Today I’m going to be live-blogging from the AAM Conference, to take a look at what a full day of events can look like. This isn’t to say I’m the “normal” conference attendee (or even the opposite, I can’t say how typical my process is), just one example of how a conference day can be structured from start to finish. I hope you’ll follow along as I post updates periodically!
7:00 am - Today’s alarm went off at 7am. This was actually fairly late for me on a conference day, but there weren’t any networking or Skills Lab events this morning I was particularly intrigued by (that’s usually what’s available in the morning without pre-registration, like an official breakfast would need). So I took the chance to get some (much needed) sleep to recharge before what’s going to be a long day. I’m also making sure to get breakfast this morning, as a quick glance at my schedule makes lunch questionable today. I have granola bars and bananas that I bought at Target a few nights ago (the proximity of this convention to a Target in the first place feels nothing short of miraculous), and tea I brought from home. I’m also making sure that all electronics are charged – laptop, phone, and camera. From here, I already feel like it’s going to be a great, but busy day!
8:40 am – Arrival at the conference center. Today feels a bit calmer than the last two days, with the registration booths almost empty. A few places are hopping with activity though, a networking event for Development and Marketing staff members, and the coffee shop.
9:00 am – I decided to grab 20 minutes of a session before having to get on a bus to my on-site insight (essentially, field trip!). ”Show Me the Money: Straight Talk about Museum Business Models.” Because I know I have to leave early, I’ve got a seat in the very back near a door so I can go without disrupting anyone. As soon as I sit down I realize this is going to be a fun session; without knowing it I’ve walked into Nina Simon’s Tuesday morning presentation and within five minutes the place is hopping and seats are disappearing, and at 9:02am it’s standing room only. I should have been able to guess before even looking at the stage, due to the distinctive hip hop music that I remember led up to her presentation last year.
The presenters are Ellen Rosenthal (Conner Prairie, $9 million budget), Eric Seigel (New York Hall of Science, $17 million budget), and Nina (Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, $850K). Surprisingly all three places spend their money in similar proportions, but each raised their money in strikingly different ways. NYSCI does so through grants, Conner Prairie through investments, and SCMAH through contributions. Each of the presenters is outlining their museum’s financial history, after which they’re going to open up the topic to audience questions. Unfortunately, I only get half-way through the second presenter’s section, and then I need to go!
9:30 am - Now I’m about to board the bus for my first on-site insight this year. I’m going to the Minnesota Science Center for a workshop on live presentations, and boy am I excited about this trip! Since I work in a science center now, I’m always eager to see examples of outreach and programs at the museum itself, as opposed to reading about it online. Pre-registration was required for $15, so I had signed up for this event back in February before knowing much about what the competing sessions looked like. That’s why I only got 20 minutes at my last session. Sometimes that’s the choice you have to make though, and the chance to visit a nationally renowned science museum was too good to pass up!
I’ll be back around noon to let you know how it went.
11:45 am – I’m back at the convention center, where I did have a chance to grab a sandwich luckily. The science museum was great fun, with learning about their live show program and the public and administrative sides of it. I got to meet a pirate, and it was as entertaining as you can imagine. Their professional actors were so good, I could see why 75% of visitors to the museum say the improvisational performers are their favorite part of an exhibit (in this case, free-range pirates who are just in the temporary exhibit, talking to people).
Now I’m waiting for noon when the Expo Hall reopens, and plan to go to the Center for the Future of Museums drawing club and probably to add more to Colony, the participatory art/meaning assemblage. My next official session starts at 2pm, so I actually have a few hours to network, relax, and and just continue connecting with other people here.
2:00 pm – The last two hours have been great for networking. I spent half an hour catching up with our EMP guide at AAM Guzel DuChateau. I spoke briefly with Elizabeth Merritt from the Center for the Future of Museums and drew dinosaurs living in the exhibits of the future. Then I spent a while in the Expo Hall actually looking around and connecting with vendors, while casually running into other EMPs and chatting occasionally. One of the booths was offering free cake pops, and this was a serious boost on a slow afternoon. People in museums always talk about the importance of food in making people feel welcome and comfortable, and at the conference (even for museum people themselves) this usually proves to be true. People flock to food.
Now I’m sitting in “Success in a Development Office of One,” with executive directors from the Dakota County Historical Society, Golden History Museums, Winona County Historical Society, and the president of the Museum Trustee Association. They’re going to talk about three topics – development plans, capital campaigns for small museums, and the role of trustees in fund raising – and then open it up for discussion and questions.
3:30 pm - I’m writing this part ahead of time, but I’ll be down in the AAM Showcase of the Expo Hall to meet with anyone interested in the EMP blog! I’d love to hear from people who might want to contribute, those who have ideas for posts or series, or just anyone with questions about the EMP movement. If you’re at the conference, come say hello!
4:45 pm – I ducked back to my room to drop off my bag and freshen up for the events that night, after which I went to the “Future of Museum Education” roundtable discussion at 5:15. That was a fantastic session, where we all called out topics that we believed were important to the field, the facilitators picked 6 categories that captured the majority of the topics, and we had 45 minutes in small groups to discuss where we thought museum education was heading within our category. I picked standards (no surprise for me), and it was a lively discussion about whether further national education standards would stifle creativity and diversity (as the book, National Standards and Best Practices suggests).
6:15 pm - Then it was time to quickly board the bus to the Mill City Museum evening event, which was phenomenal. Good food and dessert, amazing live demonstrations and a tour that would blow your mind. We also talked to the building’s architect, explored the gift shop, and took a million pictures.
9:30 pm - My little group (which included the EMP Phoenix president), tried to get out to the EdComm fundraiser after leaving Mill City, but it was pouring rain with a lot of lightening. So instead, we decided to grab food and drinks at one of the hotels next to the convention center, and continued networking and learning more about each other’s museums and positions. It was a nice, quiet way to spend the last evening of the conference.
11:30 pm – Back at my hotel room, and ready to sleep! I only have one session in the morning, an on-site insight with the Children’s Museum, and the buses leave at 8:30 am. Thanks for following me today, and I hope you’ve either had fun at the conference or enjoyed keeping up with people on twitter and facebook and engaging attendees in conversation about what they’re learning.