There are a number of museums that are celebrating Valentine’s Day in various ways. We know that Valentine’s Day has historic roots which may be hard to believe since there is a lot of commercialism surrounding it. Last year, I wrote about the history of Valentine’s Day and the link for that post can be found below. I created this small sample of museums that are having events honoring the holiday this year since the pandemic. These events are held to help raise money for museum operations.
The Museum of the City of New York is having a variety of events celebrating Valentine’s Day. For instance, there is a love-themed museum-wide scavenger hunt that involves interacting with the museum and other participants on social media starting on the Saturday before the holiday. Also, on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, there is the Love Yourself Project which uses the origami heart to invite people to participate in this campaign that encourages people to discover what they love about themselves to plant a small seed and spread the consciousness of self-love. More events are listed in the link above.
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York is holding a catered Valentine’s Day Brunch and a film screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring Audrey Hepburn, directed by Blake Edwards, on Sunday, February 12th. Reservations are required and there will be a raffle.
At the Holland Museum in Holland, Michigan, there is a free STEAM family program that explores the science of papermaking and provides the opportunity to make handmade paper valentines with environmental artist Sandra Hansen.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California is holding its 15th annual Sweetheart’s Dinner and Dance on Valentine’s Day with seating for people celebrating the holiday under the wings of Air Force One. Live music and a four-course meal are provided. There are tables for two as well as reserved and preferred table seating available for groups of four or more.
The Columbus Museum of Art is having a dining experience at two different times on the evening of February 10th. In addition to a four-course meal, there is also a cocktail celebration with live music, light bites, and cocktails before exploring the open galleries at night. Tickets for the general public will go on sale on January 21st.
The Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Garden in Washington, D.C. has an evening event called Her Art’s Desire on Valentine’s Day where attendants can be the first to see the exhibit Determined Women: Collectors, Artists, and Designers at Hillwood. There is an open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and dessert by Design Cuisine, and bid on exclusive items in the silent auction.
I chose to take a closer look at a website that focuses on professional development for museum professionals. Museum Learning Hub is a website I follow to help me develop skills as a museum professional. According to their website, it is a nationwide initiative organized by the six U.S. regional museum associations and is dedicated to providing free, self-paced training resources for small museums made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant for Museums Award. I appreciate that they are able to provide these resources for free since most small museums do not have a professional development budget for their employees; therefore, providing more accessible resources can help museum professionals especially those who work in small museums develop their skills to perform their tasks in their museums. The Hub is created as part of the Digital Empowerment for Small Museums Project, which focuses on providing capacity-building programs and resources in the areas of digital media and technology for small museums.
I like how it is easy to navigate through the website to access webinars and additional resources. The toolkits, that are included in each module, provide more details from individual sessions and resources to help museum professionals learn more about a specific topic covered in the session. The website also includes forums and Ask an Expert forum in which users can click on the forum name to see the discussions, get advice, share ideas and resources, and get technical support from student technology fellows. Some of the topics that are covered in their webinars include but are not limited to digital accessibility and inclusion, live streaming, managing digitization projects, virtual exhibitions, podcasts, video production, and audiences and analytics for museums. They release webinars each week live on their website and have past recordings and transcripts available to catch up on topics discussed in previous weeks.
To learn more about the website and to participate in webinars, check out the link below.
In recent years, I started listening to more podcasts and I decided to share a list of podcasts about museums and public history on this website I have either been familiar with over the years as a museum professional, come across for this post, or have been shared with me to share on this website. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and that they are in no particular order. If there are ones that you do not see on this list and think they should be on this list, please contact me and let me know.
The following are podcasts discussing museums and what is going on in the museum field:
Every month, Suse Anderson investigates the fascinating work and personalities in and around the museum sector. The hosts explore some of the sector’s most stimulating questions, institutions, and practices, with a focus on emergent, boundary-pushing work and ideas.
For Arts’ Sake podcast help people discover the difference museums can make to their lives by sharing real-life stories of leading museum professionals and professionals within the heritage sector across the UK.
Hannah Hethmon is the host of this podcast and in each episode they visit a different museum to discover its stories, discuss challenges and triumphs with fascinating museum professionals (and volunteers), and get to know each season’s country, state, or region through it museums.
Museum People is a NEMA-produced (New England Museum Association) podcast that celebrates individuals connected with the museum field by highlighting their work, passions, opinions, and personalities. In each episode, you’ll hear stories and viewpoints from a variety of museum people, from unsung workers to executive directors, volunteers to trustees, as they help change the world one visitor at a time.
