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Your Guide to the Future at the AAM Annual Meeting 2016

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
It’s so great to be having the annual meeting in DC this year! I look forward to showing you around my home turf and sharing some of local museum treasures during receptions, evening events and offsite programs on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. (Also, may I just say, PANDAS.) As I do each year, today I’m sharing some recommendations for sessions related to foresight, with special attention to themes featured in the CFM TrendsWatch reports. If your cursor is still hovering over the annual meeting page, maybe this preview will nudge you to hit “register now” (advanced registration closes April 29). If you’re already signed up, I hope these suggestions help you plan your schedule.
Great Hall, Smithsonian Castle
I’m presenting a couple of sessions (details below)—but most of the rest of the time I will be hanging out in the AAM Resource Center in MuseumExpo, helping with the CFM demo on museum labor issues being organized by ACLS Public Fellow and CFM Museum Futurist Nicole Ivy. I hope you will stop by and say hello to both of us! I would love to hear first-hand how you are using CFM’s content in your work, and your thoughts about what we should tackle next.
And remember, it’s not all about the sessions. In this world of ubiquitous content, much of the value of face-to-face meetings lies in networking, socializing and the serendipity of random encounters. Be sure to peruse the awards ceremonies, breakfasts, luncheons receptions, “onsite insights” at local museums on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when plotting out your time.
US Botanic Garden
One indicator of a healthy meeting is the number of ancillary activities that pop-up around the edges, so I’m pleased to see people taking advantage of the critical mass of great museum minds gathered in DC to plan additional meetings, discussions and social events. You can find some of these listed on the conference website under meetups and other activities (so far the listings include Happy Hour with the PR and Marketing Network and LGBTQ cocktails, both on Friday night). If you are planning something you want to throw open to other attendees, you can submit information for listing on that page as well.
With that, on to some recommendations:
Thursday May 26
8:45 – 10 am: Explore the Future of Ability, Disability and Accessibility. Yes, a shameless plug for my own session on a topic about which I am passionate. I will be joined by Day Al Mohamed, senior policy advisor at the US Department of Labor, Beth Ziebarth, director of the Smithsonian’s Accessibility Program and (I hope) a special cybernetic guest yet-to-be-named. We will examine both how museums can play a leadership role by standing at the forefront of disability rights, and how, in the future, visitors will experience the museum with a wider spectrum of assistive and augmentive technologies.
1 – 2:15 pm: Future Choices: Enacting Best Practices for the Profession will look at the future of environmentally sustainable practices in the museum field. The panelists will summarize the  progress of PIC Green in exploring the creation of standards on environmental sustainability, and will solicit input from the audience at this session to fold into that ongoing process. With: John Fraser of New Knowledge, Dan Yaeger of NEMA, Carter O’Brien from the FMNH, and Ron Kagan from the Detroit Zoo.
2:45 – 4 pm: One Conference, One Book. I pick this session not so much for the subject (though The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack is an excellent book, and raises important issues about ownership, representation, economic justice and exploitation) but because of the format. This is a book club discussion, and you are asked to read the book before the conference. This fuels my thinking that in the future, conferences will increasingly focus on things better done face-to-face than online.
Friday May 27
8:45 am: Reducing Hiring Bias in Museums. CFM’s ACLS Public Fellow Dr. Nicole Ivy chairs this session, sharing tools to help combat the unintended bias that plays a role in suppressing diversity in museum staff. She will be joined by Anne Gregory from Gap Jumpers and Kieran Snyder from Textio—both companies that deploy tech tools to support equitable hiring—and by Suezette Robotham, a specialist in nonprofit hiring and career coaching. After the session, you can segue to in the AAM Resource Center of MuseumExpo, where the panelists will be available for some one-on-one counselling on unbiased hiring.
I’m looking forward to Ralph Nader’s talk from 2-3:15 pm. Mr. Nader has been a tireless crusader for reform, and his most recent book—Just Unjust—is a scathing take the ways that increasing inequalities in wealth and power are reshaping our society. (And now he is one of us, having founded the American Museum of Tort Law just last year.)
Phillips Collection
Saturday, May 28
8:45 am: Taking the Guesswork Out of Audience Building will focus on how nonprofits can use research can find the sweet-spot where mission and market intersect. In addition to this being an important topic (hitting the hot buttons of relevance, attendance and financial stability), it’s a chance to hear from people outside our field (another thing I think conferences should do more of in the future). Ellen Walker from the Pacific Northwest Ballet will be joined by Chris Taylor from the Clay Studio in Philadelphia to share insights from research funded by the Wallace Foundation.
11 am: Influence with Integrity: Models for Museum-based Youth Development Programs. This session takes a broad look at how museums can support youth in their communities in a wide variety of ways, including mentoring and providing leadership opportunities. This is, of course, of interest to me as CFM explores a future of education in which museums play a starring role. (I particularly like that the programs featured in this session value social, cognitive and emotional support, not just academic training.) Presented by: Ken Sturgeon Pacific Science Center, Linda Aaron Gillis and Madlyn Runburg Natural History Museum of Utah, Jen Kretser of The Wild Center, Molly Dickerson of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
2:00 pm: Pivot Point: Preparing to Engage Contemporary Issues tackles the annual meeting themes of power, authority and social justice head on. How can museums expand their role in civil and social engagement? How can we manage justifiable fears about the risks of tackling explosive topics in the midst of social unrest, and help everyone, from staff to board, feel confident about taking risks? Featuring: Paul Martin, Science Museum of Minnesota; Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site; Estevan Rael-Galvez, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Missouri Historical Society and Museum
At 3:45 pm I hope you join me for a guided tour of TrendsWatch 2016, when I will riff on this year’s themes and provide updates on how they’ve unfolded in the months since publication. (You can download the PDF copy for free of course, but if you want a print copy as well, they will be available at the AAM Bookstore in MuseumExpo. This year we’ll be offering bundled sets of the first five editions of TrendsWatch (and I’ll happy to autograph them :P).  
As always, it’s hard to pick, and there are many, many more excellent sessions you will find in the program. Next week Nicole provide additional recommendations, this time for sessions related to CFM’s demo, which this year will focus on museum labor issues. In her post Nicole will also share more information about that interactive discussion, which will take place in the AAM Showcase whenever MuseumExpo is open: Thursday 10 – 5 Friday 12 – 5 Saturday 9 – 12.
Hope to see you here in DC next month.
Yours from the future,

                                                             (See? Panda, waiting to say “hi” ¯ )  

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