This week I’m attending (and presenting– EEP!) at the 2014 Museum Computer Network Conference. This year’s theme, “Think Big, Start Small, Create” encourages cultural heritage professionals to approach collaboration and change in new ways. As a small museum employee, the “started from the bottom now we’re here” mentality is status quo. Thinking big and starting small is what we do. But there’s always more to learn and I’m ready to dig into it.
The first sessions kicked off today and already some big questions have been posed:
- How do you take direction on projects from leaders with low digital literacy?
- (on being a change agent and new to a museum position) Where do I start?
- (on “open authority”) How are we using the term authority?
- Who benefits from open authority?
- Is progress actually the goal of museums?
I’m not going to pretend I have easy answers to these questions but each one is definitely worth exploring.
This week I’ve been getting my museum life at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. It’s been a blast and I’m on the verge of information overload, but I’m totally fine with that. This year’s theme is “The Innovation Edge” and that’s been evidenced by the drones, telepresence robots, interactives, and so much other tech goodness I can barely keep it straight. Once I get back to the Little Apple I’ll do my best to unpack my adjectives and share what I learned here. But for now I have a plane to catch!
I’m very pleased to announce that I’m a contributing author at GenX Says. This collaborative effort came from the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting workshop Generation X Transforming: New Paths, New Perspectives. My first post is here. Check it out, no matter your age, rank or serial number. Let’s learn from each other!
speaking of aam…
This was my second year attending and while the overwhelming feeling of sheer panic wasn’t nearly as bad this time around, navigating through the massive selection of workshops, tours, and special events was still daunting.
my handy-dandy conferencing tips:
- Select workshops that appeal to your career plans. If you aspire to lead a museum, you need to be in sessions that deal with such. Don’t feel trapped into a workshop track based on your current status.
- If it’s not what you expected, leave. One of the most valuable things at these meetings is time. There’s no shame in quietly ducking out if the workshop isn’t giving you what you need.
- Bring snacks. These meetings are all-day affairs and your blood sugar will get low. I had granola bars, a water bottle, chocolate and fruit stashed away in my Target-sponsored tote bag.
- Make time to see the city. I’ve visited Minneapolis before and each time, I find more to admire. I envy their parks and lakes,mass transit, and robust museum association. I made sure to dine locally and visit as many sights as possible.
MINNEAPOLIS SCULPTURE PARK
- Socialize. I attended my first AAM meeting on fellowship, so I was determined to prove that I got as much out of the experience as possible. Unfortunately, I neglected the importance of simply chatting with other museum professionals in an informal (i.e.non-museum) setting. This time around I made a point to just hang out, engage with new people and stalk meet my Twitter crushes. If you don’t know where to begin, haunt the caffeine source.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the presenters with The Moth (the Peabody Award-winning storytelling collective that blew my mind at the general session) mentioned that he didn’t realize museum people partied so hard. Yes, we are human and yes, we like to have fun! Everybody knows you’re at the conference on business, but don’t that doesn’t mean your personality goes on lockdown. Just try to stay upright, and you’ll be fine.
stuff that excited me:
OPEN FIELD BUTTON-MAKING
FLUX FOUNDATION’S SOCIALLY ENGAGING ART PROJECT
- Thanks, Social Media! The most useful tool by far was my phone. Via Twitter, I quickly connected with other attendees, scheduled meetups, read highlights from various workshops, and used Instagram to share pictures with my museum friends who couldn’t attend.
- World Wide Wikipedia. From hosting in-person and online workshops to being name-checked in other sessions, Wikipedians were openly represented. It was encouraging to see that more museum professionals are becoming aware of and open to the valuable resources available via the GLAM-wiki partnership.
some things i would like to see:
- Price breaks for students/emerging museum professionals. The cost of the annual meeting is not discounted for students or those with fewer years in the field. Fellowships are offered, but they are extremely competitive and limited (I applied for three years before receiving one.) Many organizations do not offer professional development funding or if they do, it is restricted to managerial-level employees. The gathering collectively suffers when the viewpoints of those new to museum work are excluded. If AAM membership can be reduced for these groups (students, anyway), why not fees for the Annual Meeting?
- Make the opening party free. Once you get past the fees for the conference proper, you quickly realize that your budget also needs to accommodate the costs of attending organized tours and social functions. If there’s one thing that should be free, it’s the opening party. Nothing dulls the shine of the Welcome to our Meeting! message than having to pony up money for the kick-off gathering. For the event hosts, it’s a nice way of saying, “We appreciate your support” and allows everyone at least one cost-effective chance to interact with fellow attendees in an informal and fun setting.
- Creative meeting spaces. I felt really bad for the presenters who had really engaging and interactive content yet were restricted by the constraints of a lecture-style meeting space. Can the meeting be held in the lobby on comfy sofas? Outside in the park? On the floor in a drum circle? Anything to break up the traditional environment would be appreciated.
Here’s a quick round-up of other attendees’ impressions:
Please share takeaways you have from the Annual Meeting. If you didn’t attend, why not?