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CSISOS: Cool Sessions in Search of Speakers

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

The call for proposals for the AAM 2013 annual meeting closes on Friday, Aug. 24. As I’ve explained in an earlier post, this year AAM is encouraging people to post early drafts of their ideas and refine them with crowdsourced input. As I write, there are over 150 proposals in the system. With only one week left to go for comments and revisions, I’m using today’s post to highlight some proposals that I think are particularly interesting and futures-oriented, for which the organizers are still looking for input or speakers.

Elissa Frankle and Tim Rhue want to tackle The Future of Museum Education with roundtable discussions on topics that came up in the idea lounge they orchestrated at AAM 2012: access, resources, standards, museum education as a profession, interdisciplinary work and teaching, and metrics. The discussions will explore the role of museums in the shifting educational landscape of the U.S., and how we, as institutions, need to change. They’re still looking for people “seasoned or new to the field” who take a forward-looking approach to museum education, willing to serve as “provocateurs” to lead the roundtable.

In a session with the lovely name of From Memoir to Exquisite Corpses, Jason Porter proposes to use the newly introduced storytelling format to showcase institutions that have taken a bold risk by sharing authority for exhibit content with visitors, volunteers and “unlikely partners in the field.” Jason would love to hear from volunteers willing to tell stories of how their organizations experimented – succeeded or not- in ways that “forced the conversation to shift outside the normal confines of the museum.”

I went to a great session at last year’s meeting—Mistakes Were Made: Sharing Cringe-Worthy Examples—in which organizer Sean Kelly encouraged speakers and the audience to share examples of professional mistakes. I loved this because to foster innovation the museum field has to create an environment in which risk-taking, and failure is ok. Creating this climate of trust is going to take sustained effort, so I am pleased that Guy Hermann of Museum Insights has proposed a session for Baltimore titled simply “Museum Failures,” to promote sharing and learning from each other’s epic fails. If you are willing to stand up and ‘fess up about a project or strategy that didn’t work, please contact Guy.

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Since the 2013 meeting is devoted to “Storytelling, I’m looking forward exploring the many ways that museum collections can be used to tell stories, beyond the “just the facts, ma’am” approach of the ur-traditional label. Therefore I sat up and paid attention when I came to the proposal by Claude Faubert, No Shame: Collections out of the Closet. Claude is looking for presenters interested in sharing ideas for “reconnecting museums with their collections.” He’s lined up someone from the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation to present a number of recent initiatives, including the Reading Artifacts Summer Institute and More than an Object. I’d like to hear from people who’ve devised distinctly non-traditional ways to connect people with collections: maybe museum lending “libraries” like that at the Hull-House Museum in Chicago, or the Clare Twomey exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which invited members of the public to become owners of one of over a thousand replicas of a cup from the museum’s permanent collection, committing to care for it forever, just as the museum promised when it accepted the original artifact.

I’m still keeping an eye on CFM’s inaugural theme of gamification (did you see our recent update on Jane McGonigal?) so I’m pleased to see that John Macabee, founder of CityMystery proposes to explore Digital storytelling: Expanding a museum’s vocabulary. John’s area of expertise is transmedia games (also known as ARGs—alternate reality games). He’s looking for presenters to add their own stories to his narrative of how museums can use their digital spaces (website, social media) to create missions that recruit people to conduct research, explore museum resources and make connections between different institutions.

Finally, I spotted this session, totally in synch with CFM’s tagline (…because museums can change the world)  Museums as Advocates for Social Change. Katherine Brown from Walsh University is looking for three speakers –one each from a small, medium and large museum—to give “flash” presentations on how their museums have tackled social issues like human trafficking, obesity, or finding homes for children in need of foster parents.

You’ll notice I’ve encourage you to contact the session originators via email (their addresses are embedded in their names). That’s because—true confessions—there is no easy way to find an individual session among all those that have been submitted. You basically have to browse. I don’t want you to get discouraged looking for a session, and bailing before finding it.

And yes, that’s not the only glitchy part of the proposal site—I know, I made it malfunction at least five ways while putting in the CFM proposals! The site is very “beta”—a work in progress. In a weird way I’m proud of this. It’s an example of AAM being willing to do rapid prototyping of a concept (in this case, crowdsourced feedback on session proposals) before putting a lot of (your) money into elaborate site design. This first attempt is kind of clunky and hard to navigate. But it was a fast and inexpensive way to test the idea of crowdsourced input. If you tell us “love the concept, hate the tech” we’ll know it’s worth putting money into a more elaborate design for next year. So, thank you for your patience, and your feedback. And get ready to vote for your favorite proposals in September.

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1 Comment

  1. Is there a tech FAQ for the proposal site? I like the big idea of letting people raise their hand for a session and have others tag on. Unfortunately I'm having a heckuva time with technical issues.

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