Queering the Museum is an ongoing coordinated intervention into representations of LGBT/Q* people in museums. Their goal is for QTM to facilitate critical dialogues between community members and museum practitioners, addressing the role that museums play in forming social norms around gender and sexuality. They focus on museums due to their ability to shape and define the communities in which we live. QTM believes that museums have a responsibility to account for the role played in constructing normalized ideas of race, gender, and sexuality.
The following are podcasts discussing various topics in history and about public history:
HistoryExtra, the official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed, has podcast episodes featuring interviews with notable historians on topics spanning ancient history through to recent British to American history. Episodes feature perspectives on everything from crusading knights to Tudor monarchs and the D-Day landings.
Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past — an event, a person, an idea, even a song — and asks whether we got it right the first time. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
American Revolution Podcast is a weekly podcast that explores the events of the American Revolution, from beginning to end. They also have a blog that posts pictures, maps, and links to more information for each week’s episode. The link to the blog can be found here: https://blog.amrevpodcast.com
BackStory is a weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly, and Joanne Freeman. They are based in Charlottesville, Va. at Virginia Humanities. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.
Talking Stories is a podcast of stories, folklore, mythology, and chat from the Storytellers at the National Leprechaun Museum, on the 1st and 15th of every month. The National Leprechaun Museum is the first ever attraction dedicated to Irish mythology, and it opens up a fun and magical world full of fascinating folklore, mythology, and enchanting stories.
Visit the Contacts page and let me know if there are other podcasts that I should check out that are not on this list.
Since I was a kid, I loved the film “The Princess Bride”, the fantasy film starring actors such as Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. The first time I watched this movie was when I was at a friend’s birthday party. I remember watching it so many times over the years since then. There were days that when I was not feeling well, I watched this movie. Most of the time, I watched this movie when I wanted a good laugh. My friends and I used to reenact scenes from the movie, and quote this movie on a number of occasions.
“Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
I also bought the book the film was based on, and read that book many times including the sequel that was in my copy of the book. Plus, I loved watching the behind-the-scenes stories of filming this movie.
For Valentine’s Day, the Historians at the Movies Twitter conversation took a closer look at this film on DisneyPlus to talk about history and what time period the film portrays. When I heard about this, I was really excited, and I decided to write a post about this discussion.
It has been a while since I covered a Historian At the Movies, and if you want to read about the first experience I had, check out the link below after you read this one.
My husband and I participated in watching The Princess Bride and Historians at the Movies on Valentine’s Day. The memories came flooding back as we watched the film, and once again I had an awesome time tweeting with all of the participants. All of us had a lot of thoughts throughout the movie, and there was a lot of commentary on Twitter. For instance, the following are samples from the Historians at the Movies conversation:
We also answered questions to open discussions while we were making commentaries on the film. The first one was an introduction to what we liked most about the film, what our Valentine’s Day dinners are, et. cetera. I was going to answer each question, but I did not have the answer off the top of my head and there were thoughts I wanted to express about the movie itself. To answer the rest of the questions, it is hard for me to imagine any other actors in the roles and I have not thought about who would be good in the roles if I were to cast the roles today; my husband and I had Indian cuisine from our local Indian restaurant we ate at home.
I also appreciated the discussion about what the time period this movie would be set in. In the tweet, I stated that based on the clothing I could see the film being set between the 15th and 16th century. Also, in response to other individuals’ tweets that point out it could not be past post-Renaissance I stated:
While my expertise is not in historical clothing, I thought it was consistent enough to not be jarring and they help distinguish between the story scenes and the scenes between the grandfather and grandson.
If you are interested in joining the discussions with Historians at the Movies, follow their website, Facebook page, and the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #HATM.
What do you think of The Princess Bride? What time period do you think this film is set in? Are there moments from the film that are memorable to you? If you have not seen it, what movies are you nostalgic about?
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?
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).
Activism in the United States, especially in the past few months, expresses the need for change and museums have been participating in many ways. It is important for museum staff on all levels to recognize their role in activism in order to effectively understand their role within the communities they serve as well as engage in. In one of my previous blog posts Reaction: Museum Values in Times of Crises, I pointed out that: If we do not get involved in the community and listen to what the members of the community need, then we cannot claim we are having any influence or involvement in our communities. I believe that this certainly applies to museums and activism.
