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see for yourself: a conference adventure

Many thanks to Natalie DeRiso, Community Programs Manager at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for this guest blog post. 

As I sat down to write this blog post about attending my first annual Smithsonian Affiliations Conference, I tried to take mental stock of all the amazing things I wanted to talk about. I hemmed and hawed for a few days trying to decide what would be the most interesting to everyone reading. I thought about all I had learned just from the other attendees: the absolutely marvelous space camp program at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson; or the fact that Museum of the Rockies in Montana has one of the best dinosaur collections in the world including 12 T-Rex skeletons. There is a fabulous new facility, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, with a hands-on room that allows artists of all levels to try out instruments from around the world; and that the Las Cruces Museum System in New Mexico is way ahead of schedule in creating a new LEED-certified facility for their Science and History Museum. In fact I could probably fill multiple posts talking about all of the creative, brilliant people I met at the conference.

I could also go on for ages about the conference itself. The Smithsonian’s focus on education was invigorating, especially for a community program manager in the education department of her museum, the Heinz History Center. Every session I attended gave me something new to chew on, and pushed me to move out of my comfort zone when thinking about education in my community programs. I had a light bulb go off at one point on the most basic aspect of my job, and was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of it before!

Behind the Scenes in the paleobiology department in the National Museum of Natural History

In the end though probably the coolest thing I got to do was go behind the scenes at the National Museum of Natural History. The session itself was about the loan process for the museum. It was great to hear the insiders’ view of the loan process, and also to see that all institutions, big and small, are facing the same issues when it comes to their artifacts and archives. But for a kid who dreamed of being an archaeologist or paleontologist from a young age (I wasn’t picky, I just wanted to dig stuff up, preferably in the desert), it was mind-blowingly cool to have Kathy Hollis, Collections Manager for the Paleobiology Department, casually point out the triceratops skull we were passing.

Sometimes, in the day-to-day of museum life, we can lose track of what makes our jobs so cool. Budgets, strategic plans and meetings, while important, have a tendency to weigh heavily on us and keep us up at night. It’s easy to lose perspective, but looking into the skull of a dinosaur can certainly knock you back down to earth. We get the chance to work with amazing collections, to hear and tell remarkable stories and sometimes, on those most treasured days, it really is like being Indiana Jones.

Conference attendees snap pictures of a kited salmon at breakfast at the National Museum of the American Indian

So in the end, that’s what my blog post is all about. The conference helped breath new life into me; it gave me the much-needed opportunity to remember why I went into this field. Maybe that’s a little cheesy but what else would you expect from a girl whose ring tone is still Raiders of the Lost Ark ?

 

affiliates in the news: week of July 12

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week! 

The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion will consist of a build-out of the existing 940 Magazine St. warehouse.

National World War II Museum (New Orleans, LA)
For the past 10 years, visitors to the National World War II Museum have gazed upon such carefully restored artifacts as tanks, Jeeps and Higgins landing craft.By next spring, they should be able to watch restorers preparing those treasures for prime time…READ MORE

Frazier International History Museum (Louisville, KY)
WKU graduate student selected for prestigious Smithsonian internship…READ MORE 

MSU paleontologist Jack Horner and team arrive in August 2007 at a site on the Hell Creek Ranch to excavate a Triceratops (Photo by Lon Bolick)

Museum of the Rockies(Bozeman, MT)
MSU finds Triceratops, Torosaurus were different stages of one dinosaur… READ MORE

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science (Raleigh, NC)
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Tuesday introduced the director of its new Nature Research Center and accepted a $1.5 million gift to support the centerREAD MORE  

Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN)
Kids often hear “Look, don’t touch.” At Conner Prairie, families are encouraged to explore with all their senses…READ MORE

New York State Museum (Albany, NY)
A New York State Museum paleontologist has become the only scientist in the U.S. selected to participate in an all-expense paid research program in Spain that will enable him to investigate the effects of climate change on mammals over the last 2 million yearsREAD MORE 

 

Francis Koenig, founder of AnnMarie Garden, lived long enough to see the first permanent sculpture installed as he requested, a sculpture fountain dedicated to the oyster tongers. (Annmarie Garden, Baltimore Sun / July 14, 2010)

Annmarie Garden(Solomons, MD)
…Today, Annmarie Garden is a Southern Maryland gem – a woodland preserve dotted with art ranging from world-class sculptures to whimsical fairy houses created by staff…READ MORE