers is on inquiry-based and museum education which offers a collaborative atmosphere to explore key ideas through discussions, small group work, and independent research such as theories of learning, motivation and flow experiences, and the role of questions and information. When students take this course, they will hopefully gain confidence in contemporary museum education practice, build practical skills in teaching with objects, improve group facilitation skills, and become familiar with trends and issues impacting the field.
Also, the American Association for State and Local History offers online courses that usually last between four and six weeks. The courses offer each students a change to engage deeply with subject material over an extended period of time, all at their own pace. During each course, students can keep track with regular chats and other interactions with the accessible faculty, and discuss the course material with classmates in online forums. I took a course from AASLH on Museum Education and Outreach which is about how we can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums. The program looks at the larger umbrella of programming at sites and explores the large concept of who our audiences are, how best to connect with them, and what is needed to develop various methods.
In the Museum Education and Outreach course, the assignments are made weekly to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at one’s own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience. Throughout the course students develop a toolkit of strategies, policies, and documents ready for immediate implementation. When I took this course, I developed my own toolkit that I hope to be able to adapt for future projects and fully enjoyed interacting with colleagues from around the country as well as learning from them about other things that will help with museum education programming.
I am also familiar with Museum Study which according to their website build courses with three goals in mind: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher, and interaction among students. Each course consists of lessons developed by the instructor, readings to supplement your knowledge and address your particular situation, and activities to reinforce understanding and generate discussion about the challenges we face in our institutions. Museum Study also hosts AASLH courses and their Steps program to aid students in fulfilling institutional goals.
Another example of online classes comes from Museum Classes, which is a pioneering training site from the Northern States Conservation Center. I noticed that the course list has varied topics on museums including but not limited to collections care, collections management, security, interpretation, care of paintings, and education in museums. The NSCC not only offers classes but they also have a certification program with some focuses on Museum Administration & Management, Museum Facilities Management, Exhibit Practices & Public Programs, Certificates in Museum Studies, and Collections Management & Care. There are two levels for each certificate program, and the Certificates in Museum Studies program is considered to be a level one program which provides students a basic understanding of many different facets of museums; the rest of the programs are level two programs that provides in-depth knowledge of one area in museums. According to their website, the requirements for the certificate program is to complete ten full courses and two short courses, attend one statewide, regional or national multi-day museum conference, complete a final project (which can be in the form of an exhibition, a paper, a conference presentation, or other format approved by NSCC), and attend a final chat session with instructors online to answer specific questions that test knowledge of the museum topics studied.
Since there are so many options for online courses, it is important to do the research on courses and see what is right for your needs. I included a list of links of courses I referenced in this post as well as additional ones I came across.
What courses, whether or not they are museum related, have you taken or are considered taking?
Last week the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) made an announcement about additional funding dedicated to professional development for museum professionals. I emphasized in each blog post I wrote about professional development programs I participated in on how significant they are, especially for museum professionals. The recent news from IMLS explained what the additional funding would mean for museums and museum professionals. According to their website, when the Fiscal Year 2020 was passed on December 20, 2019 IMLS was allocated an additional $3 million through the largest program Museums for America and plans to invest this additional funding towards improving the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals.
Museums for America is a program that supports projects to strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public. This program has three categories: Lifelong Learning, Community Anchors and Catalysts, and Collections Stewardship and Public Access.
What does this mean for museum professionals? We would be able to develop our skills to improve the quality of our field and of our work with the public. I hope that with this funding it will help support improvements on onboarding, recruiting, training, and creating a healthy workplace. There is a lot of progress on making museums a better place to work but we do have a long way to go. Recent news about the former executive who worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the sexual harassment complaints against him is an example of what museum professionals face in the workplace (see the links below on the coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer). While we are working to make up for ill treatment within the museum workplace, we need to work on the source of the problems and hopefully more museums will be able to access museum professional development opportunities IMLS has to offer.
On their website, they stated the $3 million will be channeled through two special funding opportunities under Museums for America called Museums Empowered, Grants for Professional Development and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums. Museums Empowered allows museums to use the funds in four specific professional development categories: improving organizational effectiveness, evaluation practices, digital stewardship, and diversity and inclusion. Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a program that supports small museums’ capacity building efforts related to collections, learning, and community at their institutions. The IMLS also included highlights of how professional development offerings make an impact on museums and museum professionals:
• National Leadership Grants for Museums, realigned in 2018, now offers dedicated project categories for professional development and diversity and inclusion that allow museum associations, universities, and other non-profits to seek funding that can amplify collaborations, offer training, and develop tools and promising practices for the entire sector.
• The Museums for America, African American History and Culture, and Native American and Native Hawaiian grant programs continue to offer individual museums and tribes support for leadership development and diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as building a pipeline of new professionals.
• The Museum Assessment Program and Collections Assessment for Preservation program cooperative agreements with the American Alliance of Museums and Foundation for Advancement in Conservation continue to provide much needed technical assistance and capacity building help to smaller museums.
To check out more information about IMLS and the programs it offers, visit their website: www.imls.gov.