Thursday, February 20, 2014

Professional Development…at the Beach!

     Occasionally, I get to take a little time away from the museum to attend workshops or conferences.  They are good opportunities for keeping up with the latest information on museum policies and artifact care, for making new contacts at other institutions, and for getting a fresh perspective on museum issues.  I was fortunate (and thankful!) this year to win the Peter H. Plamondon Professional Development Scholarship so that I could attend this year’s Small Museum Association conference in Ocean City, Maryland.  I was also happy that my colleague, Tom, could attend the conference as well!

It was a three hour drive from Frederick, so Tom & I were glad when we caught a glimpse of Ocean City!

Even in winter, this is the kind of view you want from your hotel room!
In the keynote address the first morning we learned about what some teenagers thought about their visits to various museums and historic houses.  We were surprised to learn that they aren’t necessarily drawn to technology.  Tom & I were not surprised to hear that what they really want is for their museum experience to relate to them and to their lives.  That’s a familiar concept to us at our museum, for visitors of all ages!
     Another part of attending the conference is meeting with the museum vendors.  I got to see some new products and to sign up for some new programs.  There were some interesting “freebies” as well.  I always appreciate those! 

My choice for the best giveaway was these “thumb tacks” from Dorfman Museum Figures!
     The rest of the time consisted of workshops and roundtables.  I usually attend all of the ones which deal with collections issues, but I branched out this year and also attended one on using Wikipedia for museums, and one on museum grant opportunities.  I got a lot of good information which I can use, and which I can share with my coworkers.

     The most eye-opening session for me was the roundtable “The Past, Present, and Future of Small Museums” in which we discussed many of the changes we’ve seen in the museum world over the years.  There was a wide range of experience represented, from college students who haven’t yet landed their first job, to people with over 30 years in the field.  The difficulty in finding a paying museum job was one of the topics discussed.  It is not news to me that no one goes into museum work to get rich!  However, I was a little surprised when one of the panel members asked to see a show of hands for those who are “lucky enough to have a full-time, paid museum job.”  Several of us started to raise our hands, until she added, “with benefits?”  Most of us put our hands back down.  This led to a discussion about ways we could possibly change that.  While we didn’t solve all of the museum world’s problems in that session, at least we could see that we weren’t alone in our frustration!  

     On the last night of the conference, we got to cut loose a bit at the banquet.  Since this year is the 30th anniversary of the SMA’s conference, the theme for the banquet was the 1980s, and we were encouraged to come dressed in our best ‘80s costumes.

In keeping with the theme, Tom & I went as Carmen Sandiego and Indiana Jones!
     It was tough to leave the beach, but still good to get back to the museum.  I've got a few new ideas to try!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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