Conference ideas

Affiliations staff have the privilege of attending regional museum conferences throughout the year, which help to keep us in touch with potential issues facing affiliates.  This year, affiliations staff have attended at least six regional conferences across the nation.  

As expected, the conferences offered tons of ideas and stimulated the energy to try them!  We’ll be sharing those ideas in preparation for the Affiliations conference June 3-5, 2007.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of the most striking ideas I heard.

The question that stays with me still from my conference-attending this year was, how can museums become more like libraries, which are, more and more, taking on the role as the true civic centers of our time?

This is not an abstract concept – in my travels last year from Grand Lake, Colorado to New Milford, Connecticut, “LIBRARY” meant the same thing, almost like a brand.  Seek out the library in whatever town you’re in, and you already know that you can check email with free internet access;  a bulletin board will announce community events that might be of interest;  you can work on a report or budget if necessary at one of the computers, even if it’s old;  you can check out headlines through local and major papers;  you can get a flavor of the local community through the exhibitions or children’s work on view;  and most importantly, if you just want quiet to prepare or unwind, there’s no better place – a Starbucks can’t even provide that.  And the other great thing about libraries – they are centrally located and there are an appropriate number of them; competition among them seems irrelevant. 

Of course museums have different missions, and different contraints, from libraries.  But in general, libraries are easy to find, always free and reliable, and accessible and welcoming to all ages, races and classes.  Imagine if we could describe the nation’s museums in similar terms?!

I kept thinking about this at other conferences, and attended meetings on ‘mainstreaming’ and ‘contemporary anthropology’ which posed great ideas – let’s make gift cards for our museums available at the local Target or grocery store.  Let’s stop dictating what a “family” membership entails, when 75% of American families are nontraditional.  Let’s use data on generational values to influence programming, building in community service to our family events. 

So let’s hear it – what ideas did you garner from conferences this year?  What would you like to see at the Affiliations conference?!