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What Museum Education Students Learned at #AAMvirtual

Category: Museum Studies
An array of study tools, including a notebook, water bottle, and headphones, against a yellow background.
Here's what students in the Museum Education Program at George Washington University had to say about attending the AAM Virtual Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo. Photo credit: KOBU Agency on Unsplash

With the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo transitioning to a virtual format this year, a new crop of colleagues was able to attend, participate, and share their reactions on social media. Among these were students in the Museum Education Program at the George Washington University, who saw it as an opportunity to serve as proxies for other students making sense of the rapid reimagination the museum field is undergoing.

Below, we asked the students to tell us what stood out to them from the programming, to get a sense of what they’re finding important as they prepare for a museum career.

Shelby Amspacher

“During the AAM virtual conference I have been really intrigued by the issue of DEAI. This is an issue that we have discussed in the Museum Education Program at George Washington. I have loved the opportunities to understand what museums are doing as well as what things museums can change to be proponents of change. One statement that stood out to me was by Secretary Lonnie Bunch, who said during ‘Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field,’ ‘Museums cannot be community centers…but they sure can be at the centers of their communities.’ I truly believe that museums have a place in their communities to define reality and give hope.”

Emily Crowe

“The AAM conference has been such a wonderful opportunity to engage with and learn from museum people all across the world. The variety of backgrounds, expertise, and viewpoints has led to many rich and meaningful discussions on some of the most important issues facing the field.”

Shantelle Jones-Williams

“While I’d rather that this pandemic had never occurred, the conference turning to a virtual platform and becoming more accessible to more people is at least a bit of a silver lining. The panels I have tuned into have covered some much needed dialogue about the changes that need to occur within the museum field, such as equity, and furthering digital efforts to reach wider audiences. I am also very appreciative of the adjustment to the schedule to allow for a much needed discussion between Secretary Lonnie Bunch, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, and Lori Fogarty about George Floyd’s murder and race relations/accountability within museum organizations.”

Anney Matlock

“This is my first AAM conference and I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend virtually. I have been particularly impressed by the sessions created in response to George Floyd’s murder and the protests that have followed across the country. As Johnnetta Cole shared, ‘You don’t just go by the program, you sense what is needed.’ Museums have a key role to play in creating space, starting conversations, and standing up against systemic racism. It’s very uplifting to see so many passionate professionals ready to fight for their communities.”

Liz Mueller

“As someone graduating from a museum education graduate program, attending AAM’s virtual meeting this week has been particularly impactful and inspiring. It has been wonderful hearing from and interacting with so many major players in the museum field, and the conversations regarding diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in museums have been so crucial during this time.”

Faith Ordonio

“I really enjoyed engaging with people through social media during the virtual AAM conference, especially through Twitter. Using Twitter to see everyone’s thoughts throughout the conference made me realize just how many people there are scattered throughout the US that are dedicated to making museums more inclusive and diverse. In addition, it was cool to see people post about sessions that they attended that I was also at and respond to their thoughts online. In a way, this simulated the ‘in-between’ time that typically follows sessions in conferences.”

Jonathan Rodriguez

“I truly enjoyed the panel/roundtable of Lonnie Bunch, Lori Fogarty, and Dr. Johnnetta Cole. Their candid and unfiltered discussion on race/diversity in America and in the museum field was an eye-opening conversation about society and the state of the museum field at this current time. I also enjoyed meetings such as “Museum-goers and the Pandemic.” Learning more about what people value during these strange times and how museums fit into their needs and plans is paramount for any institution (especially museums) to move forward. It was great hearing from all of the speakers involved as a museum education student and a young museum professional.”

Madison Scott

“#AAMvirtual has thus far provided a unique and engaging digital experience. I have found that many of the sessions are not only relevant and useful for the topic of COVID-19, but also for the current situation in our country surrounding George Floyd. I am eager to participate in the session with Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Secretary Lonnie Bunch, and Lori Fogarty to process the current events sweeping our nation. I want to thank AAM for changing the schedule to include such relevant and important conversations that need to happen within the museum community.”

Ariel Waldman

“Participating in my first AAM conference has showcased how many museum professionals are dedicated to finding equitable creative solutions to problems in the field and the world at large. I am inspired by the variety of projects and programs taking place at institutions big and small across the United States. I cannot wait to further my involvement and one day present solutions with colleagues in the field.”

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