The 2018 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo is a time to learn from and with thousands of your closest friends—museum enthusiasts, professionals, and newcomers to the scene. The scene changes from year to year within the US—at times it’s on the East Coast near the Alliance headquarters, and other times it’s perhaps in a city near you. Either way, it’s always somewhere fascinating that can teach us a lot about different kinds of museum environments.
With such a vast and crucial extended network of colleagues (DivCom’s membership totals more than 1,000 people and AAM’s own numbers approach 36 times that), it’s hard not to think about those we won’t get to see at the upcoming jam-packed museum learning event.
As DivCom Co-chair, I’m often asked if there are stipends or scholarships available to subsidize registration fees, travel, or housing. As one of the Professional Networks of AAM that deals with equity and access, we are keenly aware that attendance at an annual meeting—even a single meeting—is a privilege.
This means, at the fore, that those who have the ability to attend should make the most of it by attending with their full and present selves, as far as possible. While the promise of parties and ad hoc meetups is exciting, have an eye towards the meat of the event—the carefully selected presentations, the Expo that could hold the answer to a retail or programming challenge, the planned presentations, and the group events that celebrate museum excellence.
But what of those who cannot attend? I’d argue that, increasingly, the Alliance is geared towards inclusion and collaboration. We are, indeed, an alliance of colleagues and leadership whose charge it is to connect with, and support, each other in our endeavors. With regards to the Annual Meeting, the intention is to be mindful of those who can’t physically attend and create pathways for continued learning long after the convention center is vacated. While there are pragmatic reasons for hoping that the attendance at AAM tops 5,000 each year, it would never be possible for all members to attend at once. Many museum professionals, students, and others will never have the opportunity to attend a professional conference due to timing, access, lack of funds, or scheduling.
How can you participate without being there in person?
- Follow the conversations online. Whether the conversations are happening in AAM’s online Open Forum or via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or some other public platform, following along might help you to catch a sense of what the Annual Meeting is like—where and when events occur, what major topics of conversation and learning might be, and how it’s received among the community, realizing that the community includes you. You can follow DivCom on Twitter @AAMdivcom or via our Facebook group! You also can stay connected during the meeting via our social media journalists: follow them via #AAMSMJ.
- Even if you don’t physically attend the Annual Meeting, you can let your voice be heard. Maybe there’s a poll about how your organization handles signage or wayfinding. Perhaps there’s a survey for new graduates from museum studies programs, or about how inclusive your staff might be. Please help to provide useful data and perspectives. You never know: your responses and thought leadership could help other colleagues prepare for, and deliver, powerful presentations to others who are changemakers in their own realms. In that respect, you too could be a catalyst for change when people come together at the annual meeting and bring ideas back to their home institutions.
- Keep track of presenters and sessions. The theme, topic, and presenters were painstakingly and thoughtfully selected by the National Program Committee, a group composed of individuals representing diverse professional expertise, regional affiliations, and types of institutions, over the last several months. The messages and concepts they plan to share are aligned with AAM’s mission and vision for the coming year. Even if you are not in the room where it happens, you can tune your minds to these topics, conduct further research, and be equally versed in the matters at hand. Many presenters are willing to be contacted after the Annual Meeting. You never know—you may make lifelong friends and valuable colleague connections that way.
- Take advantage of your AAM membership and listen to recorded sessions when they become available. Use these sessions as professional development among your colleagues and affinity groups at home, giving an even wider audience to the words of the presenters. The value in this is increased if your leadership can also catch the vision of AAM’s relevance and function. They may be so impressed that they might make it a priority to budget for AAM’s Annual Meeting next year!
- Finally, reach out to us, the Diversity Committee of AAM (DivCom). Members of each professional network leadership team are required to go to the Annual Meeting for just this reason: that we can keep up-to-date and be a support to our membership. We’d love to hear from you!
Connect with DivCom at the AAM Annual Meeting!
May 6 | Creative Coalitions Event at SRP Heritage Center, 6-8 p.m.: Meet up with representatives from AAM’s Professional Networks and learn how to get involved while you enjoy snacks and drinks and the newly opened Salt River Project Heritage Center! DivCom representatives will be there to speak with guests and staff a table with activities and resources. (The ticket purchase deadline has passed, but you can buy (and sell) tickets from other attendees at the Ticket Exchange.)
May 7 | AAM Open Forum, 1:30-3:30 p.m.: Join DivCom, AAM leadership, and museum professionals interested in social justice and equity for a participatory conversation around diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the museum field. Topics for discussion will include gender equity in museums, museum accessibility, museum neutrality, and other emergent issues.
May 7 | #DrinkingAboutEquity, 5:30-7 p.m. at Valley Bar (130 N Central Ave, Downtown Phoenix): Join us to connect with peers in solidarity, share resources, connections and strategies, build community and power for social justice, with an emphasis on racial justice, focused transformation across arts, and cultural and humanities organizations. It always takes place at a local POC-owned and/or woman-owned restaurant or bar (and preferably one close to mass transit options). We also always ensure that the venue has delicious non-alcohol drink options. Valley Bar is a woman-owned business in Downtown Phoenix. The venue is ADA accessible. Look for updates about this meet-up to be posted on DivCom’s Facebook Group this month!
This informal meet-up is a riff on #drinkingaboutmuseums, which was first organized by 3 arts and cultural workers in Seattle (Chieko Phillips, Priya Frank, & Aletheia Wittman) last year. This edition will be hosted by DivCom and bring the format to AAM attendees.
DivCom is fully committed to ensuring that all of our communications, events, and programs are accessible so that all of our members and staff can participate meaningfully and equitably. DivCom recognizes that equity in access for people with disabilities is integral to diversity and that enhancing access for people with disabilities has a positive impact on everyone’s experience. DivCom seeks input and welcomes feedback from our members to help us improve accessibility in our communications and content.