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Your Guide to the Future at the Annual Meeting

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

At the AAM annual meeting next month, I’ll be spending much of my time at the AAM Showcase in MuseumExpo™, hanging out with the Drawing Club—our 2012 Artists Interpreting the Future of Museums. I hope you visit the Showcase and take up a brush (or crayon, or pen) to contribute to this participatory project illustrating potential futures. You can read more about Drawing Club at the Annual Meeting here. (This is the year of participatory art in MuseumExpo™—The Museum Group is also sponsoring an installation by the Flux Foundation.)

I also hope you go to a crazy number of great sessions.

I am, as usual, offering a few recommendations to help you put together your own “futurist track” at the annual meeting. But this year there are more futures-oriented sessions than I can possibly list here. Some, particularly those related to technology—augmented reality, digitization, data sharing, mobile devices—I trust you to spot for yourselves.

So here is my “curated” list of sessions, one or two per time slot, some of which may not be the obvious futurist picks. Some feature interesting folks who have worked with or written for CFM over the past few years, some relate to the newly released CFM Report TrendsWatch 2012: Museums & the Pulse of the Future. Some just look way cool.

Sunday, April 29

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1:15–2:30 p.m.

  • Bringin’ It All Back Home: Acknowledging Your Online Support Community—will “explore the intersections of meaningful social networks and our member and donor bases.” The panel includes two fabulous guys who are on my “must read” list for their tweets and blogging, James Leventhal (@jamesgleventhal) and Sebastian Chan (@sebchan).

Monday, April 30

9–10:15 a.m.

2–3:15 p.m.

  • The Decentralized Museum—exploring the “museum as network of locations and experiences.” Panel includes Maria Mortati, founder of the SF Mobile Museum and CFM guest blogger.
  • Dangerous/Ridiculous: Risky Ideas Catalyze Change, which looks at the need for museum leaders to take risks, and to create and implement ridiculous ideas that can lead to outrageous success. One of the presenters, Kathy McLean, was a member of the selection panel for round 1 of Innovation Lab for Museums. (For that matter, so was Maria Mortati, of the Decentralized Museum session, above.)

5:15–6:15 p.m.

  • Idea Lounge: Writing a Museums Ethics Code for the Future
    Sally Yerkovich, of the Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University, joined by a host of able facilitators, will preside over a discussion of the report from the IME/CFM Forecast on the Future of Museum Ethics. This discussion may shake loose the first pebbles in an avalanche that leads to the next revision of the AAM Code of Ethics for Museums.

Tuesday, May 1

9–10:15 a.m.

  • Experimental Projects: Creating a Community of Practice features undertakings that “transcend traditional categorizations by blending artistic, public programming, curatorial and educational frameworks.” I believe you will learn a bit more about the Drawing Club—the CFM artists in the AAM Showcase—which is part of the Walker Art Center’s Open Field project.
  • New Roles/New Culture: Tackling Tough Topics and Engaging New Audiences  features Emily Zimmern of the Levine Museum of the New South, which is one of six museums recognized by AAM for its Innovation Project of Excellence last year. 
  • Show Me the Money: Straight Talk about Museum Business Models. Everyone wants to know what the future financial model for museums is. This session promises to look at “experiments in new approaches to fundraising, income streams, open books management, and budgeting.” It also features two more of my favorite speakers—Nina Simon and Eric Siegel.

10:4512 p.m.

  • Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User Generated World. I’m flagging this one because the issue of sharing authority is emerging as one of THE hot button topics discussed in and around CFM content. John Durel recently identified authority sharing as one of the top ten issues challenging the public history field.

23:15 p.m.

  • Radical Collaboration: Building Art through Community/Building Community through Art an interactive session with the Flux Foundation (which is mounting one of the participatory art projects in MuseumExpo™, sponsored by The Museum Group) about their collaborative approach to public art.

Wednesday, May 2

910:15 a.m.

  • Building a Healthy Future: Museums and Communities Tackle Issues of Wellness. I will moderate this session, which is the next installment in Feeding the Spirit, CFM’s ongoing exploration  of museums, food & community. Lisa Falk will discuss the Arizona State Museum’s efforts to help Native American and Latino youth combat obesity (and will give away a limited number of the project’s comic book). Jane Pickering will profile the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History’s fabulous exhibit Big Food: Health Culture and the Evolution of Eating.
  • Museum as Sanctuary: Expanding Museum Communities with Programming for Refugees. One of the programs profiled in this session, from the Tucson Museum of Art, was designated an Innovation Project of Excellence by AAM last year.
  • Wikipedia and the Museum: Lessons from Wikipedians in Residence  Lori Byrd Phillips’ CFM blog post on wikipedians was incredibly popular. In this session you can hear from Lori and other early pioneers of this new museum staff position. 

10:4512 p.m.

  • Future Engagement: The Latest From Brands, Games, and Entertainment is an opportunity to hear from people outside the museum field—brand marketing, live entertainment and alternate reality gaming, to be precise. One of the panelists, Jonathan Salem Baskin, has shared some of his thoughts about museums on the CFM Blog.
  • Mistakes Were Made: Sharing Cringe-worthy Examples. Museums don’t celebrate failure enough, and if we aren’t willing to take chances and fail, how can we really try new things? Three panelists will bravely share their own epic fails, and invite you to bring stories of your own belly flops, and what you learned. I want to go to this one. Yes, I will bring a story of failure.

And if, in between all the sessions and evening events and parties, you would like to share your thoughts with me about the future of museums, drop me a line at and we will work out a time to meet up.

Remember, the deadline to preregister for the meeting is this Friday, March 30.

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