Tuesday, April 24, 2012

AAM Conversations: Want to Talk?

(No relation to AAM. Just cute.)
I'm heading this weekend to the American Association of Museums conference in Minneapolis. I'm psyched to spend a few days with friends and colleagues talking about some of the challenges we're grappling with in our work. I'll also be part of two sessions on Tuesday, May 1 - one in the morning about money and business models, and one in the afternoon about prototyping and experimentation.

I'm bringing a few big questions with me to AAM this year. If any of these are questions that you are working on or thinking about, I'd love to find some time during the conference to sit down and talk. As I've spent more time in the AAM community, I've developed some really deep friendships--which is good--but it also means that I am less likely to spend much time at conferences with people I don't know. I hope this year that some of these questions can introduce me to new people and new ideas.

Here's what I'd love to explore at AAM this year:
  • Event-driven models for museums. About 85% of visitors to our museum attend through a program/event. How prevalent is this? What should we be thinking about as we respond to community demand for events? What role will exhibitions play in this kind of institution? What's the chicken and what's the egg when it comes to events, exhibitions, and museum hours?
  • Participatory history programming. Over the past year, we've found it fairly easy to invent and sustain participatory art and craft projects. We're having a harder time doing the same with history, especially when it comes to drop-in or single-night activities. I'd love to learn more about what other organizations are doing to invite casual, active participation in history. UPDATE! THIS TOPIC IS SO POPULAR THAT WE WILL HAVE A MEETUP ON SUNDAY, APRIL 29 TO DISCUSS. MEET IN CONVENTION CENTER LOBBY B, OUTSIDE THE AUDITORIUM, AT 1:30 FOR A ONE-HOUR INFORMAL DISCUSSION. NO RSVP REQUIRED. TEXT 831.331.5460 IF YOU CAN'T FIND US.
  • Ethics of civic action. My institution is increasingly partnering with local cause-based organizations, especially in the social services. How should we be thinking about the ethics of who we partner with (and who we don't)? How do we deal with the blending of personal and institutional goals when it comes to contributing to efforts to improve the whole community?
  • Working with teams through change. We've undergone a pretty radical transformation over the past year. People (including me) are energized but tired, too. What should I be thinking about as a manager who wants to keep pushing forward but also wants everyone to feel supported and not burned out?
  • Fundraising with a community. Our museum is becoming increasingly community-driven in our programming and the way we engage with visitors on a daily basis. Our fundraising, however, is not moving in that direction. To what extent is it realistic or desirable to broaden our funding base? Should we think of ourselves as a client service organization (where visitors are clients and the support comes from others) or a "by and for the community" organization? This will come up somewhat in the Tuesday 9am Show Me the Money session, but I thought I'd raise it as a general question too.
If you want to talk about any of these questions too, awesome. I don't care what type of institution you are from or what your experience is, or even if you are attending the conference. I just care about having good conversations and learning from each other. Sunday April 29 is looking especially good for me for some meaty chats--let me know. Thanks!

p.s. If you are interested in interning/working at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and want to talk briefly about that at AAM, I'm open to that too.


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