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Take a Deep Dive into the Future of Museums this November

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Have you registered for the Future of Museums Summit? Taking place from 1-5 pm ET November 1 and 2, this virtual conference will explore four themes from the current edition of TrendsWatch: the evolution of digital practice, workplace trends, the growing partisan divide, and recent developments in repatriation, restitution, and reparations. Early Bird Registration rates end September 15—I encourage you to take advantage of this special rate and hope to see you at the Summit.

The Summit’s origin story

When I write AAM’s annual trends report, my job is to summarize important forces shaping society and highlight what that may mean for our sector. Each year I recruit people who are experts to help educate me on these topics, guide my thinking, and provide feedback on the draft text. This year we also invited these advisors to draft their fantasy lineup of sessions to explore their corresponding topic in more depth—and that list became the program for the Summit. I look forward joining you in the audience to learn from these incredible folks from inside and outside our field.

What will be on the program?

You, readers, are the first to hear about two of our four “big idea” speakers for the Summit:

How can preserving and drawing attention to the remaining slave dwellings in the US help repair the narrative we tell of American history? Learn from Joseph McGill, Jr., Founder and Executive Director of the Slave Dwellings Project and history consultant at Magnolia Plantation.

When robots learn to get creative, what will happen to informal learning? Hear four proposals about generative AI for museums from William-Hart Davidson, Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education at Michigan State University.

The final two big idea speakers, and our keynote speaker, will be announced in the coming weeks. I encourage you to browse the sessions on the program. Some highlights on my “can’t miss” list:

What is the Metaverse and Should Museums Care? Nik Honeysett, Director and CEO at Balboa Park Online Collaborative has organized this session as a debate, inviting speakers to make their case for or against museums expanding into 3D virtual space. As an audience member, you will be invited to cast your vote to determine the victor. See if the speakers can sway your opinion on metaversity!

Human-centered Work Practices. Micah Parzen, CEO, Museum of Us will moderate this panel exploring human-centered HR as the future of work and the key to long-term sustainability for any museum. I look forward to hearing panelists’ recommendations on how museums can ensure staff are seen, heard, valued, and appreciated, and that their voices are embedded into operational decisions that have a profound impact on their lives.

Navigating Partisan Tensions in Museums. The tense national political climate is putting stress on museums, their staff, and their communities. In this session, Devon Akmon, Director of the Michigan State University Museum will be joined by Christy Coleman, Executive Director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Jorge Zamanillo, Director of the National Museum of the American Latino to explore how museums can steer a steady course through partisan storms.

Sharing Authority with Indigenous Peoples. Museums are in the early stages of repairing their relationships with Indigenous communities, learning how to undo some of the harm resulting from traditional museum practices. In this session, Brandie Macdonald (Chickasaw Nation), Executive Director of the Indiana University Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, will be joined by Nicole Armstrong-Best, Museum Administrator of the S’edav Va’aki Museum (formerly Pueblo Grande Museum) and Dawn DiPrince, President/CEO & State Historic Preservation Officer of History Colorado to discuss how these two museums have “flipped the script,” ceding power, authority, and voice to the Indigenous peoples whose stories they tell.

Each day will end with the opportunity to join some of our speakers in breakout rooms where there will be ample time to ask questions, contribute your views, and debate the issues raised in their conversations.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’ll return to researching topics for next year’s trends report! Members will have the first opportunity to read TrendsWatch in the January/February 2024 issue of Museum magazine—I look forward to engaging with you on a new set of topics in 2024.

Yours from the future,


Elizabeth Merritt

Vice President, Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums

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