As a climate conscious traveler, I try to make my carbon miles count. When I do go on the road, I pack as much value as I can into each trip—visiting museums, connecting with colleagues, and finding opportunities to learn and share. In today’s guest post, Haitham Eid suggests a way those of you attending the AAM annual meeting this May can make the most of your time in New Orleans. Haitham, who is Associate Professor/Director of the Master of Arts in Museum Studies Program at Southern University at New Orleans, is organizing the Museum Innovation Forum and MCNx New Orleans on the International Museum Day (May 18), which falls on the Saturday before the AAM conference begins. I accepted his gracious invitation to share some thoughts at the Forum, and hope to see some of you there as well. –Elizabeth Merritt
Now, more than ever, museums are critically reflecting upon their practices and striving to adopt innovative approaches to their civic responsibilities. Whether the innovation is a new or enhanced technology, business model or service, museums are becoming more socially, culturally, environmentally and politically aware of their surroundings. From the devastating climate crisis to human rights abuses, violence, as well as racial and economic inequities, museums as civic institutions have a moral duty to take actions to make the world a better place.
In addition to the special New Orleans-themed performance and social/networking opportunities, the Forum and MCNx New Orleans consist of 15 stimulating sessions, including 35 presentations and panel discussions by emerging and leading figures in the museum field. The thought-provoking nature of the presentations makes the Forum a must attend to those who are interested in understanding and shaping the future of museums.
The one-day event starts early morning with a Keynote by Elizabeth Merritt, AAM’s Vice President for Strategic Foresight, and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums. Also, museum legend, Robert Janes, Founder and Co-Chair of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice and Visiting Research Fellow, Museum Studies, University of Leicester (UK) will address the forum through a recorded video message. Robert has been involved in shaping the conceptual framework of the Forum. MCNx New Orleans will kick off at 3:30pm with welcome remarks by Eric Longo, Executive Director of Museum Computer Network (MCN).
One of the exciting presentations at the Forum is by Sarah Younan, Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Amgueddfa Cymru | National Museum Wales (UK). Sarah will share her insights on a museum intervention undertaken by the Cardiff Museum Youth Forum to protest and raise awareness on plastic pollution.
Jennifer Himmelreich, Program Manager and Karen Kramer, Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum will discuss lessons learned over the last ten years running the museum’s Native American Fellowship Program. Their presentation investigates the deep issues, both systemic and systematic, embedded within the museum field that prohibit increased diversity and authentic dialogue.
The latest findings of the UK’s national project “One by One” will be shared by Ross Parry, the project’s lead investigator and Professor at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, highlighting the social purpose of digital in museums. Ross suggests that “in order to be ‘digitally purposeful’ […] we need to understand what this means for our skills and abilities – as people who work in arts and heritage organizations.”
Award-winning Kathleen McLean, Principal at Independent Exhibitions will challenge the current practices around exhibition making, providing a provocative and well-argued plea for museums to undertake the important work of reorganizing for innovation. She argues that “museum professionals need to develop brave new skills—active listening, sharing authority, critical thinking, and strengthening connections–if our organizations ever hope to achieve their potential as agents of change.”
“A Highway Runs Through It: How Museums Address Stories of Displacement” is the title of a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Scott, Director & Chief Curator, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, University of Illinois at Chicago, Melanie Adams, Historian and Gia M. Hamilton, Director, New Orleans African American Museum of Art. Focusing on New Orleans and Chicago, this panel discussion looks at the work that museums are creatively doing to confront and address issues of displacement in rapidly changing cities.
The previous examples show the depth and diversity of topics presented at the Forum. For more information about the full program, and to register for the event, please see the Forum website. Selected papers will be compiled in an edited book, which will be published by Routledge, subject to peer-review, in 2020-21.
On behalf of the organizing committee, I invite you to be part of shaping the future of museums by attending and contributing to the Forum.
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