Having recently concluded an internship with Teaching the Hudson Valley in Hyde Park, NY, I was eager to attend MAAM’s 66th annual conference in Tarrytown, NY and have the chance to network and develop additional skills for an increasingly tight job market.
On the first night, I watched the moving documentary Objects and Memory and explored how ordinary objects, like twisted steel from the rubble of Ground Zero, could be transformed into extraordinary icons and become eyewitnesses to the past.
For the next two days, I had the opportunity to attend sessions ranging from mobile technology in museums to a roundtable on contemporary issues in Museum Studies Education. Highlights included learning about new educational strategies called Thinking Routines, debating the effectiveness of QR codes in museums and marveling at the newly built Dimenna Children’s Museum in the New York Historical Society.
I was also inspired by the keynote address by Candice Anderson and Shanta Scott about how organizations like Cool Culture have partnered with museums to increase access to New York City cultural institutions for low-income families.
During the evening Weil Lecture, “What’s So Funny? Humor and Museums,” Marc Pachter discussed how museums can use humor to create a comfortable and fun learning environment while also combating perceptions of museums being elitist. For me, the highlight of the talk was when, as Director of the National Portrait Gallery, he succeeded in using humor on the Colbert Report to increase visitation to the gallery.
Sally Roesch Wagner, 2012 Katherine Coffey Award Winner, offered insights about how museums can become more relevant to their respective communities. She is the executive director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which interprets women’s rights history in central New York State. Much of what she said about driving contemporary social change through community engagement, especially with the “Come Write on Our Walls” campaign, related to what I have been learning in my current Johns Hopkins University graduate course, Museums and Community Engagement.
I came away from the conference with several tangible steps I can take to advance myself in the profession. For instance, I have created a blog and twitter account, taken an online course from Lynda.com on HTML, joined additional museum associations, signed up for a couple of committees in MAAM and attended a local EMP event. At the Leadership Luncheon where emerging museum professionals ate beside seasoned museum professionals, I received much needed advice, such as about effectively utilizing my college’s alumni network.
Thank you to all the staff of MAAM and supporters of the Bruce Craig Fellowships for allowing me to attend. I had an amazing experience and look forward to working with MAAM to plan next year’s conference in Washington D.C.!