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Your Guide to the Future at #AAM2021

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

I began publishing a “guide to the future” for each AAM annual meeting nearly a decade ago. This was, in part, a response to feedback from attendees (especially first-timers) that the conference was a bit overwhelming. To help attendees plot a futures-oriented course through the abundance of sessions on the program, I offered one or two suggestions for each session slot, highlighting trends I had been writing about on the CFM blog or in the annual TrendsWatch report.

Here’s one great thing about going virtual: there is no pressure to choose between concurrent sessions because you can use your registration to access recordings of all the talks.

So, adapting to the new virtual format, this year’s guide previews CFM content you can delve into at the meeting, tags a few sessions I will be attending due to their futures-import, and highlights some opportunities to connect with me during the event.

Don’t wait to register! Space is running low for the #AAM2021 Opening Event featuring The Second City

Monday, May 24

On the first day of the conference, , two sessions profile CFM-related projects:

At 10:30 am CT Join the Conversation: Creative Aging and the Future of Museums shares the work of museums developing programs for older adults to increase well-being, decrease social isolation, and offer new pathways for learning. Did you know that by the year 2035, there will be more people over the age of sixty-five in the United States than children seventeen and younger? Museums can serve as critical infrastructure supporting and enriching the lives of this cadre of aging Americans. (Education staff—tell your development colleagues to attend this session as well. Through this work museums can demonstrate their value to a generation deciding how to bequeath $30 trillion over the next two decades.) Visit Museums and Creative Aging on the AAM website for resources and stories related to this work.

From 2-3 pm CT, I offer my annual tour through this year’s forecasting report, TrendsWatch: Navigating a Disrupted Future. Building on the report, I’ll offer some observations on how museums can build racial equity, support the most vulnerable in their communities, and use strategic foresight to supercharge their planning. If my tech skills suffice, I’ll be recording the talk in advance, and using live chat and Q&A to engage with the audience throughout. To prep for this conversation, download the report (for free) in advance.

Monday, June 7

The day kicks off at 9 am CT with a keynote by Bryan Stevenson—The Truth Starts Here: Museums’ Role in Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing. Mr. Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, was the force behind the creation of The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama. His talk will be followed by a panel discussion with renowned social change agent Dr. Gail Christopher, Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman (Senior Director for the Global Transitional Justice Initiative at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience), Jose Rico (Director of Truth, Racial Healing and Chief Partnership Officer for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago), and Andrew Plumley, AAM’s own Senior Director of Equity and Culture. To explore a future shaped by the role museums can play in truth and reconciliation, revisit Omar Eaton-Martínez’ article in Museum 2040, the special “future fiction” edition of Museum magazine

At 3:30 pm CT I hope you join me for Living in the Future: A Guide to Scenario Planning in Museums. I am SO EXCITED about this session!! Not least because it gives me the chance to reconnect with Ash Baccus-Clark, molecular biologist, transdisciplinary artist, and co-creator of the award winning VR installation “NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism.” Ash will join me and Daniel Payne, of AEA Consulting, for an overview of scenarios and their use in museum planning, followed by three exercises in futures-thinking. You (the audience) will be encouraged to play along via chat. You can prep for the session by reviewing the four scenarios presented on pages 42 and 43 of TrendsWatch: Navigating a Disrupted Future and downloading Navigating Uncertain Times: A Scenario Planning Toolkit for the Arts and Culture Sector, published by AEA Consulting in 2020 with support from the Wallace Foundation. (The session will be introduced by Bahia Ramos, Director of Arts Programs at the Wallace Foundation.)

Tuesday, June 8

I plan to attend the 10:30 session Has the Pandemic Changed Galas Forever? One-third of museums participating in AAM’s second COVID snapshot survey had replaced an in-person fundraising event or gala with a digital event last year. On average, these virtual events fell short of the goal for the original in-person event by 34 percent, but I’ve read accounts of some phenomenally successful digital galas. I look forward to hearing how experiments conducted by museums during pandemic shutdown may reshape this major source of support going forward. For more thought-fuel on the evolution of museum income streams, download last year’s forecasting report, TrendsWatch: The Future of Financial Sustainability.

I’ll be emceeing the (sold out) Resiliency and the Future of Museums networking event from 4:30 – 5:30 pm, sharing some futurist icebreakers for your small group gatherings, and hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 9

I’m going to start the last day of the meeting at the 9 am session The Shape of Things to Come? Careers in the Museum Continuum to 2050 and Beyond. AAM’s recent survey Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on People in the Museum Field documented high levels of stress and burnout in the field—I look forward to hearing the panelists’ vision for actions that can “achieve the most desirable future for museum careers.” My notepad is at the ready.

I encourage you to share what sessions you look forward to attending via tweets tagging @futureofmuseums #AAM2021 I will happily read and retweet.

Visit with me in MuseumExpo

Stop by the AAM booth in MuseumExpo if you would like to chat about the future! I’ll be hanging around for 1:1 chats at the following times:

  • Monday, June 7, 1:30 – 2 pm CT
  • Tuesday, June 8, 1:30 – 2  and 3 – 3:30 pm CT
  • Wednesday, June 9, 1:30 – 5 pm CT

See you in the (near) future.

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