Earlier tonight I participated in the #MuseumEdChat on Twitter to discuss museums and activism facilitated with the question and answer format. The first question that participants addressed within the conversation was:
Q1 How do you define museum activism? #MuseumEdChat
Among the many possible definitions, they all have one thing in common: museum activism is not limited to one location and one medium. For example, I pointed out that I define museum activism as museum professionals either individually or the whole museum spreading the word and taking action to make changes. Museum activism can come in all sorts of formatting from museum professionals participating in the Black Lives Matter movement to supporting museum unions fighting against inequitable workplace practices. Communication is an important tool in museum activism, and without maintaining communication within and outside the museum walls we would not be able to go far in our activism to effect great change.
Another question that participants in the #MuseumEdChat addressed in the discussion was: Q2. Should museums consider themselves activist spaces? Why/why not? #MuseumEdChat. While I do believe that museums should consider themselves activist spaces, I think it is important that museums are not solely activist spaces because museums should be considered for multi-purposes that both serve and contribute to the community. If we use the museum space for one sole purpose, then we not only limit ourselves, but an imbalance would be created and therefore we would not be considered relevant in the activist role or in any role. Activism is a continuous series of actions that all museum professionals do and should take seriously if we want to effectively make significant changes within our society.
I have included links to relevant blog posts and resources in the list below.
What do you think the museums’ roles in activism should be?
This past week I was able to attend the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) conference. Like the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, AAM decided to hold the conference online to present content that will help move the museum field forward. The AAM virtual conference took place on May 18th, and June 1st through June 4th. Its’ theme this year was: Radical Reimagining. Since this is the first-time museum associations in the United States are holding conferences on the internet, there are bugs they would go through as multiple museum professionals interact with one another from the comfort and safety of their homes. I liked that in response to the murders, protests, and police brutality, AAM responded not only with a statement but made sure the sessions we attended continued the discussion of racism in this country. One of the sessions I attended today was the PSA of the Future with speakers from Poster House (the first museum about the history of posters) and Isometric Studio (a visual identity and graphic design consultancy based in New York City).
The PSA of the Future session, including a brief history of posters and PSAs, had an interactive workshop in which participants were encouraged to design our own posters. We were introduced to elements of poster design, have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the subject matter, and design our own posters in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I shared the design I worked on in the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram after the session concluded:
When registration first opened for the conference, there have been concerns expressed across social media by museum professionals because of the fees AAM charged while many museum professionals are facing furloughs, layoffs, job hunting halts, et. cetera. They also made arguments that charging high fees contradicts not only the theme of the conference but also contradicts its efforts for a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible museum field. According to AAM’s website: Registration for the virtual conference is $235 for all AAM members and $345 for non-members. In addition to releasing a statement for their losing revenue reasoning, they also encouraged registrants to make donations in addition to the registration fees and sponsors were able to provide for a number of deeply discounted ($25) registrations. Even though I was one of the lucky individuals who was able to register for $25, I wonder how many people were actually able to receive it or were able to even pay that much.
Since I have not been to the AAM conference before this year, I was curious as to not only what the conference was like but how they would be able to handle operating a virtual conference. I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend live while connecting with other conference participants was limited to sending messages during sessions, an open chat, and a few virtual networking events. A networking section was later added by the last day of the conference.
Because I did not receive an email that I was able to register for the conference at $25 until the Friday before the full conference began on June 1st, I missed the General Session due to previous engagements but attended the sessions for the rest of the day. Instead of attending the last few minutes of the General Session, I went to the MuseumExpo, as well as throughout the day, which includes various links to conference sponsors, booths with external links to services they have, tech talks, and virtual poster sessions. The virtual poster sessions were about twelve downloads of PowerPoint presentations on relevant topics in the museum field. I attended the following sessions on June 1st: Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research, Moderated Open Chat, Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance, and Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World.
The Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research session had the following speakers: Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, Museum of Science, Boston; Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett; Madeline Smith, Slover Linett; Peter Linett, Slover Linett; and Tim Hallman, Asian Art Museum. Slover Linett uses tools of research, evaluation, community dialogue, and experience design to help cultural organizations become more inclusive, innovative, and relevant. The speakers discussed the 6 Ps of Experience Design, which is a framework for the cultural sector from Slover Linett. The 6 Ps of Experience Design are: Programming, People, Place, Policies, Promises, Personality, and a Bonus “P”: Purpose. I have included a link to the framework in the resource section below for more details about the 6 Ps of Experience Design.
The Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance session had Camille Tewell, North Carolina Museum of Art; Jacqueline Benitez, California Academy of Sciences; Matt Schullek, Ohio History Connection; and Tami Moehring, CILC – Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as its speakers. In the session, participants discovered how distance learning can help museums increase their reach. Also, we joined small group discussions led by the speakers to talk about developing content, infrastructure requirements, marketing, and making museums more accessible. In the Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World session, we heard Kate Brueggemann (Adler Planetarium) and Donna McGinnis (Naples Botanical Garden) share information about building a fundraising management plan that can leverage our institutions as we are preparing for re-opening our institutions.
I also attended a part of the Virtual Reception which was led by Songdivision, in which we were all in the Zoom calls (much like the ones we were in for the sessions) watching the group as they engaged us with live performances and a rock-and-roll game show. Because I have not experienced a reception on the virtual platform for a conference before, I decided to check it out and enjoyed the music they played.
The rest of the conference was a similar experience I had on the first day with some changes including a new moving and significant session that was added to take part in the discussion on racism, unrest, and the role of the museum field led by Lonnie Bunch (14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and Baltimore Museum of Art), and Lori Fogarty (Oakland Museum of California). I have included the link to where I logged in for the conference for an overview and specific details of the sessions that were offered throughout the four days.
Next week I am continuing the discussion about AAM and virtual conferences since there was a lot of detail to put into one blog post.
If you have attended virtual conferences, please share your experiences and impressions. Also, if you have any questions about the conferences I have attended please visit the contact page where my contact information is located.
I have once again participated in the New England Museum Association conference. It was in Burlington, Vermont this year and it was the first time that I have been in the state. I was not only excited to be participating in this year’s NEMA conference, but I was also looking forward to exploring the area. With a friend, I took a road trip to travel to Vermont for the conference. This year I decided to not only focus on sessions focusing on education but also sessions that help me get a better understanding of how to improve my leadership skills and of fundraising. As always, I found these conferences both informative, engaging, and entertaining to be with New England and New York colleagues. Thanks to all who have been following my tweets on Twitter covering the conference, and I have included a highlight of my tweets, photographs, and the sessions I attended during the week.
There were many beautiful views I witnessed as my friend and I went up to Middlebury, Vermont as the first stop before going to the hotel.
Once we arrived, she went to a pre-conference event and I decided to explore the area. The first place I went to was the Henry Sheldon Museum. The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History is the oldest community-based museum in the country opening their doors to visitors and researchers in 1884. Their mission is to serve the public by preserving the historic memory of the Addison County and surrounding communities, heightening the awareness and enjoyment of our rich cultural legacy, and stimulating the study of connections between Vermont’s past and broader historical themes. There are three main areas of the museum:
The Judd-Harris House,
built in 1829, showcases a wealth of objects depicting small town life in
nineteenth century Vermont
Research Center houses one of the state’s premier archival collections,
documenting the history of Middlebury, Addison County, and Vermont
The Walter Cerf Gallery hosts changing exhibits throughout the year.
After visiting the museum, I walked around Main Street and window shopped along the street. I did go into a few stores including Vermont’s Own, which the majority of the products they sell were maple syrup which I could not help but purchase a sample. I went through a country store and the Vermont Book Shop. Eventually I walked back to meet my friend and explore the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s exhibit on the Women’s Suffragette.
Once we checked into the hotel, we walked down Main Street to visit the Lake Champlain Chocolate Store. As a former employee of a chocolate store, I purchased a number of samples for comparison. When we were done with exploring, we were ready for the next few days of conference sessions and events.
My first day of the conference began with learning about analysis of the open-ended questions and audience data. The panelists pointed out that using more than one method to analyze the data and multiple people to review the questions will be helpful for getting the results needed for what the museum is looking for.
I also attended the keynote session that focused on social justice. Dr. Gretchen Sorin, who is committed to encouraging museums to be more active in civic responsibility and social justice, discussed the upcoming book Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights and the PBS documentary produced by Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films, to be released in 2020.
The next session I attended focused on how to foster deeper connections between local teachers and museums; they argued that focusing education programming on supporting educators can lead to more quality student-site interactions, a deeper valuing of our museums in the community, and an expansion of museum capacity. Other sessions I attended were about summer camps and how to use camps to draw in new audiences as well as strengthen ties to schools and community (and listened to the experiences of teenagers who participated in the camps), and museum volunteers and how to create an impact measure for their roles.
That night I attended the opening evening event at the Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. Echo Leahy Center inspires and engages families in the joy of scientific discovery, wonder of nature, and care of Lake Champlain. While enjoying hors d’oeuvres, I interacted with various exhibits including but not limited to Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab (which invites visitors to join the fun through interactive explorations that promote science, technology, engineering and math learning) and Into the Lake (which allows visitors to be immersed in the shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Champlain and learn about a twenty-foot serpent that may have lived in the lake).
