Disclaimer: This is an important moment in the history of the Samek blog- our first guest post! It was written by our former Graduate Assistant, Will Schwaller. He wasn’t able to post it before he left, so I’m posting it for him. But I didn’t write it. But you should still enjoy it just the same. – Tracy Billet, Registrar
I’m sure some of you out there have wondered what’s a conference for museum professionals like? Right? Doesn’t everybody wonder about that? Well thank goodness I am here to share with you my experiences at the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN!
What’s cool about AAM is that it is an association for ALL museums, not just Art museums, so when I was going around listening to speakers, poster displays, and the Museum Expo, there were things for history museums, science museums, children’s museums, even historic buildings. Naturally, being interested in art and art museums I tended to focus on speakers who would be talking about issues related to art museums.
Now not all of these sessions involved people sitting in seats listening to a couple people talk in front of a PowerPoint presentation about the best ways to manage donors, create a collections management policy, or efficiently market the museum to younger audiences. As you can see above some of these sessions were lively! This presentation was about “Letting Go.” This is a hot topic for museums these days and it is all about making museums more accepting of the audience’s perspective and knowledge; letting go of our authoritative position. Many people believe that now is the time, with technology allowing us to reach a broad range of people and allowing them to share with us their stories, information, and perspectives, for the museum to begin to act more as a collector of information not just from the historic objects themselves but from what the visitor might know or share.
In this session we talked about what this all means for museum professionals like us. Do we lose our jobs since the audience is now as important a source of knowledge as we are? Do we risk losing quality information for increased visitor participation? All of these questions and more were brought up as we were asked to go around the room and write on post-it notes out thoughts of “Hopes” “Opportunities” and “Fears” for “letting go” as a museum.
Now I could definitely bore you with a list of all the other sessions I went to but I’ll just leave you with the knowledge that practically any job you can think of in a museum was represented and everybody was there to share and learn about other museum’s successes and failures so as to bring that home and try to improve upon their museums.
What was also cool to see was the Museum Expo, where all kinds of companies that produce products and services for museums had booths and would show you their products and try to sell you on using them in your museum.
I wasn’t necessarily that interested in types of insurance to protect my museum, or new glass display cases, or top of the line storage systems. I was more impressed by the Minneapolis Convention Center. As you can see on the left it was HUGE!
There was also a pretty cool communal art project going on in the convention center, that you can see below.