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Your Guide to the Future at the 2014 Annual Meeting

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
 It’s time for my yearly list of “sessions I would go to if I weren’t helping to run the meeting.”
(And remember, if you aren’t going to the conference, you can still sign up to visit MuseumExpo via telepresence robot, courtesy of Suitable Technologies. Contact Vanessa Jones if you want to sign up for one of the available time slots.)
First, here’s what I’m up to in Seattle, in case you want to find me:
Sunday May 18, 3:30 – 4:45 pm
Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem
Conference Center, LL#3
I’ll be joined by Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer at The Henry Ford, and Nathan Ritchie, Director of the Golden History Museums and chair of EdCom, to discuss the newly released report Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem. In addition to sharing our personal and institutional visions of how we can integrate museums into a “Vibrant Learning Grid,” we’ll be soliciting guidance from attendees on how AAM can contribute to this effort, and news of what strategies are working in your communities.
Monday May 19,
8:45 – 10:00 am
TrendsWatch 2014: Your Annual Glimpse of the Future
Conference Center, Room 304
I hope you’ve had a chance to read this year’s report—it covers some pretty mind-bending trends. You can download the free PDF or the free app, (which illustrates the trends with related videos!) or pick up a print copy from the Bookstore at the meeting. I can’t cover all the report’s content in one session (and I won’t try)—what I will do is update the report with news I’ve spotted since it came out in March, as well as sharing my thoughts about how museums might take advantage of these trends. 
1:45 – 3 p.m.
Big Data: The Next Frontier
Conference Center, LL4
In this session I get to introduce some really savvy people who are figuring out how to use data analytics for the good of their institutions and the field. I’ll be joined by Beth Tuttle, from the Cultural Data Project, Donna Powell, from the Northwest Trek Animal Park, Rob Stein from the Dallas Museum of Art, and John Lucas, from Avnet.
When I’m not presenting, I’ll mostly be hanging out in the Alliance’s Resource Center in MuseumExpo, where CFM is orchestrating three demonstrations (embedded links lead to blog posts on each): telepresence robots, drones, and a playful exploration of the “Internet of Future Things.” (My thanks to Suitable Technologies for their invaluable assistance with the robot demo, and to GeLo for making the “Things” possible.)
Here are a run down of sessions I would attend if I weren’t riding herd on robots:
Any time Janet Carding, Seb Chan, Kathy McLean, Susie Serriff and Marsha Bol get together, something great is bound to happen, so I’d flag their session on Tough Times, New Ideas: Experiments in Organizational Change on Monday at 8:45 a.m. It’s an important topic. I am confident these guys will have good ideas to share.
Anyone who follows trends about historic house museums knows these institutions are experiencing tough times. There seem to be too many houses, not enough money, and a shrinking number of people who relate to the traditional methods of interpreting these sites. Monday at 1:45 p.m. Sheryl Hack of Connecticut Landmarks is guiding a discussion with Robert Kiihne (USS Constitution Museum), Kate Whitman (Atlanta History Center) and Susie Wilkening (Reach Advisors) on new ways of enlivening historic houses, and revitalizing the genre–Banishing Guided Tours: New Audiences for House Museums. (See also the related session Tuesday at 3:15 p.m., The Future of History. Susie is on that panel, too.)
As a fan of the MuseoPunks podcast, I would not be able to resist the opportunity to hear what punk-host Jeff Inscho (Carnegie Museum of Art) has to say in Crowdsourcing to Community Sourcing: Engaging Visitor Input (Tuesday, 8:45 a.m.) He’s speaking with Lori Phillips from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—I already love her work, and it would give me the opportunity to know Daniel Davis from the National Museum of the American Indian, and Petra Pankow from Montclair Art Museum.
One of the strengths of professional conferences is that we museumers all get together to talk to each other. That’s a weakness, too, though. One of the best sessions I went to last year was run by teens who highjack museum resources to create programs for their peers. This year, I’d like to poke my head in on Cultural Conversations with Teens(Tuesday, 10:15 a.m.) to hear from another group of emerging museum stakeholders. But I’d also like to drop in on the NMC Horizon Report> 2013 Museum Edition (same time) which will highlight examples of museums using emerging technologies.
Conferences should be fun, as well as useful. Tuesday afternoon (1:45 p.m.) I’d head for a session that promised to be both, as Ed Rodley (Peabody Essex Museum) and Judy Rand (Rand Associates) moderate a session in which Eric Siegel (New York Hall of Science), Nina Simon (Santa Cruz Museum of Science and History) and Catherine Hughes (Conner Prairie) answer the question “I Wish Somebody Had Told Me…” [when I started in museums]. And there will be an open mic…
I’m very heartened to see several sessions celebrating failure. I’m a big fan of a) being willing to fail and b) sharing what’s learned from those adventures. Fail Early, Often and Off-Broadway (Tues, 1:45 p.m.) will help fill that need, while at Mistakes Were Made (Tues, 3:15) a crowdsourced contest will award the “AAM Epic Failure Trophy of 2014.” (Which, now that I know it exists, I officially endorse.)
Wednesday, I’ve pegged three sessions related to trends followed by CFM. The Itinerate Museum (8:45 a.m.) explores the concept of peripatetic museums. (You may remember TrendsWatch 2012 featured the trend of all sorts of culture “taking to the streets.”) At 10:15 a.m. you can cheer yourself up with a look at Happiness, Sustainability and the Museum Professional. (I’m a longtime fan of the Happy Museum Project, and the Jane Addams Hull-House is exploring related concepts in its current “Slow Museum” project as part of Innovation Lab for Museums.) Also at 10:15, Open to the Public! Museums and Open Content looks at a topic I’m just starting to get up to speed on: a movement aimed at making content freely available via online platforms. (You can also delve into theory, practice and examples related to this trend at The Power of Open Data Sets, Tuesday at 8:45 a.m.)
Since I can’t get to these sessions, I’m asking you to be my eyes and ears. Please tweet insights (add the #futureofmuseums as well as #aam2014 if you can spare the characters). And tell me if you think any of these sessions, or projects highlighted in them, ought to be shared via a post on the CFM Blog.
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Now, I gotta go watch Michael practice flying the drone…see you in Seattle!

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