New England Museum Association — Annual Conference, Part 2

During the “museum season”, I interpret objects and present gallery talks at Shelburne Museum in Vermont. Several conference attendees noted to me that during the tour of Shelburne it was quite cold, and also, wished they had a chance to visit the buildings. From my experience, its historic buildings are sometimes colder inside than the outdoors! Still, the request to visit is very appreciated. The museum has wonderful collections of decorative arts, furniture, fine art, even a steamboat “Ticonderoga”, docked in a field of grass. Learn about the collections:

Good news, the Museum is in a process of construction of an art and education center. Unlike the rest of the buildings on the museum grounds, this building will be open all year around. The place will offer an auditorium, classroom space, and changing exhibits. The building will be operational and ready for when New England Museum Association next sets upon Burlington, a.k.a. “West Coast of New England.”

Just prior to the conference, to my amazement, I found out that the entire staff of American Independence Museum was laid off. See also: the organization The History List has posted information on its Facebook page.

I could only imagine the confusion, frustration, disappointment, and astonishment of the AIM staff.

Then, envision chairing a session at NEMA 2012 on the topic of strategic planning! Although the chair must have submitted her proposal early part of 2012, and at that time things could have been much different, I could not conceive it was a stress-free undertaking to participate in the conference session. For several reasons, I see it was extraordinarily tough position to be in:

  • Importance of upholding your responsibilities to NEMA to present your selected proposal,
  • Being laid off usually you feel a mix of emotions toward the situation and your employer,
  • If any feedback was provided, a feeling of powerlessness of the former staff because the staff cannot professionally fulfill the task.

During the conference, unfortunately I did not attend: “Strategic Planning Made Easy for Small Museums.” Did anyone attend or participate? I would be interested in your thoughts, online or offline.

As sessions were scheduled simultaneously, I wish that there could be a blog, or a method online, for attendees to write what was being talked about & their response to it. There were many terrific topics being discussed all over the place, and I wonder what kind of opinions and responses people had!

To aid my planning, I am most thankful to Amanda Gustin who wrote a blog for newbies attending the conference: Amanda also has a blog which I have found intellectually intriguing – it is neat to stay connected with ideas, strategies, and thoughts of museum professionals and of the field, without necessarily leaving home.


Shelburne Museum is gorgeous in the fall! The museum opens again to visitors on May 12, 2013.

UPDATES: New England Museum Association devoted a page of its website for conference handouts.

If you scroll down from the pay wall — you’ll find more information about the process, progress, and thoughts of the board in this article about American Independence Museum. In the article, Vice President Eric MacDonald of the board of governors comments that they will be “[…] reaching out to other history museums and to individuals in the community to discuss different ideas,” and that “he is confident the museum will reopen in the spring; it’s just unknown in what form.”

Another several attendees of the NEMA conference, including my good friend and former colleague of the Shelburne Museum, Katy Kreiger — Museums of Old York was mentioned in the article, as well.

I see this as excellent topic for all museums — how can museums continue to be relevant in the 21st century, to their communities, and to their visitors. Particularly financially, what are the best practices to remain sustainable? How do we increase revenue — and without deviating from our mission?



2 thoughts on “New England Museum Association — Annual Conference, Part 2

  1. membershipoldyork November 19, 2012 at 16:25 Reply

    Hey Adriene, It was great to see you too!! I actually did go to the Strategic Planning for Small Museums session, and it was great. The gist of it was getting reading for the planning process, deciding who should facilitate. Preparation, facilitation, and formatting are key steps. Then to identify the key players, staff, board members, community members, about 9 people is manageable. Plans are posted to last for about 3-5 years, then start over again. Create organization categories, like education, administration, collections, preservation, and development. Need to come up with priorities, and be honest. Come up with a policy statement for each goal. The consultant there suggested a book called “The Non-Profit Strategy Revoution.” Another suggestion was to have staff write up their job descriptions. Basically the strategic planning needs to be looked at as a living document, the planning part should be fun, really shouldn’t take too long, if it does or if it not fun, you’re not ready for it. And thanks for the heads up on the article too!

  2. Adriene Katz November 21, 2012 at 03:24 Reply

    Thank you so very much for the response! It sounds like it was thorough and helpful session.

    Also, you mention museum staff writing up their own job descriptions. Whether for the administration or for yourself, I suspect that is a very good practice to do every so often!

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