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Where to Find the Future at #AAM2022

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
Me (Elizabeth Merritt) teaching a foresight workshop at #AAM2019.
Me (Elizabeth Merritt) teaching a foresight workshop at #AAM2019.

We are having a real, face-to-face conference! Boston, May 19-22. I, for one, look forward to seeing you all in person (at least from the mask up), and plan to revel in the informal conversations, chance encounters, and pick-up coffee dates that virtual meetings so sadly lack.

And, of course, to engage with you at talks and workshops. Here’s an overview of my formal sessions in Boston:

On Thursday, May 19, from 9 am – 12 pm. I’ll be teaching the workshop Diving into Strategic Foresight, drawing on the newly released AAM Strategic Foresight Toolkit to introduce three futuring exercises that you can take back to your institution and apply in your work. Here’s my elevator pitch for why you should attend:

“Strategic foresight is the practice of systematically observing current events and using the findings as a springboard for envisioning potential futures. Integrating the skills of strategic foresight into a continual process of planning will help museums use this agility to manage the coming years of intense and rapid change.”

Also, the workshop will be fun and social! (Two things you may be in need of after the past two years.) Working together in small groups is a good way to meet new people and rev up your creativity and optimism before diving into the conference. Attendance is limited, and I anticipate the workshop will fill up, so I recommend you register soon. (If you have not yet registered for #AAM2022, you can select available ticketed events through the registration process. If you have registered for #AAM2022 and want to add events like the workshop to your registration, follow the instructions emailed to you.)

On Friday, May 20, from 2 – 3pm I’ll offer your annual glimpse of the future with an overview of this year’s forecasting report. TrendsWatch 2022: Museums as Community Infrastructure examines museums as essential community infrastructure, exploring their contributions to five pillars of community strength and resilience: education for our children; livable communities for our elders; mental health; emergency response in the face of disasters; and creating a human-centered culture of sustainability. In the live presentation I’ll offer updates on the themes and explore the implications and opportunities for our sector.

After the TrendsWatch session, you’re invited to join TrendsWatch Discussion Groups, from 3 – 4 pm. I’ll provide discussion prompts for groups dissecting the report—but I’ll also encourage you to take the reins and take the conversations where you feel they should go. (Be assured, I will be taking notes as this is a chance to learn from you!) I encourage you to download and read the report before our discussions, particularly if you are unable to attend the preceding session.

On Sunday, May 22, from 11:45 am – 12:45 pm, I’ll be joining Susie Wilkening for The Role of Museums: Shifting Audience Perspectives and Trendswatching. Susie and I will provide an overview of the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers and dive into the new data from 2022, with a focus on climate change, belonging, and well-being. We’ll explain how we choose the special topics each year and how museums have used the data to understand and respond to their audience’s attitudes and expectations. We’ll also lead the audience through a futuring exercise that will teach you how to anticipate trends based on current headlines and help us brainstorm the areas of focus for the 2023 iteration of the Museum Goers Survey.

Finally, I’m looking forward to visiting with long-time friends and collaborators exhibiting at MuseumExpo, Friday May 20 10:15 am – 5 pm and Saturday May 21 9 am – 5:30 pm. When I’ve worked out the details of my schedule, I’ll let you know when I plan to be in the AAM booth in the exhibit hall, and invite you to set up a time to talk. (Keep an eye on this blog as well as CFM Twitter and Facebook accounts for updates.)

I hope you will join me in Boston to reconnect, refresh, and renew our energy for the coming year. Learning online can be efficient and effective, but an in-person meeting also can be social and serendipitous. Check out the networking events, the AAM party (Saturday night), and make time to visit the many area museums that are offering free or discounted admission to attendees (“Show Your Badge”). I’m sure many of us have lingering anxieties about travel, crowds, and dining out (I know I do), but I also know my museum peeps—we will take care of ourselves and each other, and make this meeting a welcome milestone in our road to recovery as individuals, organizations, our collective field.

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