I just returned from lovely Portland Maine and the annual New England Museum Association conference. One of the things I admire most about this conference is how honest people are – participants and presenters. I so frequently heard comments like, “ultimately, the program didn’t work so well” or “yeah, we found that the particular board model we adopted wasn’t functional in the end” or “if you can’t get good feedback from your community on an exhibition, maybe they’re just not into it and you should let it go.” How refreshing to share mistakes so everyone can learn from them!
Other highlights? The keynote speaker, Harold Skramstad, president emeritus of the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. He talked about how outdated so many museum missions are – the old “collect, preserve, interpret” line just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, he challenged participants to think about what is their organization’s ‘value add’ to their community, as defined by the community itself.
A braintrust from MIT presented on new technologies for museums. They seem to be heading into Web 3.0! They are far beyond podcasting and blogs, and into the ubitiquous media-rich immersive environments such as the Spy Experience in DC or The Tomb experience in Boston. Fascinating stuff – here’s a sample.
My favorite quote came from a session with Mystic Seaport and our Rhode Island Affiliate, Heritage Harbor. The presenters urged the audience to be absolutely ruthless in self-analysis of what you have, what you can truly do with it, and who will care. The earlier this analysis is done, and the more ruthless it is, the more time and money will be saved and allocated wisely. Hard core museum talk indeed!