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Concluding with NEMA 2012 in Burlington, VT and beginning with NEMA 2015 in Portland, ME…

Today is Veterans’ Day, or November 11, 2015. I just noticed that I have not updated this blog since the end of 2012! It is my goal then in my writing to demonstrate personal and professional growth. I also hope sincerely that my reader also benefits from my written reflection of my recent experiences.

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New England Museum Association 2012 — Aftermath

It is evident through my last two posts, I am extremely grateful to have attended the New England Museum Association annual conference. I also appreciate the professionals who took the time during the conference to converse with me. I learned a great deal from asking questions and being curious.

In the days following the finish of the conference, I did my best to follow up and say “thank you!”. I put in a lot of time. Probably not every single email was perfect.

I have also been thinking about what has been missing from the year’s conference, and what I may like to propose for a conference session for next year to cover that gap. Having a strong idea in mind, I begun to think about:

What does make a conference session “EXCELLENT”?

I recalled conferences that I have attended — Webwise Denver in 2010, Webwise Baltimore in 2011, Museum Computer Network 2011, Mountain-Plains Museum Association 2011 — and thought if I could still recall an insight or presentation, I think that is “great”. It could very well be that the session was just “memorable”, for some reason or another, rather than truly “excellent”… so what makes a session for attendees to walk away feeling the session was “excellent” and purposeful, and possibly also left the attendees walking away: optimistic, fulfilled, stimulated, and/or energized?

While it might be true that a conference session may be excellent in one person’s perspective and the session is not “excellent” for someone else, sometimes sessions can cause many people — no matter their background — feel universally “wow!”. I would like to work on this for a session for NEMA 2013.

I would like to contribute a really meaningful session. First thing is sorting out a “thesis” with clarity — making sure the proposed discussion is useful and relevant, and applicable for this region. Ok and… go!

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: http://shelburnemuseum.org/explore/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. http://exeter.patch.com/articles/american-independence-museum-lays-off-staff 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: http://nemuseumassociation.blogspot.com/2012/10/yeps-track-at-nema-2012.html 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.

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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?