On the second day, I attended a number of sessions, an Educators professional affinity group (PAG) lunch, and another evening event at the Shelburne Museum. The first session I attended that morning was the importance of fundraising as a team effort (to learn effective ways to motivate staff and board members to be better fundraisers and hear strategies for attracting and retaining members). Also, the panelists led us in a half hour exercise around major gifts where we practiced “Making the Ask” or an elevator pitch to convince donors to help contribute to our museums’ upcoming major projects. One of the most important takeaways I learned from this session was:
Other sessions I attended were about emotionally intelligent leadership and how to incorporate evaluation practices into museum programming. In the session on emotionally intelligent leadership, we learned about assessing emotional skills, leveraging emotions and learning strategies to achieve results.
In the session on how to incorporate evaluation practices into museum programming, panelists shared practices and examples of incorporating evaluative thinking and reflective practice into the work as practitioners. It introduced practical, tested approaches for building evaluation capacity and using data to improve educational products and professional practices. At the Educators PAG lunch, we discussed the necessity of advocating for our needs as educators and had discussions among ourselves to ask questions, share ideas, offer each other advice, and connect with one another to provide inspiration, support, and resources after we leave the conference.
The second night I attended the evening event at Shelburne Museum. After eating hors d’oeuvres, I walked through an exhibit that was not yet open to the public and a current exhibit. Time Lapse: Contemporary Analog Photography, which opened on November 9th (a couple of days after the evening event), is an exhibit that celebrates the work of 13 international and national contemporary artists who use the darkroom as a laboratory and find inspiration in the vast range of 19th-century photographic processes, from daguerreotypes to photograms. In the second exhibit, which is called Joel Barber & the Modern Decoy, the curator of the exhibit led us through a tour to discuss the life and artwork of architect, author, illustrator, and pioneering decoy collector Joel D. Barber.
After returning to the hotel, there was a lot of cars covered in snow which made me excited since I grew up watching the film White Christmas (majority of the film taking place in Vermont) and I was looking forward to seeing snow in Vermont. I was excited to see more snow on the ground the next morning, and while I was a little disappointed that most of it melted by the end of the conference, I was relieved that we were able to travel without worrying too much about the road conditions.
On the last day of the conference, I attended sessions about the introduction to assessment programs for museums, intangible histories, and a session of its kind called Recharge and Reimagine: Creative Break before attending the closing luncheon and annual meeting. The assessment programs session was intended to introduce, clarify, and spark interest in museum assessment programs such as AASLH StEPS, AAM MAP and Accreditation programs. In the intangible histories session, which was standing room only, panelists shared case studies from the Monticello (an exhibit about Sally Hemings), the Rokeby Museum, and Florence Griswold Museum to share techniques they used to show intangible histories and create meaning out of the memories and stories of individuals. As a public historian, this session was interesting to me because of the challenge intangible histories present and the importance of addressing underrepresented history.
Another session I attended which was different than ones I have previously attended was Recharge and Reimagine: Creative Break. I enjoyed it because it not only helped us tap into our creativity to inspire our work, but it also helped us wind down from an overload of information and excitement from the past few days. We participated in hands-on exercises that helped us use examples of ekphrasis, or the creation of one kind of art inspired by another kind of art. For example, one of the pieces of art shown to us Henri Matisse’s Open Window (1905) and we were encouraged to write any type of poem inspired by this painting. This is my poem:
Today I will look out my window. The colors are so vibrant. The shades of green bring the yard to life. The reds are these in my flowers helping them stand out on this beautiful day. The blues bring out the boats and the body of water. The water filled with so many waves of pink that channels happiness on this beautiful day. I welcome these colors into my window, and I watch as they emerge inside. The pinks and greens occupy the walls of my home. The blues join the greens and even some of the pinks joined the greens. All of the colors also reflect in my windows. I hope to never close my windows to these colors. I implore all who see colors outside to let them in. The colors bring me joy each day. Colors, please keep coming to my window. Tomorrow will be another beautiful day with you.
The drive back was beautiful because there was still snow on the ground. Once again, I enjoyed my experiences at the NEMA conference and will make efforts to exercise what I learned in all of the sessions.
If you are interested in learning more specific information about what I learned and my thoughts, please contact me here. Stay tuned for a new blog post tomorrow!